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The year 2007 looks as if it’s going to be more about circuses than bread.
While Lord Foster’s over-budget and unfashionably late Wembley Stadium reaches completion and Londoners begin to worry about paying for the 2012 Olympics, the costs of which are rising as fast as the city’s absurd property prices, Beijing will be completing its astonishing new stadium a year early. Here the Swiss architects Herzog de Meuron, currently also working on the expansion of the world’s most popular art gallery, London’s Tate Modern, have designed an intriguingly complex structure in the form of a vermicelli ball that has become known as “the bird’s nest”. It is the closest architecture has come to Cy Twombly and I look forward to seeing it.
Similarly entangled in its lacy façades is the Ciudad de Flamenco in Jerez, a solidified doily delicately encasing a music centre, a motif that reappears on the office’s first work in Manhattan, in the form of cast-iron gates, their squiggles derived from abstracted local graffiti. This is in a residential development down in SoHo, at 40 Bond Street.
The action in museums will be mostly stateside, although the architects will be foreign. Chic and sensitive SANAA will open their so-diaphanous-it’s-almost-not-there New Museum in central Manhattan, the Londoner David Adjaye will complete his Museum of Contemporary Arts in Denver and the Austrian deconstructivist artists Coop Himmelblau will be opening their Akron Art Museum in Ohio.
Elsewhere, Bernard Tschumi’s New Acropolis Museum will finally be opening, three years after the Athens Olympics it was supposed to celebrate. It has a big hole in it, waiting for the Parthenon marbles. Zaha Hadid will be continuing her ascent into stellar orbit with her first big exhibition in Britain at the Design Museum in the Summer and Italy’s first national centre for contemporary art, the Maxxi in Rome, a fascinatingly complex concrete structure that is scheduled to open towards the end of the year. Quieter, but more intense, will be Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba Diocesan Museum in Cologne, a building to house one of the best and least internationally exposed collections of art, by the Swiss architect who is perhaps the most enigmatic and powerful currently at work and whose select works are always eagerly awaited.
Richard Rogers gets a big retrospective in Paris as his Pompidou Centre celebrates its 30th birthday and his Heathrow Terminal 5 nears completion.
Towers will continue to be an issue all over the world. The inexorable rise of the skyscraper defies any namby-pamby talk of eco-architecture as ego-driven spires continue to deflower the most virginal of skylines as well as poking the sluttier ones. The tallest in the world, the 800m Burj Dubai, continues to rise, while work will start on the competently dull towers around Ground Zero in New York. St Petersburg is to get its first skyscraper in the form of the UK practice RMJM’s slender spike, which will house a new HQ for Gazprom, while in London the debate over the need for skyscrapers will continue as some go ahead and others are mysteriously stymied.
The Olympics (Beijing and London), the rebuilding of Ground Zero and the extraordinary proliferation of art institutions is making architecture ever more visible, but it is a particular kind of architecture: that of spectacle. What needs to happen next year is for the same level of intelligence and attention to be paid to the spaces in between and the everyday bits of the city and the suburbs, the bits we work in, walk in and live in, which are still largely dis-engaged from architecture.