Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Friday, April 8, 2011

Will Zaha Hadid be able to change the boring architecture of California?

Zaha Hadid´s project for Elk Grove Civic Center, California
As I said in a previous post, all Californian architecture is the same. A shopping is like a pharmacy, and it´s like a house, like a market, and so on. Specially in young cities like Huntington Beach. And then, inhabitants and City Council members, who have to take decisions, do not know anything else but the same stucco on post modern architecture everywhere.
It´s very funny for me to read about this issue in Elk Grove, and I´m not defending arch. Zadid´s building, I´ve seen only this squid-picture, but I can imagine upset people shouting at the City Council, insulting the proposed project for the Civic Center.
Let us read some paragraphs from the New York Times.

Old town Elk Grove, California. Is this the architecture the City is proud of? I´ll have to visit Elk Grove and see for myself.... Picture from

¨The firm owned by the internationally renowned architect Zaha Hadid is in high demand these days, designing projects in Hong Kong, Milan and Seoul, not to mention the London Aquatics Center, the swimming arena for the 2012 Olympics.
But one of the firm’s smaller clients, the city of Elk Grove, population 153,000, recently conjured far different kinds of aquatic life when members of the City Council and the public chose words like “squid,” “octopus” and “starfish” to describe the latest renderings for a proposed civic center.
Other descriptions were more alien than aquatic. One councilman described the architectural study as “an animal from a different planet,” while the mayor, Steven Detrick, said he was expecting “to hear the theme from ‘Star Wars’ to start playing” during the presentation. None of these comments were intended as compliments.
But it wasn’t always this way.
As the economy inches back toward stability, some cities are beginning to dust off their pre-recession playbooks and dream big again. And few cities were moving as quickly before the financial crisis as this Sacramento suburb, which the Census Bureau proclaimed America’s fastest-growing city in 2006.
It was then that Elk Grove, incorporated in 2000, held an international design competition to create a master plan for a $159 million civic center complex on 78 acres. The project was to include a performing arts center, library, youth sports complexes, convention space and more. The council hoped that an iconic piece of architecture could vault the young city to higher heights, à la Bilbao in Spain and its Guggenheim museum.
And so, this suburban community where City Council agendas have included discussions on topics like how to deal with rampant beaver dams, chose Ms. Hadid, a Baghdad-born, London-based architect known for soaring biomorphic shapes that make Frank Gehry’s work look tame.
The mayor was thrilled that they had landed such a big fish. “We hit a home run on this one,” gushed James Cooper, the mayor at the time. “The citizens are so excited. The big thing is to let her be an architect and not stifle the process. We want her to think of something different. This is a new chapter in Elk Grove’s life.”
It was a chapter, though, that ended with the recession. And the idea gathered dust until last summer, when the city resumed its relationship with Ms. Hadid’s firm to fashion the center’s master plan, the process in which the scale and proximity of the structures is determined, though the actual design of individual buildings will be decided later.
But one important factor had changed since she was first selected. Three of the five City Council members were new, and one of the most vocal opponents of the Hadid selection in 2006 was now mayor.(...)
One unabashed fan is the city’s planning director, Taro Echiburu, who expects to start a new competition for the design stage this summer and hopes that Ms. Hadid’s firm will participate. “I loved the designs,” he said. Informed, however, that the mayor said he was unlikely to support any project proposed by Ms. Hadid’s firm, Mr. Echiburu insists that he still hopes for the best. “I’ll be disappointed if this ends up as Anytown, U.S.A.,” he said.¨

Elk Grove library. From
Elk Grove City Hall. From
After seeing the pictures above of ¨Anytown USA¨, I can understand why citizens reject Mrs Hadid´s project. Thanks God there´s still planner Echiburu to defend something new, maybe a little adjustment to the squid shape would be enough???

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