Randall Korman: “Facade: Missing in Action”

Architecture Spring 2018 Lecture Series – January 30, 2018 in Slocum Hall.

Professor Korman joined the Syracuse Architecture faculty in 1977, and, over the next forty years, he became one of the school’s most important and influential administrators and faculty members. Perhaps his greatest contribution, however, is the role he played and continues to play in shaping the educational experience of the several hundred architecture students fortunate enough to have been and to be in his studio courses and his thesis advisees.

“Historically, the rhetoric of architecture has centered largely on the phenomenon of the façade. As the principal surface of mediation, contextualization and representation, the facade carries the lion’s share of responsibility for containing the internal environment and confronting the outer world, often doing this across a very thin layer. As a result, the contemporary envelope can be one of the most complex and multidisciplinary of all components of a building.

The façade is the first surface one encounters when approaching a building and the last when departing. It provides the representative image for all architecture and is how we typically recall a structure. It has the unique capacity to embody the idea of the building as a whole and is the principal instrument by which the architect shapes the observer’s impression of it. Very simply, when we think of a building we usually first think of its façade.

And yet, the architectural façade also has been the most neglected building component within the various discourses of the discipline. With the dramatic development of sophisticated systems of enclosure, significant advances in materials technology, and the impact of parametric design, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of books and articles that deal with the technological and performative aspects of the building envelope. But, curiously, very few discuss the façade as an instrument of the culture and principal engine of the building’s rhetoric. This component of contemporary architectural discourse seems to be largely missing, begging the question: How is it that the most conspicuous part of any building is conspicuously absent from our considered reflection?

For the past 25 years I have been addressing these matters through my research, teaching, writing and lecturing. My lead-off presentation will speak to some of the issues attending to the production of the modern façade. Entitled ‘Façade: Missing in Action,’ the principal thesis of my talk is that the profession’s current preoccupation with parametricism, blob architecture and minimalism has resulted in a shift away from the historic traditions of creating ‘face’ and the defining urban space in place of creating iconic structures and exotic ‘skins.’ The result has been the privileging of the individual building’s identity over the collective responsibility to create public space, begging the question: ‘What is the future of urban space?’

Thanks! You've already liked this