03 February 2009

Infrastructure Era to Follow Icon Decade

Has Zaha's ship run aground? Is iconic starchitecture in its death throes? Will it be replaced with the age of infrastructure?
By Blair Kamin |Tribune critic

The age of the architectural icon—that extravagant, exuberant, "wow"-inducing building on a pedestal—is dead, or more precisely, in its death throes. And what will replace it? President Barack Obama, who once dreamed of being an architect, had something to say about that Tuesday in his inaugural address: the age of infrastructure.

...The icon age was born in 1997 with the smash opening of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. The titanium-clad museum, with its dazzling collage of shapes, spawned a new "build it, and they will come" mentality: Hire a star architect, or "starchitect," give him or her free aesthetic rein, and watch the tourists or the buyers arrive.

...And yet, icons divorced from infrastructure are nothing more than empty set pieces, objects divorced from the fabric of everyday life.

..Even as McMansions swelled the average size of the American single-family home, the nation's commitment to the public realm was shrinking. That was evident not only in New Orleans' flooded lower 9th Ward, but also in crumbling roads and bridges, as well as schools...

...the real issues transcend style. They are about whether the new infrastructure will help usher in a new set of urban growth patterns—dense neighborhoods where you can walk or bike to the corner store to buy a carton of milk—or whether new roads and bridges will simply reinforce suburban sprawl.

...the Appropriations Committee version of the stimulus bill shrinks ... rail and transit spending while leaving highway and bridge funding...

... Icon architecture is no longer the issue du jour. It's sustainability—and survival.
See also, the End of the Bilbao Decade.

1 comment:

VisuaLingual said...

Check out this recent NYT article as well.