I don’t think it’s cynical to state that the noble pursuit of designing spaces and places for human endeavor is being corrupted by the cult of star architecture.
From my long tenure as an urban design critic, I see the scramble among a select gaggle of professionals to be anointed, as increasing insidious and insistent,.
And so we have tomes such as Paul Goldberger’s “Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry,” reading more like “The Art of the Deal” by Donald Trump, with architecture as a social art subsumed by the architect as a social animal.
If anything, the read reveals Goldberger’s transition from when he was a solid, if not stolid, critic in his early years for the New York Times, and then the more fastidious New Yorker, to his present vain-glorious gazing at Vanity Fair.
As for the ever-grasping Gehry, noted is his transition from an aspiring architect of modest talent, to a self-aggrandizing, celebrity-schmoozer who sadly believes his own press clippings, and to hell whomever doesn’t.
But Gehry with the gift of a grifter does know how to massage the media, as evidenced by Goldberger’s undiscerning biography, and clients as well, as evidenced by his hyped designs. Little is heard from the users or their advocates.
Granted, it is hard to blame some of the architecture elite for manipulations, given the competition in the profession for deep pocketed clients and prominent projects promising yet more publicity.
It is very much a merry, merry-go-round, unless of course it is not, and one fails to grab the gold ring, and hang on, resulting in what might be labeled, professional envy
Also, running an office is expensive, especially when the principals have to be out and about pontificating at endless forums and glad handing clients, while the actual designs are being produced by the talent in the back rooms.
I recall it was the august Philip Johnson, who was to the manor born, commenting that to be a successful architect, as he was in his time, you had to be a whore.
It is all very depressing, if you think of the effect it has on conscientious peers with a trace of talent and good intentions, desperate for attention, if not a little love, while trying to piece together a practice.
The bad books they have written about themselves and the mountains of monographs documenting their projects tend to be embarrassing, even if just circulated among family, friends and clients.
Still, hope springs eternal, and I appreciate and embrace design. When focused on those who will actually be affected by the crafting of spaces and places – the users– it can elevate the human experience.