Celebrity and Anonymity

This is interesting. I wonder how many folks around here know that the Beijing National Stadium, better known as the Bird's Nest, was designed by the same architects as the de Young Museum in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

I admit to having a somewhat conflicted view on the topic. On the one hand, it would be good to acknowledge architects more (the better to praise or skewer them), but it also contributes to the celebrity culture in general, and the individual as hero ethic that permeates architecture. And while there is definitely something to starchitecture, I wonder how much of it is the reverberation of the echo chamber that architects often find themselves in.

The reality is that architecture is built by many people, from design architects to drafters, as well as engineers, government officials, and builders. But still, it is architects who develop the artistic vision. My compromise is that the name of the firm be used, such that, for the Bird's Nest Jacque Herzog & Pierre de Meuron get credited using the name of their firm, Herzog & de Meuron Architekten. Whereas, for Cathedral of Christ the Light on Lake Merritt (opening in about a month), the design would be credited to SOM, rather than Craig Hartman (looking there like a character in Mad Men), who is a design partner, and often credited individually for designs from their San Francisco office.

Thus, anonymity is the price you pay for working for a large, three-letter firm, or choosing an obsure, arty name for your own.

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