Archive for the ‘public space’ Category

Vote for Rem?!


Rem Koolhaas
on Memory and Public Space
“In Search of Authenticity”
from The Endless City,
edited by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic (Phaidon, 2008)

“The words ‘memory’ and ‘public space’ are almost coincidental. Currently we have a very tortured relationship with that coincidence, particularly in the West. Our anxiety — about the past, about memory — is in direct proportion to our success in destroying it. This is exemplified in Hitler’s former headquarters at the Berchtesgaden in Germany, which has recently been turned into a wellness center. A western culture that makes such drastic and thoughtless site and function transformations, driven by the private sector, is seriously dysfunctional in what is public. It shows a tendency towards indulgence in vast projects of artificial memory that often occur at the expense of the original memory. The Berlin Wall is another staggering example: a monument itself would have shown louder and harder what the former tragedy had been on this site. Instead it has literally been dismantled and replaced by a series of more professional memory fabricators that now dedicate vast territories to a memory that could have been kept in its original form. It is a cliché that public space is not what it once was, that it has increasingly been contained. Less evident is the fact that we allow ourselves to be lulled into a false privacy, in which privacy is in fact traded for security, where we become willing participants in a regime of constant surveillance. We live on a curious diet of harmlessness alternating with catastrophe.”

(Listen to Deyan Sudjic on “The Endless City.”)


When did these sprout on our streets?

I walked home from Millennium Park last night, after the Modern Ball, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Architecture & Design Society. And I noticed, sprouting on the Avenue,
along with the yellow tulips and daffodils in the planters,

sidewalk signs that say “City Information.”

They’re in the style of the Robert Stern-designed bus shelters that started sprouting in Chicago a few years back. Those were controversial for putting brightly lit ads on our city streets. These new intrusions on our streets are a single panel, of advertisements on one side and on the other,

well, like they are faux design, their faux raison d’etre on one side is what purports to be “City Information.” This one has some vague message about art in the loop. I’d probably rather see a streaming blog from the Mayor.

If we’re going to put more stuff on our streets, make them the modern design that Chicagoans are so good at, not a faux imported older style.

Robert Stern, the New-York architect and Dean of the Yale School of Architecture designed Chicago’s bus shelters. He told that his inspiration for them

“came from Otto Wagner, the Austrian architect of Vienna’s art nouveau metro, and Joze Plecnik, a Slovenian who worked in Vienna and Prague.

At the time JCDecaux came to us in the late ’90s, I’d been traveling in those places and seeing wonderful structures that fit well both in traditional settings and quite modern environments at the same time. Chicago is a bit like that, a mix of late 19th and early 20th century and contemporary architecture. That complementarity was on my mind.”

Hop on the bus, Robert.

PS – Talk about homogenization, the French company that provides these panels and the bus stops puts their products in about fifteen thousand cities around the world! 15,000!
And they’ve been investigated in more than one of those cities of bribery and corruption of public officials.