The Washington Post Sunday - - Art -

Ar­chi­tec­ture is sym­bi­ot­i­cally linked to the flow of money, and so it was a top­sy­turvy decade, beginning in ex­u­ber­ance, and end­ing with talk that per­haps the days of the great mega-project are over. The at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in­spired spec­u­la­tion about the fu­ture of the sky­scraper, but the jit­ters passed quickly and the race to be the world’s tallest build­ing con­tin­ued — in such places as Tai­wan and Shang­hai, and now Dubai. Even so, se­cu­rity fears had a se­vere and de­press­ing ef­fect on ar­chi­tec­ture, tak­ing their great­est toll on pub­lic and gov­ern­ment struc­tures, such as em­bassies, which be­came even more fortressli­ke and for­bid­ding than ever. Per­haps the great­est and most en­cour­ag­ing ar­chi­tec­tural trend was the wide­spread ac­cep­tance of new and green build­ing tech­nolo­gies, and the per­va­sive use of a com­mon en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dard to judge sus­tain­abil­ity. Near the end of the Aughts, hardly a week passed without the an­nounce­ment of a new LEED sil­ver or gold or platinum build­ing, proof that sus­tain­able de­sign wasn’t just a fash­ion, but a bot­tom-line value rec­og­nized by ar­chi­tects and in­vestors alike. But if you wanted to de­scribe what the build­ings of the past decade looked like, you’d be hard-pressed to set­tle on any par­tic­u­lar de­scrip­tion. A cool, sleek, al­most chilly mod­ernism pre­vailed among some de­sign­ers, while oth­ers pur­sued ex­u­ber­ant and daz­zling forms. Mu­se­ums went through a great age of ex­pan­sion, though as the decade ends, it’s not clear if they may also be in for a new age of overex­ten­sion hang­over. The “star­chi­tect,” a ne­ol­o­gism that seemed to de­fine the decade, also be­came some­thing of a dirty word, as mo­men­tum grew for a new kind of mod­esty and prob­lem-solv­ing, rather than flam­boy­ance and busted bud­gets.

The best

Tate Mod­ern. Two of the best build­ings of the decade came from the Swiss ar­chi­tec­ture firm Her­zog and de Meu­ron. In 2000, they opened the Tate Mod­ern, a vast out­post of the ven­er­a­ble Lon­don mu­seum, which re­pur­posed a on­ce­grim and dour power plant on the banks of the Thames. The place bus­tles with all the right kinds of en­ergy. Bei­jing Na­tional Sta­dium. Or just call it the Bird’s Nest. Her­zog and de Meu­ron’s steel fan­tasy de­fined the over­hyped, me­dia-sat­u­rated, au­thor­i­tar­ian 2008 Sum­mer Olympics, and re­de­fined the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the mass sports venue. Dis­ney Hall. Frank Gehry built a lot of prob­lem­atic build­ings over the past decade, but with this new home for the Los An­ge­les Phil­har­monic, he got just about ev­ery­thing right. Its ex­u­ber­ance and metal­lic sheen re­calls his chef- d’oeu­vre, the Guggenheim Mu­seum in Bil­bao, Spain, but Dis­ney Hall also cap­tures the en­ergy and spirit of an or­ches­tra looking for new di­rec­tions in the 21st cen­tury. Seat­tle Cen­tral Li­brary. Lo­cals aren’t en­tirely sold on this 2004 glass be­he­moth de­signed by Rem Kool­haas, and you can’t deny that it is a star­tling, even ter­ri­fy­ing build­ing. But need to do some re­search? This is a lovely place to read, to wan­der the stacks, to look out upon a city where the weather is half the drama. It works. Alice Tully Hall. The re­design of this 1969 struc­ture by the New York-based firm Diller Scofidio and Ren­fro should be stud­ied care­fully by any­one in­ter­ested in mak­ing Wash­ing­ton’s Kennedy Cen­ter a more ur­ban, more dy­namic, more fun place. To bring the street in, and the art out, the ar­chi­tects lit­er­ally

The worst

cut the Lin­coln Cen­ter open. Noth­ing they did harmed the spirit of Pi­etro Bel­luschi’s orig­i­nal, and ev­ery­thing touched got bet­ter. The Michael Lee-Chin Crys­tal. Sure, there were a lot of Wal-Marts thrown up in the Aughts, but Daniel Libe­skind’s ad­di­tion to the Royal On­tario Mu­seum in Toronto sur­passes the ug­li­ness of bland func­tional build­ings by be­ing both ugly and use­less. His alu­minum-and-glass-clad crys­talline forms grow out of the build­ing’s orig­i­nal 1914 struc­ture, and from the street it’s dra­matic. But go in­side and you need a map to move around its ir­ra­tional and baf­fling dead spa­ces.

And where do you put art in a room of canted walls? Cu­ra­tors seem as baf­fled and frus­trated by it as ca­sual vis­i­tors. And it cost only $ 250 mil­lion.

ken­ni­cottp@ wash­


Frank Gehry’s Walt Dis­ney Con­cert Hall gave the Los An­ge­les Phil­har­monic a vi­brant home to match the or­ches­tra’s en­ergy.

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