I’ve been on a personal quest for a few years to further understand what qualities define modern design in our region. Intuitively, I believe we all know when something works and when something doesn’t, however, we can’t always put words to it. I’ve often discussed regionalism with my friend, architect Brandon Pass, over coffee and now have the time to explore this further having left my work with Microsoft Retail .
My goal is not to define what modern is to WNC in black and white, but to note some common influences. Typically, one can sense a sophistication of design that is seamless and so well-integrated that it truly can be hard to describe. It simply feels right. In opposition, I’ve seen some builders from other regions propose stucco and aluminum homes here that capture a trendy, modern aesthetic which is neither contextual nor timeless and becomes obsolete the day it is complete. For me, the new A-loft hotel is an example of this. While I appreciate the existence of this establishment and its role in the viability of Asheville, I’m bothered by the mass market, chain styling that does not speak of context or quality. From sidewalk to roofline, it is only identifiable to itself and its own corporate branding globally. So then – what makes something Asheville?
The details of locality are often seen in how we reflect nature, physical and social realities such as: geography, landscape, local materials, skills and cultural patterns.
I believe the modern design values I have seen in constructions from our local architects, at their core, reflect the values of how modernism is changing abroad. The modernism of today expresses gravity, stability and a sense of materiality and earth. Juhani Pallasmaa describes the First Modernism of last century as aspiring to be immaterial and weightless. Some of the words to describe today’s Second Modernism are: situational, individual, unique, subconscious, history-oriented, realistic, form-oriented, emotional, relativist, pragmatic and inclusive. My apologies for all the words here, but trust that time will provide further clarity.
Given the above, I invite you to follow along as I discuss this in further details with some of our local designers. Last week I finally sat down with architect Maria Rosafova in her living room and discussed this subject over a cup of Chai. I look forward to sharing the details of our discussion very soon. Until then…cheers! Troy