Useless Architecture and the 2012 Olympics

With the 2012 Olympics approaching, we can expect to see Anish Kapoor to make a contribution to the East London site in Stratford in the form of a “gargantuan tower” sponsored by Lakshmi Mittal.

The center of debate that surrounds this topic from Jonathan Glancey’s article in The Guardian touches on the transition between artist and architect, as well as what architecture that is unencumbered by the burdens of day-to-day activities has to offer to the London 2012 Olympics,  surely an ultimate luxury in the architectural profession?

Glancey cares to mention of a few figures who summon to the role of the architect in the past from backgrounds elsewhere, such as Michelangelo, Gaudi, Wagner and Mackintosh. What seperates artists from architects today is that an artist may design an enormously useless structure requiring the collaborative efforts of engineers, while being able to ignore such necessities such as services and the nearest toilet.

This highlights an important dichotomy between Architecture and Building. As it exists most of the time, architecture is available almost as an “artistic supplement” to building. This being the case, then we place ourselves in the difficult position of trying to achieve nothing but architecture, attempting to conceive of a building that escapes the utility of space.

Bernard Tschumi shares this opinion stated originally by Hegel, whereby he welcomes the challenge of architecture, affirming that “making architecture is not unlike burning matches without a purpose”. Such forms of “useless architecture” are important to the everyday experience purely because it is not an everyday occurrence. Such uselessness cannot be integrated in the production cycle where better place for free pleasure than in an Olympic Village that is consumed by spending (quite often) high ticket prices for amusement and spectacle.

In the same way that we associate “Cloud Gate” with the Chicago’s Millennium Park, I welcome Kapoor’s addition to the Olympic site and the form of recognition that will inevitably be associated with London 2012, whether it be useful or useless.

Cloud Gate - 110 Tonnes of high-polished Stainless Steel


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