What we build can be metaphoric—often intentionally, sometimes subliminally. But architecture is seldom the intentional commentary of architects, crafting symbolism; more often it is a direct reflection of its time and the culture that made it.
The 20th century was marked by a flowering of architectonic personalization.
The fully formed realities of midcentury Manhattan included Rockefeller Center, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, Philip Johnson’s Chippendale skyscraper, and the Citicorp Building, among many others. These buildings were proud in their identities, dominating their immediate places. They were singularities, and a reflection of the personae—and perhaps the hubris—of the architects and developers involved: Philip Johnson, Harry Hemsley, John D. Rockefeller.
Our time has seen the blanding down of the built environment, the Amazonization of architecture.
A visitor to that same Manhattan now sees square, blunt, anonymous needle towers, scores of them celebrating no architect, no builder, no image. Like the antiseptic, profit-based Amazon system of need-response, available profit prompts unthinking action: stacking space equals money. They spread across the cityscape and up to the limits of construction, with zero personality, very few full-time tenants, no meaning beyond maximizing return, no aesthetic beyond the greed of the often anonymous, even nefarious, wealth. Their anonymity and banality, pandering to no higher goal than profit, reminds me of how the internet has evolved.
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