Random notes from around the web on how to become a famous Architect.
Articles: 1, 2, 3


82. The little Pritzker Committee that Almost Could
2012-02-29 16:48:00
Last night ?Gudle? who blogs from China tipped me off to the fact that Wang Shu had won the Pritzker. My immediate reaction was: ?Wow! I am almost surprised.?Why almost?As a pretext you can read here, here and here. Although Wang departs moderately from the standard statistical norms, if you look closely he fits the typical biographical profile. Compare with SANAA?s profile here:You can see that he and his wife Lu Wenyu had a breakthrough stage in their practice where they were being published a lot. Although I did not know what they looked like, I immediately recognized the Ningbo Museum because it had been on the cover of Mark Magazine a few issues back. They were not just local stars anymore; they were on the world stage.Next, if you look at their professional biography, they had already started to be recognized by other institutions. This is what the Pritzker committee looks for, it does not take risks. It chooses safe bets that have been pre-vetted by other institutions. T...
81. You Don't Have to be Good - Part 1: BIG, JDS, PLOT
2012-02-03 21:17:00
?? I don't want to be interesting, I want to be good-Ludwig Mies van der RoheGood work + good promotion = fame in architecture-Conrad NewelGood: That is the common denominator in the two quotes above, and that is what I would like to zero in on in this note; specifically the former part of the equation "good work" which I have so endearingly engrained in the consciousness of all my long time readers.I had a teacher in college that once told me that to be a good architect you have got to innovate; push the envelope and do something interesting or you have to go the way of Mies and raise the level of precision and craftsmanship to a level of high quality. I have always respected Mies but I also felt he was too extreme in his insistence on quality to the point that it was quite often boring for me, so I tended towards architecture that was attempting to do something interesting. My preference for interesting works however did not mean that I did not appreciate quality in craftsmanship...
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80. Why be famous?
2011-10-08 22:20:00
One of the most popular question I get from my readers is: Why do you want to be famous anyway? To me, I always thought the reasons were self evident. Its like the question "why would you want to sit in first class anyway? In fact I often wondered who wouldn't want to be famous? But it is a good question and well worth pondering. So below are 22 reasons (not in any particular order):People will respect you. For all the drawbacks of being famous people tend to generally respect famous people. Becoming famous is a tremendous accomplishment and it is universally respected in most parts of the world.Even though architecture is a team sport and the work that comes out of your office is a product of the many talented people who work for you, it is you that gets all the credit. You can pretend to be gracious all you want by showing a picture of you staff and saying ?oh, this is my team, and I show them to let you know that it is a team effort. bla, bla, bla...? hogwash! If you are the he...
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79. Muses are overrated, Suzannas are underrated: Make a bad First Draft
2011-09-04 23:39:00
muse  (mju?z) ? na&nb sp;goddess that inspires a  creative artist, esp  ;a poet[C14: from Old  ;French, from Latin M?sa,& nbsp; from Greek Mousa&nbs p; aMuse]You know the funny thing about the Ivy League schools is the huge difference between your inflated expectations of what an Ivy League class should be like and what it actually is. Take the kind of students for example. In my puny little brain, I imagined that there would be the most brilliant students there from all over the country and perhaps the world. I imagined them having encyclopedic knowledge and that they could recite Baudelaire or expound on Foucault?s philosophical theories on demand. And, indeed there were quite a few geniuses, and I am not exaggerating. They were some super smart people who seemed like they were hyper intelligent aliens from another planet, but they were the exceptions not the rule. Most of the stu...
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78. What is Architecture? (Part 3)
2011-06-23 00:59:00
Here is an obvious part in this series that just did not occur to me for some strange reason. Thanks to Jody Brown, here it is:Architecture (noun): the act of artfully placing complex forms in remote locations to be photographed for magazine covers.Architecture (noun): the memory of that which could have been, that is invoked by the residual form remaining after extensive value engineering.?Architecture (noun): Public disinterest derived from a combination of self importance and greed.?.Architecture (noun): The compromise arrived at by the client and the designers after the president of the firm and the client played golf yesterday.?.Architecture (noun): The hard metallic other shell surrounding confused school children pointing at the large early period Calder mobile hanging from the ceiling.?.Architecture (noun): The space between 4 or more glass walls, wherein wealthy people shower.?.Architecture (noun): Profession wherein ones salary is amusing to the majority of other professio...
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77. Professional Success vs Personal Development
2011-05-16 17:43:00
Milton Glaser is the graphic design world?s closest equivalent of a star-architect . Here he talks about the differences between professional success and personal development. It is directed towards young artists but the lesson is just as applicable to architects as well.Professional Success vs Personal Development In professional life you must discover a kind of identity for yourself, that becomes a sort of trademark; a way of working that is distinctive that people can recognize.The reason for this is that the path to financial success and notoriety is by having something that no one else has. Kind of like a brand ( one of my most despised words) So what you do in life in order to be professional is develop a brand, your way of working, your attitude that is understandable to others. In most cases, it turns out to be something fairly narrow.....and then you discover you have something to offer that is better than other people have, or at least more distinctive. And what you do with...
76. Predicting The Pritzker Part II: Take a Lesson from Brad and Angelina
2011-04-22 15:08:00
The Pritzker would like to consider themselves the Nobel Prize of architecture. I know this because they say it on their website:(We are) Often referred to as ?architecture?s Nobel? and ?the profession?s highest honor? So let's compare them to the Nobel prize then.Although on the surface it would appear that the two awards are similar, in actuality they are ideologically worlds apart. The biggest difference can be summed up in what I call the Brad -Angelina Doctrine. I know, I know, just bear with me for a little bit, hear me out. Please! I define it as follows:When a well known celebrity such as Brad Pitt and/or Angelina Jolie commands so much attention from their celebrity status and at the same time begin to feel that their lives are empty and meaningless (usually when it becomes evident to said celebrity that their contribution to humanity and the greater society is just hype and empty vanity) they begin to look for other ways to make a substantive contribution to the ...
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75. Predicting The Pritzker Part I
2011-03-29 01:58:00
In a few days from now (March 28, 2011) the Pritzker Prize Committee will announce the recipient of the 2011 prize. In anticipation of this momentous event, I have prepared a special note about the award. If you are a starchitect with serious credentials working outside of the Americas, Europe or Japan and you are anxiously just sitting by the phone waiting for the Pritzker people to call you, first of all relax. I am about to show you why you should.  The Pritzker?s self-defined purpose is summed up in the following statement:"To honor a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture"I will first take issue with the underlined phrase significant contributions to humanity  as significant is a relative word here: what is significant here is based on what is significant to a small ...
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74. Work for Rem Part II: Behrens vs Koolhaas
2011-03-25 18:01:00
Do you believe Le Corbusier is a genius and a God among architects? Do you believe that he is a prophet sent from the architectural heavens to show generations to come a new way, and that there will be no other like him as there was no other like him before? Do you just know in your heart that Mies van der Rohe knows more about steel and the art of putting a fine building together than any architect alive today can ever dream of? Then I suggest you stop reading now, close this browser, hit the back button or better yet exit here, because reading any further will only upset you.Are you still here? Well I will assume that you are either an architectural atheist or a glutton for punishment. Be warned, for me Le Corbusier was nothing more than another star-architect.  The inevitable problem with the Corb-faring architects is that the minute you start discussing or comparing Corb, Mies, Wright, Kahn or who ever the deity of worship is, with any living star-architect you commit ...
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73. Work for Rem
2011-02-20 15:30:00
If you have been following this blog for any period of time you may have noticed several reoccurring patterns in my posts. One of which is my not so subtle insistence on working for a famous architect as seen for example in post number 5, titled Work for a Famous Architect. If that didn't do it for you I reenforced it here and  here.So when I saw this poster in Metropolis magazine a few weeks ago I thought it would be a good opportunity to do it again.However, in this post I will let Metropolis editor Paul Makovsky do it for you in a well illustrated poster. But this time we get a little more specific. Working for any ol' famous architect is definitely going in the right direction but working for Rem is well...the next best thing to a guarantee.This poster, by virtue of showing the staggering amount of star-riffic practices OMA has produced is impressive. Whats even more impressive is that the list was incomplete, since it is  missing a few including Space Grou...
72. A Compromise Manifesto: 50 Techniques for Aspiring Starchitects
2010-12-08 09:14:00
It is a given that success for the average architect necessitates sacrifices. However, Starchitect-level success, the kind that so many ambitiously aspire to (and so few achieve), often requires compromise of an especially perverse nature - namely, of one's manners, ethical standards, objectivity, social propriety, mental faculties, and capacity for reason. As evidenced by the behavior of numerous Starchitects and their suborbital attributes to distract from real investigation into the work itself and undermine the process of design. For those preparing to enter into such and endeavor, we offer the following mission statement, based on years of observation, for achieving success in spite of yourself:1. Profess a commitment to collaborative design. Proceed by designing what ever you want.2. Promote employees who excel at flattery.3. Disappear periodically, leaving your team to work unaided. Upon your return, destroy any progress made. Rinse and repeat.4. When presented with a superi...
71. Go after what interests you
2010-10-03 14:36:00
While reading the morning newspapers a few weeks ago I came across the headline "McCain Is Now Running Just to Stay in Place". If anyone besides me was closely following the American election in 2008 saw the incredibly rough landing of the McCain Campaign as he fumbled, stumbled and bumbled making one fundamental mistake after another, and another.He has long built a public image as a man of solid moral character. He doesn't play dirty, he is a veteran, former P.O.W. that would rather let his fellow P.O.W. colleagues be freed before him, etc. Then when Obama's numbers began to rise he outrightly stated "I am going to play dirty" and followed up with a slew of dirty political ads and misleading accusations. It went against everything he had branded himself as up until that point. But he figured it was a gamble he had to take. It barely got him a bump in the polls, followed by a dip which further torpedoed his campaign down like a sinking anchor.Now that the campaign is over and he ...
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70. What is important in STARchitecture school (part 3)
2010-09-09 21:17:00
When I named The Bartlett school as an example of a STARchitecture school in my first note in this series it started a tiny wave of backlash against us. Simultaneously to our publishing of the article there was an article in the Times (who would want to be an architecture student) that was somewhat critical of the school, a link in the comment section pointed here (to the first note in this series) which seems to have exacerbated it. Later on, a post on Building Blog (link here) discussed the article quoting some of the commentary including the one made by Frank Murray which also linked here as well. The commentators on this Building Blog post also included the likes of Lebbeus Woods among others. The quote below is from one commentator Rob Holmes, who angled his Bartlett defending critique particularly at this blog. I would normally let it go by but I thought it was a particularly thoughtful and very well written comment and I thought I was worthy of a rebuttal. (I love the debat...
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69. Be Shameless about Asking for things
2010-08-17 14:30:00
I am going to tell you a story which may disturb you, or even more, completely discourage you from what I am about to argue for, but its a good little story and I will tell it anyway. Who knows, if you are still convinced of my argument after this story then I believe you are truly material for being a famous architect.Back in the days when I was in collage, I had an interesting classmate named Andrew. Almost everyone in the studio seemed to have a certain aversion towards him. Very few actually described him as a friend, and even these so called friends of his always seemed to have a problem with him. It is difficult for me to count the amount of times a friend of his would come up to my drafting table and start a conversation that begins with the phrase "Andrew is my friend but..." and then continue on to tell of the latest conniving thing that he did to them. The other problem with Andrew was that he walked around the studio with a certain air of superiority about him. If you met...
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68. Take a lesson from SANAA
2010-04-08 01:19:00
cartoon credit: ritzker-prize/First let me extend my sincere congratulations to SANAA on the announcement that they will recieve the Pritzker.One of the first things I did after I learned the news was to type in SANAA into Google to find out something more about them. I already know their work very well, but what about Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa? how did they become so famous? How did they do it? One thing I knew was that success leaves clues and I was intent on finding out.My guiding question: what can we learn from these two?Here is what I found:1. Ryue will be only 44 years old when he receives the Pritzker. That's perhaps the youngest to ever receive the prize. He has beaten out some of the heavy weights who have been around on the waiting list for a long time, including Peter Eisenman, Daniel Libeskind, Steven Holl, and even his former boss Toyo Ito. How did he do it?First he worked for a famous architect while he was in school. A...
67. all you need is a piece of paper, a pencil and a desire to make archite
2010-03-09 00:36:00
Architect Raimund Abraham, widely known as an inspiring educator among architects and former students fortunate to have been taught by him, was killed in a car crash in downtown Los Angeles early Thursday morning.[March 3, 2010]"Earlier in the evening Raimund delivered a powerful lecture at SCI-Arc, re-stating his enduring love for architecture and his willingness to fight for the design discourse as he defined it," reported Eric Owen Moss.Below are a few statements from that lecture:R.I.P Raimund Abraham 1933-2010architecture does not have to be built; it can be written, it can be drawn, it can put in model formwhat happens when you build, you enter a domain which forces you to defend your ideas against unlimited number of hostile forcesWhen I talk about providing an alternative way to making architecture, what I means is you don't have to be a slave in a corporate office, or a groupie of a celebrity architect because all you need is a piece of paper a pencil and a desire to mak...
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66. Seven ways to [verb] the Starchitect System
2009-11-24 17:24:00
While doing research for one of my posts, I came across this very interesting synopsis of the starchitect system, made by a commenter on archinet. I thought it was a particularly insightful observation and could not resist posting it here.Th starchitect system [a working and evolving description]:Architect makes a new form and discovers innovative way to build itThe form-building gets pressThe architect becomes a pseudo-celebrity and the building becomes a "style"The architect starts using the same bag of (increasingly superficial) formal tricks in all consequent projects.The press (including architectural) give up really engaging criticism and if said architect does anything, it is celebrated as the coming of the messiah for a city, building type, etc...The public come to think of that "style" as architectureLesser known architects follow the public's new tastes"Architecture" loses yet another battle.While the above description is of one person's definition of the starchitecture ...
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65.What is Architecture? (Part 2)
2009-11-15 20:21:00
In the previous post in this series What is architecture? we looked at 7 famous architects' take on the subject. In your famous or non famous career as an architect you will have to define what architecture means to you. If you are an architect, you probably have your own definition of it already. If you are any good it will change several times over the course of your career. We continue this series with 7 more ...Architecture is a pursuit that ought to be seen in a more responsible light than it is. And I think that architects ought to be responsible to society in a number of ways and they need to do that for two reasons: number one is that they?re?presumably?human beings, and secondly, if we don?t do it, who the hell is going to?-Stanley Tigerman I like to think of architecture as a very precise discipline. Very different from design and very different from sculpture. At the very basic level you have to deal with developing something with an exterior and an interior. Sculpture d...
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64. What is important in STARchitecture school (part 2)
2009-10-29 22:18:00
From: AnonymousTo: architect.journal[at]gmail.comSent: Wed, October 28, 2009 6:42:33 AMSubject: [NOTES ON BECOMING A FAMOUS ARCHITECT] New comment on 63. What is important in STARchitecture school.Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "63. What is important in STARchitecture school":I think that it should be made clear that most Bartlett students can do all the rudimentary tasks that you speak of "architects" doing. They are not difficult. Rather than writing an intelligent comparison or analysis, you seem to have only written an article illustrating, perhaps, the mild inferiority you feel. I have not even studied at the Bartlett, and I can clearly see that. Perhaps you should just accept that architecture schools do things differently. Some are creative, others not. Why is the creativity of the Bartlett such a problem for you, you dont have to go and study there. What I find interesting however is that you never find Bartlett or other "creative" students attacking the mor...
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63. What is important in STARchitecture school (part 1)
2009-10-14 19:32:00
Star?chi?tec?ture School stär'k?-t?k'ch?r skoolnounArchitecture schools that build their attractiveness, competitiveness or status on the accomplishments & reputation of their starcitecture faculty.architecture schools that grooms students to become "starchitects"architecture schools that mimics the teaching practices of starchitecture schools.When I found myself subtracting or adding columns because it made my rendering look better, then I knew I was in a starchitecture school.Below are samplings of diploma projects selected from two different schools. As you look at them consider the following questions:Which ones would you rather live or work in?Which ones would you choose as the location for an exciting movie or video game?SAMPLE SET ASAMPLE SET BSAMPLE SET A is from Diploma Unit 20 run by Professors Shaun Murray and Marjan Colletti at The Bartlett School in London. One can safely describe this studio if not the entire Bartlett as an architecture school that mimics the tea...
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62. Have a little humanity, but not too much...(part 1)
2009-06-18 10:04:00
Last week Foster + Part ners launched the design of a school in Sierra Leone at the Royal Academy?s Summer Exhibition in London.The project was developed in cooperation with Save the Children among others, and integrates passive ventilation systems and natural lighting.Foster argues that it is based on a modular system that can be quickly assembled with conventional stock wood, local brush-sticks, and sheet metal. This gives the project some environmental advantages. Whats more, the modules can also be easily reconfigured to adjust to the specific needs of varying districts in Sierra Leone.So the project is not only smart, it saves the children and the earth too. Where I come from we say "thats a lot of bang for your buck right there!"Starchitects worldwide should take note and follow the lead of Mr Foster. Why? Because this one is a token that comes straight from his heart.One only has to look around at the current economic and social climate. We are in a financial crisis caused by...
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61. Is architecture in your soul?
2009-06-04 21:03:00
We found this curious recording from our friends over at Sheppard Robson and we just could not pass it up. For the sake of clarity we have also posted the definition of ARCHITECTURE + SOUL as defined by The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. ar·chi·tec·ture (är'k?-t?k'ch?r) n. The art and science of designing and erecting buildings. Buildings and other large structures: the low, brick-and-adobe architecture of the Southwest. A style and method of design and construction: Byzantine architecture. Orderly arrangement of parts; structure: the architecture of the federal bureaucracy; the architecture of a novel.Soul (s?l) n. The animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity. The spiritual nature of humans, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state.The disembodied spirit of a...
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60. Play Peter, the Pritzker Peddling Hermit Genius
2009-05-28 02:09:00
Some years ago, I used to go around thinking of Frank Gehry as a total schmuck. He went around making these wonky absurd things in god-awful materials and calling it architecture. His mantra seemed to be: lets do something totally stupid looking and ask why not? "I am so playful and whimsical" seemed to be the chant behind every spell he casts. The impression I had of him was that he made architecture look way too easy, you just put a newspaper or binoculars down on a model and voila! instant interesting architecture. And if anyone dares to say that they were annoyed by all this, they were labeled as narrow minded or too "hermetic" in their thinking. All of his detractors were put in this same box. His work, especially his early work was meant to be visually disturbing like his contemporary artist friends.Then some years later, I reluctantly went into the Guggenheim in New York to see a retrospective of his work there. I came away surprisingly with a very different opinion of him an...
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59.Take a Lesson from Diller+Scofidio+Renfero
2009-05-20 23:31:00
If you have been paying any attention. you have no doubt seen this interview of Diller+Scofidio+Renfero. I am posting it here...well because I like it. What the hell. It is also relevant to almost everything that has been discussed in this blog. It will aslo serve as a reference and prelude to some of the topics to come. Hint, hint, the recession, the end of the starchitecture era, interdiciplinary practice and ooh ooh faith. So without further adieu, read on.ON INTERDISCIPLINARY PRACTICES:Elizabeth and I started working when there was a recession in architecture. When architecture turned into paper architecture, doing drawings and sketches, showing in galleries...The only way of building then was to start being involved in performances theaters, out on the beach, art installations, where we could build something and see the reaction from the publicD: the recession was coincidental, I came to architecture really with no intention of being an architect. I studied architecture and I w...
Conrad is comming back
2009-05-17 00:54:00
My hiatus is over.Stay tuned folks,Conrad is coming back and will be posting regularly and semi-regularly again.Thanks for all the letters of support.I am working on a new post coming in the nest few days.Regards,ConradNOTES ON BECOMING A FAMOUS ARCHITECTLiberating Minds Since August 2007
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58. Know the Development Stages of a Famous Architect
2008-07-20 14:37:00
An analysis of the development stages of a famous architect. In this post, Jeffrey Kipnis analyzes the career and development of Finnish architect Kivi Sotamaa. He lists these as the general stages of development:CLICK FOR LARGER VIEW RANDOM QUOTES:Architecture as an idea is a little bit like writing as an idea: There are writers that are journalists, there are writers that write business letters, there are writers that write fiction,and there are writers that write great works of literature.Architecture is probably the one kind of creative form that most people don't understand, because they are around it all the time they kind of think that they get it.Its creative component works at a more profound level and is a little less detectable.I like to think of it like the the soundtrack in a movie.The soundtrack controls the way you feel about the movie although you are never quite paying attention to it. You are always giving credit to the actor or the cinematographer; but It is r...
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57. More from the Little Devil on your shoulder
2008-07-19 14:10:00
Conrad NewelNOTES ON BECOMING A FAMOUS ARCHITECTLiberating Minds Since August 2007Based on the New York Times Article : I?m the Designer. My Client?s the Autocrat.
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53. Take a lesson from IKEA
2008-05-30 17:20:00
IKEA sells a brilliantly envisioned, meticulously conceived, inter-operational collection of constructed "components" of individual identity, situated in the domestic sphere, and supported by a global system of logistics, engineering, marketing, operations, but most of all DESIGN, that is really remarkable. The connection that I made with all of this is the increasing significance of design, in the most universal, far-reaching sense, in the world of software. Apple Computers' incredible success of the last few years since the introduction of MacOS X, the iPod, and its super-sexy notebooks, is not about selling a Unix-based operating system, a digital personal music player, and mass-market commodity laptops - it's about DESIGN, transformative, transcendent design that engages us in experiences which makes our inner ape feel safe, happy, sexy, powerful - emotional experiences which stimulate our pleasure centers and form habits of use, habits of consumption.-
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52. Know How to Tell Your Story in the Media
2008-05-24 10:15:00
Publicity is by far one of the most effective marketing tools at your disposal, but how do you promote yourself to the media so that they will give your growing business the spotlight it needs? Story telling. That's right, because ultimately, business stories are human interest stories and every reporter is looking for a good story. In fact the press refers to the articles they write as stories. Here are 4 things you need to give the press to help them tell your story: 1. Personality. "A company is faceless without the people who run it," says Joanne Cleaver, a business writer whose work has appeared in Home Office Computing and Dividends Magazine. "In any story, you want the personality of the people to come through. You want to get a sense of who they are." 2. Facts & Figures. Reporters love facts and figures; they anchor a story in reali...
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51. Denounce Starchitecture
2008-05-17 02:36:00
Starchitects Have Reason to be GloomyFirst, the good news. The early model of the starchitect incited by the image-mongering of Frank Lloyd Wright is still in play. It captured the extra-architectural imagination of the popular press and helped catapulted the careers of many architects ever since. Unfortunately we may now be seeing a more universal fatigue with the entire enterprise. Now, the bad news. The fatigue has become so bad that starchitects have now become a popular instrument of ridicule by the media in popular culture. The starchitect have come to represent vanity, greed and shallowness; an enterprise that is ethically challenged. The model has so many broken windows that it has become popular for every lowly wayward to throw a brick at it.So many architects who have worked up the ranks to gain starchitect status are beginning to question whether there may be fools gold at the end of the rainbow.Remember the old adage "Be careful what you wish for...". As one journalist p...
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