31 July 2007

The Pitfalls of Starchitecture

The trouble with getting to be a little too famous as an architect is that people with money to spare start asking you to do all sorts of projects for them. Of course, in many places, this is considered a good problem, but for "starchitects" (or star architects), it can result in some hasty business decisions.

Clearly this is all speculation on my part, as I am not currently a "starchitect" and don't aspire to be one, but when I see projects like The Ascent, scenarios such as the one I described above start running through my head. Developer Bill Butler approached starchitect Daniel Libeskind (better known as the Master Planner of the new World Trade Center) a few years ago and asked him to design a condo tower for the Covington riverfront, which faces the lovely skyline of downtown Cincinnati. The Covington skyline itself is not quite so lovely, due largely to Butler himself, who felt a need sometime in the early 90's to erect several large pink trashcans, er, office buildings, just behind the Covington flood wall. Between Libeskind's well-known "slasher" style and Butler's money, the two came up with the design for The Ascent, and much to the surprise of everyone in the area, proceeded to build it. Following are some photos.

I was trying to figure out how they built the roof. Pretty cool.

The Ascent is now almost finished and this was undoubtedly my last experience with it before it opens. I love looking at buildings in their final stages of construction, before people move in and start adding or subtracting to it. So I guess I like it better now than I probably ever will, which means that my appreciation of it will never exceed lukewarm. Stick it in the middle of a vast array of 3-4 story buildings....stick it in a field.....stick it in a dense city with other eclectic towers like it.....but sticking it right behind the big pink trashcans is, in my humble opinion, an affront to the people who will live there and the people who have to look at it.

Next time around, can we have a conversation about context, please?

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