The Problem of Taste in Architecture

Classicists sometimes claim their style is more objectively beautiful or a more morally correct form of building. This reasoning partly justified Donald Trumps Making Federal Buildings Beautiful1 orders for example. But to paraphrase Derek Guy;2

Our idea of what constitutes classy” in architecture is mostly shaped by the social practices and tastes of the ruling class. It’s not timeless, but rather sociologically dependent.

IMO, one should not take taste as some kind of objective construct, but rather as a sociological idea.

What is more plausible? That the elite class just happened to have stumbled upon the magical formula for an architectureclassicism—or that we read such things as classy” because they are associated with the ruling class? And that some other combination–modernism—connotes something less classy because other people did not figure out this combination? Or that we think of this as less classy because it’s the taste of the lower classes?” ref

Architectural styles are all culturally and socially relative and express a preference usually aligned with the individuals own image. Their taste in other words. That’s not a problem as long as it’s aknowledged.

  1. Eric Baldwin. Executive Order Could Make America’s New Federal Architecture Classical” 05 Feb 2020. ArchDaily. Accessed 3 Sep 2023. ISSN 0719-8884↩︎

  2. in which I have replaced a few words bolded in the quote I took from Derek hopefully just to make my point clearer.↩︎

September 3, 2023