Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Here is an excellent essay from John Field posted on Planetizen.
The making of architect media heroes is a new phenomenon. On the one hand such recognition is welcome and long overdue, and the problem isn’t the quality of design. It is that the responsibility for creating urban communities for the future is seldom part of the starchitect’s agenda. A mere 50 years ago, most architects would have been incredulous if you had told them that their name alone would raise millions of dollars for clients or be the difference between success and failure in leasing an office project. The number of famous architects in the world could be counted on one hand back then. But today the era of the celebrity architect is blooming worldwide. Architects’ names are now even associated with retail household products like teapots, watches and lighting fixtures.

Today the phenomenon has taken hold so completely that it is beginning to fracture the fabric of our urban areas. The purity of “autograph architecture” is preserved by holding it away from its neighboring buildings with plazas to create room to be better admired. Shouldn’t we ask ourselves why was it that Andrea Palladio could design a project as part of the fabric of the city in the 16th century without sacrificing his artistic integrity, and yet Mies Van der Rohe and many architects today have to have plazas isolating their designs, as if the surrounding riffraff of buildings would contaminate their jewels? Greater recognition of the importance of architecture should make better cities, but that’s not possible when no building can be next to another.

Architects are not planners and vice versa. Fields gets to a new phenomenon where architects are not making our urban areas better with their signature buildings. This other post on Planetizen discusses this as well, but from a journalistic angle. Is it time for architects and planners to sit down at the same table and find some common ground?

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