Asia cautioned against sensational architecture

THE DESIGN ARCHITECT of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) Singapore, Moshe Safdie, has warned Asian destinations against using eye-popping architecture to draw attention, a phenomenon dubbed ‘starchitecture’ or ‘The Bilbao Effect’ after the Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Gehry catapulted the Basque region in Spain as a must-visit destination.

Interviewed by TTG Asia e-Daily ahead of the official opening of MBS and its lotus flower-inspired ArtScience Museum tomorrow, Safdie warned: “If architecture is treated purely as a spectacular sculpture, we’re in for trouble, no question about it.”

He said it was not enough for architecture to be sensational; it had to be uplifting, making people feel better about themselves and improving the quality of life in the city.

“What is definitely true about Asia – true of China, the Emirates and so on – is, architecture is seen as an opportunity. Now opportunity for what – if it’s the mayor of a city, it’s an opportunity to put the city on the map. So they want a 100-storey, 200-storey tower buildings that are going to draw attention. If you talk to a commercial entity, they want an architecture that is good for business…The more architecture is being treated as a tool towards certain end, the more the question becomes urgent,” he said.

But he added it was “inevitable” for fast-growing economies such as China to make mistakes in the urbanisation process. However, he noted a “reawakening” in China to ecological issues.

SafdieArchitects is masterminding a high-density residential development in Qinhuangdao, China.

– Read the full interview in From the Top with Moshe Safdie, TTG Asia, March 11 issue

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