It has been amazing to be part of the WAF award winning team. When you look across the range and quality of projects put forward for the WAF Awards, to be short listed and then become associated with the overall winner is a momentous achievement for Grant Associates.
Director - Grant Associates
Date posted: 23/10/08
How are architects coping with the effects of globalisation on architecture? This was the question posed by Festival director Paul Finch to Norman Foster, Charles Jencks and Süha Ozkan in the final round table of the day, attended by a rapt audience of 1700.
All agreed that the rapacious nature of capitalism, albeit temporarily stalled by recent events, was speeding economic progress beyond the wildest dreams of our ancestors. ‘And why the hell not?’, asserted Foster.
But architecture’s current market driven pluralism, as conveniently manifest by the 700 entries for the first WAF Awards, brings its own problems. Süha Ozkan lamented the ‘collect the set’ approach of clients who only want signature buildings by signature architects, leading to the sclerosis of opportunity for younger designers and a stifling of debate.
The ongoing environmental crisis may be changing perceptions – ‘It’s not about fashion, it’s about survival’, commented Foster – but architects are touchingly deluded if they think they can save the world on their own. According to Charles Jencks, they have a hand in only 10 per cent of the built environment (the rest is simply amorphous ‘building’), so what it will actually take to save the planet is a firm geopolitical lead.
Conversation invariably wandered back to those two Is – icons and identity. Süha Ozkan lamented the icon as ‘an assertion of arrogance’ which chips away at a historical sense of identity and Charles Jencks cited Dubai as the perfect zoo of icons – ‘architects without architecture’ and teasingly called for an iconoclasm. Foster, of course, specialises in iconic, mood altering skylines; the Collserola tower looms over Barcelona and London now revels in its Gherkin, after some quintessentially English equivocation.
But we’ve been here before, equivocation-wise. As Charles Jencks related, all properly cultured Parisians loathed Eiffel´s grotesque iron tower, but with a decade it had become the emblem of France. In short, it’s a fickle world. And getting fickler.