|New York – New York Hotel and Resort, Las Vegas, 1993 (source)
||Orodautore, Florencia Pita, 2007 (source)
At a recent point in the long history of art and architecture, collectively we decided to turn a blind eye to the true meaning of the icon and to bestow this term instead upon our most provocative buildings. In the broadest sense an icon is a facsimile, or representation of something else. A small portrait of a religious being stands in for a real flesh and blood (or ghostly) saint, just as an image of a piece of paper on our digital desktops stands in for a real document, coded in binary, on our hard drives.
By this definition, the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Jewish Museum in Berlin, two of the most touted architectural icons of the past ten years, are in actuality two of the least iconic buildings of the last century. They are too original to be confused for copies, hardly recognizable as buildings at all when they were first constructed and fail to represent any larger idea. At the opposite extreme, replicas of buildings such as the reconstructed Parthenon in Nashville fail as icons, because as copies, they are too exact.
Perhaps true iconic architecture sits somewhere in between: a failed attempt at replication that arrives at something both recognizable and new. This is the architecture of the early colonists that attempted to recreate the grand architecture of Europe without the materials or the means. It is the architecture of the New York – New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which attempts to stuff the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building into a hotel envelope. More recently, it is the architecture of Dubai, The World replicated in sand off of its shores.
E. Sean Bailey
In October of 2008 Momus gave a provocative talk on The Ideology of the ‘Iconic’ or alternatively The Rise and Fall of Post-modernism which was part of the Architectural Association’s Pop and Populism lecture series, organized by Shumon Basar. As described in Architectural Association’s Autumn Events List, for Momus:
While Momus spoke about wider cultural issues, I am interested in the implications his ideas could have for architecture. Particularly as the wave of interest in iconic buildings winds down, for financial and other reasons, perhaps the architectural discourse can move forward embracing the best of its peripheral tendencies, themes explored by architects such as Geoffrey Bawa, Bruce Goff, Miguel Fisac, and Florencia Pita to name a few.
Erandi de Silva
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