Wednesday, May 5, 2010

When It Fails

Sometimes a structure becomes the exemplar of all that doesn't work; the architecture profession deals with this constantly. It generally reflects budgetary and programmatic shortfalls as well as multiple conflicting user demands. Many times it's due to politics, and the need for a physical symbol of an entity or corporation, which most architects are well acquainted with by virtue of experience in many design competitions that are little more than cover for a deal already in place.

A Planetizen article explores all of these issues surrounding the US Pavilion structure at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo, which opened this weekend. US reporter Adam Minter also covers this situation in his post on the Pavilion and on the IRS issues it has created.

The end result is a lackluster corporate building that doesn't exude any energy; it's all grounded in the capitalist formulae for pasting commercial structures together as pure mass marketing schemes. No sensibilities about human scale, connecting to ideas, or even minimal green standards, let alone any kind of radical regenerative design.This will not be one of those memorable pavilion designs that endures as a portent of things to come. The hugely controversial Eiffel Tower comes to mind, but there have been many more.

A rather broader picture involves the question about architects and the practice itself; there's some criticism coming out of the design schools and in the online architect news sources about whether the profession itself is corrupt. Much of the commentary centers on the lack of influence that architects have in the way the built environment is developed, although the folks in the driver's seat are actually State and Federal governments, the bankers and institutions. It's all a rather nasty tangle.