Dear Starchitecture, please stop being so predictable.

Taking a break from all this stary-eyed hippie-dippie social architecture, I thought I’d look at some Capital-A-Architecture News today.  The Pritzker Prize was announced at the end of last month and basically served only to remind me of why I find main-stream architecture so very frustrating.   To make my point for me I’ll turn to Conrad Newel of NOTES ON BECOMING A FAMOUS ARCHITECT. (Which you should be reading anyway.)

Here’s what Pritzker says about itself:

“To honor a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”

“The prize is awarded irrespective of nationality, race, creed, or ideology. Nominations are accepted internationally from persons from diverse fields who have a knowledge of and interest in advancing great architecture.”

But as Conrad Newel points out:

“If the prize is given irrespective of nationality, race, creed, or ideology why does the make-up of recipients not reflect that?

  • 73% Caucasian?
  • 17% Japanese?
  • all the other races combined 9%?

“Likewise the gender breakdown is:

  • 5.7% Female
  • 94.3% Male

And Ideology?  See his excellent Chart:

Ultimately he suggests this alternate mission statement:

“‘a living architect, preferably a Caucasian or Japanese male, whose built work relates to modernism, demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.’

“Otherwise, they would be statistically saying that South Asia, the Middle-East, or Africa have not produced any architects that demonstrate the qualities of talent, vision and commitment in the past 35 years.

“With the exception of I.M. Pei, no architect outside of the Americas, Europe or Japan have produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture?

“Really?”

Check out his brilliant full post on the subject here.

His final prediction:

“This week we are most likely to see a caucasian male architect win the prize. He will most likely be an European, around the age of 62.97. His work will most likely have been strongly influenced by modernism, and he will most likely be presented the award somewhere on the European continent.”

You don’t even have to really know the stats. Just look at the faces of the winners spanning back over the past 30+ years:

And the winner is …
Eduardo Souto de Moura, a caucasian male architect from Portugal, aged 58.
As to the influence of modernism … here’s the first image that the Pritzker website shows of his work.  My response: “What a nice tree.  I’m glad he decided not to cut it down.”

The prize will be awarded in Washington, DC.

I don’t mean to be entirely flip or snarky about this.  My complaints are not about the designs or philosophy of this architect, personally, but the Starchitect system in general and the Pritzker Prize in general.

According to the Dezeen article on his award, at the Holcim Forum on sustainable architecture, Souto de Moura stated, “For me, architecture is a global issue. There is no ecological architecture, no intelligent architecture, no sustainable architecture — there is only good architecture. There are always problems we must not neglect; for example, energy, resources, costs, social aspects — one must always pay attention to all these.”

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One response to “Dear Starchitecture, please stop being so predictable.

  1. This post could be written about any number of fields. Very tired, very tired indeed, of the Same Old White Guys. They need to get out of the way; there’s a bigger world out there.

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