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Posted by  Paul Malo on September 13, 2002 at 07:53:30:

In Reply to:  SOME WTC DESIGN PROPOSAL BY STUDENST ACROSS USA posted by Jan on September 13, 2002 at 01:02:29:

You ask a very pointed question: "...Can architects truly design unhindered or will they have to design the new WTC to try and please the masses and maybe even go against their own better judgement?"

Maybe the question should be: "SHOULD architects design unhindered or try to please others?" That's a fundamental issue, isn't it?

In other recent posts we've been talking around this subject. One may object to architects designing "architecture for architects" (or for the media) but that's not so critical, I think, as making the distinction between WHAT is done and HOW it is done. They're two different issues.

Meier has designed a lovely little school house for the vast WTC site. The WHAT is dead wrong, but the HOW is right on. The proposal is very good as a piece of architecture, but dreadful as a solution to the problem. It's a solution for another problem, not the one at hand.

Related to my last post, the Meier school design is "authentic"--it's Meier through and through--but authentic to the artistic taste and vision of the designer, not authentic to the particular time and place. It's an all-purpose Meier work that would be good architecture anywhere. Should it be placed on the WTC site? Absolutely not.

The question you raise, of course, is exemplified by that case.
Architects can design architecture that can be both "right" and "wrong" at the same time. Architecture is not painting, however, where the artist has only personal authenticity to consider. Architecture is a public art, and as the WTC case so clearly evidences, can be a great concern to the public.

So when you ask if the architect should "try and please the masses and maybe even go against their own better judgment," I would answer that question should be restated: "Should the architect's judgement favor the public response, or the artist's personal authenticity?" This is getting at the heart of the architectural dilemma. Architects spend many years studying and developing personal views of architecture. The public, naturally, does not share those same views. To what degree should the architect try to impose a personal vision?

In practice there are a range of projects for different sorts of clients. Some clients are open to novelty, and in fact seek, what is avant garde and "artistic," even if they don't personally "get it." Generally, these will be individual clients--say wanting a distinctive conversation piece as evidence of their adventurous taste--or a more impersonal corporation, where management really doesn't give a damn one way or another about the artistic aspect of a new building. As projects become more public, however, it's naturally that the public becomes more involved. We're seeing in New York probably the most public architectural project of our time.

Should the WTC design "speak" to the public in a language the public understands? Absolutely.

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