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How do you begin a design? For an architect there is no more challenging question, and especially now, in a time of pluralism. What materials, what shape, what color, what style? When you can do anything, why not do everything? It is a common problem in architecture school: students see elements and ideas that excite them, but don’t yet know how to assimilate them, how to edit, how to find a driving idea and then translate it into a coherent whole through a relentless process of scrutiny and paring.
Sometimes it’s not just students. Last week, the developer Harwood International began pitching a new office tower in Uptown that is a schizophrenic mash-up of ideas, as if Stefon, Saturday Night Live’s wacked-out club correspondent, had turned to architecture. A grass wall? Check. Roof gardens? Check. A Calder-esque sculpture perched on a ledge? Check. Randomly projecting office blocks? Check. It has everything!
From a distance, it might seem appealing—a bright shiny object—but look closely and you can see it for what it is, a collection of elements that don’t make sense together, rather lamely disguising the fact that it’s really just a mediocre glass tower stuck up on top of a garage. It’s the kind of building that kills a city. […]