Sunday, December 23, 2007

30. Who will define "good architecture" in your work?

This post is based on the premise that what the client and general public's view of what is good architecture, is often times not the same as what the famous architect view of what is good architecture.

In becoming a famous architect you will inevitable have to make a choice in which constituent your design will pander to. Otherwise you can place your design somewhere between these two polarities.

Daniel Lebiskind tends to side with the idea of making architecture that communicates with the public, while Peter Eisenman tends towards communicating to the architectural elite.


This debate played out between the two at the end of the World Trade Center competition which Lebiskind won.

Eisenman's team, was a member of one of seven semi-finalist in the competition. His team, which included Richard Meier & Partners, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates and Steven Holl Architects, proposed creating a five-building matrix arranged at a 90-degree angle and connected by three aerial bridges.

"The project was doomed from the start," Mr. Eisenman told 100 students and faculty in Princeton University's McCosh Hall. "We submitted our credentials and truly we never thought we'd be selected."

Mr. Eisenman blamed New York City officials for turning a serious architectural competition into a popularity contest based on public opinion, and he criticized the media for oversimplifying each team's plan.

"The biggest mistake the city made was asking anyone to vote on such a project," he said. "The media condenses projects and doesn't show anything but images."

Believing his team had developed the most creative, meaningful plan but disappointed it did not reach the final round of competition, Mr. Eisenman hopes to continue promoting its original concepts.

Most of all, Mr. Eisenman laments what he described as the overall failure of the World Trade Center competition. "I think it's sad for New York and sad for the country because the idea posed a lot of hope and not a lot of answers," he said.

Eisenman won't discuss Libeskind by name, but there is no love lost there. He says the New York competition was set up with too much public input -- from families of the victims, the Port Authority, the trade center leaseholder and from the man in the street.

"You can talk to the public, but I don't think they should say what is good art or music" Eisenman says. He has seen the designs sent to him by "Joe Everyman," and they're as heavy-handed as the artwork after Sept. 11 that depicted a crying Statue of Liberty, a reminder of why you should "never pander to popular taste."

"You're dealing with an important memorial," Eisenman says. "How do you make those decisions so you don't get kitsch banality?"

It's a dig at Libeskind, of course, who has made himself accessible to everyone, and who has said, "The public is always right."

Lebiskind's response is "Architecture is a public art, it's not something done in private for private reasons, it has to reach the public, and part of the art of architecture is also language. it's not just some sort of container, some abstract piece of glass and concrete, it is part of communicative system, and we understand old traditional buildings because they signal to us, things about our culture. The same thing is true for new museums, they have to signal the connection between that past and in the future."

In an interview he was asked " You say that, but it is easy for me to think of architects as people who cater to private indulgences and the fetishes of the rich."

Lebiskind's response "Well I was not one of those architects, I have no aspirations to do that kind of architecture because really architecture is what is common between people, and what a contribution it makes to the viability of a city, and to civic space. After all, the pleasures and the celebratory dreams that we have, have to do with the environment we live in, and we might as well make an inspiring environment, an environment that is more than just a shallow façade of something inauthentic, and deal with the problems that we have."



Interviewer: Now what about this common image we have of the architect as a kind of solo visionary. What's the role of the collaborator, of the client, or of the community as a collaborator in these projects, should they just go away and wait until the architect who knows what he's doing has finished the drawings?

Daniel Libeskind: That's a very old-fashioned and very nostalgic view of the old architect, the master who's sort of sitting contemplating and making some models and imposing things on a society. I think the contemporary architect is an architect who is able to be engaged with a client, with the public. Certainly architecture is a communal art, no one person can build a building, you need teams, you need workers, you need people, you need engagement, and of course the building is not built for its own sake, it's built finally for the life that will take place in it. I often point out to my clients that the building is not finished when the building is finished, it's only beginning its life. For the next 30, 40, 50, 100, 150 years, which is what will be exciting and vital for the people who will use it. So yes, it's a collaborative art, it's an art of teams, but that doesn't mean it's a mediocre art, that doesn't mean that it's diluted to the lowest common denominator, it's to raise the art form of architecture, so that it is communicating to our deepest aspirations.



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have made a ridiculous assumption at the beginning of this article when you say "Daniel Libeskind's architecture is focused on people, whereas Peter Eisenman's appeals to the architectural elite". This could not be more untrue. I would ask if you have ever visited a Daniel Libeskind building, or in fact ever read a book or had a meaningful discussion in your life? I am not a member of the "architectural elite" before you accuse me of that, I am merely interested in architecture. How can you say Daniel Libeskind's architecture is based on people. His theory/ design/ ethos/ process is focused around architectural form and process. Perhaps you may look at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, or the proposed extension to the V&A in London, or the London Metropolitan University graduate centre in an attempt to further understand his work and broaden your mind and imagination a little. To put such complex designs and discussion into two categories shows a severe lack of intellectual depth on your part. You obviously have little understanding and appreciation for design if you can some up those works in a couple of sentences. Should this be the case, I would suggest that you should not be writing an article on architectural design in the first place.

I would strongly urge you to reconsider your views on these two designers and modify the article to attempt to do justice to architecture.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment above. Both Libeskind and Eisenman are elitist punks whose works are so foreign to the ordinary man in the street as to be undecipherable. Their words cannot be held against them; the hypocrites that they are.

Conrad Newel said...

Dear Anonymous 1: I WILL WRITE IN CAPS TO DISTINGUISH MY WRITING FROM YOURS. PLEASE DONT THINK I AM YELLING AT YOU;

YOU WROTE:

You have made a ridiculous assumption at the beginning of this article when you say "Daniel Libeskind's architecture is focused on people, whereas Peter Eisenman's appeals to the architectural elite". This could not be more untrue.


AHH YOU MUST HAVE BEEN REFEREEING TO THE SENTENCE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE ARTICLE WHERE I WROTE THIS :

Daniel Lebiskind tends to side with the idea of making architecture that communicates with the public, while Peter Eisenman tends towards communicating to the architectural elite.

LET ME ASK YOU THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND THEN YOU READ IT AGAIN:


DID I ARGURE THAT LIBSKINDS "ARCHITECTURE ITSELF " WAS FOCUSED ON COMMUNICATING TO THE PUBLIC???

-OR-

DID I ARGURE THAT LIBSKINDS "IDEAS" OF MAKING ARCHITECTURE WERE ABOUT COMMUNICATING TO THE PUBLIC

READ CAREFULLY ONCE MORE:

Daniel Lebiskind tends to side with the idea of making architecture that communicates with the public, while Peter Eisenman tends towards communicating to the architectural elite.

I BELIEVE I AM TALKING ABOUT IDEAS HERE, MEANING THEIR AIMS, THEIR CONCEPTS, THIER PHILOSOPHY REGARDING ARCHITECTURE NOT PARTICULARLY THEIR ARCHITECTURE ITSELF. IF IT WAS NOT CLEAR BY THE OPENING SENTENCE, THE ARTICLE ITSELF EVEN GOES ON TO DISCUSS THE RATIONALS BEHIND HOW THE TWO VIEW THER WORK IN THE CONTEXT OF PUBLIC OPINION. LIBSKIND AIMS AT MARKETING HIS PROJECT TO BE TRIED IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPININ. MEANING THAT BEFORE THE BUILDING IS BUILT THE PROJCT MUST GET A STAMP OF APPROVAL FROM SOMEONE. LIBSKIND WANTS TO CONVINCE THE GENERAL PUBLIC THAT HIS PROJCT IS THE BEST, AND HE THROWS IN CHEEZY CONCEPTS LIKE MAKING THE TOWER A PATRIOTIC 1776 FEET HIGH AS A WAY OF CATERING TO THE EVERYMAN. WHETHER OR NOT THE BUILT THING SERVES THE PUBLIC IN A MEANINGFUL WAY IS A WHOLE OTHER THING.

EISENMAN AIMS AT SELLING HIS PROJECT TO THE ARCHITECTURAL ELITE. HE WRAPS HIS SELLING ARGUMENT IN ARCHISPEAK AIMING AT CONVINCING THE ARCHITECTURAL ELITE THAT HIS PROPOSAL IS THE BETTER PROJECT. WHETHER OR NOT THE BUILT WORK SERVES THE PUBLIC OR THE ARCHITECTURAL ELIT IN A MEANINGFUL WAY AGAIN IS A WHOLE OTHER DISCUSSION.

IT WOULD SEEM AS IF YOU MADE AN ASSUMPTION THAT THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE INTENT OF A WORK [OR IN THIS CASE IT'S SELLING STRATEGY] AND THE RESULT ITSELF.

I BELIEVE THERE CAN BE [AND OFTEN TIMES ARE] A VAST CHASIM BETWEEN AN ARCHITECT'S IDEAS AND THE RESULT ITSELF. IF YOU READ LIBLKIND'S BIOGRAPHY OR ANY OF HIS INTERVIEWS OR WRITINGS WHERE HE TALKS ABOUT HIS ATTITUDE TOWARDS HIS WORK AND THE PUBLIC YOU WILL SEE THAT HE DOES INFACT ARGUE FOR AN ARCHITECTURE THAT COMMUNICATES TO THE PUBLIC. I HAVE EVEN QUOTED HIM SEVERAL TIMES IN THE ARTICLE WHERE HE DOES SO.
ONE COULD ARGUE WHETHER THE RESULTS INFACT COMMUNICATES TO THE PUBLIC OR NOT. I BELIEVE IT DOES NOT AND IN THIS REGARD I AGREE WITH YOU.

THIS BRINGS ME TO THE SECOND POINT OF YOUR CRITICISM. YOU MAKE NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MY REPORTING AND MY OPINION. THE ARTICLE BASICALLY PRESENTS TWO POINTS OF VIEW AND ADVOCATES NEITHER. THIS IS LIKE ATTACKING THE NEWS REPORTER FOR GIVING YOU NEWS THAT YOU DONT LIKE. THERE IS NO WHERE IN HERE WHERE I SAID I BELIEVE LIBESKINDS ARCHITECTURE IS FOCUSED ON PEOPLE. I PRESENTED HIS OWN WORDS AND ARGUMENTS FOR IT BUT DID NOT SAY IF I AGREED WITH IT OR NOT.

Conrad Newel said...

CONTD. FROM ABOVE:
YOU FURTHER WROTE:

I would ask if you have ever visited a Daniel Libeskind building, or in fact ever read a book or had a meaningful discussion in your life?

I AM NOT GOING TO GO THERE, BUT I WILL SAY THIS: I DO BELIEVE I CAN READ A BLOG POST AND MAKE MEANINGFUL DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN THE AUTHORS OPINION AND WHEN HE IS REPORTING INFORMATION.

I am not a member of the "architectural elite" before you accuse me of that, I am merely interested in architecture.

I WOULD NEVER ACUSE OF BEING A MEMBER OF THE ARCHITECTURAL ELITE. I WOULD NOT DO THAT TO YOU. THAT WOULD BE JUST HORRIBLE. THE ARCHITECTURAL ELITE NEEDS NO LESSONS ON DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN EDITORIALS AND NEWS, OR BETWEEN ARCHITECTURE AND THE IDEAS BEHIND THEM.


How can you say Daniel Libeskind's architecture is based on people. His theory/ design/ ethos/ process is focused around architectural form and process. Perhaps you may look at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, or the proposed extension to the V&A in London, or the London Metropolitan University graduate centre in an attempt to further understand his work and broaden your mind and imagination a little.

I HAVE READ HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY WHERE HE TALKS ABOUT HIS WORK, I HAVE BEEN IN HIS LECTURES, I HAVE MET HIM IN PERSON AND I HAVE ALSO SEEN HIS WORK. IN HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY HE ARGUES PASSIONATELY FOR A A DEMOCRATIC ARCHITECTURE WHERE THE AVERAGE CITIZEN IS THE COMMON DENOMINATOR FOR DESIGN. I BELIEVE HE IS SINCERE WHEN HE SAY THESE THINGS HOWEVER I BELIEVE THERE IS A HUGE DISCREPANCY BETWEN HIS WORK AND THE IDEAS AND SOME OF THE EXPRESSED INTENTS BEHIND THEM. THE BUILDINGS AND HIS LANGUAGE DOES NOT COMMUNICATE. HOWEVER TO LOOK AT THE BUILDINGS ALONE AND DRAW HASTY VISCERAL CONCLUSIONS PRESENTS A ONE DIMENSIONAL VIEW OF THE ARCHITECT. I WOULD ENCOURAGE YOU TO BRING SOME LITERARY REFERENCES TO YOUR CRITICISM. THAT WOULD GIVE IT SOME DEPTH. NAMING A FEW BUILDINGS AND SAYING "GO LOOK AT THEM MORON" IS NOT AN ARGUMENT FOR WHY LIBSKIND'S WORK DOES NOT SERVE ITS INHABITANTS.

To put such complex designs and discussion into two categories shows a severe lack of intellectual depth on your part. You obviously have little understanding and appreciation for design if you can some up those works in a couple of sentences. Should this be the case, I would suggest that you should not be writing an article on architectural design in the first place.

I DONT REALY THINK THAT THIS ARTICLE WAS MENT TO BE AN IN DEPTH INTELLECTUAL SUMMARY OF PETER EISENMAN'S AND DANIEL LIBSKIND'S PHILOSOPHY TOWARDS ARCHITECTURE IN THE PUBLIC SPHERE. IF YOU ARE LOOKING AT IT THAT WAY, I THINK YOU ARE MISSING THE POINT. I APOLOGIZE IF I GAVE YOU THAT IMPRESSION. HOWEVER I DO THINK ONE CAN HAVE A DISCUSSION ABOUT ONE ASPECT OF A SUBJECT (HOWEVER COMPLEX OR SIMPLE) WITHOUT IT DOING A DISSERVICE TO THE PROFESSION.

I would strongly urge you to reconsider your views on these two designers and modify the article to attempt to do justice to architecture.

I WOULD STRONGLY URGE YOU CHILL OUT A LITTLE BIT.