My recent posts at World-Architects


Friday, January 11, 2008


Why Foster’s Hearst Tower is no gherkin
Early last year I panned Hearst Tower in a Gridskipper compilation of the ugliest buildings in New York. Many of you disagreed with me (some strongly), so it was refreshing to see Robert Campbell take a stab at critiquing the design's faults. The Boston Globe critic asserts some of the same things I found disturbing about Lord Foster's diagrid tower, namely process over program and context, though he does it at length and more articulately.

Marcella Durand on the Infinite Library
"New York-based poet Marcella Durand on a dream of hers that begins with 18th century French architect Etienne-Louis Boullée, weaves through Borges, and emerges in the unknowable future of the infinite library", where "many books are infinitely preferable to one." One for the bibliophile in me...and you.


  1. I'm disappointed to read your opinion about the Hearst building and this article. I must be missing something because I didn't find the article articulate and well defined at all. Knocking it for its response to context was one criticism while designing new untried ideas another. Both I feel are not justified, contrast can be good while innovation is essential. While we could debate this, the article is lacking any substance and insightful consideration.
    Maybe you are glad you found an ally?

  2. Jason, please don't be disappointed. We're all entitled to our opinions. To me the article was fairly well focused on how Foster can take certain gestures (structural, formal, etc.) and fit the program to suit. This is just one case where the result lacks the elegance of other designs. Certainly, this criticism isn't limited to Foster's way of designing (Mies is mentioned in the article, and many that follow in his footsteps would be guilty of such "universality"), though I'll admit that Foster is being faulted for attempting something more ambitious or risky than most architects, clients, and developers are willing to do.

    I'll admit I'm glad I found an ally -- though sympathizer might be more accurate -- but I still stand by my take on the building, mainly that it is process over program and context. The latter could have been dealt with in such a way that both are enriched, though Foster basically props up the old walls and whitewashes them inside for them to be ignored.

    I'm curious, why do you think innovation is essential? My take on the original is that Foster's innovation harks back to Bucky Fuller, hence making Foster's innovation, well, not really innovative. In terms of sustainability, unless there's technical solutions dealing with energy, water, air quality, etc. that I'm not aware of, there's not a lot of innovation present. Basically, I'm skeptical of innovation for the sake of corporate placement and advancement in the world of big business. To me that's where innovation lies in this type of design. Call me cynical, but being innovative to justify a corporate cocoon that (to me) doesn't beautify the skyline isn't really worth praising.

  3. The Robert Campbell article was a refreshing dose of common sense. I couldn't agree with him more.

    When I looked at the building something about it bothered me, and upon reading Campbell's article it all made sense. Eloquent.


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