Santiago Calatrava, Malmo, Sweden
I am putting together a new series for Discovery on architecture around the world with Paul Goldberger, architecture critic for The New Yorker.
One of the great things about the television business is that it exposes you to whole worlds you previously knew nothing about. Take a camera in your hand and it gives you a license to go stick your nose in places you have no real business being, and talk to some of the greatest experts in the world on a given subject.
So now I am learning about architecture.
Take a look at some of these buildings. They are remarkably beautiful. The more amazing thing about them is that they are not drawings or ‘conceptual designs’, like ‘concept cars’ at the auto show. They are real. They have already been built or intitiated. This is all very real.
Sir Norman Foster, London
The designs are radical, bold, engaging. You have seen them yourself., if not here, elsewhere. Think of Frank Gehry’s museum in Bilbao. They capture your imagination.
Now think what is involved in building something like this: the planning, the cost, the design, the concrete, the steel, the titanium. Every staircase, every window, every air conditioning duct. These are massive projects and massive commitments to an idea of design. They represent a deep belief in both the future and in an artistic statement. They are a radical departure from the predictable box, cost effective and dependable though it may be.
Jeanne Gang, Chicago
This brought me back to thinking about television news.
Here we have something that is far less difficult to assemble than a building. It is far more plastic. It is not cast in stone or steel or concrete. Yet when we design and ‘architect’ television news, we are fearful of being ‘too creative’. We assiduously repeat designs and patterns that have ‘worked’ for us for a generation now. The studio, the anchors, the throw, the weather and sports.
It is boring.
The risks in building a Gehry or a Calatrava are enormous. The risks in redesigning a television newscast, really radically redesigning it, are minimal. Yet we don’t go there. The most we are willing to risk is replacing Dan with Katie. Not much of a change, really. More like repainting the front door than anything else.
When I start to look at buildings like these, and then I look at the final design for the “Freedom Tower” at the WTC, it saddens me greatly. What could have been (the original design by Liebiskind) and what will be are worlds apart. A bit like television news now. Boring. Staid. Blocky. Predictable.. when so much was possible, so little is delivered.
The reason, in the end, is the same.
Morphosis, Paris, La Defense, work just started.
So often in life we opt for the safe.
When you are too afraid, something great is lost.