Design for the One Percent

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Design for the One Percent

Contemporary architecture is more interested in mega projects for elites than improving ordinary people’s lives

Not so long ago, the world’s leading architects debated how architecture could be used to transform society by providing housing for workers, improving public health, and fostering social solidarity. Today, global architecture is peopled with “starchitects” like Hadid who specialize in mega projects for the global elite.

Some of the starchitects’ projects are beautiful, to be sure. But they also often waste public money, facilitate corrupt and exploitative practices, and strengthen a planning model that excludes the populace from decision-making.

Many architectural creations are poorly constructed, requiring exorbitant maintenance costs (invariably following massive budget overruns) and lacking consideration for the people who actually live in the built environment. Consider one of Hadid’s first buildings, a fire station. While aesthetically attractive, it was impractical for firefighters and was later converted into a museum.

And Hadid’s curvaceous Maxxi building in Rome: in some respects it’s a wonderful design, yet it’s also like a fortress, failing to integrate or even engage with the surrounding neighborhood.

The New York Times reports that maintenance costs on the building are $6.6–7.9 million per year (on top of the $150 million construction bill), more than the Maxxi’s annual budget from the Italian government, which has already had to bail the museum out on several occasions. […]

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