It’s remarkable how slow — and disjointed — architecture can sometimes appear.
For nearly a decade, younger architects have pushed for a new agenda in the profession. They’ve been loudly (and rightly) critical of the expensive, highly mannered and sometimes self-indulgent trophy buildings turned out by some of the world’s most prominent architects. And they’ve helped bring different and more public-minded priorities to the fore.
And yet the trophy buildings keep coming.
One of the pricey, preening old breed opened recently in Dallas, stranded among surface parking lots across a wide freeway from the city’s mirrored-glass skyline. The $185-million Perot Museum of Nature and Science, designed by Thom Mayne and the Culver City firm Morphosis, is a largely windowless crypt, a cube lifted dramatically above the streets around it and wrapped in puckered and striated precast concrete panels.
It is a thoroughly cynical piece of work, a building that uses a frenzy of architectural forms to endorse the idea that architecture, in the end, is mere decoration. Mayne’s design appears to put innovative architecture on a literal pedestal — or a plinth, to be exact — while actually allowing it to become peripheral, noticeably separate from the heart of the museum and its galleries.
The building’s apparent radicalism is tacked on, its braggadocio paper-thin. Like many of Mayne’s recent buildings, it is a work of architecture without the courage of its convictions — convictions that are shouted, naturally, at top volume.
Los Angeles Times