Architects high on themselves = bad architecture

This story in The Telegraph ponders “How ‘genius’ disfigured a practical art.” Fabulous question!

Alasdair Palmer’s article is in response to John Silber’s book Architecture of the Absurd. According to Silber, the answer to the above question is Architects: ” . . . many of the most famous designers have ceased to take an interest in the practical effectiveness of their buildings because they have become obsessed with their status as ‘artists’.”

This is believable when we consider buildings by the likes of Frank Gehry. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by his structures, particularly how they more or less look like sculpture yet (supposedly) function as buildings. I’ve never been in a Gehry building, but I have spent the night in a Frank Lloyd Wright building — The Price Tower — which seemed in some ways to sacrifice function for artistry as Silber suggests. The building is beautiful, and actually does employ some innovative practical solutions such as the exterior copper louvers, but the interior space is generally less than desirable. Rooms are small and oddly shaped, public spaces were also strange and the elevators are minute.

As I’ve said in the past, my own interest in architecture is in part driven by the need to possess a good base of knowledge in a variety of disciplines: Structure, psychology, sociology, community planning, and of course the many aspects of visual design. Apparently the modern “star” architects have forgotten many of the pieces that result in a well-rounded building.

Silber also complains about Daniel Libeskind and I.M. Pei. I don’t know of Libeskind, and my only personal experience with Pei was good. Pei designed the NBC bank building in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska where I banked as a college student. I really liked this building aesthetically and functionally, although it’s probably one of his older works. It seems his buildings have become more “loose”, so to speak, in recent years.

Frank Gehry’s recent Los Angeles Philharmonic building is cited in The Telegraph article as an example of bad architecture. This sculptural phenom, clad in polished aluminum, reflected so much light into nearby apartments (raising the temperature by a reported 15 degrees) that Gehry’s building had to be covered with an unattractive fabric.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

2 Responses to Architects high on themselves = bad architecture

  1. verena says:

    Designers should really have a good deal of thinking to do before they place some monstrous buidings in our environment. Some places are holy for people, they have history. Please don’t destroy our memories and don’t built something thoughtless that is to represent our culture and ought to become historical one day. Other architects and designers have comitted crimes when building the following:
    The Eiffel tower, Paris France
    The Gherkin, London England
    The Bayterek, Astrana Kazakhstan
    The Endless Column, Targu Jiu Romania
    I found this funny website where you can vote for the most ridiculous architectural design. So those are up for the vote on that site. What do you think?

  2. Harrison Otis says:

    Bad architecture violates Louis Sullivan’s dictum: “Form forever follows function.” Strip away the hype, and just how functional is a Gehry or Libeskind design? Not at its inception or essence. Each architect begins with a brand aesthetic, repeated from job to job with modifications to accommodate function. For them, form follows fashion — a recipe for period pieces, not great archiitecture.

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