Monthly Archives: August 2009


Now, reminding me of the classic Gillo Dorfles’ “Le Oscillazioni del Gusto“, this down here is what I would call a “breakthrough”… Like a neobaroque version of SANAA, but through the schizoid binoculars of a Swedish architect.


Housing Project by Wilhemson Arkitekter. Via Dezeen.

I think this says a lot of the new world creolisation… even when it comes dressed in polar coolness. And this is something I have been writing about for an upcoming book on recent portuguese architecture.

In the end, it is all about the “traffic of influence” – or what Harold Bloom has called The Anxiety of Influence – and around how the grip of starchitects and their contenders is today more and more crucial in defining the hybrid and diverse nature of contemporary architecture.

Nothing very new. This was always the case. Think of Michelangelo, Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier. But this is also something that, nowadays, definitely should deserve more critical attention than it does.

So, as a small contribution for the discussion, here is a preview excerpt of my forthcoming essay “Under the Influence: From Volcano to Gene Pool”…

All “regional architectures” that currently enjoy some international recognition possess one, and only one, common denominator.

What, for some time, has united Spanish, Dutch, Swiss, Portuguese, Mexican or Japanese architecture? And what has made these architectural practices stand out from those of neighbouring countries such as Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway, Argentina or Thailand?

Think about it.

Once it has been proven that the “resistance” of critical regionalism has been ground down for good, there must exist a deeper reason for creating a distinction between practices that, in geographical terms, could only be close to each other in their truths and consequences.

Have you guessed?

In each of these countries, personalities or architectural players have emerged who, whether a little earlier (like Luís Barragan, winner of the 1980 Pritzker Prize), or a little later (like Rem Koolhaas or Herzog & de Meuron, winners of the 2000 and 2001 Pritzker Prizes), have brought an overwhelming influence to bear on the contexts in which they acquired pre-eminence.

In many cases, we must not undervalue the fact that the reasons behind the emergence of these and other personalities (who have always been significant in turning the Modern Movement towards the current condition of architectural production) are located in a particularly rich historical context, as in the case of Spanish or Dutch architecture, and as in the (much earlier) case of American architecture.

However, this is not what concerns us here, just as it is only marginally relevant that these personalities formed part of the current starchitecture system from the start. The highly personalised and deterritorialized star system which currently regulates international architecture, and which is also subject to the principle that the times they are a-changin’, might have something to do with the arguments developed here, but only in the sense that these personalities generate a kind of enduring influence that marks the architectural production which is seen as representing a benchmark, whether on the regional or the international level.

Like the presence of a volcano on the near horizon, the influence of these personalities produces a particularly fertile terrain. However, in the presence of the permanent eminence of the devastation, it also generates an almost permanent state of anxiety.

Picture 1

A.Siza Vieira: influential and under the influence… Via FG+SG Photography.

Ultimately, with regard to the various interpretations provoked by the 80 works of Portuguese architecture in Habitar Portugal 06-08, it is worth examining briefly the anxiety surrounding the personalities that are considered to be unavoidable. After all, contemporary Portuguese architecture, like other architectures, is still living both intoxicated and sullen under the volcano.

Since, in this respect also, Portuguese architecture is the same as the “others”, the conclusions that can be drawn here may turn out to be more general than might first be imagined…

… More to come after October 3rd…

Fascist Groove Thang

After all, it was not the silly season.


It was only the season in which people try to launch new obnoxious products while they imagine you’re taking a nap under the Apple trip, I mean, tree.

I know the issue is old, but this thang that appeared in The Guardian in the UK last June (and which I found via Fantastic Journal), has finally extracted me from my self-appointed blogolidays and has made me reopen the shooting season…


And no, this is not about tourism (like this stencil I captured in Firenze) – even if everything nowadays is ultimately about tourism.

The thang had already caused a stir on Tweety Land… But, since I’m still amazingly refusing tweetification, I don’t precisely know what kind of stir it caused over there…

But hopefully it caused a very chilly stir and right down your speine. I mean, I think this thang really deserves a little bit more reflection than just a few exclamations like “grooovy” or “what are these guys thinking about?”.

Remember Heaven 17’s discreet hit “(We don’t need that) Fascist Groove thang”? This is your background song for this post. Do take 5 secs to put it on.

Now, we all knew already that Little Britain had this Royal with an opinion on architecture. Good for him.

But now, suddenly, in what used to be a slightly leftist newspaper, you are also able to enjoy the Gentrification Machine, as Charles Holland aptly calls it.

And the Gentrification Machine is, no more, no less, than a pedagogical gadget (or should I say “apparatus”?) that teaches you how to recognize city aesthetics, just in case you are suffering from a minor case of urban amnesia.

This machine doesn’t exactly work like Alain de Botton, but almost.

You’ve seen it by now: hit the bottons (whoops!) and blissfully rediscover what everybody mement-o-fully forgot after they last visited World War 2. And, of course, everywhere aroud the thingy there are the little cues telling you what is aesthetically-correct and not, just in case your are too stupid to be sure about it.

There is only a final button missing. And that would be the one that turns people on and off.

I mean, what do you have left to do after you’ve done your little plastic surgery on the neighborhood (“Honey, sure you didn’t forget about the backyard?!”)? Inevitably, you also have to gas the people who strangely stopped fitting in the nicer scheme of things.

When the self-appointed creative elite in Europe is playing these childish games, it is no wonder that the wondrous continent is being left behind within the larger scheme of thangs – so as to become “the largest theme park on the world.”

Ballard didn’t get the picture exactly right, though.

He almost did, yep, and it is true that his hedonistic theme park in the homonymous story –which, incidentally, appeared in the very same newspaper as the thang, The Guardian, in July 7, 1989– is now more acute than it ever was… See Lemonade, and just imagine what all the “creatively” unemployed could be doing for this very pleasant Summer.

The fact is, after a tiresome and hazardous life, Ballard did love his suburbs, and maybe he couldn’t really face up to the fact that the theme park of the future wasn’t happening in shinny happy, hyper-hyped and coked-up Super-Cannes. Rather, it was about to happen right by his front lawn.