where is the good new architecture?

Where is the good new architecture? Name five significant buildings done in this century. I dare you. I can think of Porto and the Seattle Public Library and the list ends there.

Take this article from New York Magazine on the architecture of the last building boom. None of it is great. I don’t think any of it is good. Most of it is mediocre. A lot of it is awful. Architects not only got drunk on the methylated spirits of the last building boom, they went blind as a result. As a historian I seem virtually nothing of worth in this decade. Recently I had to give a lecture on the architecture of network society and I found plenty of it by OMA, MVRDV, Herzog and de de Meuron, FOA, and others. Unfortunately all of it was from the last century. Am I getting old? I ask my younger friends and they can’t identify anything good new either. CCTV? That is a sad joke, an example of a once great architect doing a lousy imitation of Peter Eisenman for an evil client. I can’t take it seriously. Good thing Corb never worked for Mussolini. You can only imagine what he would have done. Overexposed and uninteresting, I predict CCTV will sink like a rock. Gehry hasn’t made a single good building since Bilbao, although he has built some unbelievably awful structures at MIT and on the West Side Highway. Herzog and de Meuron are boring beyond belief. I guess whatever talent worked for them in the 1990s went its own way. It’s bad out there.

What’s really sad is that for most of these architects, this was the last opportunity to build in their lifetimes. The boom is gone for good and if people were wary of architecture before, they will run from it now. I’m waiting for the museums caught up the Bilbao-effect to close their doors.

Please prove me wrong. Name five significant buildings done in this century. I very much doubt I will agree.

46 thoughts on “where is the good new architecture?”

  1. Yes, but can we name five
    Yes, but can we name five outstanding architecture critics either? Can we consider another time in history, in which so many works of architecture were concentrated in specific cities — Beijing, Dubai, etc…–, and in which there was no corresponding architectural critical response? Can any of us name an important Beijing or Dubai-based architecture critic? The freedom of speech issues and the vapid nature of the architecture are, of course, related. But we could take this relationship, this vast void (in architecture and language) opened by these projects into new terrain that makes us rethink architecture and criticism simultaneously.

    • You’ve outdone me

      You’ve outdone me by finding an even worse field! No, I can’t name one. Great point. I’d say Mimi Zeiger, but I respect her too much to call her an architecture critic.


      • 1990s

        Four more points.

        1) I don’t consider buildings that were substantially conceived and developed in the last decade to be built in this one, e.g. don’t nominate the Yokohama terminal or the Sendai Mediatheque.

        2) If the architects was dead before the end of 2000, it doesn’t count (this means all Miralles buildings substantially developed in that office).

        3) Blur is not bad, but given that it came and went so quickly it, doesn’t make my list.

        4) If I removed points 1-3, I don’t think I’d have 10 buildings.

        • then your argument for the
          then your argument for the 90s is moot because several so-called “great” buildings in that decade were conceived of during the 80s. of course, when we look back at the 90s today, there are lots of great buildings – give us another 10 years and we could probably list off dozens built during the 00s – and many of them will be designed by architects you’ve probably never heard of.

             Not really. I could


             Not really. I could name more buildings from the 90s. Moreover, these were structures that we believed were significant at the time.

  2. I’ll play along…
    Kazys, always challenging folks to a death cage match, eh? Okay, I’m game.

    1. Although basically all designed in the last century, his best work arguably was finished in the current one. Miralles’ Scottish parliament? I throw this one out there with some caution since I’ve never been.

    2. Sanaa? How about kanazawa?

    3. Williams & Tsien’s new library in Berkeley? Beautifully imperfect and completed for a hardass university with onerous requirements. Heroic. (And I suspect that if one really looked under the rug, many 21st century buildings would have a complicated back story)

    4. Intentionally left blank.

    5. But in any case, for better and for worse, the 21st century has not been the century of for architects, but but for landscape architects. What else has this last couple of years been about than the boom (and collapse) of landscape urbanism?

    • always!

      1. See I think it’s a problem due to his untimely demise.

      2. Maybe… I’m so disappointed by what I saw in the US (I went to Toledo to see one building for goddsakes!) that I’m dubious.

      3. Have not seen. The Folk Art Museum I really don’t like. I’d say I aggressively don’t like it.

      4. Can’t disagree there.

      5. Interesting point!


  3. Surely there is somebody missing…
    I don’t disagree with you, but I’d like to hear you opinion about SANAA. One of their buildings could be nominated perhaps. Maybe we could add the Yokohama International Port Terminal? Also wondering: do you think, between 1900 and 1908 there were many more than 5 significant buildings built?

    • greatest hits of the 1900s

      Regarding SANAA… better in the 1990s. I wanted to like Toledo, but it was overdone. I wanted to like the New Museum, but it failed me as well.

      Between 1900 and 1908 we had

      Wright’s Darwin Martin House, Ward Willetts House, Unity Temple, and Larkin Building
      Greene & Greene’s Gamble House
      Wagner’s Metro Stations and Guimard’s Metro Stations
      The Flatiron Building
      Perret’s 25 bis Rue Franklin
      Wagner’s Postal Savings Bank

      Casa Mila is well underway although it is not finished until 1910.
      Park Güell, which is better is 1900-1914.
      1909 is witness to the AEG Turbine Factory and the Robie House, certainly in my top 20 of the 20th century.


      • not architects, not buildings
        not five architects, not five buildings. this is no longer the age of architects, or of signature buildings but of changing how architecture operates. therefore, five new ways of working within architecture and change the way it is produced [not in any particular order]

        -architecture for humanity. not for its humanitarian efforts, as laudable as they may be, but for their efforts to get clients together with architects, channeling resources and creating new architecture assignments that also involve the design of program [not only of building].

        -elemental housing in chile. working with government departments and and an internet competition and the actual people in danger of being relocated to produce a solution.

        -architects such as shop, creating shortcuts in the traditional cd-shop dwg-contractor route by starting to print out their own material. granted this is initially small scale but there is a start there.

        ok, i’m stuck in 3/5. but you see where i’m headed… i have more examples but they are no longer within architectural practice but more engaged in critique, so for now i’ll leave them out.

  4. maybe since you know what
    maybe since you know what “significant buildings” are in all your wisdom can design one yourself.

    • Ah the joys of being

      Ah the joys of being anonymous. Good luck, with that one, my friend. It’ll get you far. In fact, I like anonymous design.

      But you’ve failed at the task I asked of you. Something curious is happening to architecture. That would be more interesting to think about.

  5. where is the good new architecture?
    Your point is well made, and it relates to what I’ve been thinking lately regarding how elite architecture firms tend to lose their inspiration so quickly. I find many of the starchitects hopelessly repeating themselves, and despite all their efforts to design buildings that are more outlandish than before, it somehow has become quite boring. Nonetheless, I do feel that there are firms that will be recognized for their exceptional works in the aughts, we just need a bit more time to reflect before identifying them. Still the architectural output of this past decade far exceeds the 1970s and 1980s in quality.

  6. 5 projectos
    holl, Nelson-Atkins Museum
    weiss | manfredi, SAM olympic sculpture park
    RPBW w/ Fox & Fowle, New York Times HQ
    zumthor, Kolumba
    siza, Fundação Iberê Camargo

  7. arbitrary numbers
    Is there really all that much difference between 31 December 1999 and 1 January 2000? They’re arbitrary place setters, and not the demarcation of disticnt different times. Metaphorically, the calendar is the cart, not the horse.

    Personally, I see the Seattle Library design going back to Kahn’s early 1950s Municiple Building designs for Philadelphia. Historical analysis within a space-time continuum is more ongoing productivity and less end-product.

      Indeed. The decade (and


      Indeed. The decade (and the new millenium) actually started on 1 January 2001… This is indeed abitrary. It might be more appropriate to use March 10, 2000 as a demarcator since that’s when NASDAQ peaked. NASDAQ gave up 9% in the next six days. So the architecture of the run up preceding that date would then be architecture of the dot.com era and the architecture since would be architecture of the building boom. During the dot.com era I was running to bookstores to see what would be in the books. I was often well-rewarded. Why, then the inversion? Is it just exhaustion? Or does it have something to do with the nature of these booms? 

      • I’m sorry, but I just don’t
        I’m sorry, but I just don’t see arbitrary calendar dates and market value events as some kind of cause-and-effect ways to analyze, evaluate or categorize the evolution of architectural design. You mention the connection of Eisenman to CCTV, and I find that more relevant then whether CCTV is on a/your list of top 5 21st century buildings so far. And look at Le Corbusier’s St. Pierre at Firminy-Vert, designed 1962, finally built a few years ago. Also Hedjuk’s Bye House.

        I prefer to watch architecture history as it actually unfolds, and not through the aperture of somewhat artificial markers.

        • Ok, now you’ve lost me. What

          Ok, now you’ve lost me. What is arbitrary about observing that during a particular economic phase there has been little interesting work built? 



          • There may be well be a lot
            There may be well be a lot of recent built architecture that is uninteresting (to you), but, nonetheless, there is a lot of recent designed architecture that is interesting. I can hear you say that designed, ie unexecuted, architecture does not count on this list. Yet I can also hear you say that St. Pierre does count because it was designed in 1962. That is to say I sense your evaluation process unfortunately includes a double standard. Not all architecture has to be built in order for it to be historically significant.

            Otherwise, here’s a list (to run to):

  8. beat me to it

    From one historian to another; I was quickly assembling this list, but you beat me to the punch on a few:

    Post Office Savings Bank, Otto Wagner, 1904-08

    Palais Stoclet, Josef Hoffmann, 1905-11

    American Bar, Adolf Loos, 1907

    AEG Turbine Hall, Behrens, 1908

    Wainwright Building, Louis Sullivan, 1902

    Ward Willits House, FLW, 1902

      I missed the Wainright!


      I missed the Wainright! Big omission there.

      I considered and rejected the American Bar. I’ve seen it, I like it, but it doesn’t strike me as being of major historical signficance. More significant is the writing of Ornament and Crime in 1908 or the founding of the German Werkbund, which happened in 1907. Also if you want the American Bar, I would argue that Muthesius’s Freudenberg House is equally significant, if not more.

      I think AEG is 1909, but that whole project is just phenomenal.

  9. Modern buildings
    I can’t even comment on my own country since the last good building went out in 1970’s (I’m from Manila); and we are hell bent on destroying the few that withstood the test of time.

    I agree that the field of architecture is changing, maybe it would be easier to find 5 modern examples of urban planning such as Masdar in Dubai? LEED is changing the way of buildings and areas such as these are popping up as the new guys on the block (though honestly, i can’t think of 5 projects either which are not mass productions of economy).

  10. in every crisis there is an opportunity
    I would generally agree, but I’m hesitant to write off a whole decade of architectural production without at least acknowledging that there have been a handful of successful projects that deserve at least some commendation. OMA of course leads the list; Koolhaas & Co. have consistently managed to infuse their architecture with some smidgen of questioning/criticality/inventiveness/whatever, even in the face of gross ethical and professional recklessness. Nevertheless, in my mind their stock is dropping rapidly with their misadventures in the Gulf and eslewhere — and it’s been ages (the early days of W’s first term, I believe) since Koolhaas has written anything of consequence.

    So yes, I agree that Seattle Central Library makes the list. As for CCTV, the jury is still out: despite the questionable ethics of working for that particular client and building a building under those particular conditions, there is something to be said for the sheer scale of the thing, and the undeniable audacity of not only the design but the perseverance of execution. Maybe Koolhaas will get his pass once again, and he’ll be able to have it both ways. We’ll see.

    I agree with you with regard to Gehry’s disastrous decline since Bilbao… although I would argue that the hemorrhaging might have stopped. The Serpentine Pavilion from this past summer was gorgeous, and that thing up in Toronto that just opened looks like it could be interesting (although I’ve only seen a few images). I think if Gehry is indeed returning to his roots, as they say, of the ad-hoc and analog formal strategies of the early years, then there could be some surprises yet to come from old Frank.

    Other beacons of hope: I think there are interesting things happening with the two PLOT spinoffs (BIG and JDS) — the work of both offices is still quite pop and a bit too easy, but clearly these guys are talented, ambitious, prolific, and thoughtful. I think the work of Atelier Bowwow in Japan is phenomenal. I think that the fellows over at FAT in London are brilliantly continuing the legacy of Venturi & Scott-Brown, but recharging it with a contemporary and witty sensibility that is unmatched. And they know how to write. There’s also the whole “landscape” fad — it’s hard to filter out the good stuff from the empty fluff of the sustainability mania, but there are interesting things happening in the work of offices like Julie Bargmann’s DIRT Studio.

    You’re right that it is difficult to pinpoint specific projects – but I do think that it is worthwhile (and productive) to recognize that even in the darkest of times, there are some promising signs. And look at it this way: in an age of exceedingly low standards for contemporary architecture, the opportunities for success are that much greater.

       You’ve mentioned some


       You’ve mentioned some of the best offices out there. Agreed about that list. But I don’t think they’ve had a chance  to really prove themselves yet. 

  11. i find myself thinking in
    i find myself thinking in two directions because of the split and the exclusivity implied in the question. there are a group of projects with big fundings, which i would like to experience and apprehend regardless of the ethical concerns shadowed by the capitalist realism (not specifically as a term coined in russian context) as we have associated with representation simply because i admire architectural works of art. two buildings in san francisco golden gate park, de young museum (i got lost in this one) and california academy of sciences are on the top of my list with seattle public library. i also like to visit phaeno science centre because of its place within the tradition of modern architecture; corbu and constructivists. frank complained in an interview that he was not happy with the massing of disney concert hall, but i thought it looked great (and dg bank looks very interesting in the magazine). netherlands institute for sound and vision, whatever is translated in this architecture made me a fan of neutlings riedijk.
    the other direction has to do with academic/intellectual investigations with rather modest means. oblique restaurant designed by brodsky, the roundhouse; a renovated theatre designed by john mcaslan (as an asian, these are very attractive concepts), torre cube by carme pinos, illa de la llum by clotet and paricio for its slum facade, although urbanism, borneo sporenburg and favela-bairro projects, and i would like to see some of prof. preston scott cohen’s projects built.

  12. Well… if you call the
    Well… if you call the Seattle Public Library one of the five most significant buildings of the century then there is not much I can say to you!

    Your sense of discriminating ‘good from bad’ is much different than mine!

    • kazys,
      hi. the only real


      hi. the only real building i can nominate is peter zumthor’s bruder-klaus chapel in germany. small, perhaps too much so for your tastes, but one which fuses deeply satisfying urges of intention, craft, and performance in it’s execution. (his kolumba museum is probably close to his ‘over the top’ moment recently). i’m not sure anything else i’ve seen recently compares to it.

      99% of this is dependent on the criteria you set forth for ‘great’ work. most of the buildings referenced are by a certain coterie of globe trotting architects engaging architecture through a rarefied cultural lens. the problem, in simple terms – and as a corollary to what’s been noted- is that that lens was first blurred (through a hyper expansion and confluence of culture and commerce) and now it’s going to be altered radically again. the age of pure hyperbole is probably dead. long live the kings…

  13. Good Buildings
    Indeed, it isn’t without real effort that one can precise that many buildings. It is necessary to take notice that many of what we think as significant architecture of the first eight years of the 20th century has only been considered as such many years after their completion. Everything depends, on the point of view. If, like you seem to have attemted to do, you try to bring significant buildings under the light of what you call “the architecture of network society”, the choice is very wide, but very few are really meaningful, and maybe two or three are good as a whole. If by significant we mean inffluent, there are also many, for better and for worse. I prefer to think simply of good buildings, as I’m sure you do as well.

    So, if I think of these criteria, and considering that you have already pointed out Koolhass’ Casa da Musica in Porto (it’s design, however, done mostly in the late 90’s), I’d like to point out these few, which I believe are (or will become) important:

    – BRAGA MUNICIPAL STADIUM, by Eduardo Souto de Moura, Braga, Portugal, 2000/2003.
    – KUNSTHAUS GRAZ, by Spacelab Cook-Fournier, Graz, Austria, 2001/2003.
    – ALLIANZ ARENA, by Herzog & De Meuron, Munich, Germany, 2002/2005.
    – BELL-LLOC CELLARS, by RCR Arquitectes, Palamós, Girona, Spain, 2005/2007.
    – BRUDER KLAUS KAPELLE, by Peter Zumthor, Wachendorf, Germany, 2007.

    I can think of other buildings, commissioned around 1999 and completed in our century… Still, their importance to nowadays’ architecture (maybe future?) can be significant:

    – TERMINAL HOENHEIM NORD, by Zaha Hadid, Estrasbourg, France, 2001.
    – MONASTERY OF OUR LADY OF NOVY DVUR, by John Pawson, Touzim, Bohemia, Czech Republic, 2004.
    – THE AGBAR TOWER, by Jean Nouvel, Barcelona, Spain, 2005.
    – THE IBERE CAMARGO MUSEUM, by Alvaro Siza, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2008.

  14. I tend to agree with Ana
    I tend to agree with Ana Maria that more so than some of the “great” buildings that have been mentioned Porto, the Seattle Library, Phaeno et al, the real significant as in lasting or impactful “work” being done in the last decade and going into the 21st century is that of the groups, organizations and theorists/practicioners that have been/are critiquing architects focus in the last decade on Flashy, Big and celeb etc…. Especially because these architects and practices are (AFH, Teddy Cruz, Elemental Hosuing, Urban Think Tank) are focused on the issues that will really effect global society and it’s direction over the next few years.

    However, if i had to pick a building i would probably pick the Bruder-klaus chapel
    for the size, the way in which it was built and it’s continuation of Zumthor’s examination of experiential architecture…

    • Wallowing in the Glum Drops of Pessimism

      I’m afraid I am a little more pessimistic than Ana María or Namanand regarding contemporary criticism of note. Sure, Zizek, Sloterdijk, Luhmann, Kittler, Vismann, et al, ad nauseam, are all important, but some of them wrote in the last century, and even those who have written in the current century, well, I would consider their work as marginal (or at best, ancillary) to "big-A" architecture. I also believe that, with a few notable exception, those who practice architecture criticism have either: (1) not been very busy of late; (2) written for publications with low readership (and yes, I would include Log and Grey Room in this equation); (3) keep resuscitating and re-resuscitating topics (e.g. 1968, Dubai, China). The latter topics are forever interesting, but we have to expand our field of inquiry. If we are to think of a "landscape" of criticism, a wholly relational collection of writers, writings, practices, historians, historiographers, etc., then we must reconsider the definition of architecture’s "object". But I don’t see this happening. In fact, it is the inverse …. for although proponents of formalism talk about engaging architecture in relational terms (i.e. affect, pop culture, beauty, etc), isn’t theirs an extremely narrow imprimatur? How, then, do we relate this and other things I mentioned with the inability to identify buildings of note? I see these two as part of one ugly, intractable, super-gordian mess of a knot.

      • hi enrique, please read my
        hi enrique, please read my post above- i was not talking about architectural critics at all. and i agree that most ‘known’ critics have limited their commentary to starchitecture.

        but since you raise critical discussion, how do you not see it happening? you are completely part of it, it has just moved somewhere else… to your own blog, to this discussion right here. i agree that both established practice and criticism have stagnated, but let’s just leave that knot to tighten itself, no? more interesting practices are starting to operate [that i tried to outline above, and to which namanand correctly adds teddy cruz and the urban think tank] and more relevant critical discussion [such as yourself, kazys here, lebbeus woods’ blog, bldg blog, to mention a few] is going on the web right now. no need to move it to log [well, sometimes its worth trying, but it seems they’d rather keep publishing eisenman and venturi]. i don’t see why you wallow in the glum drops of pessimism over the faith of contemporary criticism. you are your own solution.

        • You Too Are Your Own Solution!
          Thanks for the clarification, Ana María. Yours sounds like a good strategy …. indeed, let’s watch the knot tie itself even tighter. I think you are much more of a solution than I am …. I feel that you are much more embedded in these important issues than I am. Whereas you, Kazys, and Namanand are able to navigate such issues with a very compelling adroitness …. I just tend to write about film, etc, etc. So I’ll take your word for it, that I am my own solution, and move forward …. and I’ll keep you updated as I try to figure out how to make sense of some of these issues. I may ask you for help, though.

  15. It just seems that this

    It just seems that this conversation is doomed from the get-go, when its very premise is someone saying: "I very much doubt I will agree" with any of your choices. It turns this into a kind of pub game, in which we’re meant to stump the negative show host. If we’re simply meant to out-cynicize one another, so to speak, then I don’t understand what’s to be learned or gained here – a list of buildings we’re meant to be embarrassed for liking? it’s like an act of self-criticism written during the Mao years – nor am I actually convinced that cynicism is even a valuable critical position to hold. If you’re unwilling to defend anything – a building, an architect, a school – and instead assume a posture of relentless negativity, then the only thing that can result is a self-proving theory of universal worthlessness. I believe it’s also called a bad mood. "That’s OLD architecture," you seem to be saying dismissively, as if paraphrasing Donald Rumsfeld; "where’s the NEW architecture?" So we’re supposed to be too cool for early 21st century architecture? That’s what this conversation basically says to me. Well, great. Are we also supposed to be too cool for today’s music and fashion and TV shows…? We’re not 15 anymore. How does more or less stating from the very beginning that our minds are closed to further discussion contribute anything to this conversation?

  16. It seems as though you are
    It seems as though you are relegating your definition of architecture to the big intrusive pieces of construction that the chosen few architects can inflate into the world. What about the more subtle pieces of work that as you say “haven’t been tested” or aren’t quite such bombastic pieces of starchitectural ego. As one who writes about the vagaries of network culture and practices within an expanded understanding of city and construction I’m confused as to your criteria for judging “architecture” in the more traditional sense. Is your role as a historian not to critique, but just to dismiss? What to you constitutes “good architecture”? If it is just a taste issue, why should architects take you seriously?

    That said, I agree with the idea put forth that the more grounded practices of AFH, Teddy Cruz, etc… represent a shift of architecture into a more dynamic stance. In a financial era when architects are more likely to have their creative capital hacked out of the budget I think these expanding practices are quite worthy. But also in the more traditional client-architect relationships I think quality work is still being produced. Morphosis’ Madrid Public Housing, BIG’s Big House (under construction), and the work of other young firms who haven’t “proven” themselves yet.

  17. It seems as though you are
    It seems as though you are relegating your definition of architecture to the big intrusive pieces of construction that the chosen few architects can inflate into the world. What about the more subtle pieces of work that as you say “haven’t been tested” or aren’t quite such bombastic pieces of starchitectural ego. As one who writes about the vagaries of network culture and practices within an expanded understanding of city and construction I’m confused as to your criteria for judging “architecture” in the more traditional sense. Is your role as a historian not to critique, but just to dismiss? What to you constitutes “good architecture”? If it is just a taste issue, why should architects take you seriously?

    That said, I agree with the idea put forth that the more grounded practices of AFH, Teddy Cruz, etc… represent a shift of architecture into a more dynamic stance. In a financial era when architects are more likely to have their creative capital hacked out of the budget I think these expanding practices are quite worthy. But also in the more traditional client-architect relationships I think quality work is still being produced. Morphosis’ Madrid Public Housing, BIG’s Big House (under construction), and the work of other young firms who haven’t “proven” themselves yet.

  18. where is the good new architecture?
    I feel that it is difficult and unfair to judge any new built work without experiencing it first hand. I’m the first to say that there is a lot of bad design out there, but to condemn a whole era through renderings and photos seems amateur. Architecture is about experience. Being able to interact with a building is the only way I feel one can give it a true crit.

  19. five
    Hey kazys,
    i don’t necessarily disagree with you. it seems that it is a lot harder to produce “good” architecture when the size of the commissions have been so large as of late (ie Koolhaas designing an entire city will likely never beat the kuntshal). That being said, i think your call for both “good” and “significant” buildings is problematic. A “significant” building does not have to necessarily be “good”.

    Therefore, here is my list…
    1) Burj Dubai – is any building going to seem more exemplary of the early 21st century?

    2) Bird’s Nest – good?, bad?, who cares, because it is now officially iconic

    3) Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision – its mix of media and architecture is “significant”. i think this could also be called “good”.

    4) Seattle Library – likewise

    5) Milwaukee Art Museum – Surprised myself by including it, but i can’t think of another recently completed building that made me feel like i was in the future.

    Runner Ups
    Nelson-Atkins – good
    Freedom Tower – significant (historic)
    MoMA Tower – good
    Gherkin – significant (iconic)

  20. on significance
    As someone who agrees with Kazys’s point, I’ll attempt to clarify the definition of “significant”—my criteria, but ones that I would assume are similar to K’s since our conclusions are essentially the same.

    A significant building (built or unbuilt) is one that:

    —will matter 20 years from now, i.e., will be written about in history books and discussed in lectures
    —is both emblematic and among the best of its era
    —simply put, marks a “before” and an “after” for the discipline: a building after which architecture necessarily becomes different

    Buildings that do these things are both important and good. You could also describe them as canonical, if you prefer Eisenman’s current term (via Bloom); except that certain buildings can become part of the canon without being particularly good (e.g., Libeskind’s Jewish Museum).

    If we take K’s challenge and qualifiers as referring, not to significant buildings completed in this century, but to significant buildings produced out of any post-2001 formal or conceptual framework*, then I absolutely agree—so far there are none. Not a single one. Yokohama, Seattle, Porto, Blur, Sendai, even the Phaeno Science Center were all late products of 1990s architecture culture, completed in the 2000s because architecture is slow; after that there is nothing. Then again, it might also be too early to be looking for them. (A related question is whether the economic crisis will kill off a lot of these post-2001 movements before most might have reached any sort of maturity on their own. My answer would be yes.) It’s also pretty clearly true that all the pre-2001 frameworks have died too; CCTV killed Rem, Blur is the first and only good building D+S will ever do; Phaeno is the first and only (sort of) good building Zaha will ever do.

    Some buildings will certainly be canonical for advancing particular construction technologies by a massive leap, regardless of their other qualities. CCTV will be canonical for steel skyscraper technology, but politically and culturally problematic (similar in fact to the WTC towers pre-2001, which were also radical innovations in skyscraper construction but deeply problematic in urbanistic and cultural terms).

    By my definition, significant buildings (both canonical and good) completed in the last ten years (again, all late products of 1990s arch culture):

    Seattle Public Library
    Sendai Mediatheque
    Bordeaux House
    Blur Building

    Canonical for their technical/typological innovations:
    Swiss Re
    Phaeno Science Center (the first radical innovation in concrete technology since Saarinen’sTWA terminal)
    Bird’s Nest stadium (though it pains me to say that)

    Canonical but not good:
    Jewish Museum (it’s hard to believe this only opened in 1999, it seems so hopelessly outdated now)

    To be honest, after their VM and Mountain houses, I had hoped that Plot/BIG might one day produce a canonical building. But their production since then has been disappointing. I had hopes for SANAA at one point too, but wasn’t overly blown away in person by Kanazawa or the New Museum. The Toledo museum will possibly be canonical for innovations in glass construction.

    And that’s it. I would describe many of the other buildings people have mentioned in these comments as clever, good-looking, pleasant or even beautiful, but not truly significant.

    *re: the issue of arbitrariness, I don’t think 2001 is an arbitrary cutoff at all. September 11th and its aftermath left architecture on a fundamentally different terrain culturally and politically from where it had been the decade before (it was also my first day of architecture grad school), and so is a completely logical endpoint for the previous period of work. Or like Kazys you could date it to the peak of the Nasdaq in 1999, which makes just as much sense.

  21. The Good
    I’m am in complete agreement with Kazys and would like to underscore Ana Maria’s post in which she states that ‘this is no longer the age of architects, or of signature buildings but of changing how architecture operates’. Agreed! I’d like to offer that one of the new areas in which architects might begin to rediscover the instrumentality of the profession beyond signature buildings will be in infrastructure. As cities, by necessity, begin to re-invest in upgrading dated infrastructure and implementing new systems of cross programmed infrastructure,it will create a new filed of opportunities for planners, architects et. all.

    See links some early examples which are not necessarily significant in there own right, and still very much buildings (NL’s windmills the exception) but significant in signaling what I believe to be a growing trend.





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