In February 1998, at the age of 91, Philip Johnson, the godfather of modern architecture, who 40 years earlier had collaborated with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on the iconic Seagram Building, in Manhattan, traveled to Spain to see the just-completed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. He stood in the atrium of the massive, titanium-clad structure with its architect, Frank Gehry, as TV cameras from Charlie Rose captured him gesturing up to the torqued and sensually curving pillars that support the glass-and-steel ceiling and saying, “Architecture is not about words. It’s about tears.” Breaking into heavy sobs, he added, “I get the same feeling in Chartres Cathedral.” Bilbao had just opened its doors, but Johnson, the principal apostle of the two dominant forms of architecture in the 20th century—Modernism and Postmodernism—and the design establishment’s ultimate arbiter, was prepared to call it on the spot. He anointed Gehry “the greatest architect we have today” and later declared the structure “the greatest building of our time.”
Five years after Johnson’s death, in 2005, Vanity Fair has asked 90 of the world’s leading architects, teachers, and critics to name the five most important buildings, monuments, and bridges completed since 1980, as well as the most significant structure built so far in the 21st century. The survey’s results back up Johnson decisively: of the 52 experts who ultimately participated in the poll—including 11 Pritzker Prize winners and the deans of eight major architecture schools—28 voted for the Guggenheim Bilbao. That was nearly three times as many votes as the second-place building received. Therefore it seems fair to conclude that the 81-year-old, Canadian-born Gehry is the most important architect of our age. (He received four additional votes for three other projects: the Walt Disney Concert Hall, in Los Angeles; Millennium Park, in Chicago; and his house in Santa Monica.)
It is rare that a single building can be judged a transformational work. The last architectural event to have had such an impact may have been the publication of Le Corbusier’s landmark manifesto, Towards a New Architecture, in 1923, followed, in 1929, by the completion of his small, experimental Villa Savoye, outside Paris. (All-too-human footnote: the owners of the villa took le maître to court over their revolutionary—but leaky—flat roof.) “Bilbao is truly a signal moment in the architectural culture,” says the Pulitzer Prize—winning critic Paul Goldberger, author of Brown Straps for Beach Summer Shoes REETENE Velcro Sandals Men Outdoors Sports Men's Why Architecture Matters (2009). “The building blazed new trails and became an extraordinary phenomenon. It was one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.”Pumps PU High Frosted Closed US with Womens Claret Heel M Solid Round Diamond B 4 WeiPoot Toe Glass Iw0zx1qU
“Bilbao was one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united,” says Paul Goldberger.
Achieving the Bilbao Effect
‘Gehry just let go,” the critic Mildred Friedman told Sydney Pollack in the director’s 2005 documentary, Sketches of Frank Gehry. “He began to delve into all these ideas that he’d been beginning to work with and just went the whole way there. I don’t think there is a building that comes anywhere near it in this period of art history.” Thomas Krens, the former director of the Guggenheim, who commissioned the museum in Spain, said, “Bilbao has been the watershed thing for Frank. He was an interesting architect until Bilbao opened. After that, he became a transcendent architect.”
Bilbao—today one of the top tourist destinations in Europe—was such a backwater in the 1990s that, according to Gehry, the 265,000-square-foot museum, beside the Nervión River, went up almost unnoticed by the press. That only contributed to the drop-dead impact it created with its unveiling. “I like to work under the radar as much as I can. It’s been harder since I’ve gotten notorious,” says Gehry. The first photos of the near-complete structure, which resembles a gargantuan bouquet of writhing silver fish, rendered a seismic shift in the global art culture. At first, Gehry was himself unsure whether he approved of it. “You know, I went there just before the opening,” he tells me, “and looked at it and said, ‘Oh, my God, what have I done to these people?’ It took a couple of years for me to start to like it, actually.”
Like Frank Lloyd Wright, the last great American original in architecture who achieved popular world fame (and who late in life created another iconoclastic Guggenheim Museum), Gehry is an innovator who came from outside the Establishment, an architect against the grain whose sheer genius pulled him to the red-hot center of his art. (Gehry venerated Wright, though he was turned off by his grandeur and passed up an opportunity to meet him in the 1950s at Taliesin West, Wright’s house in Arizona, when “they wanted four dollars for my wife and kids to go in, and I just couldn’t do it. In hindsight I am sorry I didn’t.”) He developed his architectural language far from the ivory towers of the eastern design schools, in Los Angeles, where he moved in the 1950s and has lived ever since. “L.A. is a city free of the burdens of history,” he says, adding, “I was an outsider from the beginning, so for better or worse I thrived on it. I was different from the architects, who called me an artist, which was their way of marginalizing me. And then the artists got competitive and said, No, you’re still an architect, because you’re putting toilets in your buildings, in your art. Richard Serra dismissed me as a plumber.”
Gehry got his degree at the University of Southern California School of Architecture. After serving two years in the U.S. Army, he spent a year studying city planning at Harvard. “From there I went to Europe, in 1960, and when I saw Chartres Cathedral, I peed in my pants. From the pictures I was shown, it was, you know, interesting, but it didn’t bring you to your knees. Then I started studying the Romanesque churches. That was the turning point for me, and the other piece of the puzzle was the art world. I got into Robert Rauschenberg and his combines, which were put together very roughly and looked wonderful. Some of the buildings I was given to do at that time had very low budgets, and I could not get the craftsmanship I was trained to have. I saw the hammer marks on the wood. And here’s Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns doing combines that look like that, too. And that turned my head—flipped me over into something else.” That something else resulted in the 1978 house he built for his family in Santa Monica, featuring corrugated metal, plywood, and chain-link fencing.
Gehry’s language—evolving from that early primitivism to the current state of High Gehryism—can be seen influencing a new generation of designers. People speak of “the Bilbao effect,” wherein a declining Basque city was revived economically by the construction of a rock-’em-sock-’em, world-class building. There is, however, a second Bilbao effect to consider: the rise of spectacle and showmanship in architecture in the wake of Gehry’s masterstroke. “I think in talking about the post-Bilbao world you have to look at people in the generations after Gehry—the work of Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, people like that. The larger-scale spectacle seems to be a big part of that,” says Goldberger. (Of the individuals V.F. polled, Goldberger picked more of the top-rated buildings than anyone else. See tables on pages 162–63.)
With Bilbao, Gehry presented a long-awaited solution to one of the most vexing problems in architecture at the end of the 20th century. Modernism, especially when deployed in urban settings on a grand scale, was largely loathed by the general public and eventually dropped by the design establishment. The cold, alienating, concrete-glass-and-steel environments imposed on many major cities were finally judged to have destroyed more user-friendly urban plans in the name of “slum clearing” or futuristic redevelopment. Postmodernism, a movement emphasizing a return to decoration, historical references, and fewer desolate urban plazas, which reached its height in the 1980s, seems in hindsight like a frail fig leaf attempting to cover up the sins of what had gone before.
‘Overall, the kind of language I’ve developed, which culminated in Bilbao, comes from a reaction to Postmodernism. I was desperate not to go there,” Gehry explains, in his refreshingly plainspoken style. “I was looking for a way to deal with the humanizing qualities of decoration without doing it. I got angry with it—all the historical stuff, the pastiche. I said to myself, If you have to go backward, why not go back 300 million years before man, to fish? And that’s when I started with this fish shtick, as I think of it, and started drawing the damn things, and I realized that they were architectural, conveying motion even when they were not moving. I don’t like to portray it to other people as a complicated intellectual endeavor. Most architects avoid double curves, as I did, because we didn’t have a language for translation into a building that was viable and economical. I think the study of fish allowed me to create a kind of personal language.” Gehry’s first fish was a 37-foot-long wooden carp, which he designed as the centerpiece for a runway fashion show in Italy in 1985. “Well, that goddamn fish, when you stood beside it, felt like it moved,” he tells me. “I realized that by accident I had found it. And so the next move was to cut off the tail, get rid of all the kitsch things, and see how much you could take away, go to a more minimal look.”
“I was an outsider from the beginning, so for better or worse I thrived on it,” says Frank Gehry.
Things progressed slowly from there, as the architect continued to work more audacious swooping and compound curves into his designs. Eventually he found himself hitting the outer limits of what was buildable. This frustration led Gehry on a search for a way to fulfill his most far-reaching creative desires. “I asked the guys in the office if there was any way they knew of to get where I wanted to go through computers, which I am still illiterate in the use of,” he explains. Gehry’s partner, Jim Glymph—“the office hippie,” in Gehry’s words—led the way, adapting for architecture a program used to design fighter planes. As Gehry began to harness technology, his work started to take on riotous, almost gravity-defying boldness. He dared to take the liberties with form he had always dreamed of, fashioning models out of sensuously pleated cardboard and crushed paper-towel tubes. He always works with models, using scraps of “whatever is lying around”—on one occasion a Perrier bottle. “I move a piece of paper and agonize over it for a week, but in the end it was a matter of getting the stuff built,” he tells me. “The computer is a tool that lets the architect parent the project to the end, because it allows you to make accurate, descriptive, and detailed drawings of complicated forms.”
“Frank still doesn’t know how to use a computer except to throw it at somebody,” notes Thomas Krens. Yet in 2002, Gehry launched a business called Gehry Technologies, located next door to his Los Angeles design studio, where architects go to be trained in the use of the sophisticated software that Gehry Partners has developed. “I am training the competition,” he tells me. Thus Gehry may actually leave a dual legacy, having not only created a stylistic revolution but also fostered a technological one. “Now when they come to ask me for the Bilbao effect, I charge them extra,” he says.
Sculpting with Light
‘Frank is good friends with my 10-year-old boy, Giorgino,” Renzo Piano tells me. “They are good friends because they are the same mental age.” Piano, whose Menil Collection, in Houston, Texas (1987), received 10 votes in the V.F. survey—the second-most after Bilbao—continues with his compliment: “Frank’s architecture is really like an explosion. It’s about energy; it’s about joy. It’s frozen movement.” With those words, the professorial and hugely successful Piano, 72, who is based in Paris and Genoa, might have been drawing an implied comparison between himself and Gehry. His exquisitely wrought Menil building, a small-scale museum, which was his first commission in the U.S., is a study in restraint. The architecture is so refined that it seems almost to disappear. If Gehry sculpts wildly, freely, in tumultuous massings, Piano often seems to be trafficking in transparency—layering glass and steel so smartly and elegantly that the architecture recedes. He sculpts with light.
Piano sounds like a mystic when he describes his work: “The poetry of construction, the art of making space, trying to find magic in the immateriality of building—this is what Menil is. It’s a kind of rationalistic building, because it’s about function, and function is about math, but at the same time about trying to build magic back into the world, because it’s about light, transparency, vibration—not things that you draw, but things you’ve built.”
A low-slung, elongated pavilion, the museum features a much-admired natural-lighting system based on concrete panels—“the leaves,” Piano calls them—suspended overhead in the galleries. “When you stand in the center corridor, you see through the first art gallery, and then you see a garden, and then you see another gallery, and then another garden, and then finally you see the final art gallery,” he says. “And when you do this sort of thing, you build up the complexity by almost refusing to play with the form, but working with air and depth. This is also for me part of the reason why Menil is loved, because it gives you that sense of complexity, or overlapping planes.”
“Technology is important, but computers cannot do anything without the assistance of the human brain,” says Jacques Herzog.
Whereas Bilbao seems to be about intuition and pushing the outer limits of expression, the Menil is taut, minimal, gem-cut perfection, way at the other end of the design spectrum. One thing the museums had in common was very strong, opinionated clients, whose briefs for the designers helped lead them to greatness. Gehry has long credited Krens with pushing him to go as far out as he could go. Piano had the art collector Dominique de Menil, an heir to the Schlumberger oil-field-services fortune (she had first hired Louis Kahn, but he died before he could begin), who dictated details for the building down to the color to stain the dark wood floors.
Different as Gehry and Piano are, together they could be said to represent the state of established global architecture today. Gehry, the apostate from the school of Modernism, never succumbed to Postmodern trends and instead created his own astonishing, powerful language. Piano, the son of a successful Genoese builder, practiced an extravagant form of high-tech Modernism as a young man (in the early 70s, he designed the Pompidou Centre, in Paris, with Richard Rogers, who scored 6 votes in the V.F. poll), but then developed a hyper-refined neo-Modernism that has brought him plum projects for high-minded clients who can afford his bespoke hand. The name of his firm says it: the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.
“From time to time in conversation, you find that critics and other interested people say, ‘O.K., Renzo Piano is the opposite of Frank Gehry,’ ” says Piano. “I think all this is just silly. It’s without understanding that architecture is so complex that sometimes the answers are completely different because they need to be completely different. In some ways, it’s a game about how stupid our moralism is, because there’s a lot of moralism around saying that when you make a museum you should not make it like Bilbao—that Bilbao upstages the art. I think that’s wrong, because Bilbao is a great building for contemporary art.”
Gehry notes, “I remember being on Charlie Rose with Renzo, and Charlie kept saying, ‘What’s the difference?’ I finally looked at Charlie and said, ‘The marketplace decides. Nobody called me for another museum after Bilbao, but they did call Renzo.’ And he looked at Renzo and said, ‘How many have you been asked to do?’ Renzo started counting on his fingers—he didn’t have enough of them.”
With 9 votes in the V.F. poll, Peter Zumthor’s Thermal Baths, in Vals, Switzerland (1996), came in third, providing support for the popular notion that the 67-year-old Swiss designer is the ultimate architect’s architect. Zumthor, who for years worked at the Department for the Preservation of Monuments in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, has a very small oeuvre—the majority of these structures in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. He became a phenomenon in the high-design world with the unveiling of the baths at Vals, but he shuns the spotlight.
The small Zumthor studio is housed in a barn a day’s drive north of Zurich, a location almost as remote as Vals. While the baths are venerated by the architectural intelligentsia, they are virtually unknown to the general public outside of Western Europe. One reason is that Zumthor tried long and hard to ban publication of his work in magazines and books. Buildings, he maintains, must be experienced in person to be understood. (Paul Goldberger wrote a detailed article on the Vals baths in V.F. in July 2001.) Zumthor’s work exudes severe, minimalist perfection. Mies van der Rohe at the height of his influence comes to mind, but, instead of the spare machine aesthetic sought by the high Modernists, Zumthor’s buildings have an artisanal feel, bespeaking his early training as a carpenter. It’s hippie Mies—an unlikely fusion, but a welcome one for those who remain nostalgic for mid-20th-century Modernism.
On the heels of Zumthor’s winning the Pritzker Prize, in 2009—the Pritzker, which dates from 1979 and carries a $100,000 grant, has become the equivalent of the Nobel for architects—the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) announced that it had engaged the Swiss architect, who in the 1980s had taught at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, to redesign its misbegotten clump of 1960s buildings fronting on Wilshire Boulevard. (Piano recently added a building to LACMA’s campus, which provided a minor patch on a huge civic problem.) Zumthor thinks it could take at least a decade to complete the project.
Sir Norman Foster, at 75 one of the most successful architects of his generation, never deviated from his Modernist roots, unlike a lot of his contemporaries, who dabbled in historical pastiche and decoration in the late 1970s and 1980s. Foster’s 1985 Hong Kong Shanghai Bank (HSBC) Building pulled 7 votes in the survey, and his Millau Viaduct (2004), an 8,071-foot-long, cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the Tarn River valley in southern France—a collaboration of Foster’s firm with the French engineer Michel Virlogeux—received 4 votes.
Foster makes intricate, tensile structures of admirable grace. His thousand-person firm, Foster & Partners, based in London, has developed into a high-end juggernaut comparable to the great Modernist powerhouse Skidmore, Owings and Merrill when it was in its prime, from the 1950s to the 1970s. Foster proved to be the most refined among his peers at adapting the materials and minimalist aesthetic of Miesian Modernism—the house style of the 20th-century corporate world. One of his most admired skyscrapers is the Hearst Tower, in Manhattan (2006). His signature vocabulary is often expressed in elegant superstructures and skeletal support constructions of great and complex beauty. When these exposed structural members were first deployed, in the 1970s, they were called “high tech,” an offshoot of Modernism that quickly had its day, but in the hands of Foster (and also of Piano and Foster’s onetime partner Sir Richard Rogers) it evolved into a school of its own—the Fosterian—much imitated but rarely equaled. Foster was also one of the earliest large-scale practitioners of green architecture and is currently devising the master plan for the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste city, called Masdar, in Abu Dhabi.
Brown Beach Sandals Shoes Outdoors Velcro Men for Sports REETENE Straps Summer Men's Rogers, 76, who received 6 votes, split between his Lloyd’s Building in London (1984) and his acclaimed Barajas Madrid Airport (2006), rounds out the class of the three darlings of the 1970s—the others being Piano and Foster—who all found their voice in high tech and then went on to renown with their individual riffs on Modernism. Rogers, more than his former partners, stuck to what came to be called “Bowellism,” wherein a building’s normally hidden service and support elements (load-bearing trusses and members, vents, water pipes, ducts, stairwells) are integrated into the exterior, leaving clear-span floor plates. (The best-known example is the Pompidou Center, completed by Rogers and Piano in 1977.)
The Thinking Man’s Architect
Master theoretician, provocateur, and author of two widely admired books, Delirious New York (1978) and S, M, L, XL (1995), Rem Koolhaas, 65, has been, after Gehry, perhaps the most influential architect of our age. He gave in his wide-ranging manifestos and lectures (impenetrable to many but prophetic to students and large numbers of his peers) a unified field theory to architecture just when one was desperately needed. Postmodernism was in decline, and Modernism seemingly kaput, when along came a young Dutchman with abstruse ideas that challenged a generation to overcome the scary charge that architects, especially Post-modernists, had become nothing more than highly paid exterior decorators. Koolhaas became the figurehead for the polyglot era we now inhabit, in which various old styles still persist while other, smaller movements wax and wane, with Gehryism and Deconstructivism and virtual architecture all trying to claim their place in the culture. Koolhaas has risen to be the perfect leader for a wired, fast-moving, and steadily contracting world. “The areas of consensus shift unbelievably fast,” he has said. “The bubbles of certainty are constantly exploding. Any architectural project we do takes at least four or five years, so increasingly there is a discrepancy between the acceleration of culture and the continuing slowness of architecture.”
Koolhaas has become a rock-star version of his mentor, Peter Eisenman, the brash, New York—based Modernist turned Deconstructivist who, at one time, specialized in merging Jacques Derrida’s philosophy with architecture. One Eisenmanian idea was “to liberate architecture from form.” When Koolhaas won his Pritzker Prize, in 2000, he announced from the podium, “Peter Eisenman should be up here instead of me.” (Eisenman had gotten Koolhaas the funding to write Delirious New York by going to Philip Johnson.)
Until recently, one thing Koolhaas, whose Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) is based in Rotterdam, had in common with Eisenman was the small number of buildings he had erected. That has changed in the last 10 years as Koolhaas has picked up commissions by the bushel. Between 1988 and 2000, OMA built eight large-scale projects. Since 2000, the firm has built 16. (Eisenman has built eight buildings in his entire career.) The respondents in our survey awarded 16 votes in all to Koolhaas—the largest number after Gehry—but their choices were spread over six OMA projects. The Seattle Central Library (2004) got the most votes (6), while the mammoth, Möbius-shaped CCTV building, in Beijing, still under construction, got 3 votes, and the Casa de la Musica, in Porto, Portugal (2005), also got 3.
Koolhaas fearlessly creates unorthodox spaces composed of challenging forms, which may seem arduous to many users. For example, his Prada store, in the SoHo district of Manhattan, features a huge, crater-like space at its center. To enter the crater, shoppers must navigate sets of vertiginous stairs—not the easiest task for women in heels. This is something Koolhaas did not analyze in the 2002 book Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping, which he co-authored.
One of the reasons Koolhaas has been able to build so much in recent years is that the computer has made it possible to create accurate shop drawings for his complex structures. This enables fabricators and construction companies to produce and assemble the components certain contemporary architects demand. Gehry Partners, as I’ve mentioned, has been at the forefront of this technological advance. Following in Gehry’s footsteps as a creator—and now a prolific builder—of challenging spaces is the Iraqi-born architect Zaha Hadid, 59, whose work at one time was almost exclusively in the conceptual realm because it was too difficult to execute. Hadid, a former student and employee of Koolhaas’s, has perhaps benefited most from the recent leaps forward in computer-assisted design and engineering. Her MAXXI museum, in Rome (2009), and Phaeno Science Center (2005) and Vitra Fire Station (1994), in Germany, were cited by voters in the V.F. poll. Furthermore, Hadid is one of only three women who received votes. The others are Maya Lin, 50, whose Vietnam Memorial, in Washington, D.C. (1982), was chosen by five voters, and Elizabeth Diller, part of the Diller, Scofidio and Renfro team, whose High Line in Manhattan is one of the greatest urban-planning interventions in the last century. (I wrote about it in the February 2009 issue of V.F.) The Vietnam Memorial and the High Line have created powerful resonances around the world with both architects and the public. Though the number of women in the field has grown in recent years, architecture remains a predominantly male profession, whose superstars have taken noticeable care to mold themselves in the images of their discipline’s three imposing father figures: Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mies van der Rohe.
A major subplot in this survey is the strong support for minimalism and the forceful rejection of Postmodernism. Sir James Stirling’s Neue Staatsgalerie (1984), in Stuttgart, is the only Postmodern building to have gotten an appreciable number of votes (6). Stirling, who died in 1992, rejected the Postmodern label when it was applied to this building, but the museum clearly reveals classical, decorative elements in its design. You can also see some Gehry-like ideas in the asymmetrical massing of the building, as well as in some of the curves and angles of the exterior walls. (Stirling was one of the finalists Gehry beat out in the design competition for Disney Hall.)
Osaka-based Tadao Ando, 68, a strict minimalist and poet of concrete construction, drew 6 votes for his tiny Church of the Light, in Osaka. The rear wall features a cross punched out of the heavy raw cement, and light emanates from the cruciform. Ando’s concrete is very carefully cast and meticulously finished to achieve the color and degree of warmth he desires. In an era defined by glass construction, Ando is perhaps the greatest proponent of the solid wall. “At times walls manifest a power that borders on the violent,” he has said. “They have the power to divide space, transfigure place, and create new domains. Walls are the most basic elements of architecture, but they can also be the most enriching.”
The glass buildings of Japan’s Toyo Ito and France’s Jean Nouvel were praised in the survey, with Ito’s Mediatheque building, in Sendai, getting 6 votes. Ito, 69, is said to have taken his inspiration for the building from floating seaweed, which he expresses with 13 load-bearing columns made of steel lattice. The thin-skinned glass box enclosing this multi-purpose cultural center glows from within at night. Nouvel, 64, received 7 votes, plus 1 for best 21st-century building (the Guthrie Theater, in Minneapolis). Three votes were for his Cartier Foundation, in Paris, which is an essay in transparency, with huge glass doors that give onto a garden.
“People say, ‘O.K., Renzo Piano is the opposite of Frank Gehry,’” says Piano. “I think all this is just silly.”
How About This Century?
When it came to picking the most significant building erected so far in this century, there was even less consensus. The Swiss firm of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron received 7 votes for their Bird’s Nest stadium, built in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics. The next-highest total—4 votes—went to the great Le Corbusier, who died 45 years ago but whose Saint-Pierre church, in Firminy, France, was not completed until 2006. Koolhaas received 3 votes for the Seattle Central Library, 2 for the CCTV building, and 1 for the Casa de la Musica. Four others received 2 votes: Hadid’s MAXXI museum; the late Enric Miralles’s Scottish Parliament Building, in Edinburgh; CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland and France (about which Kurt Andersen wrote in the January 2010 issue of V.F.); and Gehry’s Disney Hall.
The most gargantuan building to capture the public’s imagination since the Guggenheim Bilbao is clearly the Bird’s Nest stadium. I asked Herzog to what extent the building, like Bilbao, depended on modern technology for its design and execution. He replied, “We have the most advanced technology, so it would be stupid not to use it. But we mix it with old-fashioned technology. We do models by hand and work with wood, but at the same time we use very sophisticated materials and computer models and 3-D printing techniques. Technology is very important as a tool, but technology in itself doesn’t do anything, doesn’t create anything. Computers cannot do anything without the assistance of the human brain. I always give the same example: When you go into old cathedrals, they are extremely physical, and they follow the laws of craftsmanship, but they transport something we cannot explain, which is what makes great buildings, and that hasn’t changed at all.”
Some final notes on the V.F. survey: Even though the 52 respondents were greatly varied—ranging from Frank Gehry to Hank Dittmar, the head of Prince Charles’s very conservative architectural foundation—V.F. could not have imagined what a crapshoot such a poll would turn out to be. For the five greatest works constructed since 1980, the Guggenheim Bilbao received 28 votes. The next favorite, the Menil Collection, received only 10. Zumthor’s baths received 9 votes. Foster’s HSBC Building received 7. Four buildings were tied for fifth place, with 6 votes: Koolhaas’s Seattle Central Library, Toyo Ito’s Mediatheque building, Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light, and the late James Stirling’s Neue Staatsgalerie. Maya Lin’s Vietnam Memorial received 5 votes. Three buildings followed with 4 votes: Rogers’s Lloyd’s Building, Foster’s Millau Viaduct, and Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, in Berlin. The rest of the votes were scattered over 120 buildings, most of them cited only once. Two voters indicated that there was virtually nothing new worth voting for.