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Why don't architects look like this anymore

drawmore.flounces

I am an artist, not an architect. But I will be giving a presentation on Derrida's deconstruction as applied to architecture, fashion and art. I am trying to figure out what happened in architecture since the 70's

I was listening to a lecture given by Rem Koolhaas and he said this type of architect doesn't exist any more. He described this guy as serious, reading some boring documents, happy only to see a project through that will assist humanity in some way. He went on to say architects no longer build things like this housing project on the right .

I understand that utopian modernist architecture kind of disappeared in the 70's because "the projects" didn't work so well (like with Pruitt Egoe). And I understand that postmodernism and deconstructivist architecture pushed out utopian modernism to some extent. But that can't be the whole story. According to Koolhaas, this guy dropped off the map 20 years ago.

There must be some other reasons why we don't see architects like this anymore. Where do you think this guy went? I understand a lot of you miss him.

 
Oct 7, 11 6:54 am
calculator

This guy was only hired for government projects.  Thirty others exactly like him went out of business.

Oct 7, 11 8:47 am
Token AE

He only does waterproofing

Oct 7, 11 9:02 am
toasteroven

architects who do this sort of work still exist to a certain extent - except the US government doesn't usually directly fund large-scale housing projects anymore.  they're funded by incentives and subsidies, and built by developers, and look more like this:

 

also - back when many of these kinds of projects were going up, it was a reaction to an actual housing crisis and perceived poor housing conditions in urban centers - but by the 60s and 70s the wage gap had closed,  there were technological advances in homekeeping, and personal transit was cheap - so more people could afford to live on their own mini-estates and employ their own team of mechanical servants out in the suburbs.

 

also by the late 70s the focus had shifted away from simply providing physical housing for people to helping people secure funding to purchase their own housing/property.  I think this was well-intentioned - especially as a way to help more americans to gain equity, but it also helped accelerate sprawl and decreased architects' stake in the built environment. 

Oct 7, 11 11:12 am
citizen

If Rem said it then it must be true.

Oct 7, 11 1:25 pm
jmanganelli

it seems the description of the architect and the actual built product should be two separate issues.  some of the Modernist luminaries designed projects which are equally noble in intent and also spectacular failures.

was koolhaas talking about a perception that one needs to be a celebrity to have design control and freedom now?  that workmanlike dedication and competence are undervalued now?  or that the altruism is gone?  or making some point about the need for teams, collaboration, iteration and research replacing the loan expert?  

seems like there has to be more to this...and i do think some of these guys still exist, but they may not be celebrated, and they work in teams and rarely wear full suits...

Oct 7, 11 3:06 pm
drawmore.flounces

@jmanganelli--- Koolhaas was comparing this type of architect to the "starchitect" that we have now. That was his first point. He then said that there isn't money going into these types of projects anymore, and they simply don't exist. He then lead into a discussion about iconic buildings and how they totally blow. 

The reason I was asking about this is that I thought it was a little weird to imply the "starchitect" was somehow connected with the demise of public housing. I couldn't make a connection.

But to answer your question, I believe you are right when you say "it seems the description of the architect and the actual built product should be two separate issues." Koolhaas was mixing the 2 and now, so am I. 

Oct 7, 11 4:01 pm
toasteroven

He then said that there isn't money going into these types of projects anymore, and they simply don't exist....

 

well... first off these projects do still exist - just at a much smaller scale and wrapped in new-urbanist pastiche.

 

The reason I was asking about this is that I thought it was a little weird to imply the "starchitect" was somehow connected with the demise of public housing. I couldn't make a connection.

 

large scale government funded housing projects (and many other government funded-projects) went away due to a shift in policy and the fact that they were no longer needed - not necessarily because they "failed."  now architects who had been focusing on this work - usually though their connections within elite institutions -  were then forced to compete in the private marketplace, they needed visibility to potential clients in order to differentiate themselves from each other - and one of the ways was to create an elite starchitect culture.

Oct 7, 11 5:46 pm
jmanganelli

i think, too, other large trends in research, design, and practice can be read into this shift.  sola-morales' article on incremental design and frampton's writing on critical regionalism come to mind with respect to architecture.

more broadly, these images date from the end of an era when structuralist paradigms dominated many fields.  structuralist paradigms are usually prototypical examples of top-down approaches to design and community development.  conversely, the post-structuralist paradigms arising in the late sixties and early seventies, which continued to dominate into the nineties, are more bottom up approaches and are in line with the frampton and sola-morales views noted above.  i think we are now in a both/and paradigm, mixing bottom-up and top-down approaches as is efficient

this discussion reminds me a little of Lisa Findley's book, Building Change: Architecture, Politics and Cultural Agency.  you might like it very much. ...

Oct 7, 11 8:59 pm

toasteroven's certainly on the right track for the u.s. the large-scale housing like what's illustrated above is being torn down in our city, to be replaced (under hope vi) with large new urban 'neighborhoods' of detached and smaller-grouped multi-family housing. the 'architect' is actually an urban design firm from somewhere else that noone in the city ever sees: they left a pattern book, i think ... 

i'm not sure i see the connection between the change in the (ware)housing market and the rise of the architecture stars. taut and mies and oud did very well-celebrated housing, and the stars were never gone from that time until now. they just shifted from that kind of work to more cultural/entertainment types of work. 

'happy only to see a project through that will assist humanity in some way' is a loaded statement. in the early modern era up through mid-century, things were pretty black and white. you could believe what you were doing was good and helpful because society at large supported you in it. now, for everyone that says something is good, there are plenty of others to say it's wasteful, that it marginalizes someone, that it's ugly or derivative, that it will bring down their property values, etc. i don't know of any architect that can confidently speculate how their projects will be received by a larger public anymore. what is it to 'assist humanity'?

oh, and that guy in the left picture? he's in every office of over 10 people, i think: the architects male or female, bald or otherwise, that have to continue to take projects good or bad just to keep the machine running. even though he looks serious, he's probably the happiest he's been all week in that picture, because he's away from the 20+ stacks of paperwork on his desk.  in fact, for our office, i'm probably him.

Oct 8, 11 7:15 am
snook_dude

 Pruitt Egoe was a project done by I.M. Pei  and  it think his firm is still around, infact wasn't his firm known for some cutting edge design later on.  Christian Science Center, National Museum, John Hancock Tower and then there is the Museum Project in France.  Ya I think those guys are still kicking some Ashe around. 

Oct 8, 11 6:17 pm

wasn't i m pei.  wrong asian.

think japanese decent instead of chinese.

 

pruitt igoe went down because of policy issues not design. there are different policies now but the architects are still here, maybe doing smaller stuff in this genre. 

the guy doing big projects probably went to work for rem.

Oct 8, 11 7:36 pm

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