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The problematization of ‘star architecture’ in architecture research

Authors: Nadia Alaily-Mattar*, Munich University of Technology
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Cultural Geography, Tourism Geography
Keywords: architecture, urban regeneration, identity, iconicity, place, research methods
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Since at least the opening of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry, the coalescence of the concepts of flagship, landmark, destination, signature/branded and iconic architecture have accentuated the expectations that the architecture of cultural buildings delivers beyond architecture, thus legitimizing the need for “star architecture” (Alaily-Mattar et al. 2018). Yet in the domain of architecture research, there are hardly any scientific investigations of the evidence base regarding whether and if so how star architecture ‘works’ to meet such expectations. This is quite remarkable since practicing architects more often than not receive praise from the “symbolic gatekeepers of their specialized field” (Larson 1993: 182) while much of the architecture academic community laments star architecture as a derogatory notion, that fosters potentially conflicting demands and a bias towards a visuality in architecture. The task of researching the effects and impacts of star architecture is left to other disciplines to answer. Hence this paper asks, how has architecture research navigated this conflict between on the one hand public and professional legitimization and on the other hand criticism from architecture’s academic community? To answer this question this paper presents the results of a systematic literature review, which we conducted using Scopus and Avery databases. The tropes that emerge from articles by architects on the subject are presented. This analysis indicates that the scientific investigation of star architecture necessitates the application of research methods outside the skill set of architects.

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