forum building
herzog&de_meuron, 2004

i feel it. a sense of impending doom (not really). the demise of the starchitect is near.

i had my first experience with starchitecture back in 1999 (sorry, coming from the third-world i was kind of a late arrival). berlin. the brand new reichstag. foster. postdamer platz wasn't finished yet. the piano booth was still up, the cranes were still all over and the city was taken by tubes to transport material.

i fell in love with berlin. i was 18, alone for the first time in my life, in a strange (i mean really strange) country. it was fabulous.

i thought my peak experience in berlin would have to be the reichstag. that's what all the brochures said. so the first night i went. it was octuber. raining. the city was empty outside. it was all very film-set. i think the dome was brand-new back then. i climed to the top. it was unlike anything i had never seen before. i was so impressed. there weren't any buildings like this back home, no even close.

i walked up the spiral. i saw the city there in front of me, alone, wet, blinking. i was so corny (give me a break, i was a teenager). in my recycled paper notebook i jotted stuff down about how fantastic the built metaphors were (i.e. transparency of the dome and looking down onto the parliament = democracy and transparency, etc.). i was overwhelmed with this hypermodern architecture. i couldn't believe postdamer platz. it was all so enthusiastic. it made you forget about everything that had happened and just feel glad and grateful it was done with and excited about all the things to come.

it didn't last long.

the days went by and the sparkling city gave way to its ghosts. there were the bombed skeleton building in the old jewish quarter. the pieces of crumbling wall on the east-side gallery. the four-story thrift shops on karl marx alle. the empty indoor courtyards in rotten buildings.

A few months later I saw wender’s wings of desire. i saw the old man sitting on an old couch on the shattered postdamer platz. i felt cheated.

since then I made my choice. i fell in love with the disappearing berlin. and with my ruinous mexico city. with moscow. with tijuana. All these places that thrive not despite of, but rather because of permanent disaster.

i wonder what will become of the others, the sparkling spaces, after they crash. will it be war? will it be depression? will it be the greenhouse effect? will it be pandemia? who knows. what will dubai look like then? or the brand new generic chinese cities. what fascinates me about boom towns is that eventually they bust. will it be like blade runner? will it be like detroit? will it be like beirut? will they survive? Who knows.

who will be the starchitects then?

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