The evening attracted an overflow crowd, most of whom looked young enough to have been in kindergarten when "Five Architects" was published. Missing were virtually all the colleagues of The Five, not to mention most architectural journalists; the evening seemed to belong to those who knew these men mainly as names, not as peers, and it came off as a curious combination of a wannabe intellectual salon and a celebrity-seeking talk show.
Suzanne Stephens, a prominent freelance architectural journalist, was the moderator. The evening turned out to be far more intriguing in concept than in reality; almost nothing significant was said by anybody. Thus it served 's yet another reminder of one of the great architectural truths: there is no connection between the ability to make good architecture and the ability to express ideas clearly in words. (Indeed, I wonder if there is not actpally an inverse relationship between the two: that the architects who talk most clearly are the ones who design least clearly.)
Peter Eisenman was the most articulate -- proof, perhaps, that this last theory may be correct -- and he certainly did the best at putting the gestation of "Five Architects" in context. "It was a time when it was very difficult to talk about architecture," Mr. Eisenman said of the mid-1960's, when the architects began their careers. "It was a wild time politically and socially. People were thinking of Vietnam, of black-voter registration drives. Nobody wanted to talk about form, which is what we thought architecture should be about."
THE MEN SAW THEIR MISSION as not to avoid social responsibility but to bring a level of seriousness, of gravity, to a profession that they believed had ceased to think in intellectual terms. "We wanted to prove that architecture was not only about image, but about idea," Mr. Gwathmey said.
And so they did focus on ideas -- for a while. The architectural dialogue that began with "Five Architects" continued with the publication of "Five on Five," a series of essays in Architectural Forum written by architects who took issue with the modernist stance of The Five. One essayist was Robert A. M. Stern, who organized the counter-group, which included Charles Moore, Allan Greenberg, Romaldo Giurgola and Jaquelin T. Robertson. It was a lively period when the whole notion of serious debate over what role architecture could play in the culture seemed infused with fresh energy.
But paradoxically, as the five men became more successful, what Mr. Gwathmey disdained is precisely what the architects came to symbolize: the triumph of image over idea. They gave in to the allure of image in very different ways, for their work and their identities diverged more and more as the years went on. But by the late 1980's every one of The Five had become a kind of icon, almost a logo, for something.
In the case of Mr. Gwathmey and his partner, Robert Siegel, it was as providers of a kind of sumptuous, meticulously wrought modernist grandeur for the rich and famous, particularly in the entertainment industry, where a Gwathmey Siegel house became for the 1980's the badge of success that a great Georgian mansion by Delano & Aldrich had been in the 1920's.
Mr. Meier, who in 1984 won the commission to build the vast, new J. Paul Getty arts complex in Los Angeles, came increasingly to stand for a kind of sleek, shimmeringly elegant corporate modernism, applied in identical fashion to museums, corporate headquarters and houses.
Mr. Graves turned away from the abstraction of his early years in search of a personal style that turned out to be a sort of cross between classicism and cubism; spurred along by major commissions from clients like Humana Inc., the health-care giant in Louisville, Ky., and the Walt Disney Company, not to mention a willingness to design everything from shopping bags to tea kettles, he and his style became widely known to the general public.
Mr. Eisenman has continued to produce a smattering of his own highly theoretical buildings while trying at least as hard to play the role of public intellectual. At the same time he has struggled relentlessly to maintain a high public profile as the keeper of the flame of lively architectural dialogue.
Mr. Hejduk teaches and writes and continues to run the architecture school of Cooper Union as a kind of monastery, exuding passion for form, and certitude that teaching works best when it is set apart from the concerns of the real world. In one sense, for all Mr. Hejduk's determination to keep himself at a remove from the celebrity culture, he is the most image-conscious of all The Five. He has positioned himself brilliantly as a Woody Allen esque figure, disdaining popular appeal while making it absolutely certain that people know who he is and what he stands for.
They are, all five of them, triumphant successes in some obvious ways, and sobering reminders in other ways that are not as easy to perceive. Every one has produced work of quality while remaining true to the passion for architecture that generated his career. Yet each, by his very success, has also become a bit of a caricature, at times too predictable, too easy to sum up. Is this the risk of achieving fame in our age? Five careers, each with its own arc, driven by that curious combination of idea and image that characterizes art at the end of the 20th century.Continue reading the main story
Your desire to be famous – and the problems it will bring you
We don’t always feel comfortable admitting it to our friends; it is embarrassing. But, secretly, the idea of being famous has great appeal.
Fame is deeply attractive because it seems to offer very significant benefits. The fantasies go like this: when you are famous, wherever you go, your good reputation will precede you. People will think well of you, because your merits have been impressively explained in advance. You will get warm smiles from admiring strangers. You won’t need to make you own case laboriously on each occasion. When you are famous, you will be safe from rejection. You won’t have to win over every new person. Fame will mean other people will be flattered and delighted even if you are only slightly interested in them. They will be amazed to see you in the flesh. They’ll ask to take a photo with you. They’ll sometimes laugh nervously with excitement. Furthermore, no one will be able to afford to upset you. When you’re not pleased with something, it will become a big problem for others. If you say your hotel room isn’t up to scratch, the management will panic. Your complaints will be taken very seriously. Your happiness will become the focus of everyone’s efforts. You will make or break other people’s reputations. You’ll be boss.© Getty
The desire for fame has its roots in the experience of neglect, in injury. No one would want to be famous who hadn’t also, somewhere in the past, been made to feel extremely insignificant. We sense the need for a great deal of admiring attention when we have been painfully exposed to earlier deprivation. Perhaps one’s parents were hard to impress. They never noticed one much, they were so busy on other things, focusing on other famous people, unable to have or express kind feelings, or just working too hard. There were no bedtime stories and one’s school reports weren’t the subject of praise and admiration. That’s why one dreams that one day the world will pay attention. When we’re famous, our parents will have to admire us too (which throws up an insight into one of the great signs of good parenting: that your child has no desire to be famous).
But even if our parents were warm and full of praise, there might still be a problem. It might be that it was the buffeting and indifference of the wider world (starting with the schoolyard) that was intolerable after all the early years of adulation at home. One might have emerged from familial warmth and been mortally hurt that strangers were not as kind and understanding as one had come to expect. The crushing experience of humiliation might even have been vicarious: one’s mother being rudely dismissed by a waiter; one’s father standing awkwardly alone.© Getty
What is common to all dreams of fame is that being known to strangers emerges as a solution to a hurt. It presents itself as the answer to a deep need to be appreciated, and treated decently by other people.
And yet fame cannot accomplish what is asked of it. It does have advantages, which are evident. But it also introduces a new set of very serious disadvantages, which the modern world refuses to view as structural rather than incidental. Every new famous person who disintegrates, breaks down in public or loses their mind is judged in isolation, rather than being interpreted as a victim of an inevitable pattern within the pathology of fame.
One wants to be famous out of a desire for kindness. But the world isn’t generally kind to the famous for very long. The reason is basic: the success of any one person involves humiliation for lots of others. The celebrity of a few people will always contrast painfully with the obscurity of the many. Being famous upsets people. For a time, the resentment can be kept under control, but it is never somnolent for very long. When we imagine fame, we forget that it is inextricably connected to being too visible in the eyes of some, to bugging them unduly, to coming to be seen as the plausible cause of their humiliation: a symbol of how the world has treated them unfairly.
So soon enough, the world will start to go through the rubbish bags of the famous, it will comment negatively on their appearance, it will pour over their setbacks, it will judge their relationships, it will mock their new movies.
Fame makes people more, not less, vulnerable, because it throws them open to unlimited judgement. Everyone is wounded by a cruel assessment of their character or merit. But the famous have an added challenge in store. The assessments will come in from legions of people who would never dare to say to their faces what they can now express from the safety of the newspaper office or screen. We know from our own lives that a nasty remark can take a day or two to process.© Getty
Social media hasn’t helped. It’s made it far easier than before to be famous. And therefore, by necessity, far easier to be hated. A minor celebrity can now regularly face all the vitriol previously accorded only to Hollywood stars.
Psychologically, the famous are of course the very last people on earth to be well equipped to deal with what they’re going through. After all, they only became famous because they were wounded, because they had thin-skin; because they were in some respects a bit ill. And now far from compensating them adequately for their disease, fame aggravates it exponentially. Strangers will voice their negative opinions in detail, unable or simply unwilling to imagine that famous people bleed far more quickly than anyone else. They might even think the famous aren’t listening (though one wouldn’t become famous if one didn’t suffer from a compulsion to listen too much).© Getty
Every worst fear about oneself (that one is stupid, ugly, not worthy of existence) will daily be actively confirmed by strangers. One will be exposed to the fact that people one has never met, about whom one would have only goodwill, actively loathe one. One will learn that detestation of one’s personality is – in some quarters – a badge of honour. Sometimes the attacks will be horribly insightful. At other times, they’ll make no sense to anyone who really knows one. But the criticisms will lodge in people’s minds nevertheless – and no lawyer, court case or magician can ever delete them.
Needless to say, as a hurt celebrity, one won’t be eligible for sympathy. The very concept of a hurt celebrity is a joke, about as moving for the average person as the sadness of a tyrant.
To sum up: fame really just means you get noticed a great deal – not that you get understood, appreciated or loved.
At an individual level, the only mature strategy is to give up on fame. The aim that lay behind the desire for fame remains important. One does still want to be appreciated and understood. But the wise person accepts that celebrity does not actually provide these things. Appreciation and understanding are only available through individuals one knows and cares about, not via groups of a thousand or a million strangers. There is no shortcut to friendship – which is what the famous person is in effect seeking.© Rex
For those who are already famous, the only way to stay sane is to stop listening to what the wider world is saying. This applies to the good things as much as to the bad. It is best not to know. The wise person knows that their products need attention. But they make a clear distinction between the purely practical needs of marketing and advocacy and the intimate desire to be liked and treated with justice and kindness by people they don’t know.
At a collective, political level we should pay great attention to the fact that, today, so many people (particularly young ones) want to be famous – and even see fame as a necessary condition for a successful life. Rather than dismiss this wish, we should grasp its underlying worrying meaning: they want to be famous because they are not being respected, because citizens have forgotten how to accord one another the degree of civility, appreciation and decency that everyone craves and deserves. The desire for fame is a sign that an ordinary life has ceased to be good enough.© REX/Jonathan Hordle
The solution is not to encourage ever more people to become famous, but to put massive efforts into encouraging a greater level of politeness and consideration for everyone, in families and communities, in workplaces, in politics, in the media, at all income levels, especially modest ones. A healthy society will give up on the understandable but erroneous belief that fame might guarantee the kindness of strangers.