Friday, 13 February 2015

Biased critic

My post on Gehry's Sydney building prompted some off-line correspondence.  That discussion inevitably involved comparison between the 'starchitects' and their apparent disregard for the usual constraints to which the rest of us have to pay cost, or durability of external finishes.

It highlighted that I find myself in a very strange frame of mind in relation to these various 'starchitects'.  Because they are all so bloody talented at something, it is all the more offensive how cavalier most of them are. 
For instance, Zaha Hadid hits real high notes for me with work like the Glasgow Riverside Museum ofTransport, where I see a compelling relationship between the brilliant parametric rationalisation of structure and its potential to accommodate truly extraordinary spaces. Much more convincing than Gehry's development of the structures carrying his external forms, being as they are just complicated set out exercises solved for him by Catia.  But then Hadid goes on to be generally wilful, probably careless, and megalomaniac on the scale of such buildings as the Tokyo Stadium project. So that if I try to compare Hadid and Gehry, I end up considering Gehry to be the more consistent architect.

Of course, these kinds of comments, that can be made about Gehry, Hadad, Vinoly and their like (and even, ironically, about Calatrava) tend to confirm my admiration for Foster, and perhaps Piano.  Why?

Everything is a matter of bias. What I see as connecting threads to emphasize in discussing buildings, in the end give away the value system I inherited as an undergraduate.  I studied in the late 60's, the tail end of modernism. Which biases I obviously still carry.  For instance, it doesn't matter how hard I tried along the way to give equal weight to such ideas as highly redundant structures, when even the structural engineers woke up to the idea that ‘structural honesty’ is an unnecessary bit of baggage.  I still value more a piece of elegant structural determinism.

I believe as an un-negotiable condition of criticism that the critic should always declare their biases.  So there:  I am something of an un-reconstructed modernist.

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