It refers to those unnecessary trappings; but of course, the immediate question which follows is: who determines necessity as opposed to aesthetic addendums otherwise of utilitarian vacuity.
The traditional approach in functional architecture is determined by the general principle that a building should be designed by the paradigmatic governance of the underlying purpose for which the structure should be constructed. That is likely why government buildings are essentially drab and colorless, reflecting the purposive nature of a bureaucracy and administrative conduits. The grandeur of the wealthy in pouring money into aesthetically pleasing facades, otherwise without any meaningful utilitarian basis, is a consequence of wanting to impress, as opposed to a functional capacity to reside.
In modernity, functionalism is akin to pragmatism, which is often seen as the heart and soul of this country’s success – of advancing towards the next technological innovation, accomplishing beyond the project paid for, and getting things “done” in order to calculate the worth and value of a person’s being. At the cost of family, neighborhood, culture and normative constructs, we go for that which works, what pays and what can be sold.
Thus does the American model function on the motto of pragmatism: Of what does it benefit a man if he cannot make a living from it? And so the narrative goes that waves of immigrants gave up their native country, whether because of famine, wars, poverty or persecution, and traveled to a far-off foreign soil in order to carve out a living without the trappings once enjoyed.
But the concept of functional architecture can reach into other disciplines, as well – as in the composition of words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into pages of stream of consciousness. One can, for example, add all sorts of unnecessary verbiage in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in response to the questions posited in Standard Form 3112A – Applicant’s Statement of Disability.
This can get one into what is often proverbially termed as “hot water”. For, just as the three classic goals of architecture still remain relevant today – of utility, beauty and firmness (reflecting the conceptual generalizations of use, aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and structural integrity), so the same can be applied in preparing one’s Federal Disability Retirement application in the statements made: Writing to the point of the Federal Disability Retirement application (utility); being comprehensible and coherent, with a purposive narrative (beauty); and, finally, firmness (maintaining the structural integrity of the narrative by building the proper linguistic foundation in formulating one’s answers on SF 3112A).
Thus, as with most things in life, functionalism does not merely apply to the discipline of architecture, but can easily be transmogrified into the complex administrative process of Federal Disability Retirement. As the fullness of life is an admixture of interconnecting experiences, so the principles undergirding architectural integrity can teach us lessons in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire