Architecture of Bling

Take a look at this table of 15 skyscrapers that are on hold due to the economic "crisis." Many of these are quite curvy, giving the impression that they are dancing or swaying in the wind. Now first of all, this conceit seems rather pathetic: skyscrapers don’t dance and they don’t sway in the wind, so why should they look like they do? 

Perhaps the proliferation of flash in architects’ Web sites during the early part of the decade led to this nonsense. But unlike gratuitous flash portfolios, which are mildly offensive, these things are the architectural equivalents of Hummers. Not only are they contradictions in design logic, given the amount of steel necessary to construct these signature follies, they make a mockery of contemporary architecture’s green ambitions. When one of the green architects comes out with a serious attack on this kind of thinking then I will take them more seriously. 

What strikes me about these silly buildings today is that architectural fashion that associates itself with a moment in capital is rarely able to live past that moment’s demise. Not only is it passé, but it is fatally associated with the previous moment. Deco and the 1920s, streamline and the late 1930s, high modernism and the late 1950s, late modernism and the early 1970s, postmodernism and the 1980s, decon and the early 1990s. So goes architecture fashion. 

But these fifteen skyscrapers suggest that perhaps there was still one last reason for visibility, for capital to appear: to unload itself of any meaning except excess, to concretize the vulgarity of bling. Like these buildings, bling has nothing behind it. No culture, no history, no morality, no taste, merely the desire to display wealth in a blunt and vulgar way. Nothing says it better than this site for the Burj Al Alam. There should be a way of preserving that site so that future generations can see the excess that developed in places Dubai, Beijing, and all the other capitals of bling. 

Goodbye bling, and good riddance. 

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