The Cities' Identities between Critical Regionalism and Globalization

Ingy El Zeini

“The task of critical regionalism is to rethink architecture through the concept of region.” (Tzonis & Lefaivre, 2003) The term critical regionalism, in its sense, raises several arguments in the architectural field. Critical regionalism could debate the essence of the utopian idea of international design, that every building can be placed anywhere and function with high compatibility. Critical regionalism questions the approaches used in international design; it opens up the idea that each region could have a specific characteristic that could serve function, form, and efficiency. This could also mean that each region will be distinct in the means of materials and treatments. “Critical regionalism self- consciously seeks to deconstruct universal modernism in terms of values and images which are locally cultivated, while at the same time adulterating these autochthonous elements with paradigms drawn from alien sources.” (Frarmpton, 1983) Critical Regionalism does not intend to revisit history or dwell in the past, but to find a middle ground between two extremes. The universal design that the modernists strive to achieve by spearing Louis Sullivan’s saying “Form follows function” wherever the building might exist, and the post modernists who celebrated ornamentation for its own sake. Globalization is definitely a benefit for designers as it expands the visual cultures; yet designers need to use this design exposure in a way that could benefit the environment and maximize the built environment's efficiency.

This paper questions the possibility to use critical regionalism in promoting a region’s identity but at the same time adheres to the international developments. The aim is to explore the idea of critical regionalism applications, and whether it could relate to both international design and regional identity. Its being applied to four different interior design Master’s degree student projects in Florence, Italy. The students were given a specific building in the center of Florence to redesign but there were several fixed factors. First, the building should be a hotel that relates to the identity of the city of Florence, second, the design should be minimal, third the use of literal images or direct analogies were not allowed. The data is analyzed through a comparative study between the four projects in terms of concept, analogy, color scheme, materials and level of ornamentation.

The paper represents results of this focus group of interior design students who are from different demographics with only fixed education levels’ postgraduates in either interior design or architecture, and project description.

Keywords

Critical Regionalism; Globalization; City Identity

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