“The World’s Tallest Building Has Value Beyond Height. Change My Mind.”

Community art projects do nothing to further the housing crisis, and give little comfort to citizens and the homeless, yet we value it.

Architizer Editors Architizer Editors

As part of our “Change My Mind.” series, where writers share their opinions about contentious topics in the built world, Pat Finn argued that “The World’s Tallest Building Should Never Have Been Built.” The article invited readers to share their opinions in the comments section of our social media posts to spark friendly debate. While many simply agreed or disagreed, others took the time to provide evidence backing up their points. One reader, Amedeo D., took the time to outline the line of thinking behind his counterargument in a detailed email, which we are publishing below.   

“I was hooked by the headline: The World’s Tallest Building Should Never Have Been Built. Change My Mind. And here I am, trying to respond to the challenge…Change My Mind.

I sense that the tone of the article is clearly focused on the hedonism in the intentions behind the creation of the Burj Khalifa, the “Vanity Height”, and also the fact that this type of design and architecture does not address societal inequities, sustainability, and the housing shortages, particularly among the disadvantaged, was not missed on the author and readers.

Perhaps much of this focus is merited, but not ALL architecture “needs to be functional architecture that meets the needs of the local population”. There has historically been architecture that clearly focuses on Form rather than Function. Architecture can and usually is designed to meet the functional needs of the site, owners, community, and immediate material needs of the particular circumstances, but there will always remain a need for pure art and inspiration.

There is nothing much different in viewing artworks in your local art gallery, that serve absolutely no function at all to benefit our local communities. Art is nearly by definition a vanity affair, soothing the felt wants and desires of the patron. Community art projects do nothing to further the housing crisis, and give little comfort to citizens, and the homeless, and yet we value community art as much.

The ostentatious display of enormous wealth (even if it involves debt) may be offensive to many, but it does benefit countless construction workers, suppliers, engineers, truck drivers and their families, even if in many cases these suppliers and workers live in sub-standard conditions that we in the west find deplorable.

I think Architecture as a whole needs an occasional vanity project, if not only to inspire future artists, designers and engineers, but also the accompanying challenges of overcoming the forces of nature, gravity and nugatory thinking.

There likely is no remedy for “pointless height”, nor will there be an end of “monuments to the power of capital”….in fact, perceived wanton misuse of capital may offer unforeseen benefits to those of us who only focus on beneficent function.

Time will certainly tell if Burj Khalifa will become inconsequential or not. To me, it isn’t much different than a beautiful bronze sculpture that I may admire, or a favorite work of Van Gogh. To me, these are pieces of art. To me, they are beautiful masterpieces. To others they are worthless. That is the nature of “Art”.

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