no significant role for architects
November 21, 2011, 5:30 pm
Filed under: betaCITY | Tags: , , ,

Have a look at this chart made by Rem Koolhaas / OMA.  It shows the number of architects who graced the cover of Time magazine by decade starting in the 20s and ending with Philip Johnson in the 60s.  Since that final cover there have been no architects on Time’s covers.  Well, who cares you might think.

But what about the starchitects?  Really their arrival on the scene has been since Johnson’s cover, so why are they not represented on the illustrious cover?  Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid have all risen to a superstar status that is arguably greater than the architects who got covers from earlier parts of the century, but somehow they haven’t ranked at the American weekly’s editorial meetings.  Time doesn’t think they are worthy.

Koolhaas’s point is that despite their iconic status, our starchitects’ role in society have somehow actually diminished since mid century.  He calls it a Faustian bargain in which architects have traded in their traditional broad social roles for narrow pursuit of glamourous projects funded by well heeled clients and of course also their star status.

In a sense it’s an optimistic chart.  It implies there is recognition that the definitions of what architects do in society has been sold short.  It suggests that there needs to be a redefinition of the role that people educated in cities, planning, design and the built environment should hold in our society.   It’s a plea that the tail stop wagging the dog.

‘The rise of the market economy has meant the end of the architect as a credible public figure. Since Philip Johnson in 1979, no architect has appeared on the cover of TIME magazine. Starchitects accepted a Faustian bargain where they became more prominent, but their role less significant …”


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