Tension brews between starchitects and critics

April 24, 2015

Zaha Hadid, Frank Ghery, and Bjark Ingles are three of the most often mentioned names in the brewing debate between starchitects and critics.

A few months ago, Michael Sorkin accused judges of the Guggenheim Foundation for favoring only a few famous architects in the competition.

In a more recent debate, Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects defended the star’s work for being much more than a spectacle. He says designers such as Hadid are, in fact, trusted brands. Specifically, he pushed back on Ellis Woodman, the writer for the UK’s Daily Telegraph and head of the Architecture Foundation. Schumacher challenged Woodman to use his architectural knowledge to educate the public on how to see cultural connections in the designs.

Sorkin, on the other hand, took action. He organized  the Next Helsinki, to compete for the Guggenheim Foundation’s proposed project in Helsinki.  The Foundation’s Judges, he said, placed too much value on designing for the  Wow! factor (often called the Bilbao effect because the building creates a tourist destination).

More education would help as buildings break out of their boxy shapes. Urban dwellers worldwide are increasingly questioning the wisdom of spending  millions on a single project.  According to David Chipperfield, iconic structures are okay. But, those buildings are not the whole of the profession and they may reduce serious architecture to  the level of decorations for the city.  Here’s his interview on the topic (originally recorded on May 4, 2012. START at about 10 min. into the interview — the halfway point. He discusses iconic architecture at about 13 min.).

I agree with Schumacher; iconic architecture cannot be dismissed. So lets get a conversation going that explores the cultural connections.

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