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Friday, October 8, 2010


Recently we worked on a new project for an old client. When the client, who is always very supportive, saw the design, he half jokingly said, it looks like the project we did for him a few years ago. Since the programs for the new and the old projects are the same, and we only had three weeks to work on the design, we used the old project as a starting point. While we didn't reinvent the wheel and certain characteristics of the old project are evident, the skin, siting, contextual relationships, circulation, and concepts about materials are all new. Therefore, unlike the client, we thought of the new project as very different from the old.  Nevertheless, the client raised an interesting question about repeating oneself.

To some degree, every architect not only repeats him or herself but others. This can be at the level of detailing or on much larger scales. The best example of repeating oneself is probably the late work of Mies van der Rohe, who famously said, "One does not reinvent a new architecture every Monday morning." Even Rem Koolhaas who prides his firm on their abilities to invent new things, recycled and reworked the design of a house for the Casa da Música in Porto.

It seems this question is asked more often than I thought as I read an interview today that Renzo Piano did recently with Metropolis Magazine:

LIFSON: You’re criticized for repeating yourself in your work.
PIANO: Of course we repeat; we repeat what we like! It’s not because we are lazy people; it’s not because we want to repeat ourselves. But as an architect, you rely on your own experience. It’s like a writer or a painter or a filmmaker.

Therefore, the next time when a client says we are repeating ourselves, maybe I should be less defensive about it and just repeat Renzo's answer.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Mike,

    I really like this posting. It's wonderfully crafted and lightly humorous. Bravo!