Modern architecture has been in the firing line of late and it seems that the heat is not going to let up easily. Joining a growing list of industry professional, in an interview with the National Post, starchitect Frank Gehry has labeled Toronto’s architecture as ‘most banal’.
However – Gehry is quick to suggest that this is not a unique description, giving the same title to ‘every city in the world’. While this statement is at bet hyperbolic, the sentiments of this widely popular and acclaimed architect are being shared by industry members globally.
From the references of Vancouver architecture, or ‘Vancouverism’ as style of substance to the ‘zombie’ buildings – buildings without soul – of major Australian cities, the intentional architectural community seems to be in agreement about one thing – cities have lost their spark. The reason?
Reiterating sentiments shared by Australian Institute of Architects gold medalist Lawrence Nield – who famously stated ‘now an architect, not a society or the taste of the aristocracy, decides individually on a building’s language (and) has turned our city environments into an often-noisy collection of individually competing buildings that are expressions of architects’ personality’ – Gehry also points towards this lack of cohesion as the reasoning for these uninspiring city developments.
“The 19th century was the last time somebody created a homogeneous or connected environment,” says Gehry. “Democracy works against that because everybody has a right to do what they want, and bad developers have a right to chintz on buildings and get away with it.”
Gehry’s opinions of Toronto, do however, come at a time when he is unveiling his vision for the city’s new entertainment district.
This features an arts complex and condominium, that in true Gehry style, is abstract, diverse and out of the box to say the least. Gehry admits that his design creation was led by ‘humanistic values’ and a need to divert from the monotonous and mundane.
While the eclectic and somewhat bizarre complex has faced much controversy, even in its earliest of design stages, local councilor Adam Vaughan labels the project as ‘astonishing, difficult and challenging’, bringing a welcome architectural shake up to the city.
“It presents a whole series of questions to the city that make it about more than just whether we say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a particular building,” say Vaughan “This challenge is to do city building in a totally different way.”
However – while the notion Gehry spruce architectural cohesion, the out of the box and ostentatious complex design does heavily juxtapose these sentiments.
This brings to light the true challenge of the modern architect and something that is being overlooked in all of the urban planning criticism.
How to we create cities that are unique, aesthetically pleasing and ‘soulful’, without creating monstrosities and attention seeking, stand alone developments? At the moment the industry is facing a ‘damned if they do, damned if they don’t’ response on an insular level, with collaboration and industry cohesion the only solution to finding balance moving forward.