1

Guelda Voien: These 7 Proposals to Redesign Notre Dame de Paris Are Meant to Start a Debate. Architectural Digest (May 2019)

2

Norman Foster promises to make all his new buildings “zero emission” buildings in 2013. World Green Building Council (May 2019

3

The biggest argument in favour of concrete is the density it is able to provide when shaping cities. Density is sustainable

4

The most surprising thing is that this serious studio had no previous tradition of concentrating on projects in this field. Design Boom Design Boom (October 2019)

5

“Dying as if you were at home”, Natasha Lev: Exit Here funeral parlour is designed to have “the eclectic feel of home”Exit Here funeral parlour is designed to have “the eclectic feel of home”, Dezeen (October 2019), or “Death can be ecological, too”, Bridget Cogley: Olson Kundig unveils Recompose Seattle facility for composting human bodiesOlson Kundig unveils Recompose Seattle facility for composting human bodies, Dezeen (November 2019)

After Architecture as Spectacle

Snøhetta, The Arc, Svalbard Global Seed Vault Visitor Center, image © snøhetta and plomp

Nobody has formally certified the death of “architecture as spectacle”. But it can’t be denied that in recent years the number of works built principally in order merely to impress, to have a sweeping, indiscriminate impact on spectators, has fallen drastically. Perhaps the swelling criticism of architecture has finally achieved its objective of highlighting the abuses committed in the profession. But it might be more realistic to think that the whole phenomenon of architecture as spectacle is nothing more than a historically recurrent trend that cyclically emerges and subsides but never completely disappears.

The causes of this sea change may lie in the decline of a business model that has slowly but inexorably been pushed towards other, more profitable areas. Although spending millions on building unbelievable facades and structures once seemed to produce virtually immediate social, economic and political returns, the private investment sector has come to the conclusion that the surprise factor of spectacular buildings doesn’t offer sufficient business incentive. And what’s more, tourism hasn’t kept it afloat. It once seemed inevitable: nowadays everyone wants more. And it was different. But what has architecture got left to offer now?

The death throes of architecture as spectacle can be seen in the countless designs submitted for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral, with ideas to rebuild its roof with swimming pools, a space rocket, greenhouses, mile-high spires, garages, glass skylights and even a McDonalds. That kind of spectacle only serves to  corroborate its own demise1. Not even the architects with the most philanthropic visions of redemption have achieved the advertising impact they were looking for.

Everyone is aware that other models are needed, models focussed on architecture. One of the pivotal factors in current design is environment. But for now we don’t seem to have got beyond mere “ecological ornamentation”, as visualised in all the paraphernalia of solar panels, windmills, water recyclers and, more recently, carbon dioxide-absorbing gardens on facades. Unfortunately, real ecology in architecture is either still a promise or something linked to eminently local solutions2. However earnestly architectural circles desire to counter environmental catastrophes, their results have been no better than those obtained in the climate conferences. At the end of the day, some architects are convinced–and can put forward good arguments–that concrete is the most ecological solution available at the moment3.

In the meantime, the market seems focussed on offering its users different kinds of experiences. In Norway, the Snøhetta studio has designed an underwater restaurant. Dining in an aquarium surrounded by maritime fauna is a whole new experience that raises our awareness of the riches hidden in the ocean depths. It’s not a new experience, but it’s certainly significant. The same Norwegian studio has also designed a visitor centre in the increasingly less icy Arctic4. Ecological experiences sell. And it’s precisely there that ecology seems to garner its biggest support from the market. But green experiences are by no stretch of the imagination the only possibilities: they constitute just one type of initiative that illustrates the current change of perspective regarding “architecture as spectacle”.

The list of these new experiences is beginning to gather speed. Anaesthetised by everyday stimuli, we have become collectors of experiences: experiences not based per se on architecture but which it is architecture’s job to deliver. The most extreme examples are now being explored as possible business opportunities: new ways of experiencing death5, a taste of the difficulties of living on Mars, or of Barbie’s perfect house, or of the harshness of a post-apocalyptic shelter are just further examples from the vast collection now on offer in the most recent arena of post/neo/late-stage-capitalist architecture.

It seemed unimaginable that the next piece of lunacy after the era of architecture as spectacle would be that of sensationalist architecture, even in the worst sense of the term.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página
1

Guelda Voien: These 7 Proposals to Redesign Notre Dame de Paris Are Meant to Start a Debate. Architectural Digest (May 2019)

2

Norman Foster promises to make all his new buildings “zero emission” buildings in 2013. World Green Building Council (May 2019

3

The biggest argument in favour of concrete is the density it is able to provide when shaping cities. Density is sustainable

4

The most surprising thing is that this serious studio had no previous tradition of concentrating on projects in this field. Design Boom Design Boom (October 2019)

5

“Dying as if you were at home”, Natasha Lev: Exit Here funeral parlour is designed to have “the eclectic feel of home”Exit Here funeral parlour is designed to have “the eclectic feel of home”, Dezeen (October 2019), or “Death can be ecological, too”, Bridget Cogley: Olson Kundig unveils Recompose Seattle facility for composting human bodiesOlson Kundig unveils Recompose Seattle facility for composting human bodies, Dezeen (November 2019)

Autor:
Arquitecto y docente; hace convivir la divulgación y enseñanza de la arquitectura, el trabajo en su oficina y el blog 'Múltiples estrategias de arquitectura'.

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