Do Starchitects' Egos Get in the Way of Good Design?

One critic claims that "starchitects" are more interested in flash than function. He recommends these architects work with mainstream developers to have a more positive impact on average people.

"The more serious criticism comes from those inside the profession who see a move into the mainstream as a sellout. The pact between high architects and developers, to them, is a Faustian bargain in which the architect is nothing more than a marketing tool, there to provide a cultural veneer for the big, bad developers whose only interest is in wringing as much profit as possible from their projects."

The author recommends that architects work with mainstream developers instead of on specatucular commissions that feed the ego. In the mainstream, architets can "step out of the narrow confines of high culture and have a more direct impact on centers of everyday life that were once outside their reach, from shopping malls to entire business districts."

"This is especially true as the size of the developments continues to grow. New York alone is planning to add at least 35 million square feet of commercial space over the next couple of decades, much of it concentrated at sites like ground zero and the West Side railyards. Cities are being built virtually from scratch in China and the Middle East." The author believes these new developments should attract the greatest architectural minds; this is where "starchitects" can produce their best work.

Full Story: Let the ‘Starchitects’ Work All the Angles

Comments

Comments

Starchitecture On The Defensive

The real news here is that starchitecture is becoming the object of such widespread ridicule that even Ouroussoff is on the defensive. This is probably a sign that this style is on the way out (I hope).

When I read the summary of the article, beginning "One critic claims that 'starchitects' are more interested in flash than function," and then saw that the critic is starchitecture-fan Ouroussoff, I was quite amazed. But the summary misrepresents the article: Ouroussoff is actually defending the starchitects against these attacks.

The summary quotes the following:

"The more serious criticism comes from those inside the profession who see a move into the mainstream as a sellout. The pact between high architects and developers, to them, is a Faustian bargain in which the architect is nothing more than a marketing tool, there to provide a cultural veneer for the big, bad developers whose only interest is in wringing as much profit as possible from their projects."

but, immediately after this, the article says:

"There’s some truth to this, of course.
. . .
But in general I find these attacks perplexing. For decades, the public complained about the bland, soul-sapping buildings churned out by anonymous corporate offices. Meanwhile, our greatest architectural talents labored in near obscurity
. . .
Today these architects, many of them in their 60s and 70s, are finally getting to test those visions in everyday life, often on a grand scale. What followed has been one of the most exhilarating periods in recent architectural history. For every superficial expression of a culture obsessed with novelty, you can point to a work of blazing originality."

Ouroussoff's writing is usually muddled, and this is no exception. He doesn't see that his defense of the starchitects' "blazing originality" is not much different from the criticism that they are "obsessed with novelty."

When "blazing originality" is the criterion that architecture critics use to define good architecture - rather than beauty and human scale - then we will get the sort of novelty-obsessed designs that the starchitects produce.

Now, if only the New York Times would find a critic to cover the best architecture that is being produced today, instead of covering just the "blazingly original" novelties, we would get some criticism that is fit to print.

Charles Siegel

starchitecture

check out the fantastic review/discussion of modern starchitecture in the 11/07 harper's: Modernism a la mode: How architecture went from radical to chic, by Mark Kingwell.

while i have some criticism of the essay, its mostly good and a very interesting read.

i will be forwarding the PDF of the article (available to subscribers) to the moderators.

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