The ordinary – everyday – commonplace in architectural thinking

Martina Nováková


The paper seeks to clarify the ambiguous relationship between architecture and simplicity, ordinariness and banality – more specifically the aspect of how architecture has been inspired by ordinariness. The reasoning behind this argument is that there are many European architects, in whose work it is possible to find very clear and successful tendencies towards ordinariness. However, these architects are not the first ones to adopt this shift to reality and to ordinariness. There are many examples which deliberately highlight this issue in European architecture. The architecture, which is being explored in this paper, is of exceptional quality resulting from the modern understanding of production, tectonic density and compositional strength. It also demonstrates the strong empathy for its local conditions, as well as a confident critical approach to modern avant-garde. It responds to the desire for purity, truth, and often affirms a repressed social and cultural reality.

The paper intends to find a common feature in the work of these architects, despite their different educational backgrounds, their work for different offices and clients, their specialization in different building typologies and no conscious alignment to a common manifesto. This leads us to the assumption that the common feature is innate, yet hidden and subconscious. It regularly manifests itself in the ordinary, everyday and even banal commissions received from local clients. These are not only ordinary tasks, but – and therein lies the interest in their work – they also consciously refer to everydayness. These references may be subtle or explicit, and generally fall within the following three most commonly recurring categories: inexpressive architecture or architecture with limited expression; architecture with a material focus; and architecture which has little or no affinity with the classical structure of the city.

Although the architecture itself engages with banal, everyday and secondary things, it must be understood that we are unequivocally dealing with architecture. The difference is significant – there is no conciliation between architecture and non-architecture, between art and non-art. If architecture or art shift towards ordinariness, it maintains its status of architecture or art. However, when ordinariness attempts to shift towards architecture or art, the result can be at most kitsch. The presence of this boundary is immutable. It can be moved, alienated and obscured, but never destroyed.

Keywords: architecture, everydayness, ordinariness, banality