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Eavesdrop: Alissa Walker


So never mind all that about the economic slowdown, because it would appear that a win for Barack Obama and Joe Biden is a win for all American architects! Not only does their platform address infrastructural improvements and green-tech upgrades, Obama and Biden have both expressed that if they hadn’t become politicians, they would have wanted to be architects (elevating, we calculate, the Cooper-Hewitt’s National Design Awards to Academy Awards status). But Biden took his architectural aspirations even further, designing his own Wilmington, Delaware home! In 1997, Biden designed his family’s three-story Neo-Colonial-style house located on four lakeside acres. According to lore, there are tales of him sketching plans during his daily Amtrak commutes to Washington. Vice presidents, they multi-task just like us!


A recent event at the A+D Museum in LA featuring The Next American City editor Diana Lind, our very own AN editor Sam Lubell, and The LA Times’ Christopher Hawthorne gave us some food for thought (and not just when Hawthorne lamented the latest, most scathing layoffs at the Times, whose owner Tribune Co. recently filed for bankruptcy, even after axing, in his words, the people “doing the best, most creative work at the paper,” including architecture writer Scott Timberg and film critic Carina Chocaro). The panelists discussed what would happen to architecture in a recession, and Hawthorne mentioned that the slowdown in work might spur a new age for criticism: “If architects aren’t so busy designing buildings, hopefully they’ll take more time to write about them.” A more pensive era was also predicted by grand dame Ada Louise Huxtable in an interview with The New York Times. “This will give us a chance to think, to take stock,” she said. “I am so weary of these stupid alliances between developers and cultural institutions in which the cultural institution is given a block of space and the developers overbuild the rest and make an enormous profit.” In an interview with Bloomberg, David Chipperfield was not so, um, chipper, reading last rites to the “wow factor” in architecture. “It’s an architecture of excess, a consequence of there being too much money around,” said the Brit. “At a time when people are worried about other things, those things become really irritating, and probably less relevant. So I think we will see a mood shift—a certain sensibility coming back.” Everyone hear that? There’s only way out of this recession: Design really, really boring!

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Alissa Walker