Daniel Libeskind proposal for Messina, Reggio Calabria, Italy, 2005
While attending one of those courses on project management, where they teach you on how to become profitable, the lecturer, in order to emphasize the benefits of specializing in one or few things – dealing with typical standardized projects and procedures rather than trying continuously to resolve new problems; increasing your liability and spending time on research – successfully illustrated it with a story of an architect, with whom the lecturer had worked in the state of California. This architect was specialized in building schools. Among hundreds of schools he had designed, there were three or four models, which were used everywhere, with some slight modifications. While marketing himself to school districts and board of education meetings, he would always present these typical models on the wall, and finally there would be one board member that would ask innocently: “I like this school over here! Can we have one for ourselves?” and he would answer: “- That would be difficult to pull off… but for you my friend… Yes!”
Listening to this story, among other problems that can be identified, I think those concerning the dilemma of the business versus the specificity of architectural practice, are the most pressing ones. Maybe, for this reason alone, one has to respect practitioners in the field of architecture that despite all financial restrains and other headaches that the introduction of something new in the field brings to them, they clearly take sides with the latest. Also I think that it is for the same reason why the Deconstructivist Movement of 1980-s was highly revered, as opposed, lets say, to cookie-cut style of post-modernism. There is a lot of discussion as to whether the 80-s movement has been reduced to just another style, or still holds itself up. Yet, free style form-making, characteristic of the Deconstruction, seemed to have generated a lot of ideas, or at least appeared more opened towards them, and less inclined to be reduced to “typicality” from highly “specialized”, or even “celebrated” architects. Well, if there was any doubt whether the “typical” is the norm, even among Deconstructivists, we have the right to make that claim now!
I can’t get credit for “discovering” the original typical project that has generated the “Scanderbeg Square” proposal by Daniel Libeskind, for the recent urban design competition held in Tirana, Albania, regarding the project for rehabilitation of the main square on the capitol. I received it in an e-mail from a friend of mine. The reasons why Libeskind would use in Tirana a “typical” project (for lack of a better name), from the project management point of view, can be more than one. I can give several of them just by looking at the competition brief and schedule. The most important one: the design stage of the project was too short, from March 14 through April 7. Needless to say that there is not going to be a serious urban design project completed on a twenty day schedule. Mr. Libeskind seems to know the mindset of city officials and politicians very well. When there is not given sufficient time and consideration for the architect to come up with a decent proposal, they are either not interested in your project or they have arranged a deal with someone else, or both. Although, I can understand Libeskind’s decision to cash out on his Є15,000 (which he got only by participating in the competition), as a way to return the favor to the Albanian politicians for inviting him to enter a sham competition, I still cant help but wonder on how cheaply he sold his “Celebrity Architect” status.