Camouflage Architecture – Potemkin Village

Architecture -Camouflage, Potemkin Village, Building Facade, Architectural Article

Camouflage Architecture – Potemkin Village

Architecture Facade Design, Building Type Discussion – article by Brian Carter, Buffalo, NY, USA

Dec 29, 2018

Camouflaged Architfecture – Potemkin Village

Deceptive Construction – Facades that disguise

Definition of Potemkin village: an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition

Camouflage Architecture – Potemkin Village – The Monthly Report

Images of spindly towers and city fabric recall Potemkin’s villages. And like those fleeting facades, supposedly built to catch the eye of important passers, these contemporary proposals suggest hubris and advocate the use of cloth.

Idealized portrayals of alternative landscapes and hazy images persist while renderings. models and elaborate mock-ups continue to project ideas of possible futures. Commissioned by property developers, politicians and communities and prepared enthusiastically by architects, digital wizards, artists and city planners such images Increasingly define our streets, fill screens, commandeer 3D printers and paper over walls in architect’s offices, corporate boardrooms and schools of architecture worldwide.

Happy on Flatiron North Public Plaza
Happy on Flatiron North Public Plaza
photography : Benjamin Cadena

And while materials, use or weather – historical references in architecture and hints regarding the design of buildings – can no longer be trusted global economies, hubris and international styling appear to have created a seemingly endless parade of towers with proposals in Asia or South America indistinguishable from those portrayed and planned for London, Sydney, Chicago and Vancouver.

Cass Gilbert, the architect of New York’s Woolworth Building, described the skyscraper as a “machine to make the ground pay” and recent conversations with colleagues working in that city highlighted anxieties regarding the diminishing role assigned to architects. Many professionals there appear to consider themselves merely the tiniest part of a vast real estate and development machine that is lumbering across the city in search of revenue. Patrons, it seems, are increasingly hard to find and effectively camouflaged.

Camouflage is everywhere. Throughout this month in particular those familiar ranges of fuzzy patterns in grey, green and earthy tones devised to conceal hunters and armies are expanded to include red coats, furry trim and fuzzy beards. And suddenly this year the global presence of high-visibility yellow jackets not only adds gilets jaunes to wardrobes but further blurs boundaries between town and country, rescue and protest, order and chaos.

And those urban curtains that recall Potemkin’s plans for instant transformation also reference camouflage. Suggested for urban avenues in 2018 they will likely be seen as obscuring views, adding colour and a little gaiety to otherwise grey streets, confusing drivers and pedestrians. They also provide a reminder of Christo’s Gates that so effectively defined routes through Central Park in 2005 or that spectacular ‘Running Fence’ – an almost 25 mile long fabric curtain strung out across Marin County in 1976.

While Potemkin’s villages have been confirmed as myth and relegated to history there is clearly still a fascination with camouflage in architecture and an enthusiasm to direct design to catch the eye of passing travelers quickly.

Meanwhile best wishes for happy holidays, the remainder of December and a new year ahead.

BC/December 2018.

Brian Carter, a registered architect in the UK, is Professor of Architecture at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.
Brian Carter
Brian Carter




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Comments / photos for the Camouflaged Buildings, Potemkin Village – Article by Brian Carter Article page welcome

Camouflage Architecture – Potemkin Village : page

Website: Potemkin Village Definition