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June 20, 2008

Creativity Goes Amok Once Again

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Stuart Buck gives a convincing thumb's down to a proposed new piece of "blobitecture" in Prague. Though it doesn't qualify as blobitecture, Will Alsop's new arts center for West Bromwich is equally preening and silly.

Has anyone else noticed that public funding is involved in both these projects? A century ago the buildings that governments erected were often sturdy beauties. Today they're often offenses. What changed?

An a propos quote comes from the great Leon Krier: "As is the case with all good things in life -- love, good manners, language, cooking -- personal creativity is required only rarely."



UDPATE: Rick Darby has a fun, smart and eloquent go at a current Chicago project. Is "monstrosity" too strong a description for it? How about "kinky dildo"?

posted by Michael at June 20, 2008


The Prague thing looks like the alien invader from War of the Worlds.

Posted by: Slumlord on June 20, 2008 8:15 AM

Michael, I believe that the answer comes down to these questions:

Is this architecture the product of Elitist opinions/ideas or Common opinions/ideas?

If it is created by the Elites, do they ever want to lower themselves so much as to create something that the fat Wal-Mart employees would appreciate?

There is a commenter on iSteve's site that goes by the handle "testing99" who often comments that they are after "hipness". Which means that they must be above our middle-class and traditional tastes. They must deconstruct these things to show how above it they really are.

Posted by: Ian Lewis on June 20, 2008 9:00 AM

Two quick thoughts: (1) The only good thing I can say about that Prague blob is that, judging by the photo, it doesn't seem to be in the heart of town. (2) Although there are exceptions, British architects don't handle modernist architecture convincingly. Or so I think. Alsop's design is a case in point. Whereas Libeskind, Piano, etc. do sleek cr*p, Alsop's cr*p is simply cr*p.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on June 20, 2008 9:54 AM

A century ago the buildings that governments erected were often sturdy beauties. Today they're often offenses. What changed?
A century ago, many governments were still monarchies at heart. Staionary bandits build for the future; roving (or temporary) bandits do not. Posted by: Isegoria on June 20, 2008 10:25 AM

A century ago the buildings that governments erected were often sturdy beauties. Today they're often offenses. What changed?

Forcing ugliness on the governed is a more effective demonstration of power than giving them beautiful things to look at and be in.

Posted by: PatrickH on June 20, 2008 11:22 AM

These buildings make me feel hopeless.

As for Isegoria's comment: monarchies were stationary bandits? The monarch often conceived himself, sincerely, to be the embodiment of the nation. And acted accordingly. Very unhip I know. But that's the way it was before the glorious liberators annhialated everything permanent and beautiful.

Posted by: ricpic on June 20, 2008 12:21 PM

The Prague library looks like it's been out in the sun too long.

I took my shot at Chicago's upcoming architectural monstrosity yesterday.

Posted by: Rick Darby on June 20, 2008 12:54 PM

Hey, I really like the way that Prague building looks. In a Dr. Seuss book.

Perhaps this type of current architecture merits the same judgment often given to current adult clothing (well, current adult lots-of-things) - it's infantilized. Whimsy cannot be kept in its proper corner of adulthood; all of public life must be romper-roomed.

Posted by: Moira Breen on June 20, 2008 4:17 PM

Oh and another thing, that Chicago monstrostity looks like a giant French roll on its end; did the architects have pus in their eyes when they drew up that one?

Monarchies may have been bandits, but they were bandits with taste. Ludwig of Bavaria may have been mad, but his castle building legacy, especially Neuschwanstein castle trumps everything these modernist turds can dream up.

The only thing more depressing than the continual failure of architects to design objects of beauty is the manifestly bad taste of the business and government leaders that cough up the dosh for this shit. Architects don't put up these buildings with their own money, some idiot with crap taste and lots of money does. Those idiots are our leaders.

Posted by: Slumlord on June 20, 2008 10:36 PM

I suspect a few people missed my point about stationary bandits. The point was not that monarchies are bandits, but that they're stationary bandits. (Follow the link.)

Democratic politicians may not literally rove, but they know their hold on power is temporary; thus, they must subtly pillage while they can. They have little incentive to build for the future.

Posted by: Isegoria on June 23, 2008 9:11 AM

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