The New York Times’ architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff has probably been a thorn in the side of the development community for a while. Ever-critical of the development community, Ouroussoff’s commentaries are rarely limited to the aesthetics of New York’s architecture – often venturing deeper into the politics and sometimes shady dealmaking behind the city’s edifices.
To be sure the construction boom gave Ouroussoff much to write about. Now, as that era comes to a close, he writes in last week’s NYTimes a biting – but apt – critique of the culture underlying the building boom. Ouroussoff’s dramatic writing deserves a reading/posting (more so than today‘s downright terrifying Real Estate article “Downturn Ends Building Boom in New York”). Enjoy our excerpt here:
“WHO knew a year ago that we were nearing the end of one of the most delirious eras in modern architectural history? What’s more, who would have predicted that this turnaround, brought about by the biggest economic crisis in a half-century, would be met in some corners with a guilty sense of relief?
Before the financial cataclysm, the profession seemed to be in the midst of a major renaissance. Architects like Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, and Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, once deemed too radical for the mainstream, were celebrated as major cultural figures. And not just by high-minded cultural institutions; they were courted by developers who once scorned those talents as pretentious airheads…
But somewhere along the way that fantasy took a wrong turn… Serious architecture was beginning to look like a service for the rich, like private jets and spa treatments.
Nowhere was that poisonous cocktail of vanity and self-delusion more visible than in Manhattan. Although some important cultural projects were commissioned, this era will probably be remembered as much for its vulgarity as its ambition…
Together these projects threatened to transform the city’s skyline into a tapestry of individual greed.”