STARCHITECTURE
Scenes, Actors and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities



DAVIDE PONZINI,

MICHELE NASTASI


Allemandi & C. , 2011




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Internationally renowned architects are at centre stage in public debates, not only with reference to designing aesthetically striking artefacts, but also to urban regeneration programmes and urban branding. The narrative of the ‘Bilbao effect’ has been spreading worldwide, apparently leading cities to compete in collecting spectacular projects and buildings, sometimes with little regard for their urban context, size and functions in the global market. Despite the fact that these forms of urban development have been changing the landscape in several cities, attention and explanations regarding the rationalities implied in such decision making and localization processes are today limited and sometimes misleading. The authors offer a critical reappraisal of oversimplified interpretations of star architecture and its many urban implications. Drawing on the study of relevant architectural decision-making processes in Bilbao, Abu Dhabi, Paris, New York City and the Vitra Campus and on an original photographic corpus, the book argues that these phenomena have high territorial variety, depending on local as well as more contingent factors. It explains that architectural and urban spectacles are often used by urban policymakers in order to drive political consensus, maximize media exposure and eventually cover economic and real-estate interests, potentially inducing perverse or even paradoxical effects. The role and autonomy of architects and planners are evidently weaker in these postmodern urban conditions; nonetheless this book pragmatically outlines critical perspectives for interpreting architectural and urban projects as meaningful elements of contemporary urban landscapes.