An approach to architecture that strives to counter the placelessness and lack of meaning in Modern Architecture by using contextual forces to give a sense of place and meaning.( In the 1980s a few architects and theorists were disappointed with the direction that architecture was taking under the influence of postmodernism. Rather than unveiling the historicity of style in their designs, postmodern architects became another avant garde that produced designs that mimicked classical style. )
The term critical regionalism was first used by Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre and later more famously and pretentiously by Kenneth Frampton in "Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six points of an architecture of resistance."
According to Frampton, critical regionalism should adopt modern architecture critically for its universal progressive qualities but at the same time should value responses particular to the context. Emphasis should be on topography, climate, light, tectonic form rather than scenography and the tactile sense rather than the visual
As put forth by Tzonis and Lefaivre, critical regionalism need not directly draw from the context, rather elements can be stripped of their context and used in strange rather than familiar ways.
Critical regionalism is different from regionalism which tries to achieve a one-to-one correspondence with vernacular architecture in a conscious way without consciously partaking in the universal.
Säynatsalo Town Hall According to Frampton, this building by Alvar Aalto is a typical Critical Regionalist building.
Critical regionalism is considered a particular form of post-modern (not to be confused with postmodernism as architectural style) response in developing countries.
The following architects have used such an approach in some of their works: Alvar Aalto, Jørn Utzon, Studio Granda, Mario Botta, B.V.Doshi, Charles Correa, Alvaro Siza, Rafael Moneo, Geoffrey Bawa, Raj Rewal, Tadao Ando, Mack Scogin / Merrill Elam, Ken Yeang, William S.W. Lim, Tay Kheng Soon, Juhani Pallasmaa, and Tan Hock Beng.
mediate the impact of universal civilization with elements derived indirectly from the peculiarities of a particular space.
preference to how the architect deals with the irregularities of the physical landscape rather than how he or she employs local culture
The architect should enter “a dialectical relation with nature”, taking clues from the topography and avoiding bulldozing in order to flatten space.
using top-lighting and exposing the elements of construction, speaking more of the relationship of the building to its space.
Sometimes Regionalism goes back to just Conservatism and resorts to blind use of vernacular.
But Critical Regionalism seeks architectural traditions that are deeply rooted in the local conditions.
This results in a highly intelligent and appropriate architecture.
In its broadest sense, then, the Critical Regionalist sensibility looks to the uniqueness of site and location when deriving the formal aspects of any given project. Its influence can be felt in the work of the Tichino School in Switzerland, the sophisticated urban insertions of many contemporary Spanish architects (including Rafael Moneo), or the austere concrete forms of the Japanese master Tadao Ando. All point to a design method that is assuredly modern but relies on the organic unity of local material, climatic, and cultural characteristics to lend coherence to the finished work. The result is an architecture suited to light and touch.
Through a studied and careful appreciation of provincial traditions, regionalism in the post-war years resulted in designs imbued with sensitivity to the specifics of local climates and materials, topographies and building methods. The Southern California work of Richard Neutra in the 1930s, for example, or the brilliant projects designed by the Barcelona architect J. A. Coderch, demonstrate a variety of ingenious adaptations of local forms and methods to the requirements of modern functionality. The results are formally and conceptually divorced from received notions of style, as in the case of Coderch’s celebrated ISM apartment block (1951), which presents a modern brick veneer mediated by carefully realized interpolations of traditional elements such as full-height wood shutters and thin overhanging cornices.