If you build it, they will come. Actually, no they won’t.

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Well, it worked for Kevin Costner.

There I was perusing through Gamespot’s Work In Progress Blog, having my regular geek moment, when I found this interesting post about the upcoming game Cities XL. It’s the usual sim-city-building extravaganza in a virtual world where you – yes, you – can become a successful architect and create fantastic megastructures withouth the annoyances of a real economy to bother you. Just the kind of escapism we need right now, as it seems likely that we’re all going to be out of our jobs in the near future.
What’s interesting about the concept of being a triumphant virtual city builder is the notion that building an attractive monument will bring in a bucketload of happy money-spending tourists. This sounds pretty great in a virtual la-la-land, but probably should be taken less lightly in the outside world. It’s all Gehry’s fault I guess, but the Bilbao effect has become so embedded into the minds of real life polititians that architecture seems to be the ultimate purple cow. So, for my next project, I’m paiting the whole thing purple. And put a giant lava-lamp on top. That will do it!

What bothers me about the way architecture is discussed nowadays is that, for the most part, it isn’t. Just recently I’ve tried to open a discussion about the greatest architectural investment of the decade to be built in the city of Lisbon. Here is a museum for an institution that currently receives 200 thousand visitors every year. The new construction is expected to boost that number to a million. And how did they come up with that figure? Well, surely there was an assessment of the needs and demands for such a building, extensive studies were made. Otherwise, it would all reside on good old fashioned ‘faith’, wouldn’t it?
So, as it turns out, the project is rather controversial. On the left corner you have the naysayers, petitioning against the «concrete monster». On the right corner is now a group of prominent personalities, including some of the most notorious Portuguese architects, petitioning for the building that is said to be a «lesson of the evidence of man in the universe». Holly Moses!
And here I am, crushed in the middle. I’m thinking to myself that maybe I am really stupid, because I just don’t get it. So would it be possible that these people could bring their staunch certainties and shed a light over my undersized intelect. And explain, in architectural terms, how the building is either a monster or a metaphysical phenomenon?

This is it. Democracy at work. The debate is on, only there is no debate at all because there are no arguments of fact. Architecture, as it turns out, is all subjectivity and abstraction. It’s a freakin illusion. So maybe what’s good for videogames is true after all. «If you build it, they will come». Well, it worked for Kevin Costner.