Anguished Architect Alert

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This morning the British daily The Guardian published a feature piece on Rem Koolhaas in which the oracular architect had this to say:

“The market economy thrives on spectacle and novelty,” says Koolhaas. “Its buildings are ever more dramatic. It offers the promise of total freedom, but in architecture this quickly leads to the danger of grotesqueness. It is hard to do serious, disciplined buildings in such a condition. The media, of course, encourages this teenage architecture; it gives most attention to extreme capitalist buildings, to this ever-growing accumulation of architectural extravagance, to fanciful museums full of shops.

I have to agree with Koolhaas about the danger of the grotesque, of clients urging their architects, including mediocre ones — I don’t mean Koolhaas —  to produce ever more flamboyant buildings as a way to get noticed. (I’ve been told that something of the kind played a role in Frank Gehry’s over the top design for the Experience Music Project in Seattle, an undertaking by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen and his sister.) But for Koolhaas to complain about the media giving attention to the “ever-growing accumulation of architectural extravagance” seems a bit odd coming from the man whose firm designed the rather extravagant and heavily publicized Seattle Public Library…

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to say nothing of the forthcoming CCTV Headquarters in Beijing.

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I guess he must mean all those other extravagant buildings. You know, the ones the other guys do.

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