Monday, August 13, 2007


In retrospect, the post-Miesian tower, the mono-functional rectilinear vertical extrusion clad in dark or mirrored glass (which proliferated around the world in the second International Style era of the ’60s onwards) marks architecture’s all-time nadir, even if some examples were well detailed and proportioned.

This culled from a new article by Peter Buchanan in Harvard design magazine. The article is a lot less polemic than that quote may suggest, but I appreciate the bold thinking involved; indeed, but the rubric that Buchanan sets forth (basically, LEED standards and standard urbanism), this may be true. Buchanan isn't some kind of architectural Luddite; the rest of the article is basically a mash note for the Swiss Re tower. I do like the historical viewpoint that he takes about the current state of iconic international competitions:

All these seem last-fling sunset effects from a waning era when, beside the defects listed, towers helped create dismal cities and aptly symbolized their extreme economic and social inequalities.

Makes me feel like I'm living in Blade Runner. But who would have guessed even ten or fifteen years ago that there would be this sudden explosion of modern pyramids? In the last thirty years of science fiction we went from white iconic idyll (2001) to dystopian megamachine (Blade Runner, Alien) to a banal sprawl where all of the action is virtual (Gibson, Stephenson). I honestly think that the concentration of power and weath will always have dramatic physical expression, even if all of the action is taking place electronically. Sorry, Neal, you might be wrong this time.

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