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Published in Good Architecture website.
The Institute for Strategic Studies in Iranian Architecture (ISIA), headquartered in Tehran, Iran, has recently launched a long-term research project entitled: Good Architecture (GA). As claimed by the institute, GA is a collective, interactive and collaborative style of research which tends to build a bridge between architecture and its immediate users: the people. As part of its agenda, it aims to approach prominent scholars and practitioners in the world of architecture, planning and design to collect their insights and intellectual thoughts on defining characteristics of a responsive architecture specifically in the context of Iranian cities. This is, perhaps, to depict an intellectual perspective of what a 'good' piece of 'architecture' is meant to be. To cut a long story short, I was contacted by the GA research director, Navid Ganji - who is also the founder and CEO of ISIA- and it was since then I've got involved with this research project.
From a philosophical point of view, one may argue that there is no such concept as either 'good' or 'bad', not only in architecture but also in the whole universe. This is perhaps why a towering figure in architectural pedagogy and practice (1), in response to my request for an interview on the subject of 'good architecture', wrote me back: "I do not know what 'good' means". This statement may well put a big question mark over the whole idea of 'good architecture' programme. As a member of the GA research committee, I've been, myself, frankly sceptical about the title of this project. Though the 17th-century Dutch philosopher, Spinoza, has a simple answer for it, however an egotistic answer, yet an answer: "By good I shall understand what we certainly know to be useful to us". Although human being has the capability of being neutral, s/he predominantly fails to do so, and his/her failure is not limited to the world of art at all. We adore some and abhor others, we embrace and dismiss. We, simply, judge! I would argue, in art and design, a non-judgmental situation will put an end to what is called 'critique'.
In fact there exists such term as 'good architecture', although it may appear in a variety of verbal shapes swapping that 'good' with metonymies like 'well-designed', 'responsive' and so on. For instance, the Royal Institute of British Architects has used it in a 2011 report entitled "Good design- it all adds up", in which -- through several case studies-- it highlights the ways of improving the quality of the built environment and the positive socioeconomic impacts a good design could have. The renowned architecture and design critic, Aaron Betsky, in his piece: "What It Means to Make Good Architecture", explains what it means to make good architecture! Whether we agree or not, the subject of good architecture has always been a matter of debate in architectural spectrum.
(1) I may not have the permission to reveal their identity as the statement came as a personal note in response to an interview request and it never led to conducting an interview, but rather it triggered the idea of writing these lines.
PS. If you have any sort of connection with the world of architecture, either academically or professionally and would like to share your ideas about the concept of 'good architecture', please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.