Architecture's 'Bilbao Era' Could Be Over

The age of iconic architecture may be ending. The recession is a major factor, but much of the shift may be due to changing perceptions about what architecture is supposed to do for a place, according to critic Robert Campbell.
January 16, 2009, 9am PST | Nate Berg
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"Usually institutional work - especially hospitals and universities - holds up best in a recession, which can be good news for New England architects. But that sector too has hit an all-time low."

"OK, the American news is too gray and depressing. Let's focus on an item from the other side of the world."

"In the emirate of Dubai, over there on the Arab peninsula, the sun is still shining. In fact, it's shining so brightly that the Palazzo Versace, a hotel due to open next year, plans to offer its guests a beach of artificially cooled sand."

"Severe architectural recession on the one hand, grotesque architectural luxury on the other. The two stories are the yin and yang of this moment in time. They mark the end, perhaps, of what we'll call the Bilbao Decade. It's been a boom, a clearly defined epoch in the history of architecture."

"Suddenly architecture was in. Every city, it seemed, wanted to be like Bilbao, wanted its own daring, avant-garde iconic building. Usually that building was an art museum or a skyscraper. Every few months, someone announced plans for the new tallest building in the world."

"The Bilbao Decade produced some wonderful buildings, but it was a time when the social purposes of architecture were sometimes lost."

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Published on Sunday, January 11, 2009 in The Boston Globe
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