Monday, February 21, 2005

has prince charles been hanging out in LA?

prince charles, never a fan of modern architecture, addressed a conference of physicians about the dangers of "car-focused cities." apparently, the US isn't the only country dealing with increasing rates of obesity, asthma, and heart disease. ok, makes sense - I'm with you chuck. until he starts to rail against "iconic architecture."

one of the most controversial projects in london's recent history is sir norman foster's 'erotic gherkin.' finished less than 1 year ago, it is the very definition of 'iconic architecture' - in the best sense of the word. there has been a great deal written about its environmentally-friendly design. it has also won england's top architecture prize. it was a controversial plan - many thought it would conflict with historical buildings surrounding it. they had to raze a historically significant building to construct it (already damaged in a 1992 IRA bombing). although, as london all points out, St. Paul's Catherdral was equally controversial in its day.

despite these concerns, what london received is a building that is distinct, beautiful, and has people who couldn't care less about architecture gawking. personally, I think london has done an exemplary job of integrating modern architecture into its skyline (see city hall - another foster - and its proximity to tower bridge). prince charles is certainly correct in determining that urban design affects not only the natural environment but our health as well. but he is doing a great disservice to his country and to architecture in railing against the types of buildings that help to keep its cities vital and vibrant.


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