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Erdy McHenry Architecture
915 Orianna Street
Philadelphia PA 19123
215.925.7000
info@em-arc.com
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Process

Architecture is capable of shaping our urban fabric and affecting individual’s lives. Public architecture, in particular, can shape the attitudes of an entire community, if not society as a whole.

Architecture brings forth both the essence of place and of program, to project clarity of purpose and the relationship of the building to its community. Each opportunity to strengthen relationships within a community makes way for creating a better society.

Building design requires the resolution of multiple challenges, many of which often appear to be mutually exclusive. It is the role of the architect to balance all the issues of site, program and budget and make choices that are in the best interest of the project. In the end, the building will speak for itself and the inherent wisdom of these choices will become clear.

As a mirror to society, it is important that architecture is relevant to issues and concerns that affect our era. Current attitudes must be balanced with long-standing concerns in order for architecture to remain appropriate and timeless. In addition, stylistic concerns must be tabled in order to make way for substantive discussions of purpose. Herein lies the process that makes our work different.

As a formal proposition, architecture can tell the story of its purpose and function. Our process brings forth the essence of the problem as part of the solution. Our analysis and synthesis of program extends beyond the physical requirements of space planning and security to incorporate issues of site history, typology and institutional imagery as part of the pragmatic considerations of design.

In the end, program requirements can usually be satisfied efficiently within the confines of simplistic form. This however relates only to building and not architecture. By formal articulation of the entire program (physically and philosophically), the building ought to expose purpose and engage the viewer in a two-way dialogue that imbues the building with personality. The building is capable of “pushing back” at the user, allowing one to participate in a conversation about design and not just be an observer. This is possible because we create architecture from that which is required of the program, not secondary applications of style.

Understanding the building site and its historical relationship to the program is essential to architecture and urban design. The inability to create architecture that is “of its place” is one of the major deficiencies of architecture today. We invest the intellectual capital required for the understanding of site and the local context in order to create an architecture that is of its place. This is acutely important in order for a building not to be viewed as an interloper by the local community.

The expression of function is an issue that has drawn heated discussion within the design community since the Weimar Republic and the debates which raged over the International Style. The discussion, however was limited to how form might follow function, not necessarily how form can be the embodiment of purpose. If one studies objects of purpose: a hand tool, milling machine, grain elevator, etc., the formal deposition of the object is a clear example of the expression of reason. This invariably insulates the object from discussions of style as a measurement of value: subjectivity is replaced by objectivity. Taking a solutions-based approach to design places our work within a similar realm for discussion. It is capable of withstanding scrutiny because form, generated by programmatic needs, and can sustain analysis. Again, this is not a matter of simply solving the program, but breathing life into it by understanding the cultural implications of the task.

Much of our work investigates the expression of the elemental forms that create the building. Articulating specific components within a design allow the building to tell its story of purpose allowing the occupant to understand its metaphysical nature. These components are further articulated by the immediate influences of site and culture.

Society today has many complexities that are not immediately apparent. As the population urbanized during the industrial revolution, they came together as a homogeneous mass, each individual struggling to rise above the fray. This is being repeated in the information revolution in which we are currently immersed. We are rapidly coming together not in a physical way, but in a digital way via our information-age connectivity. The notion of urbanism is currently under debate by many academicians whose opinions span from the nostalgic “new urbanism” to the progressively nihilistic view that urbanism is no longer possible within our current societal construct.

Our view is that we are in fact an increasingly urbanistic society. This thesis portends that true urbanism is in fact societal and not physical, relating more to the interaction of people than to specific place or urban form. This sense of ubiquitous urbanism forces our buildings to become points of communication, connecting the world urban fabric as much as they relate to local “contextualism”. In many ways, our buildings are appliances in support of this new sense of global urbanism.

As points of communication, our buildings are places where people come together to interact physically with one another, while maintaining their connection to the global city. This has a major impact on the essence of place and how one creates architecture of significance. We believe that each project presents enormous possibilities for the expression of its place and purpose, strengthening relationships within a community while delineating a path for a better quality of urban life.

Our design philosophy ensures engagement with the site and local context and the revealing of purpose. Our design process is technically unique because it incorporates the use of the 3-dimesional-computer visualization through the design and documentation process in order to bring into presence the place-form. It is by way of our process that we are able to create places of importance and projects of significance.