the way we live

starchitects and the way we live


archinect had a link this afternoon to a brilliant article by architectural critic john king in the san fransisco chronicle. the article puts into question whether the signature buildings being produced by a small number of so-called starchitects is at all helpful to society. while the article uses rem koolhaas as a case study (he was in san francisco speaking about a new project) it raises some very valid questions and concerns about the state of architecture and it’s relationship to society and the way we live. here are some brief but well made points i appreciated:

  • “…the stars often seem to work harder at one-upping their rivals than at creating buildings that will improve our cities and lives.”
  • “what bothers me is the detached unreality of a world where architecture is reduced to a chic parlor game. at some point the stars aren’t designing for the site or the client. they want to pull a new breed of rabbit out of their hat.”

these are ideas that have bothered me as of late as well. it seems more and more corporations, towns, villages, and governments are turning to starchitects for structures. the problem is, they aren’t looking towards these designers for architecture, they are looking for notoriety. the thought is that if i only had a building designed by frank gehry, people will come en mass, it’s free publicity. to an extent it’s true. these architects generate quite a buzz, quite an intellectual discourse; but as john king points out, for the starchitects, it has become a process of one-upping one other. or worse yet, out-shocking the next guy. architecture is supposed to be about designing our lives, engaging people as a place of living, work, or study, as a third skin. good design doesn’t make a statement for statement’s sake, it does so because it enhances our lives and it improves our cities. architecture should be a collaborative experience that culminates in the built environment. good architecture is a synthesis of history, culture, site, and a rigorous design process. a system of one-upping each other helps no one, least of all the building’s end-user, or the city’s residents. if you haven’t read john’s article, go check it out, he’s a much better writer than i.


6 March 2007 - Posted by | architecture, society


  1. Well, lo and behold – an architecture critic is saying what people are saying! It reminds me a bit of how, in Thatcher’s Britain, you were no-one unless you had a Paolozzi parked in your forecourt.
    Thanks for the post and link.

    Comment by kuipercliff | 14 March 2007 | Reply

  2. […] article in today’s paper about the issue of starchitecture, something we’ve mentioned before; personally, i think article misses the point, but a good read nonetheless. also, check out […]

    Pingback by apologies and updates « the way we live | 17 December 2007 | Reply

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