Controversies abounded in 2021 as architecture slowly emerged from the shadows of COVID-19 | News


What would the news be without controversy? You could argue that it’s way too focused in the overall media landscape, and our little corner of the business is certainly not immune to its appeal either. The pandemic-dominated 2020 exit provided us with quite a few contentious architectural elements to report. Here are the most controversial stories from our pages as we look back on the year that was.

Munger Hall led the way with a still-pending saga that may never have started without the moral probity of architect Dennis McFadden. His October 25 resignation letter, written to the UCSB Design Review Board and reposted by The independent of Santa Barbara ‘s Tyler Hayden (who I think should win the Pulitzer), started an online firestorm, even causing the rare event of having an architectural story to land in national media.

“Dormzilla” aka Munger Hall. Image courtesy of UCSB.

The proposed dormitory itself is a depressing statement about the architectural standards we have for young people as well as a sad by-product of the lack of student accommodation available statewide. But the real story in my opinion is that of a wealthy financier who buys himself what in the end is essentially a huge burden on a public institution in the form of a vanity project that has an advertised price north of $ 1.5 billion.

Speaking of architects and academics, another story that captivated readers was the news that the former Dean of the Princeton School of Architecture, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, was officially out of college after a long argument with the administration which resulted in a vote of the ad hoc committee to remove the Founder of AZPA from his teaching position and his own savage “Gonzo” polemic targeted not only Princeton but the academic apparatus in general.

Former Princeton Dean Zaera-Polo produced My Favorite Architectural Content of the Year in October.

Another criticism of the industry came in the form of Norman Foster’s late August appearance on Bloomberg Television, which drew quite a bit of backlash in the face of the architect’s continued reluctance to know if the airport infrastructure is or is not a departure from the green principles described by the Architects Declare group, the initiative that he himself supported from the start, then later abandoned on the issue, which he called a “position. hypocritical morality “.

Much like such positions, Phillip Johnson’s name was ultimately covered up by MoMA as a follow-up to one of last year’s biggest stories. The Face-Saving Gesture has been temporarily installed to coincide with the museum’s stunning exhibit Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America.

Photo: Salon NYC / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The job offered even more areas of contention in 2021, with the controversy surrounding Newfields’ horrific job posting providing us with yet another example of the permeability of white supremacy voiced by Johnson and absorbed by MoMA and other institutions. cultural to date.

No annual review would be complete without an overview of the opposition to certain projects that arise in any given year. 2021 was no exception. Besides Munger Hall, there were resolutions to a host of concerted efforts to stop, among other things, the interior restoration of Notre Dame Cathedral, the construction of the Herzog & de Meuron Triangle Tower and the high-priced redesign. from the La Samaritaine department store by SANAA – – and that’s right in Paris.

Rendering of the proposed site for the MSG Sphere London. Image: Madison Square Garden Company.

Elsewhere, similar resolutions were issued in the discussions on India’s parliamentary overhaul and Obama’s presidential library in Chicago. A missive was launched against London’s dismal MSG sphere by one of the world’s most influential critics, while its once promising Tulip Tower was surprisingly closed, which should have been the fate of MVRDV’s terrible Marble Arch Mound. (although at least the British Holocaust Memorial City finally seems to be moving forward). There was a successful pushback against disgraced Governor Andrew Cuomo’s politically motivated LaGuardia AirTrain, a resounding defeat for the bridges and tunnels crowd, and yet another tragically preventable suicide at Thomas Heatherwick’s ship in Hudson Yards.

Marble Arch Mound in London by MVRDV. Image via Twitter user @ joshcharles_21

But, more than anything, the history of HDR surveillance is what shocked and infuriated me this year. Freedom of speech is fundamental in a democratic society, and it is threatened everywhere thanks in large part to similar McCarthyist tactics that have arisen from our state of high-tech surveillance and the well-documented collusion between governments and businesses against what always appear to be progressive activists.

Photo: Larry Farr / Unsplash

HDR management has voluntarily engaged in a high-tech criminal and racist spy campaign against innocent people who oppose a proposed highway that would have passed through a site considered sacred to indigenous communities in the region. Arizona, in addition to other community activist groups deployed against planned penitentiaries from Ohio to Massachusetts.

Better words than I can offer have been produced over time, basically saying that it is much better to choose a straight path, and history remembers those who have gone the other way in bad favor. The only place for those who deny the freedom of others themselves is a prison. I sincerely hope that the architectural community comes together in the New Year to offer a full rebuke of this and other types of unethical business practices.


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