Architectural competitions to design *only* the facade of a building are increasingly commonplace in Germany, according to an op-ed piece in the German magazine Bauwelt. These kinds of competitions provide a compromise solution between a city’s qualitative interest in maintaing a certain image on the one hand, and property developers’ quantitative commercial interest in nothing but the maximum leasable floor area on the other. Architecture is thereby increasingly limited to superficial image, proving Philip Johnson right when he categorized it as “a branch of cake decoration.”
It also proves Peter Eisenman wrong when he says, as he so often does, that architecture built under rightist governments is better than that built under leftist ones. While indeed a very small élitist fraction may be better, the vast majority is utter crap. Perhaps the real question we should be asking is this: at which end of the political spectrum does the most crap get built?