Enough With the Scary Architecture Already!

We scan thousands of headlines each day, and read hundreds of blog posts. And what keeps coming up is that contemporary architecture is very often terrifying. Not just vaguely sinister. But straight-up Darth Vader-would-love-this, Bladerunners-would-quail, humanity-is-dying scary. Witness these two projects. First, office design by Morphosis, that is set for completion later this year:


Second is this new “cultural center” for Singapore, designed by Aedas. Mind you, Singapore is often described as a police state, but still, is this any kind of statement for a mixed use, “retail and culture” development? The rendering looks like the lovechild of an At-At and a wood chipper: 


Thom Mayne, the founder of Morphosis, says that he loves building in China because, “In China, you can do things formally you just can’t do in the U.S.—aggressive, uncompromised, out-there ideas.” Right. But we can’t help but wonder if part of the problem with China (and other places just developing signature architecture projects, such as Singapore) is whether in the quest to lure architects by letting them build without constraint, they’re not behaving as good clients do: That is, pushing back on the architect, and pushing for things truly useful and livable. After all, architecture is the art of constraint. It’s a process that involves a tug-of-war between architect and client. Without that tension, and when architecture can simply be whatever the architect wants, it too-easily becomes just a terrifying exercise of personal will.