Monday, July 25, 2011

Architecture Redux: Shops by Libeskind

Many superstar architects use the same forms repeatedly. Frank Gehry has done his Bilbao art museum as a music museum (Seattle Center) a concert venue (Disney Hall, L.A.) and a band shell (Pritzker Pavilion, Chicago). Daniel Libeskind has recycled his characteristic angular shapes as an art museum (Denver), a media center (Hong Kong) and an educational building (London Metropolitan University).
Libeskind's Las Vegas mall. Rumor has it that
the entrance was modified to avoid bad
feng shui. Chinese customers perceived
the aggressive angular shapes as jaws of death.
A recent Libeskind work is a shopping mall in Las Vegas. The City Center project could be a museum or a concert hall, but, apparently, the same forms serve well as a mall. It is impossible to deny his signature style and it makes a fine space for upscale vendors.
Mall interior: the sculpture is not by Libeskind.
Mall interior: easily remodeled as a museum if the mall fails.
All architects work with evolving leitmotifs, so it is not surprising or detrimental that the current crop of superstars explores similarities within their respective bodies of work. The public responds favorably (or the designs would not be repeated) and boundaries are expanded for all architects. What bothers me - just a little bit - is the haphazard way these signature buildings seem to be thrown together. Jumbled angles with no organizing theme. Interior volumes that often defy function. Like Michael Brady (the fictitious architect who headed The Brady Bunch) every building comes out looking the same in a one-size-fits-all approach to design. These computer-generated chunks of architecture make amusing sculptures. But their willfulness seems to say, "We exist simply because we can."

Is anyone else getting weary of these one note sambas?

All photos:
Wm. T. McDonough

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