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Icon frenzy replaces modesty with ego

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The problem with the current blether is that to Charles Jencks' 'existential questions' (AJ 9.9.04) - 'What should a building mean? In what style should it be? What associations should it have? What iconography should it adopt?' - too many architects will answer 'Bold!

An Icon! Kind of out-there! Something to make me seem trendy and daring, sexy and famous!' - forgetting, in their excitement, that they have not yet asked what is going on inside the building, what it is and who it is for - 'What might the building itself want to be?' The answer to this question might be: 'I want to be simple and quiet, well-mannered and well put together'. Or maybe even:

'Whatever makes those who use me most content'. There is a world of difference between, say, Utzon, who understood the virtues of simplicity and modesty (Sydney Opera House, pictured) - and where the need for celebration overtook them - and today's restless, self-advertising egotists.

Malcolm Fraser , Malcolm Fraser Architects, Edinburgh

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