Time once again to go through the drop box folder and see what inspires me. Today we ponder the state of architecture, at least Klaus Philipsen does in blog post "The State of Architecture (Koolhaas, Tschumi and Baltimore)." What is the state of contemporary architecture? Mr. Philipsen starts his post with this Rem Koolhaas quote, "Junkspace is the sum total of our current architecture: we have built more than all previous history together, but we hardly register on the same scales." Pretty apt description if ever was one, most of what goes up these days appears to be nothing more than vanity projects, if you ask me.
In 2003, Bernard Tschumi convened a conference at Columbia University where is considered the "State of Architecture in the 21st Century." A book followed the conference in which architects, theorists, and critics all responded to this question with their opinions. "Asking such a immoderate overreaching question," according to Mr. Tschumi, has merit, assuming that architecture matters, different cities attract and nurture a variety of architecture, architecture is somehow "better" in some cities than others, and one could find a common ground to communicate all this thinking. Mr. Philipsen took it upon himself to pose a similar question vis-a-vis his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland to a diverse group of people and asked them to present their thoughts in a public forum. The group consisted of observers of architecture, not makers including the architects he queried. The forum, "Design Conversation #62" took place at Baltimore's design center (D Center). Mr. Philipsen topics for discussion were less academic and esoteric than the one put forth by Mr. Tschumi, simply asking:
|Headquarter for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad|
* What is "local Baltimore design that is special to our city?
* Do we meed national and foreign talent to come in or should we build with local talent?
* Does our current architect meet what the city needs the most?
These questions address the more pertinent issues of Baltimore than the high-minded topics such as: Aesthetics & Urbanism (Mass, Sorkin and Stern), Form & Influence (Eisenmann, Gehry), Envelope & Public-Private (Tschumi, Koolhass, Hadid), Globalization & Criticism (Norton). Mr, Philispsen shared with his readers some of his notes and observations that not only apply to Baltimore but to other cities as well.
|Baltimore Federal Building|
part of Jeremy Kargan's presentation:
Baltimore urban renewal vestige
|Legg Mason Building|
City-Paper journalist Kate Drabinski responded to the questions posed by Klaus Philipsen from the perspective of a local bicyclist. In Ms. Drabinski's presentation, it appeared that Rem Koolhaas's assertion, "Infrastructure is much more important than architecture,"held true. Ms. Drabinski focused on street and sidewalk issues. Her point, walking and bicycling force a person to see the city. This is especially true of Baltimore's first "bike boulevards," Fallsway Guildford Avenue, which passes right in front of the city's prison. She used this case study to pose the question "which city builds their prison a mile from the waterfront?" Um, I don't know, Baltimore?
|Baltimore row houses|
|Proposed 43-story skyscraper|
Solomon, Cordwell, Buenz
Inner Harbor Baltimore
|An example of affordable housing|
Greenmount Avenue, Baltimore, MD
|Silo Point Condominiums|
Perhaps architecture is what it should be. To borrow another Rem Koolhaas aphorism, "People can inhabit anything. And they can be miserable in anything and ecstatic in anything. More and more I think architecture has nothing to with it. Of course, that's both liberating and alarming." That, my dear readers, is what makes architecture a thrill ride.