Sunday, June 04, 2006

Visionary Architects In America Raising Their Gazes From Personal Psychic Terrain To European And Japanese-Style, Large-Scale Urban Redevelopment

... "Not so long ago American architects complained that they were shut out of the public dialogue. Today they work in a climate in which building is booming, and architecture is revered, but as an aesthetic, not a social, force.

I'm not one of those purists who argue that Mr. Gehry or Mr. Piano should snub commercial developers altogether and limit himself to hammering out projects for, say, art museums or libraries. It is at the intersection between fantasy and practicality that architects are best able to express our civilization's values. But architects will be defined by the clients they choose.

As a young architect working in Los Angeles in the 1960's and 70's, Mr. Gehry has said, he felt imprisoned by his developer clients. "I was constantly pushed around by these guys," he said in an interview. "They had a formula that you had to follow. So you couldn't do things." He found his creative voice in smaller, offbeat projects, like the Danziger Studio (1965) or the Ron Davis House in Malibu, Calif. (1972), for artists whom he knew and liked.

But by 1979 that split — between the projects that paid the bills and those that gave satisfaction — had become a torture. Working on Santa Monica Place, a low-budget mall for the Maryland-based Rouse Company, Mr. Gehry could only tweak the conventional formulas. Not that far away, he had begun tearing apart and piecing together a plain pink bungalow, remaking it as a violent collage of chain link, corrugated metal and plywood: the house that would announce that he had finally broken free.

The experience led him to lay off most of his firm. From then on he swore he would only work for clients that shared his architectural values.

Some 25 years after Santa Monica Place, Mr. Gehry says his recent decision to embrace big developers does not signal any sort of about-face. He argues that his status puts him in an entirely different position.

"They have to meet me as an equal," Mr. Gehry said simply.

New York has changed too. After trailing their counterparts in Paris and Tokyo for 20 years, the city's cultural institutions have caught on to an international trend in experimental architecture. The result is a flurry of major expansions, from Mr. Piano's addition to the Whitney Museum of American Art to Sanaa's new New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery. Lately commercial developers have been scrambling to find their own star architects. Yet the most visionary designers have tended to focus on personal psychic terrain rather than large-scale development and planning debates. (In Europe, conversely, architects take the lead, from the Barcelona waterfront to housing developments across the Netherlands.)" ...

Nicolai Ouroussoff "Skyline For Sale" New York Times, June 4, 2006

Prada's Tokyo outpost, designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, architects of San Francisco's new De Young Museum -- part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Will the 'Malling' and 'Towering' of America finally be slowed by the influence of European and Japanese contextual and ecological architects and designers?

Photo credit: Arup Lighting Group With thanks.

via mondoarc/prada.html


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