Vincent Scully Visiting Professor of Architectural History, Yale University
Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
Associate Professor of Architecture, Harvard GSD
Assistant Professor of Architecture, Harvard GSD
What has happened to architectural beauty? It used to be the fundamental value of architectural theory and practice, the touchstone of every conceivable achievement for a discipline that considered itself primarily as an art. Today, the word is seldom pronounced by theorists and professionals, at least in public. Even critics and historians tend to avoid the loaded term.
What has happened to architectural beauty? Its eclipse is all the more surprising given that architectural aesthetics is everywhere. The architectural star-system is to a large extent based on signature forms that herald the originality of their authors. The so-called "Guggenheim effect" has fundamentally to do with the visual seduction exerted by Frank Gehry's project on a large public, from connoisseurs to simple passers-by. It has paved the way for all sorts of prestigious architectural commissions, often linked to the cultural sector, museums, libraries, opera houses requiring visually striking answers that can be appreciated by a broad audience. Usually entrusted to a relatively small cohort of elite architects, these commissions nevertheless contribute to define the tone of contemporary architectural debate. Even if the term beauty is rarely invoked to characterize their power of seduction, the aesthetic dimension plays a determining role.