“Exceptions do not always prove the rule; they can also herald a new rule.” Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach (Austrian writer, 1830-1916)
Highlights draw attention to a rule which has been broken. In language, an accented word often suggests a different emphasis, an exception to the linguistic rhythm or a shift in the cadence of the language. The word acquires a different meaning, the sentence is more animated and language becomes more colourful and interesting. The same is true for architecture: highlights and accentuated design features make buildings meaningful and diverse. As a general rule, that is. Of course, essential criteria need to be applied: the rhythm in the background must continue as a recognisable pattern, the highlight should remain the exception to the rule, and there must be a reason for the particular emphasis. It is a question of finding the golden mean, a subject sociologists, architects and urban planners have repeatedly broached, and which has generated various architectural trends and urban planning approaches. Often enough the results have been unsuccessful. In some cases, the monotonous uniformity of mass housing lacked any form of highlight or accentuated feature; in others highlights were completely lost amongst numerous iconic buildings. No manual exists offering objective, balanced parameters for highlights. That is because, firstly, rules and rhythms in our architectural environment are constantly changing. Secondly, the motive behind breaking rules is itself a highly individual matter: we break rules in order to break rules. To experience self-determination by rebelling. To experience the joy of freedom. To stand out from the crowd and feel our individuality. To provide scope for our own feelings. To give our existence meaning within this collective cycle. And to initiate new rules. We are aware of this global mood regarding rules and freedom, individuality and community at the moment. By the way, in both music and medicine, the term used to describe rule breaking is syncope. In the first case, the rhythm is enlivened; in the other it breaks down. The perfect balance for a highlight, lies somewhere between the two extremes.
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