September 12, 2003
Buildings shaped like people

Now here's a thought, without any links. And sometimes those postings are the best because for once, the damn blogger is doing is own thinking, instead of just bouncing a few thoughts off someone else – someone else who did the real work.

I've just realised something about the designs of Frank Gehry. I quite like them and I think they're interesting. Yet, the same kind of assemblage of randomised shapes when only twenty foot high and stuck on a plinth in a square is something I utterly despise.

It's architecture, of course. A big lump which people can live in and work in is a whole lot better than a plain old lump, even a relatively small one, just for the sake of having a lump. Sculpture has to be of something. Architecture can just be. Architecture can be abstract, like music, and still make sense, because, again like music, it makes a different sort of sense.

But now what if buildings also start to be of something?

How is it possible for architects to do gherkins now, when a generation ago they could only do rectangloid ugliness, or the occasional tubular edifice? Answer: computers. Computers enable the architects to keep track of everything. Computers enable all those damnably difficult calculations about what size every separate pain of glass or stick of steel has to be, and at what angle. Computers keep track of all the loading complexities. Computers make modern starchitecture possible. And hurrah for computers, say I.

In short, with computers, you can make a building any shape you like.

So, what's to stop the architects making gigantic office blocks or apartment blocks that are … of something?

I predict that any decade now, someone is going to say: to hell with all these abstract geometrical shapes and spikes and pyramids and tubes and lightbulbs. Let's make it look like a giant bloke.

I have in mind that huge Soviet statue, which I really like, of the two hundred foot (guess) woman waving a sickle. (Anyone know where I can find a picture of that woman?) I've got an old Russian recording of Shostakovitch's tenth symphony with that on the front, but inevitably, the titles muck it up.

Maybe someone will do something spectacularly heroic like win a major war or stop a major plague in its tracks, and they'll make a huge building into an individual likeness of said hero, dominating a city as surely as gothic cathedrals dominated their cities.

Obviously there could be lots of links to other people saying something similar, or shooting films with similar buildings in them. I just don't know of them.

Hang on, I'll just try some googling. "Buildings shaped like people" – how many hits?

Your search – "Buildings shaped like people" – did not match any documents.

Sometimes the internet can be very humbling. You have a brilliant idea that you thought of all on your own, and you type it into google and you get three thousand hits. Not this time though.

Hah! I changed it to "Building shaped like a person", and I got the Statue of Liberty. Crushed.

In my defence though, I have in mind a lot bigger, and with lots and lots of windows in it.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:38 AM
Category: Architecture