Iconic Building, Populist Design, Signature Architecture, Celebrity
Iconic Buildings : Architecture Debate
Discussions on Current Architectural Topics – Opinion from an architect
15 Jul 2005
‘The Great Escape – Iconic Buildings‘
Article by Colin Gordon
I like the idea of internet forums. They represent a possibility to connect with like minded individuals, to experiment with new ideas and to share knowledge without fear of recrimination. Surely a good thing? I was delighted to accept Adrian ’s invitation to participate.
However, a cursory glance through Edinburgh Architecture’s fledgling “slow forum” reveals a disturbing lack of politically incorrect, poorly conceived or ill informed comments and I am therefore left wondering just what it is I can contribute to this debate! Slowness is a luxury which allows one to manipulate received wisdom to best effect. However, it’s the balls ups made in the heat of the moment that make life interesting.
Nevertheless, tonight I will defer from hot-headed revelations about the condition of our profession and instead tread warily within the well defined boundaries of architectural thinking as it was comfortingly spoon fed to me at university all those years ago.
I therefore challenge the ludicrous assertion made by Mr Welch that the reign of iconic architecture is to be short-lived! Putting aside the rather obvious fact that to a MAN all these architects are knocking on a bit, it seems to me that they will ultimately endure in the current struggle for architectural supremacy.
Painful as it may be to learn that all our hard won achievements in the realms of contextual sensitivity and environmental performance are now irrelevant, Icons are the perfect expression of a new global society devoid of intellectual investment and short on time.
Self-congratulation on the part of large public clients and design teams frequently contradicts a bemused / outraged public perception but it matters little – success is a guaranteed outcome. In any case, Icons are rarely created with the local population in mind. The expediency of global travel in recent years has seen a corresponding decline in intellectual or cultural connection between visitor and destination and thus our built heritage is losing its appeal.
Disneyland is 50 years old this week and its success speaks volumes. People visit these attractions in droves to escape their personal environments and immerse themselves in the American Dream. Iconic architecture, like Prozac has arrived to service the populist need.
As architects we do not write the brief and therefore we can only service society’s need for instant gratification by producing more icons. That is, unless we strive to change the political agenda within which we operate.
The one thing that really irks me about Iconic architecture though is the pitiful post rationalisation. Listening to a blob-monger trying to justify their creation in contextual terms is excruciating. However, I would respect them greatly if they were simply honest enough to say ‘I made this in the image of my manhood’ or ‘it’s big and shiny and helps ordinary people escape the drudgery of modern living’.
Anyway, whichever way you look at it the Icon is here to stay.
Article re Iconic Buildings by Colin Gordon
15 Jul 2005
Articles re Iconic Buildings welcome : info(at)e-architect.co.uk
Iconic Buildings : key architecture from around the world
Sydney Opera House photo © Derek McGavigan
Iconic Building Designs
photo from architect
Jewish Museum Berlin
photo © Bitter Bredt
Empire State Building
photo : Andrew McRae
Famous Iconic Building by Frank Gehry : Bilbao Guggenheim, Spain
Website: Icon Building Glasgow
Website: Architectural Walking Tours
Comments for the Iconic Buildings page welcome