Like a pencil eraser with DRM

The consequences of arbitrarily truncating budgets and building legnths are not exclusive to our shores. As part of the process by which Berlin wills itself as the city of the future, seemingly by trying to repeatedly update the La Défense program and shoehorn it into one of the capital’s many centrally-located wastelands, an enormous train station has been built as a new hub for the venerable Deutsche Bahn system.

When dealing with cost overruns on megaprojects, social-democratic governments like to prove their fiscal tuffness by maintaining strict budget discipline, hacking off expensive details and functional elements alike while insisting that reckless cuts late in the construction process will have no impact on the actual operation of the structure or institution within.

Berlin’s new Hauptbahnhof was subjected to such a procedure, but quake in fear, o cutters of construction budgets, for you have stirred a mighty beast from the depths. For the powerful arm of offended architects now wields the scimitar of intellectual property lawsuits, and many ranks of stout-hearted attorneys stand at the ready. Hideously expensive litigation and dangerous precedent — if I have an interior designer over and go for a cheaper couch than the one he or she suggests, am I liable? — is historically the most effective substitute for political courage and financial transparency.

(via Sign and Sight, which in a better world would have an equivalent in every European language)

On the next page, a semi-relevant addendum about shitty writers.

(Architecture magazines keep thoughtful text to an absolute minimum so as not to confuse a readership that aspires to verbal incomprehensibility — who, faced with the power of language to clearly and concisely communicate specifically delineated ideas, have to assert some quality of experience or being that is limited to their own “expression” of forms in space, which in turn is the outgrowth of a transformative educational experience that only they have access to and renders the rest of us as either investors or mere cast members in a pricey duel (shit, sorry, conversation) of aimlessly figurative structures. Architects, and the wide-eyed fellow-travelers who consider themselves junior postulates to the same cult of mysteries, want instead to be rewarded for their material fetishes. Editors, profession and readership alike have a vested interest in poorly-written “design” magazines so as to preserve the architectural decision-making process as an obscure rite restricted to the most serious of cohanim, those with the dumbest lofts and chunkiest glasses. What gets left out is the real story of how the object under discussion got built; one may search these magazines in vain for references to the budget cutbacks and design revisions that seriously constrained the effectiveness of the GBQ as it was eventually built.

In addition to these flaws, the GBQ-related articles linked above are a catalogue of the many easy options available to lazy writers when addressing Quebec. It’s easy to find widely-held half-truths and wildly irrelevant conjectures to graft onto your own inadequate understanding of the context you’re writing about, even if you don’t touch Wikipedia. Save time by using French words for no clear purpose, haphazardly add accents aigu to placenames with long-established English versions (we look forward to future datelines from the DF, Kobnhavn or Moskva) and be sure to make some reference to standard or easily-explained practices — publishing promotional and informational material for the competition in the local (and official) lanugage, requiring out-of-town architects to partner with local firms to execute the project, building a library for a majority-francophone city and filling it with books that are in French — as the product of Quebec’s alien desire to maintain its own cultural idosyncrasy through snooty administrative fiat.

Surely there must be better ways of stoking architectural self-congratulation. Next time, leave us with the glossy pictures interspersed with ads for wall sconces and fireproofing materials and just dance about the rest.)


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