2 funny things about Herzog & de Meuron’s scheme for Helsinki

A few days ago I asked an architect if he knew anyone who had anything positive to say about the hotel scheme by Herzog & de Meuron for Katajanokka. The one that promises all this:

The hovering cross above is rotated to the grid of the historic city, bringing the strong features of the center to the peninsula. The different orientations of the two crosses create a dynamic presence: they anchor the building to its site and, at the same time, detach it from its immediate surroundings, linking it to the city center.

The area around the hotel is transformed by reclaiming back water. The proposed pool continues the necklace of basins where the city center meets the South Harbour. A new pier extends the walk from the Esplanadi deep into the harbour, allowing a spectacular view from the water back to the historic city.’ (from http://www.archicentral.com/helsinki-waterfront-hotel-finland-herzog-de-meuron-10763/)

So anyway, moving on from this gibberish and going back to my encounter earlier this month, this young architect thought for about a nano-second about my question and then said that he vaguely recalled that the person who introduced one of the architects (he no longer remembered if it was Herzog or De Meuron) to the audience when the scheme was announced, was quite polite and enthusiastic about their design.

So today I asked an extremely well-informed architect-planner close to retirement about his thoughts on the plans for the hotel.

He made a hand gesture by rubbing together his midlde and forefingers against his thumb. Money, he said, is everything. And then he fell backwards in the general direction of the table with the drinks on it.

But it’s hard to believe it’s just money, at least, that way life would be very uninteresting. So, you anthropologists out there, help us out: can anything ever be JUST about money?

This astonishing piece of architecture, the library in (the tiny northern town of) Kuhmo, by Nurmela-Raimoranta-Tasa can’t have been “just about money”. Nor this, the Church of the Holy Trinity (by designed by C.L. Engel himself). I mean, by the time your household accounting is not a hand-to-mouth affair presumably you make choices about what to spend on. No?

4 Comments

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4 responses to “2 funny things about Herzog & de Meuron’s scheme for Helsinki

  1. Speaking not as an anthropologist but an amateur psychologist, my feeling of what motivates monumental buildings is that everyone with a hand in it — architects, company directors, politicians, city planners, — somehow believes that the result will be a monument to themselves. Maybe they fantasize about walking with their grand children in front of the great edifice and casually remarking how it was all down to them that it got built. We no longer have pharaohs build pyramids but those with a little power and a lot of ego are bound to seek ways to fulfil their wish for immortality.

  2. JeesHelsinki

    Ouch! Or maybe it’s even worse. We’re maybe letting our homes be shaped by people who aren’t just narcissistic (you said you were an amateur psychologist) but full-blown psychopaths in the way professor Hare (http://www.hare.org/) has argued. So in the same way that we don’t understand successful but psychopathic top-executives’ behaviour because THEY lack what it takes to establish genuine communication, we are baffled by decision makers’ thinking when it comes to HDHD. Psychologically speaking it’s THEIR problem, not ours. Politically, well…
    But hang on. Before I go and write them all off as psychopathic, I have to admit that we’ve not actually heard from most of them why they are supporting the scheme. Should we all write and ask them, or drop by and have a chat?
    JHJ

  3. I think the door is open for them to comment on your blog. (And, by the way, we are all amateur psychologists).

  4. anonymous

    Money, narcissism, …
    You forgot the third most common reason: stupidity.

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