In a recent op-ed for the New York Times' T Magazine archicritic Witold Rybczynski makes a case against the rise of the globe-trotting celebrity architect. He doesn't take issue with the controversial term "starchitects" itself, but rather the work of them, which he writes jeopardizes cities' architectural identities. "Cities have their own patterns of building [...] Buildings that acknowledge these patterns reinforce the sense of a particular place — they belong," he writes. "And when we are in these cities, they make us feel that we belong, too." Here now, eight pearls of wisdom from the piece:
8. "Architecture, however, is a social art, rather than a personal one, a reflection of a society and its values rather than a medium of individual expression. So it's a problem when the prevailing trend is one of franchises, particularly those of the globe-trotters: Renzo, Rem, Zaha and Frank."
7. "It's exciting to bring high-powered architects in from outside. It flatters a city's sense of self-importance, and fosters the perception of a place as a creative hotbed. But in the long run it's wiser to nurture local talent; instead of starchitects, locatects."
6. "Cities have their own patterns of building [...] Sparkly, effervescent Venetian Gothic belongs to La Serenissima, just as severe stone Georgian belongs to Edinburgh. And when we are in these cities, they make us feel that we belong, too. To invert Gertrude Stein, there is a there there."
5. "To me, Robert A. M. Stern's 15 Central Park West seems more at home in Manhattan than Norman Foster's nearby Hearst Tower. It's not that the British Foster came up with a bad design, but the building, which comes to a halt at the 46th floor, has a sculptural quality that is alien to the New York skyline."
4. "Building in a place where you don't live, it's easy to experiment, even to be outlandish. How else to explain all those weird high-rises plopped down in Dubai?"
3. "Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a splendid building, but I think that the Walt Disney Concert Hall will be his great legacy, in part because Gehry knows and understands Los Angeles better than Bilbao."
2. "If we don't nurture local talent, we'll end up with overwrought theme parks, orchestras with only guest virtuosos, opera companies with only divas."
1. "The great imports are much too different from each other to make all places look the same — but they do make places all look different in the same way. Which is almost as bad."