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Wednesday, March 01, 2006
One of the earliest (and clearly the most uncritical) features I ever wrote was a puff piece for San Francisco's Metreon, a Sony-sponsored excursion into themed architectural zones, a kind of 21st century Fun Palace, albeit one dubbed an 'urban entertainment destination'. However, the Metreon's days are now numbered, and the company is washing its hands of the business. Metreon was very much an idea of the late 90s, an entertainment hub that was highly 'interactive', bringing together a bunch of intellectual properties, striking architecture and, above all, plenty of retail opportunities. The SF project, which cost about $85m, was to have been the first of several; there were even plans at one point to have a Metreon Centre in the Reichstag.

Inside, there were originally three 'entertainment experiences', designed by the illustrators David Macaulay ('How Things Work, etc.), Maurice Sendak ('Where the Wild Things Are, the genesis of which is dissected here) and Jean Giraud, also known as Moebius and a national hero in his native France. The Moebius attraction was a future world called Airtight Garage, once mooted as an Akira-style movie back in 1994. The non-appearance of that movie and the subsequent creation of the Metreon zone are most likely.

In the end, even an 'urban entertainment destination' failed to lure enough punters to what was little more than a dressed up mall, large chunks of which were gated-off and accessed only for a fee. The whole concept of 'event architecture' continues to percolate through discussions about the built environment, with the idea being that this kind of artificially generated activity is a fundamental aspect of urban regeneration. In very simplistic terms this is described as the 'Bilbao Effect', the corona of fresh cultural and commercial activity that follows a flagship piece of architecture. While plenty of cities sought (and still seek) their very own Guggenheim-inspired urban renaissance, in the real world, it's apparent that it's not just culture that can generate economic activity. The reality is that it might just as well be a new Tesco that acts as the node for activity, not 'culture' or even 'architecture', and planners are, sadly, aware of this, however much some clearly disagree. The eternal battle between commerce and culture.

*
Other things. A bit more about Cedric Price / related, the Kircher Society is having a week posting about 'visionary architecture' / collages from Donna K. Check the flickr collage tag for more artworks / it's a bit late to vote for a new bridge design in Maine. Neither of these two concepts are especially exciting. Public voting for architecture never goes well, but still it continues; for example, have a say in the future shape of Downtown Mississauga. These designs, by Boyarsky Murphy, Michel Rojkind, Quadrangle Architects, MAD Office and (to a far lesser extent) Zeidler Partnership, seem to fulfil the biomorphic futures seen in this BLDG BLOG post.

Penn and Teller's frustrating video game (via waxy via jk) / clever marketing: ensure your slightly risque site becomes an instant viral must-have / pretty impressive photo tour of Mayan ruins / H.G.Wells' future man (via Branko). A bit more about future evolution / thanks to Tom Carden, author of the Travel Time Tube Map and Tube Contour Map for pointing out Ruairi Glynn's Interactive Architecture / Varnelis on Philip Johnson's Empire (via Archinect) / a moving set of before and after images around post 9/11 Manhattan.

Culture Watcher, part of the Digital SSALLZIP site. See also Bookshelf and Media Watcher / David Naylor is obsessed with the Koenigsegg CCX, the world's only Swedish supercar / Marja-Leena Rathje is an artist who tracks show openings and other events / Vitriolica Webb paints and draws / why do firemen slide down poles? / Hollywood by the numbers, or how 'above' and 'below the line' expenses are worked out. Jet allowances, for one.