Food for Thought: Why Architecture Matters


A few Tocci employees recently listened to a discussion on WBUR, the Boston area NPR station, about the role of architecture in our society. The program was an interview with Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, and Sky Line columnist for The New Yorker, to talk about his latest book: “Why Architecture Matters.”

Mr. Goldberger described how architecture creates cultural memories for a society. Buildings play key roles in our lives and history just as literature and movies do. Architecture is the greatest memory of an era, we can as easily define the early 20th century with Frank Lloyd Wright as we can with Picasso. We as a society have common cultural memories of famous structures like Pyramids or the Lincoln Memorial.

The CCTV Tower in Bejiing. An Example of the incredible architecture we are capable of today. Image from MoMa.

The CCTV Tower in Beijing. An Example of the incredible architecture we are capable of today. Image from MoMa.

We also all have strong personal memories of buildings; our childhood homes, our college campuses, our first office buildings. Mr. Goldberger said that his one concern about architecture today and of the past 30 years or so is that we have not produced good ordinary buildings. We are building more fantastic important buildings, but the Costco down the road from your house might not have been designed and built in a caring way.

We are all heavily influenced by personal buildings, like our first apartments.

We are all influenced by personal buildings, like our first apartments.

This opinion was echoed by the next guest on the program: Richard Meier, world renowned architect.  Mr. Meier spoke very degradingly about the ordinary buildings in our lives, saying that big box retail buildings or multi-unit housing structures don’t have real architects and are designed by builders and developers who (to paraphrase slightly) don’t really care about what they are building.

We at Tocci were saddened at these words. Realizing that the old perceptions of builders as the caveman counterparts to architects still holds true. We still have a lot of work to do in the AECO industry to reverse the damage of the last several decades, in which productivity and quality has gone down and litigation has gone up.

We can’t speak for other builders but at Tocci we feel that it is a fundamental part of our job to embrace, ‘own’ and appreciate the design of our buildings as much our architect partners. We consider ourselves enablers of great design. We have a bit of an addiction to great design of all kinds (thus our Design We Love page and blog posts), but hyperbole aside, we could not agree with Mr. Goldberger more: great architecture is so culturally significant in our societies and buildings are so much more than mere shelter from rain, we feel lucky to be a part of why architecture matters.



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