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Economical Crisis

10 Years On, How the Recession Has Proven Architecture's Value (And Shown Us Architects' Folly)

09:30 - 17 May, 2017
10 Years On, How the Recession Has Proven Architecture's Value (And Shown Us Architects' Folly), © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/backkratze/3482233639/'>Flickr user backkratze</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>
© Flickr user backkratze licensed under CC BY 2.0

This article was originally published by Common Edge as "Building Madness: How the Boom and Bust Mentality Distorts Architecture."

Architects are economically bipolar; for us it is either the best or the worst of times. And it’s not just architects. The entire construction industry is tuned to these extremes, but only architects are psychologically validated by booms and crushed by busts. All professions have a larger source of dependency—medicine needs insurance, law needs the justice system—but the construction industry has a starker equation: building requires capital.

Contractors tend to react to market flows in purely transactional ways. Booms mean more work, more workers, more estimates, business expansion. For architects, a boom means life validation. Every architect wants to make a difference, and many want to offer salvation, like the architect Richard Rogers, who once said, “My passion and great enjoyment for architecture, and the reason the older I get the more I enjoy it is because I believe we—architects—can affect the quality of life of the people.” But salvation can only be earned if buildings are created.

Mega-Tall Skyscrapers Herald Economic Depression, Says Barclays

00:00 - 5 May, 2014
Mega-Tall Skyscrapers Herald Economic Depression, Says Barclays, Kingdom Tower. Image © Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Kingdom Tower. Image © Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

The world economy has endured a series of crises over the past century, and architecture has recently been recognized as a harbinger of these crises. Two years ago, British finance group Barclays released an index of skyscraper construction projects that correlate with the occurrence of economic downturns since 1873. Many of the tallest buildings in the world have been built at times of severe economic struggle, the most recent being Dubai's Burj Khalifa, built during the Great Recession of 2007 through 2010. According to Barclays, "the world’s tallest buildings are simply the edifice of a broader skyscraper building boom, reflecting a widespread misallocation of capital and an impending economic correction."

All the major financial crises in the past century, and the buildings that predicted them after the break...

The Indicator: Zombies

17:00 - 31 October, 2011

Back from the grave, the first post from The Indicator series by Guy Horton, published in 2010 at AD.

This town, is coming like a ghost town. This town, is coming like a ghost town. This town, is coming like a ghost town. This town, is coming like a ghost town.

- The Specials, “Ghost Town”

When I look back at the events leading up to being laid off, I think of zombies. Of course zombies aren’t real so what I’m really thinking of are movies about zombies. I haven’t seen them all—there are hundreds—so the zombies I’m most familiar with are the pop-locking ones from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or the funny ones from “Shaun of the Dead”. I never thought that that part of my subconscious that identifies with zombies would get triggered. But, then again, I never thought I would get laid off. There is a first for everything.

So, how does one identify zombies? As I learned from “Shaun of the Dead”, by the time you know, it’s too late. Remarkable as it seems, the people you least expect to become zombies are suddenly shuffling along shedding limbs and trying to eat you. They are, as it turns out, usually your close friends and colleagues.

When the economy began to falter back in 2007, architecture was one of those fields that began to experience a steady increase in zombie population. There were many rumors about which firms they worked for, whose softball teams they were playing on, whether they were more likely to be associates or principals. What about that Arch II with the mysterious limp and the foreign accent? Then there was the designer who always looked like he had had too many late nights out. Maybe those strange interns.

Autodesk Assistance Program

13:00 - 29 August, 2009

Although it seems that the economy has left behind it’s worst days, the fact is we are still going through an economic crisis. Many architecture offices and companies have had to let good people go. If you were one of them, you might be wondering how to advance your career in this challenging global job market.

The crisis paralyzed the construction of the Calatrava skyscraper in Chicago

21:00 - 24 March, 2009

The “Spire”, the skyscraper designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, was going to be the tallest building in the United States. That title will have to wait, at least until the economic crisis affecting construction all over the world starts having better days.

Harmon Hotel in Las Vegas by Foster and Partners gets cut (and not due to the crisis)

21:00 - 18 February, 2009

And we just saw the news that the project got “cut”, but in a literal way. It wasn´t because of the economical crisis, but actually due to construction flaws:  15 floors of wrongly installed rebar. This forced the developer to cut down the height -removing the condos portion of the building- resulting on a 28 stories tall building, instead of 49 as planned.

Half of small architecture firms are short of work

21:00 - 18 February, 2009

We just saw this link on VariousArchitect´s Twitter, and thought it might interest you. Small architectural practices are bearing the brunt of the recession with 47% saying they do not have enough work, new research reveals.