Still Thinking…

I’ve been thinking more and more about the Starchitects Does Masterplanning article I referenced earlier today from the WSJ. Here is probably the most critical and prescient quote.

“Name-brand master plans are “an entrepreneurial tool” that are key to getting these large projects built…. Urban planning is now “a very weird mixture of marketing and urbanism,” he says.”

“It’s easier to know about architects than architecture. “A banker won’t know about architecture but will know that ‘Zaha Hadid’ or ‘Rem Koolhaas’ is a brand.”

…and therein lies the fundamental virus within City Building today. I’ve often stated that cities, how we build them, how we organize ourselves, are simply the physical manifestation of the underlying power structures and socio-economic and political ideologies of the day at work. In this case, it is pretty clear that it’s all about appealing to the bankers who have no idea about the fundamental principles of what cities are and what they do for us, and why those principles have stood the test of time.

They are simply choosing short-term gains (and long-term losses), via the marketing of “name-brand” architects via indefinite successes, sustainability (environmentally, socially, and economically), and vitality of real cities. I suspect there is at least PhD’s to be awarded if not a Nobel Prize for the economist that can appropriately measure the inherent synergies of city building sans my favorite word, “externalities.”

There is far more genius and complexity in this picture:

…than today’s overly simplistic economic modeling could ever understand. Instead we get big swoops and swirlies…the architectural equivalent of a michael bay film – click the link for South Park’s parody.


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