Emirates fantasy continues to crash

One of my favorite architectural blogs brings us news of serious concern over human rights abuses in Abu Dhabi, involving some of the world’s leading “starchitects”:


This only adds to my qualms about the whole idea of stardom in architecture – not only is crap often purveyed as art under the cover of a famous name (see for example Foster’s Russian exploits), but the rush to maintain media exposure has also resulted in a lack of sensitivity to the human aspect of architecture that I would ascribe largely to the corporate dimension of the starchitects themselves. “Zaha” or “Gehry” are not really flesh-and-bone Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry, they’re well-branded but in fact faceless multinational corporations that have more in common with IBM or Exxon than with the likes of Wright, Le Corbusier or Mies.

Year one done

Just finished my first year of graduate school. It was a strange ride, but well worth the effort. Though what I’m learning is not exactly what I expected, it is definitely an eye-opener in many ways. Here are a some drawings and pictures of my final project in studio:

Exhibition poster:

This is a fragment of an “unfolded section” of the public spaces – basically an unwrapped picture of a complex path through the building:

Section drawing:

Plan of a typical floor:

…and a photo of my final model:

Reply to my friend Steve

I still haven’t read the book you recommended, but I’d like to explain one thing – what I meant when I said libertarians believed that markets could be “magically” free.

I understand your point about free-market mechanisms balancing things out, both in theory and in most cases in practice. However, there are other factors that affect a market than just the internal ones. Markets operate in the broader context of society and the power relationships between their participants, and they should be taken into account when considering how they function.

I think we can agree that somewhere down the line there was such a thing as an entirely free, completely unregulated market – I would assert it was somewhere at the level of Grawp and Groop trading fish for deer hides, and not much later. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find one that isn’t regulated to some degree. The logical conclusion is that there must be a reason (or more likely a set of reasons) for this.

I think that the main one is the fact that the participants in a market try to bend the rules to their own advantage by establishing market regulators (starting with guilds and such, ending with the likes of the FDA and SEC). If you can accept this, you have to conclude that when you establish a free market, it will naturally (in other words through the natural inclination of market participants to mess with the rules of the game) devolve into a regulated one, unless something stops it from happening. The question then is what that something could be.

The way I see it, it could either again be the market participants seeing their own advantage best served by setting up rules to keep regulators out (but in effect enforcing “free market” rules), by an outside body (i.e. “government”) motivated by some external ideology or their own interests (resulting in “anti-monopoly” regulations), or finally “market magic”, which is where I see most libertarians sitting. I have yet to hear a libertarian explain how markets would keep themselves from by-and-by descending into one kind of regulation or another without an external force to ensure this.

I will read the Rothbard book when I have a bit more time around mid-May, and I’m really curious if and how it addresses this issue.

An interesting take on today’s digital baroque

Berlin architect Zvi Hecker on Lebbeus Woods’ blog, commenting on the disengaged architecture of recent years:

The more obscure and environmentally irresponsible were the financial investments, the more excessive became the Architectural form. In its most extreme version the Architecture’s mere existence became its function, just as the inflated growth of the financial market became its only raison d’être.

No longer required to follow the rules of logic, coherence and clarity of the plan, the “Architect as Architect” became rapidly irrelevant. This may explain why in recent years so very few significantly innovative designs emerged in Architecture’s core fields of engagement: solutions for housing, urban design, and integration of the socially deprived, subjects which were the bedrock of the Modern Movement.

(more at http://lebbeuswoods.wordpress.com/2009/03/19/zvi-hecker-architecture-stripped/)

I couldn’t agree more – especially when I look at much of what is going on with “digital” architecture, I see nothing substantially new. No new ideas are being explored, only new possibilities for more complex form. The thing this new but hardly innovative architecture reminds me of the most is a new Baroque – superficially over-elaborated, but substantially vacuous. There’s got to be more to architecture than showing off.


Handed in my Theory project today, together with a presentation for Technology, and managed to be no more than 15 minutes late to Structures with my homework. Hooray for me!
This semester’s studio is a refreshing change from last semester’s, which was all-digital. Not that I had anything to complain about with Paul’s class, but all the same it is nice to actually work with physical models for a change.
Now if I could spread some of this positive thinking to my family, I’d be set and happy as a pig in shit. Or something.