Feb 16, 2008

Why Foster’s Hearst Tower is no gherkin

Now that it has been there for a year and I’ve had my chance to learn to love it, maybe it’s a good time to say why I dislike the Hearst Tower in Manhattan so much.
The Hearst, which of course was designed by Foster + Partners, looks like a misplaced missile silo. It’s as if the Pentagon, with its usual deftness of touch, had confused its maps and located this chunk of military hardware in Manhattan instead of Florida.
It’s an office building, folks. People work there. But nothing about the Hearst, as seen from outdoors, suggests the possibility of human habitation. It appears to be a cage for a single massive object.
I don’t apologize for the image. One of the problems with Modernism, as a stylistic method, is that it tends to ignore the fact that buildings look like other things. And that’s how most people understand them. People say the abstract boxlike shapes of Modernist office towers look like the cartons the real towers came in. The world we live in is a world of resemblances.
That’s why the Brits call Foster’s London tower the “the Gherkin.” But there’s a difference. “Gherkin,” which of course means “pickle,” is an affectionate name that humanizes the building. I haven’t yet heard an affectionate nickname for the Hearst. (to find out more..)

posted by afterrabbit

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