After trekking around New Orleans all day on the housing tour, many Reinvention 2010 attendees started the conference right away by sitting in on the Dec. 6 American Institute of Architects Custom Residential Architects Network (AIA/CRAN) Forum. Once CRAN's agenda was introduced, Joeb Moore, AIA, of Greenwich, Conn.-based Joeb Moore + Partners, Architects, and David Andreozzi, AIA, of Andreozzi Architects in Barrington, R.I., presented complementary arguments for judging the quality of architecture without regard to style in the talk "Architecture Must Be Judged Style Blind".
With aesthetics rooted in the New England vernacular and shared beginnings at the traditional firm, Shope Reno Wharton Architects, Moore's and Andreozzi's work couldn't be more different. Moore’s firm has moved in the direction of experimentation in modern design, while Andreozzi continues to hone and explore the possibilities of the classical vocabulary.
Yet despite their divergent approaches, Moore and Andreozzi both agree that good design exists independently of architectural form, eschewing the more widely held conviction that quality is inherent in modern design. Andreozzi proposed that to the tenets of commodity, firmness, and delight should be added aspects related to the vernacular: local materials and labor.
Whereas regionalism and cultural context forms a framework within which Andreozzi designs, for Moore context, culture, and history blend with a site's physical and environmental characteristics and serve simply as starting points. "When I started my own firm, I developed a kind of philosophy about not having a trademark style," Moore said. "Style-blind design for me is about being aware of the different modes and forms of style that clients, architects, and builders already have before I start the design process." He then focuses on getting them to listen to their site and program without the filter of their preconceptions.
A project's consideration of local context and how it is shaped to meet the client's needs should form the primary basis for any evaluation of quality, rather than how it expresses the architect's ego, both Moore and Andreozzi argued.
Andreozzi put forth a theory for why judgments of architectural quality shifted from the work itself to the style preferred by the architect. "We originally celebrated architectural pieces as being great," he noted, "but more recently—in the past decade or two—we started to celebrate the architect. But what we need to celebrate is the process, because that teaches people that it's the content that's more important than the name."
Drawing on the Congress of Residential Architecture's position paper, which he helped write, Andreozzi suggested schools focus on sensitivity for architectural context and serving the client rather than the ego, and he urged the architectural community, schools, and publications to withhold praise from projects that reject these notions.
The discussion afterward among the audience and presenters focused on what happens when context is ignored and ego is served above all else.