Archive for July, 2011

A would-be masterpiece in Guangzhou falls short

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Like Atlanta for the 1996 Centennial Olympics, Guangzhou aimed to to show its progressive face to the rest of the world during last year’s Asian Games in the city. Guangzhou hired Zaha Hadid to dream and actually build one of her architectural impossibilities.

Just as Corbusier and Wright designed buildings before their time and before appropriate techniques had been invented, Hadid designed the Guangzhou Opera House, which had no place being built in such a short timeframe by unskilled labor. Take a look at these images. Any close examination of this building reveals significant faults. The seams are already warping, and the detailing is extremely wanting.

The city rushed to realize this masterpiece of contemporary architecture, and now we have a building that is going to fall apart in the next decade–it’s already falling apart. It already looks like it is 20 years old. The concrete is a fluid material and was done well, but the cutting of granite tiles (applied in a way resembling tiles on the space shuttle) in compound curves was not supposed to done in a hurry with inexperienced staff.

The low quality of the building is also present in the surrounding park. Everything here was done as quickly as possible, and is suffering for it.

It’s a sin to spend this kind of money and get this kind of slop in a city deserves much better.

While returning from China, I visited the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. I experienced great gratitude that America has such great architects and sympathetic clients to execute their visions correctly. People and organizations like the Getty Museum, which let Richard Meier build his UN compound-esque, curved buildings on the hillltop in L.A. It took 10 years and lots of money, but it brings tears to my eyes how one organization can project such a beaming example of civilization to the world through this building.

The Guangzhou Opera House could have been something much grander than it is.