I’m sparked to write this after seeing this headline: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi on hold. The latest in Frank Ghery’s franchise of build-it-and-they-will-come seems to be hanging fire. Interesting how this is happening at the center of the Neo-Liberal Utopia of consumer delights that is Abu Dhabi. Funny how chimeras and mirages are always connected with deserts, look at Las Vegas, the closest thing we have, equally built on the back of unfiltered yearning and naked wish-fulfillment. On the Arabian Peninsula this is literally fueled by oil. In Vegas it’s indirectly fueled by oil underneath another form of mining, the strip mining of anyone they can lure into their caverns and seduce into giving up their lives, measured both in their time and their dreams, as well as in taking their money.
That architecture as the public expenditure of great sums to build monuments to an individual’s fancy celebrated as the pinnacle of freedom and expected to pay for itself by being packaged as a commodified experience would falter in this place is telling. On the heels of the stagnation of other monuments to sheer hubris that have faltered in the Gulf States and elsewhere, this notes a watershed moment. Let’s hope.
But if architecture isn’t about “self-expression” drummed up to a fever pitch and marketed as a form of spectacle, then what is it? This question spreads out to cover all aspects of design.
Read the rest of this entry »