magpie [maɡˌpī], adjective: architecture that is, in the words of Copenhagenize's Mikael Colville-Andersen, “attempting to attract people to big shiny things that dazzle but that have little functional value in the development of a city”.
Colville-Andersen uses the term to chastize Norman Foster's "Skycycle" proposal for London, published in Copenhagenize on January 20, 2014: "Now of course this isn't a good idea." His use of "magpie architecture" is less about critiquing design elements, and more about deriding Foster's entire concept: "Ideas like these are city killers. Removing great numbers of citizens who could be cycling down city streets past shops and cafés on their way to work or school and placing them on a shelf, far away from everything else."
Given that the author is an urban designer specializing in urban mobility, and whose Copenhagenize blog champions cycling as a key aspect of thriving cities, it's no surprise that Colville-Andersen isn't a fan of pushing cycling towards the commuter infrastructures of trains or cars – figuratively or literally.
Colville-Andersen's use of the "magpie" term isn't novel, however his definition is not the officially accepted one. In English-language common knowledge, with roots in European folklore, the "thieving magpie" is known to be attracted to shiny objects, even though the characterization is, in fact, untrue. In most dictionary definitions, a "magpie" is a figurative term to refer to "a person who chatters noisily", or "one who collects indiscriminately". However, the folkloric term usually appears as a descriptor of the person seeking shiny objects, and not the shiny object itself.
On Archinect, Colville-Anderson's "magpie" was first linked to by toasteroven on Thread Central, the day after it originally appeared on Copenhagenize.
Welcome to Archinect's Lexicon. Architecture notoriously appropriates and invents new language – sometimes to make appeals, sometimes to fill conceptual gaps, sometimes nonsensically. But once a word is used, it's alive, and part of the conversation. We're here to take notes.