While the benefits to the local economy in tourism, media visibility etc cannot be denied, arguing for the building of iconic buildings for their “visibility effects” versus their social and cultural “rightness” is a what has caused many distortions in the city fabric. The effects on the local street flow and active urban edge is what’s often quoted as ‘what is wrong’ with much modern “star-chitectural” interventions in that they often ignore their context in favor of spectacle and “image” Maybe their are better ways to do this – especially in Cape TOwn with its unsurpassable mountain and sea context – any building is put into the shadow. Its more likely to be needed in cities with less natural or cultural heritage, that lack an identity of their own, after all I’m sure I,m not alone in never having heard of Bilbao before the Guggenheim? Still the argument made here by RICHARD POPLAK in TheDaily Maverick is worth considering, though I am more and more inclined to think that building an identity rooted in context and built on the remnants of what ever cultural and natural heritage can be salvaged together with major interventions that have a visibility that is not just the latest international fad is how cities build their global visibility and competitive edge, see previous post Does Bilbao Need Another Guggenheim?
In 1991, the Basque city of Bilbao in northern Spain decided it needed a makeover. As its industrial sector evaporated, its tax base disappeared and the town reeled from a recession, the city’s administrators understood they needed to do something drastic. They called in Thomas Krens, director of the Solomon R Guggenheim Foundation. In 1997 the Bilbao Guggenheim opened, and the world streamed in. Bilbao proved that cities do indeed have second acts. Could the same principles be applied to South Africa’s metropoles?.