December 8, 2008

Swiss National Museum's new wing already out of date

Often a criticism weighed against contemporary architecture is that the buildings built today will within a few years time appear dated, out of style and silly. Rarely has that criticism being levied against a building that isn't even built yet.

The Swiss firm Christ & Gantenbein Architects was reported to have just received funding to begin construction of an addition to the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. The only problem is that in the time waiting to wade through the red tape of government bureaucracy the design has apparently grown mold sitting on the shelf. According to the article in Architectural Record, the critics, and the architects themselves admit the design is a bit stale:
"Given that the design is now six years old, [architect Emanuel] Christ acknowledges that what seemed striking and original may appear less so today."
I couldn't agree more, excepting that the design was probably never terribly striking or original, looking like a rather boxy knockoff of any random Lebeskind museum.

It begs the question whether a more traditional design would have elicited such a response to the design languishing in governmental committee? Would a design that harmonized with the original museum have to resort to such chicanery as the architects propose to repackage their design?
"Indeed, the Swiss Nation Museum extension’s tessellated planes have become a common motif in contemporary design. As a result, currently the studio is considering slight changes to its addition, such as cloaking it in a gradation of color that would dramatize its geometry."
In other words, the design no longer is fashionable today, with its bare concrete walls of angling planes, but rather should be like this years fashionable colored buildings.

Architecture is not fashion. Architecture is the expression of the highest ideals of humanity, those ideals which are unchangeable and as such architecture is unchangeable. Sure, tastes and styles change, but a truly good building will age well and continue to tell the same story and express beauty in the same way, whether it's six years after it's design or six hundred.

1 comment:

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