Friday, April 10, 2009

Cameron Sinclair Addresses the Issue of the Day

The Architect's Dilemma: Arch of Excess or Arch of Relevance.

It is really no dilemma at all. It is the difference between those that want their name in Architectural Record and those that want to help humanity. Where we have to be careful is that the last depression gave impetus to toss the City Beautiful movement in favor of a Corbusien idealism that had no empirical basis, but merely an idealogical and philosophical one with little to no fundamental relationship to the actual built form and urbanism. They were all one off buildings much like anything Hadid, Koolhaas, or Ramus do today.

To help us out of this depression, we need more Jane Jacobs and little to no Zaha Hadid. (Although one would think an Iraqi woman would understand some measure of community development, the intricacies of fine-grained urbanism in impoverished cities, and perhaps how to do something relevant on a tight budget. But, maybe she is merely the modern day architectural version of Ayn Rand, a pure unmoderated hyper-reaction to her previous environment):
In the circles of the cultural elite I know I'm stepping on very thin ice. Given that she is the first female Pritzker Prize winner I've been told more than once that 'one cannot criticize her'. While Ms. Hadid has certainly made a lasting impact in the architectural discourse, the physical structures created have been on occasion environmentally unsound, exclusive in nature and at times ethically dubious. They fight for attention, piercing the fabric of the city instead of weaving it into a stronger and more interconnected environment.

The argument was never about starchitect vs. non-starchitect but how we adapt and change as a group of professionals that is dedicated to improving the physical environments that we call life. There is no 'architecture with a big A' there is only architecture and how we practice it matters not just for the state of the world but the survival of the practice.