This is the end of starchitectural museums, my friend…

In some of my previous posts I called some architects “archistars”. I admit I never heard the definition “starchitecture” but I don’t think it changes the sense of what the two words tries to define.

And so I think it is quite interesting to find an article speaking about some issues I already tried to bring to your attention, that is the worrying diffusion, among public and private museums, of management strategies trying to repeat the “Bilbao effect”.

Another thing I didn’t know (I know I don’t know, would say Socrates, so I’m in good company…) is that it does exist an off-broadway satire talking about these kind of archistars… This means that it’s a real phenomenon!

Anyway, there’s an interesting sentence in the article: “The trend that the play meant to skewer—dubbed “the Bilbao Effect” after the huge success of Frank Gehry’s 1997 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain—is just about over. The phenomenon of using iconic architecture to promote a city, an institution, or a real-estate development was a product of the economic boom that began in the late 1990s and ended with the recession in 2008”.

So, I wasn’t just completely wrong when I wrote about the recent tendency to replicate the Bilbao Effect, and just as I wrote the article reports the beginning of the end of this tendency!

For younger architects, in fact, these pharaonic building are like the ruins of an ancient past… or, as says Rosalie Genevro, director of the Architectural League in New York, “the spectacle building is kind of a dinosaur”.

And just because some museums’ collections are partly constituted by real dinosaurs it doesn’t mean that they should keep on funding these kinds of architectural proposals!

And so… Cut it off!

Already planned projects reduced their ambitions:

“New York’s Whitney Museum wanted Renzo Piano (there a pic next here) to slenderize his design for a downtown expansion to save costs, and the Tate Modern in London asked Herzog & de Meuron (take a look at the pic here: quite impressive, ah???) to simplify the scheme for its new addition by excising complex glass protrusions. Other new projects are already reflecting a slimmed-down sensibility. Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, scheduled to reopen in July, has been renovated and expanded to enhance the experience for visitors, not overload their senses”. (Doesn’t it sound familiar??? Take a look to my previous posts!)

New plans changed completely their approach:

“The Cincinnati Art Museum, for example—in a city that already has one knockout iconic arts center by Zaha Hadid—recently put on hold its plans for an addition by the hip Rotterdam office Neutelings Riedijk. The Berkeley Art Museum in California canceled a stunning design for a new building by Japanese architect Toyo Ito after failing to raise enough money. Instead the museum will retrofit an old printing plant for new gallery space”.

But these stream hasn’t completely gone away…

“Many of Asia’s economies are still booming, and China in particular hungers for spectacle architecture… In Abu Dhabi and Qatar, major cultural projects, with exuberant designs by Gehry, Hadid, and Jean Nouvel (it’s the last photo), remain on track, at least for now. And on the West Coast, two contemporary-art museums—one devoted to the collection of Eli Broad in Los Angeles, the other an extension of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to house the collection of Gap founders Doris and Donald Fisher—have invited some of the usual suspects to compete for their designs. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Adjaye Associates, Snøhetta, and Foster + Partners are up for the SFMOMA job, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro leads a list of six firms for the L.A. museum. But the winning architects are likely to propose schemes that are sensitive to their urban habitat and deferential to the art”.

These are some things we already talked about, didn’t we? 😉

Collectors Museums? Not so good…

Many american museums are facing big financial troubles in the last period, but these problems doesn’t seem to affect private collectors aiming to promote their arts pieces through the creation of new exhibition buildings. Many of them, in fact, are no longer satisfied by loaing part of their works to public museums od temporary exhibitions around the world, and are trying to raise the cultural – and, most of all, the economic – value of their collection opening new sites! THE COLLECTOR, Mr. Eli Broad, in particular is about to land on the L.A. cultural landscape with an amazing and breathtaking architectural building.

But by who?

According to the Los Angeles Times on May, 25th “the competition was loaded from the start with high-profile firms. Of the six architects asked to present preliminary designs last week for the site on the corner of Grand Avenue and 2nd Street, four are winners of the Pritzker Prize, the field’s most prestigious award. They include Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and his firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture; Swiss pair Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron; French architect Christian de Portzamparc; and Japanese duo Ryue Nishizawa and Kazuyo Sejima, whose Tokyo firm, SANAA, is the winner of this year’s Pritzker. The other firms asked to take part are New York-based Diller, Scofidio & Renfro, designers of the 2006 Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, among other projects, and London’s Foreign Office Architects. According to a source with knowledge of the competition – who asked not to be named, citing the confidentiality of the process – a group of architectural advisors organized by Broad last Wednesday narrowed the six firms to two finalists. They are Koolhaas and Diller, Scofidio & Renfro. Broad has said he wants to move quickly on the museum; assuming he can win the needed site approvals without significant delays, he hopes to open its doors by 2012 or 2013″.

And so, here we come again: public museums all around the world are facing one of the worst financial crisis of their history but, as looking at private collectors, there’s going to be more wonderful archispots to be seen all around the world. So, the new future competitors for museums are going to be private collectors exhibition buildings???

And the question, of course, is: what do public museums want to do in order to face this new “attack”? This is going to be the most important question to be answered for museums willing not to close.

P.S. Personal Note: I’d suggest to Mr. Broad to pick up Scofidio&Renfro, love them! Here’s a pic of their Museu da Imagem e do Som in Rio de Janeiro.