Who Da Tastemakers?

According to Forbes Magazine, these are the Top 10 Tastemakers -- those "most influencing our culture" -- in architecture (# press mentions -- perhaps a deciding factor in the creation of the list, it's not clear -- in parentheses):

Top L-R: David Adjaye (198), Enrique Norten (66), Norman Foster (496), Thom Mayne (91), James Corner (3)
Bottom L-R: Diller and Scofidio (60), Zaha Hadid (325), Robert Fox, Jr. (7), Sejima and Nishizawa (68), Ben Van Berkel (71)

According to the article, these ten "pioneer new building techniques, cross cultures and blur boundaries between architecture, art, landscape design and urban planning. They impact more then just aesthetics; they're changing the way we live." Citing United Nations' estimates that, "by 2015, there will be 21 megacities with populations over 10 million," the magazine gives architects the responsibility of: "managing this growth and finding innovative ways to maximize scarce space and resources."

Given that Frank Gehry, Richard Meier, Daniel Libeskind, and Santiago Calatrava are mentioned in the article but aren't on the list, it appears that "starchitects" won't be the ones taking on this responsibility. It's the "not yet household names" that will (somehow) deal with this situation, even though architects -- at least in the United States -- account for a tiny fraction of what's built.

Regardless, the article accurately reflects the need for architects to redefine what they do: dealing with landscape and urban design as well as building design, dealing with social and political concerns as well as formal ones, thinking about their responsibilities in an increasingly crowded and environmentally damaged world. In many ways they hit the nail on the head, but does the list accurately reflect these concerns? To me, the list reflects the usual formal emphasis rather than the ones the magazine is calling for.

(via Archinect)


  1. Architects are silly. We are some of the most disconnected members of society, yet we try to draw up plans to reinvent it. Architects should focus on making beautiful, well built buildings with efficient mechanical systems--this alone seems to be far too dificult for many architects. Social problems come and go--architecture does not solve them. I thought we learned this the hardway in the 60s--how quickly we forget. Social theory reverses every couple decades or so but beauty reamains to teach and inspire forever. Every dollar spent on competitions for turning abandoned railroads into urban nature walks should have just be thrown into a Red Cross kettle.

  2. Side - I don't know why you say architects are some of the most disconnected members of society, but it could perhaps stem from them focusing on formal issues (for the developer or other client that takes care of the programmatic issues, the ones that actually impact the people that use buildings) and ignoring the social, political, and other issues that I say should be addressed. There's a difference between trying to save society (or reinvent as you say) and designing in a way that acknowledges the end user in various ways beyond thermal comfort. Hell, a lot of architects don't care what happens after the building's occupied, the (empty) photos are taken, and the awards are handed out. This attitude says a lot.

    To design pretty buildings in a vacuum is just absurd, as much as it is to look back at buildings from the past and only see them formally, when they were created out of their own social and political situations (not that you're condoning a return to a historical style...I can't tell).

    Basically, I think architects are using the 60s as an excuse to ignore those other concerns and just focus on aesthetics, a very either/or attitude that doesn't make their buildings any better. People also forget that Modernism approached social concerns via its own dogma, meaning its approach wasn't a solution (not architecture or the built environment in general); to take the leap to say that architecture shouldn't deal with social concerns at all because of that seems false to me. Sure, architects shouldn't try to save the world (pardon my cynicism but politicians can't seem to do that either!) but they shouldn't just become window dressers either.

  3. Were there any landscape architects on the list? I am curious, as landscape architects already do a number of the things mentioned on that list.

  4. n. - James Corner is a landscape architect with Field Operations, who has worked on the High Line, among other projects.

  5. Hmm, Forbes claims the poll was taken from working architects, academics and industry organizations. Also from print media, awards, etc. So the decision would be almost accurate. From the trend it seems that there will be drastic change every year. But we see classic faces here: Norman Foster, Thom Mayne, Zaha Hadid. But does there is still a lot architect lies in the world? Coop Himmelblau, Rem Koolhaas, Bernard Tschumi, etc.. Where are they?

  6. Am I missing something or is this study 100% lacking in substance? The article seems barely longer than a blurb, none of their methodology is backed up anywhere with examples, and the only photographs are head shots? (I would have thought the work might be more important?)

    Then the webpage links to five other "also in lifestyles" articles:

    Best SUVs 2007
    World's Most Expensive Homes 2007
    How To Avoid A Heart Attack
    Chic Boutique Hotels
    Men's Guide To Power Dressing

    I think their choices are interesting, but come on, it's on the same page as "men's guide to power dressing"


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