Back when I was studying architecture at Auckland uni, starchitects like Peter Eisenman were all the rage.
My own sympathies were with the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, and work like it that embraced human life. Architecture like Eisenman’s I characterised as neutron-bomb architecture – architecture from which all human life and humanity were rationalistically erased.
For the most part however, neutron-bomb architecture was what my lecturers wanted. This, they held, is architecture with real rigour. Wright, and work like it, was mostly shunned. What they wanted was architecture generated not by life, but by diagram.
So it’s with great sympathy for the good people of Galicia, Spain, who had inflicted upon them in the name of said rigour the architecture of Mr Eisenman, an abomination never completed but which has left them €475.9 million in a hole. All that’s left to show for it is the
hulking cultural complex Ciudad da Cultura de Galicia (City of Culture of Galicia) sits incomplete and empty. Commissioned to the American architect after an international competition hosted by the Parliament of Galicia, the cultural center presented an ambitious feat of construction on the slopes of Mount Gaiás… [C]onstruction of the six-building complex endured during the 2008 Spanish recession, and as costs for the building’s materials and construction continued to rise, the project became a crippling burden on the regional government of Galicia… Considered a “white elephant” to the government and the people of Galicia, construction of the project was halted in 2013.
What rigorous vision is being imposed here?
The parametrically configured design was conjured by overlaying the map of the city of Galicia on top of Mount Gaiás’s sloping topography. The result was a series of granite-clad slopes interconnected by streets and plazas meant to invoke an urban environment.
This is what passes for rigour in the rarified world academic architecture: a 3-dimensional multi-million-euro equivalent of the scribble patterns you drew in kindergarten. The result, in reality? A White Elephant, as Peter Eisenman’s Ambitious “City of Culture” Fades Into Ruin.
[U]ndulating marble forms that extrude from the earth are flanked with scaffolding, metal barriers and caution tape. Shrubs and weeds have already begun to sprout between the cracks of the pink granite panels. Despite a few pedestrians, the site remains empty, untouched, all too uncannily fulfilling Eisenman’s vision of an “archaeological” site.
The suspicion will be that if completed the work may have appeared more humane. If you truly think so, just Google his finished work …