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Critic Drags Starchitects to the Principal's Office

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The post-Lehman collapse of the building boom has led to many stinging rebukes of New York's recent love affair with all architecture glassy and ego-driven?including this memorable batch of zingers from the Times' Nicolai Ouroussoff?but in today's Wall Street Journal legendary architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable pens what will no doubt go down as the signature and most thorough dismantling of the starchitecture era. Huxtable is ostensibly reviewing architect George Ranalli's Saratoga Avenue Community Center in Brownsville (right), praising it for marking a new era in which city-developed buildings in depressed areas don't necessarily have to be cheap and soulless. But in commending Ranalli for his modernist community center, Huxtable takes aim at architects who over the past few years have confused creativity with cost?criticizing them for violating their "social contracts." Here's a taste:

Now that the age of irrational exuberance and outrageous excess is apparently over, can we please talk about real architecture again? It has been fun seeing just how far talent can stretch itself before achieving irrelevancy, but there are diminishing returns in watching more become less in an escalating game of real-estate toys for the superrich. It has been less fun to see how easily, and paradoxically, in a time of extreme affluence, the social contract that is an essential part of the art of architecture has been abrogated. Or at least driven under the radar by the kind of showy construction where creativity and cost are terminally confused. You do begin to wonder what happened to the art that could build with genuine grandeur and still serve and elevate ordinary lives.The Pulitzer Prize-winner then goes on to pop a hole in the whole environmental sustainability balloon, saying that such "soul-searching talk by born-again architects" is pretty much just a load of BS that will get dropped once the next boom rolls around. All this before any mention of the community center. Well, at least she got the anger out early!
· Breaking All the Rules With New York's Public-Building Design [WSJ]
· Saratoga Avenue Community Center [George Ranalli Architect]