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Is Architecture Having Another Expressive Moment? | Architect Magazine

Aaron Betsky weighs the merits of the “look-ma-no-hands” approach to design.

Picture Plane for Heatherwick Studio The Alberni Street towers in Vancouver, by Heatherwick Studio
Picture Plane for Heatherwick Studio The Alberni Street towers in Vancouver, by Heatherwick Studio

Lately my friend and erstwhile architecture school classmate, Charles Dilworth, FAIA, has been sending me emails with headings such as “Why, dear God, why?” The subject is usually the latest building proposed by Thomas Heatherwick’s or Zaha Hadid’s firms, such as the convoluted towers Heatherwick has announced for Vancouver. The object of Dilworth’s ire is formal: The buildings each have a literal and metaphorical twist to them that is more than just the turn of a staircase or the curve of a roofline, but rather involves the structure changing direction going up, bulging out in ways that until recently would have been impossible. Or, in the case of Hadid Architects’ forthcoming tower in Shenzhen, flowing out into the landscape with a seeming insouciance. I call it “look-ma-no-hands” architecture.

The astute critic Rowan Moore has gone further, calling the structures “urban click bait,” “one-liner architecture,” and the built equivalent to bitcoin, while resurrecting the (to me) tired argument about the evils of “iconic architecture.” He notes the “unsubtle wielding of natural and cultural symbolism,” and dismisses these projects as having been produced at the behest of clients who want to “advertise and sell themselves,” or who have the “urge to make a mark, to glorify, to self-aggrandise.”

Michael Huston, in an article for Common Edge, is even more scathing, seeing even in the smallest protuberance of a balcony or overlap of a roof plane a waste of material driven somehow by a combination of “ego” and the perpetual bête noire of architecture moralizers: architecture schools. The examples he gives, though, are so trivial and nonsensical as to undermine his own argument.

Read on >>> Source: Is Architecture Having Another Expressive Moment? | Architect Magazine

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