Minimalism, Maximalism And Everything In Between Earlier this year, Vanity Fair asked a group of architects, critics and academics to name the most important architectural works of the past three decades. Now, the results are in.
NPR logo

Minimalism, Maximalism And Everything In Between

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128570309/128600355" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Minimalism, Maximalism And Everything In Between

Minimalism, Maximalism And Everything In Between

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128570309/128600355" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

T: Correspondent Matt Tyrnauer wrote the piece that accompanies the survey in Vanity Fair, and he joins us from NPR West. Matt, welcome to the program.

M: Thank you.

: Give us some highlights of the survey.

M: Gehry's building is the most exuberant thing you can possibly imagine. And it really, I think, set the tone for, I think what is probably as close to a definitive opinion-making survey because these are the people who are really at the top of their profession. And we were surprised that it was so clear, as a matter of fact.

: The article is accompanied by pictures. And the Guggenheim in Bilbao, I mean, it's like a sea of gold curves and bricks, and it almost seems like it's moving. I mean, why is this building so important?

M: Buildings don't become these sort of cult objects very often, and this building did instantly. So, I think for that alone it's very significant. But the confluence of public acceptance and professional acceptance is extremely rare.

: Some of the buildings on this list are attention grabbing and extravagant, like the Gehry building. But there are others that are some exceptions, some rather understated, more reserved buildings. Do you think that's becoming a trend in architecture?

M: Gehry has led the way out of the swamp of postmodernism, which was an extremely necessary thing for someone to do.

: The survey's findings also mention the most important buildings of the 21st century, and on top of that list is the Bird's Nest Stadium designed for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Why is that significant and who designed it?

M: And this is really another legacy of Frank Gehry. He was the first major architect to harness the power of computer-assisted design to execute buildings on this very extravagant, very outlandish scale and kind of with great daring form.

: Given that sustainability is gaining so much popularity, why do you think there weren't any explicitly green pieces of architecture at the top of the list?

M: Well, I think this is a complicated question. There are a lot of very interesting green buildings being built on a small scale that are extraordinary. They actually produce more energy than they consume. These buildings in general don't look so hot because they have to do a lot of things that buildings traditionally never did. So, a lot of these things need to be resolved by the design community. And I think this is actually one of the most fascinating stories that everyone should be having their eyes on for the next 10 years, 20 years.

: Yeah. I mean, it's interesting to talk to you and think what about the future of architecture is going to look like. Maybe sustainable buildings will get nicer-looking. But given what you've said about Frank Gehry, in light of the recent economic downturn, do you think extravagant, high-priced architecture is still feasible?

M: Well, I think it's less feasible, frankly. One thing that is an interesting legacy of Mr. Gehry and his computer-assisted design is that this helps with keeping the architect and the artistic vision, the architect in control. Because the computer allows the developer to actually see how much it's going to cost within pennies sometimes. But definitely one of the real victims of this economic downturn has been good architecture.

: Vanity Fair correspondent Matt Tyrnauer. He spoke with us from NPR West. The survey of the great buildings appears in Vanity Fair's August issue. Matt, thanks for joining us.

M: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

: On our website, NPR.org, you can see photos of 10 of the structures that made Vanity Fair's list.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.