Top critical review
Controversial and exuberant, but not necessarily in a good way
on 22 May 2010
I couldn't get along with this issue of AD at all. It's an issue that will openly divide the readership but I fell on the wrong side of the fence.
AD falls part-way between being a book and a magazine. The first 100 pages are the unique, guest-edited special, bringing together a selection of different writing on one theme, then the final 40 pages are what you'd think of as a magazine- a selection of broad news articles and features about the latest design 'stuff', which feels much more like a magazine though it does not contain adverts.
It's the main bulk of this issue, "Exuberance", that I couldn't get on with. The whole thing was to architecture what some catwalk shows are to fashion- totally detached from the day-to-day ideas of what people wear (or the buildings they build), it's an insane and gaudy fantasy of bright garish pictures accompanied by a lot of frankly pretentious and meaningless drivel about the deeper meanings at play.
I know that makes me sound like a philistine but it's difficult to wade through writing such as "it is the high degree of variation that contributes to an environment that is able to develop the most qualitative difference in the morphological continuity of the project" to sift out any worthwhile statement. Guest editor Marjan Colletti's keenness to invent his own buzz-words like 'ornaMental' and 'pOrnamenation' is bordering on self-parody, surely. By the time you reach CJ Lim's writing on smartcities, talking about how many people will die of starvation in 2030, you wish without a hint of irony that some of these intelligent minds had spent more time fixing more important problems.
Somebody I once knew, a member of the RIBA, referred to AD as "the comic", I guess because of the inevitably of just flicking through and looking at the pictures. There are some very interesting images in here- sometimes the student work from courses that the writers teach on is more interesting than the writer's work. However a surprising number of them are gaudy, ugly, over-colourised messes, that look like they could have been rendered twenty years ago when CAD was still a novelty. With its obsession with Rococo and Baroque, the whole "Exuberance" section is totally lacking in real style or substance.