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…… the concept of luxury in building

The land of definitions is by nature slippery and arduous, but the most subjective of all is the definition of luxury. For some it means beauty, splendour, prestige and for other is means something that is superfluous or ostentatious. However, over the centuries the concept of luxury has been interpreted in many different and, often, […]

The land of definitions is by nature slippery and arduous, but the most subjective of all is the definition of luxury. For some it means beauty, splendour, prestige and for other is means something that is superfluous or ostentatious.

However, over the centuries the concept of luxury has been interpreted in many different and, often, contradictory ways, depending on the specific eras and cultures in the different countries.

The term luxury does not derive from lux (light), but has ancient Indo-European roots in lug, which means break or dislocate, giving rise to the Latin term of lucere (to lament, be grieving). A second etymological branch generated the noun luxatio (dislocation, movement) and the adjective luxus, or place crossways. The latter then took on the meaning of excess, with connotations of magnificence and dissolutive conduct. Luxury is a deviation therefore, a movement and a swerve off a known track.

David Hume – a fundamental figure in the debate on luxury – held that luxury was damaging only when it was no longer of benefit to society. The most recent critic claimed that the so-called “new-luxury”, or accessible luxury, is only the modern day manifestation of consumerism and the habit of giving great importance to unnecessary things. Often manufacturers of new-luxury see their products as having a social function and – therefore – consumers consider them as social “tools” rather than vices, to confirm their status. In the “most luxurious” eras, industry, culture and humanity were linked by an unbreakable chain, an unusual alignment of business skill (industry), educated consumers (culture) and emotive needs (humanity).

However today, what really identifies the concept of “luxury” in material construction terms, or rather those choices of materials used to create the spaces we live in?

A possible answer could be the knowing use of a certain building material in the right context, aware of the specific capacity and performance it can give and “honestly” using it in the best possible way. This without forgetting the proportions of the spaces, care paid to detail, relationship with light and surrounding nature and the concept of living comfort.

In the idea of honesty and clarity, which, first and foremost, is the intellectual honesty of the expert who is called on to choose and propose solutions and materials to the client, which are suitable for the specific context in which they will be used, the game can be fought, and won, for a radical change in the economy of the building sector, respecting the society that we are just a small part of and the natural context where we are just passing visitors.

Marina Cescon
Acciaio Arte Architettura Online