We need a new definition of the architectural hero.
By William Richards for AIA Architect
Peter Eisenman, FAIA, the iconoclastic architect and teacher, member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and AIA/ACSA Topaz Medallion recipient, thinks that architects have their priorities backwards. “In a time that we have a lot of star architects, we have few heroes,” he told a rapt audience at the 2015 AIA National Convention in Atlanta. “[These] form-makers,” he said, “tend to be capricious without a formal or critical heart.”
Whether you agree or disagree, Eisenman raises two good points. First, there’s a difference between making form, so to speak, and formalism. One is about product, one about process, and his argument is that only a process can lead to a credible work of architecture. The second point is that star status does not always denote design leadership. In his argument, the analogy is clear: Star architects (“starchitects”) are to mere form-makers as true heroes are to exegetical thinkers. (Less clear, however, is why calling someone a hero is any less capricious than balling up some modeling clay and calling it a building.) Nevertheless, the underlying question for our cynical age, with Internet altruists straining toward “upworthiness,”is: What is a hero anyway?
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