Noticias de Arquitectura

The Best Architecture
marzo 18, 2007, 6:46 pm
Filed under: Gehry, Newsweek

Newsweek International

March 26, 2007 issue – It has been more than 20 years since the Prince of Wales blasted a proposed addition to the National Gallery in London as “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved friend.” Charles won that battle—the design was scrapped—but he lost the war. While he was railing, the stainless-steel Lloyds Bank building by Richard Rogers began to go up, sleek as an alien spaceship, among the stuffy office buildings in the City of London. And though the prince’s taste might have given a brief boost to the postmodern design of the Thatcher era, the counterinfluence of Rogers and his cutting-edge colleagues, both in Britain and across the Channel, has only continued to grow.

Today that generation of designers has become one of Europe’s most visible exports. Only Frank Gehry, alone among Americans, has had a bigger impact on contemporary architecture than the Europeans—though without the global reach of a Norman Foster, whose staff of 500, headquartered in London, oversees dozens of projects from Kazakhstan to China. Other high-profile Europeans have won big commissions in China, too—among them the 2008 Olympic Stadium by the Swiss team of Herzog & de Meuron, and the huge CCTV building by Rem Koolhaas of the Netherlands. And now Abu Dhabi is luring the leaders of European design, with plans unveiled in January to build an unprecedented cultural district, including buildings by Zaha Hadid of London and Jean Nouvel of Paris, as well as Gehry.

The talent and experience these architects bring to global clients have been honed at home, thanks to the enormous investment Europe has made, and continues to make, in its infrastructure. From airports and train stations (the new Barajas Terminal in Madrid by Rogers or London’s Waterloo Station by Nicholas Grimshaw), to bridges (a number of them lyrically engineered by Santiago Calatrava), to cultural centers (Renzo Piano’s Parco della Musica in Rome or Nouvel’s new Musée du Quai Branly in Paris), the governments of the EU often embrace radical design in a way that’s unimaginable in many parts of the world. And it’s not just that local burghers seem to love buildings that look off the wall, like Foster’s bulbous Greater London Authority or Peter Cook’s blobby blue Kunsthaus in Graz. What’s radical, too, is the adventuresome spirit of European architects, experimenting with technology or new materials—and finding a ready audience.

In contrast to America, young and little-known European designers often have a good chance to win plum commissions through frequent design competitions. (One such competitive program, Europan, is open only to architects under 40.) That’s how Rogers got his first big break. He and his partner at the time, Renzo Piano, beat out 681 architects in 1971 to build their brash and colorful design for the Pompidou Center in Paris. Once a controversial upstart in a crumbling ancient neighborhood, the Pompidou now looks like an old friend, a fine example of new Europe and old, living side by side.

—Cathleen McGuigan
© 2007 Newsweek, Inc.