Thursday, November 02, 2006

Countdown to Empire - Can You Fly Down to New Orleans by Noon?


UPDATE, FRIDAY, 11:00 A.M.: A comment to this post indicates that the deadline IS actually this coming Monday at noon, rather than today. You may want to double-check with CAF or the email listed on History Channels competition site, hyperlinked below.

And now, on to last night's post . . .

If you're reading this post Thursday night, it's most probably already too late for you to submit your credentials for The History Channel's The City of the Future: A Design and Engineering Challenge, a competition -tipped off to us by co-sponsor AIA's Joan Pomaranc - which, in the words of partner organization Chicago Architecture Foundation's website, "will challenge Chicago's top architecture firms and students to design their vision of a 22nd Century Chicago." The CAF site says submissions are due by Monday, November 6th, but the History Channel's own submission guidelines puts the cut-off at noon today, Friday the 3rd, at the offices of jones/kroloff in New Orleans.

Chicago is one of three cities - New York and L.A. being the others - where two design teams will be selected to compete "alongside a nationally recognized slate of designers in imagining the Chicago of the Future." A charrette briefing is scheduled for Friday the 10th at CAF, leading to a public event at CAF on November 17th where "Teams will race against the clock in the morning to build a three-dimensional representation of their ‘Chicago of the Future’." The entries will be judged by a panel that will include the GSA's Leslie Shepherd and the Art Institute's increasingly ubiquitous Curator of Architecture of Design, Joseph Rosa. The winning team gets $10,000 and advances to the national finals, with its own $10,000 prize, where the winner will be selected by the studio audience attending a broadcast of ABC's Dancing With the Stars. (Just kidding - the prize will be determined by another panel whose Chief Juror will be no less than Daniel Libeskind.) The deadline for the East Coast was October 23rd, but those on the West Coast have until Friday, November 24th to submit.

The program is an offshoot of the History Channel's Engineering an Empire series, covering the marvels created by various civilizations from the Greeks and Egyptians, to the Mayans and Aztecs. (Seven Degrees of Peter Weller Department: the actor, who is about to star as Frank Lloyd Wright in a new play at the Goodman, is also host for the series.)

But do we really need to encourage an "Architecture of Empire"? The thing that ties together most of the buildings covered in the History Channel series is a necrotic obsession with death. The series own website says it best: "A Massive Ego Buried in Every Tomb", often indifferently dragging legions of their subjects into the abyss with them. Great for future tourism. Bad for the bystanders.

In Louis Sullivan's time, the "Architecture of Empire" was the phony overscaled classicism of the 1893 Columbian Exposition, a stage set for the emergence of America as a global power. In our own day, it's perhaps best symbolized by the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a $500,000,000, 104-acre enclave whose 15-foot-thick perimeter wall entombs its inhabitants from the dark, violent reality just beyond the gates.

Will any of the City of the Future entrants have the insolence to advance a program with a little less Empire, a bit more humanity?

1 comment:

Joan said...

Yes, the deadline really WAS extended to Monday, but the History Channel didn't change their Web site. History marches on!