AD Readers Debate: Ancient Greek Revival in Rhodes, Gothic Revival in New York, and More

We may be emerging from the holiday season, but the weeks of quiet merriment haven’t slowed down our readers. Over the last few weeks, a small number of stories have kept the comments flowing in - among them a gothic-inspired skyscraper, a museum that is a little too baroque for some tastes, and a statue that most agreed was simply poor taste. Read on to find out what our readers had to say about some of the most noteworthy stories of recent weeks in the latest of our "ArchDaily Readers Debate" series.

Seeing Red over Kohn Pedersen Fox’s Petersen Automotive Museum

© Chang Kim for KPF

After Thomas Musca’s impassioned defense of a design that has been called the “Guy Fieri of buildings,” many of our readers understandably felt the need to counter his arguments:

“That the intersection is ridiculous is not an excuse for bad architecture. These stripes could have been painted on and all of the author's opinions could still be applicable. The building "screams speed"? Why does a building need to scream at all? Hot Wheels are toys, to propose that if one doesn't like the building then one doesn't like to play with toys is an idiotic paper thin rhetorical conceit that takes both things being compared out of context. This building is hideous and no amount of post apologetic archi-speak can change that.” - HeywoodFloyd

However, one reader also saw the reaction to the controversial article as proof in itself that the design did its job:

“Maybe you are failing to understand that this design wasn't built to please the hearts of a small group of pretentious critics who under some umbrella label themselves as "designers." It was to attract attention to the building. Which, if you look for the amount of comments here compared to the other articles, it has. I am sure it will continue to do likewise in LA.” - Rob Scott

Mark Foster Gage Goes Gothic

© Mark Foster Gage Architects

An unconventional proposal by the Yale School of Architecture’s Assistant Dean Mark Foster Gage had our readers valiantly trying to unpick and interpret the design in the comments. Some seemed excited by the possibility that the design was finally attempting to demonstrate an architectural future in which 3D printing would live up to the hype:

“With all the advancement in fabrication technology, it's about time we bring some insane ornamentation back.” - Russell Wooten

“I think we will see a lot more of ornamentation on large building projects in the future, especially when 3D printing techniques will be widely used. There is nothing wrong with that. Probably in a few centuries from now, the modernist phase will be looked upon as a boring age where capitalism and industrial advances dictated the architectural representation of the minimalist metaphor. And not the other way around as many architects like to think. In reality architecture has always been a consequence of the state of a society, never the generator.” - RickySl

Others, however, questioned the execution of the design’s gothic inspiration, arguing that underneath the ornament, Gage’s tower had more in common with the expressionless skyscrapers he was reacting against than he might like to admit:

“Seems like another steel and glass structure with a ‘facade.’ Gothic Architecture is timeless, not just because of the architectural style, but the innovation, the construction techniques. Gothic architecture is a craft in itself. It strives for lightness yet portrays mass and monumentality. This is nothing different to any other skyscraper. Now I could be wrong, because of the lack of architectural drawings. But from this article, I just see another skyscraper with an expensive facade.” - Paul Keane

“Is this not another tall box? While I enjoy the mash up of steam punk, gothic, contemporary and art deco design, it is still a glass box covered in ornament! So much of the detail will be lost from a human perspective too. It looks great in renderings and aerial views but those perspectives are never seen in real life.” - BigLarge

However, personally I would echo a comment made by James Needham in saying that we’ve seen such an approach before: Postmodernism had all the hallmarks of classical architecture with less of the subtlety; is Mark Foster Gage’s design simply PoMo in Gothic getup? And if so, what are the implications of that?

A Colossal Mistake in Rhodes?

© Ari A. Palla / Colossus of Rhodes Project

Unsurprisingly, most of our readers were united against a plan to reimagine the Colossus at Rhodes for our era of the tourist - with even those who said they weren’t against the idea admitting that the proposed design was in bad taste. Some felt the need to try and interpret where people’s unfavorable reactions were coming from:

“I might be wrong but I don't think that this is as much about individuals' liking it than it is about the practical, mostly economic weight that a project like this carries. Do the numbers justify an edifice like this? And does it really contribute anything new? Anybody can like it. Nothing wrong with that. Past liking or not liking, more concrete answers need to be provided. That is where I think most people distance themselves from the idea.” - yedon

While others critiqued the design of the project itself:

“While not entirely against such a project, I don't think the proposed design is very pleasing. The statue's head seems to be too large, and the solution of the 3rd supporting pillar in the back will look ridiculous - they try to hide that thing behind the leg of the statue so badly in all the renderings, that this becomes a farce, which says much more about the project than they like you to know.” - Marsellus W.

Perhaps the most decisive criticism though came from James Needham, who felt that the design simply seemed to belong in either a different place or a different era:

“I think if anything it will scare tourists away, it looks more like it belongs in Baku than in Rhodes. Something that alludes to the colossus in a more subtle way may work but this looks like something Stalin would have built, a freak to rival Mother Russia. A love of the past is a great thing but one has to be wary of chasing it too feverishly and ignoring the beauty that exists now.” - James Needham

Adjaye Officially Acknowledged as a Contender for the Barack Obama Presidential Center

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Image © Nathan Perkel for Surface Magazine

If you’ve been following the story of Obama’s presidential library, you probably haven’t gone very long without bumping into the name David Adjaye who, if you were to judge by the media coverage, would seem to already have the commission in the bag. This has been true of ArchDaily as much as anywhere else, but one reader took issue with our presentation of the news that Adjaye is on the shortlist to produce a proposal for the building:

“Why does the media emphasize Adjaye so much? If the only criteria for designing our president's library is being black (and being an American who actually voted Obama into office is secondary), then why does Ric Scofidio from DSR not come up? Ric is African American, Liz is a woman, and Charles is gay, but they don't market themselves as this rainbow of diversity because their work speaks for itself. Williams Tsien & SHoP are also diverse offices, representative of our country and president. Let's talk about the work, not Adjaye all of the time.” - annonymous

That’s a reasonable point to make, as Obama and Adjaye’s shared skin color is often presented as central to the story (ArchDaily is by no means innocent in this). However, it should be noted that the origin of the focus on Adjaye is indeed one of design: Adjaye was once invited to a state dinner held for the British Prime Minister, and all indications are that, regardless of skin color, he may be President Obama’s favorite architect.

Singing Praises for MAD’s Harbin Opera House

© Hufton+Crow

As a firm who often gets a tough treatment from our readers, it was heartening to see a much more balanced reception for MAD’s latest project, the Harbin Opera House in China. While there were plenty of people who disliked the design, those who liked it not only seemed greater in number, but more enthusiastic in their opinion:

“When I saw these photos a few days ago it made my heart beat faster. I can't get it out of my head. This is one of the most beautifully designed and constructed buildings of our time.” - ABruce

“I agree, I don't usually like blob type architecture but this one made me say "wow!" For some reason that I can’t figure out, it seems more than just a shape randomly generated from grasshopper. It seems more purposeful? More considered? I'm not sure what it is, but I like it.” - Brendan Laurence

And, while Brendan Laurence may not have been sure what it is about the Harbin Opera House that he liked so much, another reader offered up a thoughtful critique that might go some way to explaining it:

“I think what makes this project so successful is that the grand gesture of the form is articulated with tectonically comprehensible building and construction components. Too much architecture today is just the grand gesture and nothing else, which is in my opinion the result of the tyranny of the computer. ZHA's Heydar Aliyev... is a prime example of this problem.” - HeywoodFloyd

I’d be interested to know what the rest of our readers think. Is the Harbin Opera House MAD’s greatest work to date? Is it a new standard for parametric architecture? Or is it just more of the same?

Keep the debate flowing! Please post any responses to these topics in the comments below.

About this author
Cite: Rory Stott. "AD Readers Debate: Ancient Greek Revival in Rhodes, Gothic Revival in New York, and More" 03 Jan 2016. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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