Deconstructivism: What is it and what does it look like today?

If you type the word ‘deconstructivist’ into a Word document you’ll get a prompt to check spelling that indicates that this term doesn’t actually exist. And this is quite an apt starting point for Deconstructivism, which is built around the concept of breaking down established ideas of architecture derived from reason and logic. Buildings of this style are often striking and you may already have encountered one or two without even realising it. But what is Deconstructivism when you get down to the details and what does it look like today?

The theory behind the design

The theory of Deconstruction comes from a 20th century philosophical movement that argued that the meaning from words, symbols etc exists only because of relationships. So, there is only good because there is bad, for example. In the context of design, a follower of Deconstruction might say that a house has meaning to us only because we know it is a house.

So today, a smart phone has meaning and significance to us but is it likely to have the same meaning and significance in 20 years time? The idea is that the meaning of anything is completely fluid, and so it can adapt and change and be influenced by relationships with a whole range of other factors, such as age, gender and cultural references.

So what is deconstructivist architecture?

It’s a construction movement that takes the theory of Deconstruction and effectively puts it into practice. This relationship is established through semiotics – the study of non-verbal communication, and the way that we get meaning from symbols. It’s argued that these architectural symbols (such as a column) take on a different meaning depending on their context. For example, Doric style columns were traditionally considered to be very masculine whereas Corinthian columns were viewed as feminine in style. However, when these columns were replicated hundreds of years after they were originally used by the Ancient Greeks their meaning was changed to something much more neutral.

What deconstructivist architecture does is essentially to do away with all of the above in favour of completely challenging the idea of what construction – or a building – actually is. That’s why this type of architecture tends to be incredibly striking and not at all similar to classic building styles that might have a lot of right angles and straight lines or carefully calculated curves. A construction in deconstructivist style is more likely to stand out and may be designed to impact the landscapes or buildings around it. The building might look like it is moving in the wind, for example, or replicate the aesthetics of the sea.

Buildings like this are often designed to encourage interaction with what is around them, which makes them completely unique. Examples of architects who have built in this style include Daniel Libeskind, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Peter Eisenman.

Deconstructivist architecture is pretty revolutionary and challenges traditional ideas and perceptions.

At RG Group we think it’s important to examine many different building styles, both for inspiration and to critically challenge ideas.

Whatever your project and style, get in touch with The RG Group to discuss your requirements today.


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