There was a time when all cars were unique unto themselves. They were designed to be special, to stand out, to have their own personality and to be found by those who connected with them on a personal level. For all sorts of reasons, from economics to technology to conformity, those differences have largely faded from view and the parking lot and the driveway alike, are all the poorer for it.
Architecture too has gone through phases of innovation and stagnation, inspiration and complacency, where edges become filed down, variance stifled, and so-called standards maintained till everything become background noise. Eventually though, we return to flashes of brilliance and free expression and design that makes us believe in the power of new ideas.
It’s not easy being iconic. Catching lightning in a bottle does not come purely from the desire to do so. You cannot choose to be great, but you can choose to aspire to greatness. Iconic design requires understanding the lessons of the past, the possibilities of the future, and the moment you are in. You must create something wholly different, that knows where it comes from, and gives a glimpse into where it can go. But to be iconic, means to be frozen in time. It is not telling the future. Just relaying one expression of hope, from one moment in time.
There are cities that have personalities, just as there are neighborhoods, and buildings and even individual spaces that you can name and with which you have relationships. No one aspires to have a longterm relationship with a box, the sum of the parts must be greater than the whole. It is never one thing, but the balance of things, that gives architectural and interior design its emotional appeal. It’s like building flavors in a dish. You can’t let anyone one thing overpower the others, but you also need notes that stand out or it’s all mush.
As cities and neighborhoods continue to evolve, as small towns and communities continue to grow and expand, it’s critical that they develop a personality around something that makes them unique. Sometimes it’s a single structure that can define an entire city. You may not be able to describe Sydney, but you know the opera house. Buildings that have memorable notes are the spice of the neighborhood stew, the thing that creates a picture that you will associate positive memories with. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a hotel, a restaurant, a retail shop, or a home. They can be modern or vintage, contemporary or archaic. But they must be of their own time.