Monday, December 22, 2008

Goodbye to Generation Me

Hello to Generation We, which is the basic premise of a recent article I wrote condemning perfunctory architectural treatment of sustainability as some sort of new Baby Boom generation-like fad, when in fact it is a necessary shift in fundamental thinking of all things, economic; environmental; daily.

I'm not sure if I'm at liberty to post the draft of that article yet or not, but someday it will be on these pages. Until then, other people are beginning to come to a similar realization. However, mine is driven by something deeper than mere stylistic representation (the physical embodiment of a new Generation taking hold of public consciousness).

I received this email today as part of the Pro-Urb ListServ for professionals in the urban design world from one of the founding members of the Congress of New Urbanism:
Just in the same way that the excessive eclecticism of the 20's and 30's was identified with the financial excesses preceding the Great Depression, Starchitects and Starchitecture are now clearly identified with the mad off of the last twenty years.

Even Nicolai Ouroussoff admits it in a well hidden article in the NY Times today: Arts and Leisure Section, page 27, "It was fun till the money run out"

There will be no more extravagant programs, extravagant budgets, extravagant forms or any other form of excess in architecture and urbanism for many years to come. The party is over. Good bye cynicism, irony, megalomania, egocentricity, arbitrariness, and chaos. God bye Rem, Frank, Thom, Zaha, Jean. We will not only not miss you. We will make sure to forever remember your direct contributions to the collapse of our economy and culture.

We must now focus on making clear to the world that what we have been advocating for two decades, a socially, economically and physically sustainable architecture and urbanism, is the way of the future.

Silence in the light of this immense opportunity is a betrayal of all that the new urbanism stands for. We must begin with the Congress in Denver. Paraphrasing Churchill in 1942, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are out of allies, territory, resources and hope. It is time to think!!!! (and to act)

As for Ouroussoff's article in the NYT, he's a bit erratic and all over the map in sticking to his ultimate point, but see for yourself (link):
...Serious architecture was beginning to look like a service for the rich, like private jets and spa treatments. Nowhere was that poisonous cocktail of vanity and self-delusion more visible than in Manhattan. Although some important cultural projects were commissioned, this era will probably be remembered as much for its vulgarity as its ambition.
It's always the sycophants to be the first rats off the ship, isn't it?

Me? I'm of the feeling that like all things Kunstlerian, everything will downsize; Architecture included. We need a heaping helping of good, urban 3- and 4-story buildings fronting on high quality streets and public spaces, integrated correctly within their context (i.e. not turning their back on their neighbor or putting up gates around the property). And what architects need to realize is that their new clients will have different tastes that Generation Me. It will be more about public spaces and places for us, Generation We, and buildings will move back to their appropriate place, the background.