Sep 122011

I don’t think architects and urban planners have a lot of conventions in Los Angeles. But they do have a lot of people, and a higher-than-average concentration of posers, so it’s not surprising that they have an architecture critic. I guess.

Also not surprising: a critic warping something Apple does into a cheer cone for their inane opinions. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne is the latest to yield to the harpy’s call that the company seems to broadcast like some sort of asshole beacon in targeting its proposed Cupertino building.

Hawthorne takes the usual vectors you’d expect someone who wants to disparage the project would take, and some that are puzzling because, well, they’re stupid. Knock on Cupertino City Council for eating out of Jobs’ hand and tying it to Apple’s product announcements? Check. Disparaging comparison to other non-quadralateral structures and gratuitous reference to Cold War architecture? Check. Then things get interesting – and by “interesting” I mean “not very compelling for a critical piece from a publication ending in ‘Times'” (even one based in L.A.).

It is a measure of Jobs’ tight grip on Apple’s reputation for in-house design innovation that even after hiring a celebrity architect like Foster he would keep that architect’s name under wraps; even now, three months after Jobs took the plans public in that council meeting, the Apple press office refuses to confirm that Foster + Partners indeed designed the project.

I guess I’m struggling to see the point of this. Is it that Hawthorne’s peers aren’t getting their just desserts; that Jobs is diminishing the expertise of the firm by not leading with Foster + Partners in every piece of PR? There are other professionals involved in this architecture thing, Mr. Jobs. Christopher Hawthorne demands they be given their due.

Now on to the main event, wherein the urban-saavy architect(ure critic) gets to deride development in the ‘burbs:

When the designs first surfaced online, and a few critics noted their strikingly detached and anti-urban character, defenders of Apple responded by saying that those comments suggested a misreading of Silicon Valley’s history.

The is the entry point of Hawthorne’s long and heavily-borrowed screed against the kind of suburban development that is de rigueur to criticize. The borrowing comes from Louise A. Mozingo, and accounts for a third of the article. The premise: non-urban buildings suck. Put another way:

Even more than low-density tract housing, Mozingo argues, the pastoral corporate campus “precludes the concentration of population that makes public transportation feasible for governments and users.” And even if suburbs like Cupertino decide to make tentative moves in the direction of greater density and better transit, the architecture of the corporate estate —

Zzzzzzzz…sorry.  So cities are the only places where good things happen and if you don’t take on the public-transit leveraging, super expensive urban development, you’re eating up precious resources and hate the earth. This is strange coming from the Los Angeles Times, since L.A. isn’t a city so much as it is a few zip codes connected by smog. But think of how bad it would be if they didn’t have an architecture critic.

 Posted by at 10:26 pm
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