Project: Architectural Design Project
Institut: Academy of Fine Arts Vienna
1. The City of the 21st century
Over the last decades, we have noticed how our cities changed due to globalization, expansion of networks, interconnectivity and international trading. The city has become an enormous harbour for the import and export of money, people and goods, thereby becoming more and more depended of international markets and the global economic situation. We experience how this dependency has become one of the main factors shaping our cities, the spaces and the life of its inhabitants. Great parts of the city have become either tradable commodities or resources for capital investment and a playground for private investors, land developers and speculators. We can observe this phenomenon globally, particularly evident in Metropoles like Doha, Moscow, or Hong Kong. I want to take the City of London, an area which is characterized by its strong economic activity and importance for the global financial market as a case study and analyse how this change manifests in its build environment. In particular, I want to concentrate on the analyses of the new kind of iconic buildings shaping the all over expression of the quarter. In contrast to other cities or quarters like Doha or the Canary Wharf in London, we can observe in the City of London the coexistence of historical iconic buildings, like St. Pauls Cathedral and the Mansion hall, and modern iconic buildings like the Gherkin or the Leadenhall building. The reason for their divergence lies in their different way of locality and authenticity. The historical buildings, representing the local achievements of construction methods and concepts of their time, are constituting authentically the urban fabric, whereas contemporary Icons often are not adapted to the local environment and characteristics of a place which causes their lack of identity, authenticity and locality. The attempt to generate identity by extravagant shapes only results in an even more generic monumentality. This results in the dilemma of being on the one hand dislocated and disconnected with the local context and on the other hand the possibility to be located everywhere precisely because of their lack of identity: A generic Iconicity. Being often constructed for the purpose of global representation of economic institutions reinforces this disconnection to even greater extend. Instead of contributing to the already existing local characteristics of a place, they have become the disconnected and autonomic physical manifestation of global capitalism, which results in the rising similarity of cities and the build environment all over the world. The more the architects wants the iconic buildings to be exotic, individual and particular, the more similar and site-less they become. It is a paradoxical dilemma. In order to set a limit to this ongoing development we have to free ourselves from the label of Starchitecture and resurrect the identity of the city again.