Saturday, July 26, 2008
The City Building Industry: Just Like Teapots
This article in the Wall Street Journal discusses the recent emergence of cities being designed by starchitects. This trend seems to be resulting in developments that are more of a brand image than actual cities. While the designers tend to at least pay lip service to ideas of street life and community, I'm not entirely convinced. Of course, even in places like Dubai, such large projects take decades to completely build out, so the jury will be out for some time. As a result it will be many years before we'll be able to determine whether these new cities are a panacea or a disaster. My fear is that we are returning to the Corbusian idea where one visionary designer shapes the entire city. By definition, in my opinion at least, good cities must be developed and evolve over time. It's the mix of things being built over time that makes cities rich. Dennis Frenchman, director of the city design and development program at MIT, believes that we are seeing the emergence of a new industry. "It's not real-estate development; it's not architecture; it's not city planning. All I can do is name it 'the city-building industry." And this new industry seeks out the services of name brand architects because they make the product more sellable. As Frenchman says, "It's just like teapots."
Is it possible for one person to design an entire city? Can the built results ever live up to the glossy images? Are the results going to be lively neighborhoods or vacant gated enclaves? What happens when cities are conceived as products?
Projects mentioned in the article:
Kartal, Istanbul, Turkey - Zaha Hadid (pictured above - photo from WSJ.com)
Waterfront City, Dubai, UAD - Rem Koolhaas/OMA
Riga Port City, Latvia - Rem Koolhaas/OMA
Downtown Orestad, Copenhagen, Denmark - Daniel Libeskind
Fiera Milano, Milan, Italy - Daniel Libeskind
Segovia, Spain - David Chipperfield
Zorrozaurre, Bilbao, Spain - Zaha Hadid
Lille, France - Rem Koolhaas/OMA
One-North, Singapore - Zaha Hadid
Also, the WSJ includes two pages on the history of City planning. 1 and 2.