CivicArts - Eric R Kuhne & associates


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Building on 4 continents, mixed-use, gateway developments that are becoming symbols of their cultures, we've evolved these ideals from Sydney to Miami, Kuala Lumpur to Moscow, Cape Town to Belfast, Kuwait to Istanbul. Every culture wants to profess its identity, its ethos. And increasingly architecture, our art, is called upon to do this. We begin with a spark of wisdom from 2000 years ago when Seneca said, NON EST AD ASTRA MOLLIS ET TERRIS VIA (There is no easy way to the Stars). Or, in contemporary folk music lyrics from the Cowboy Junkies, “But you promised me the sky and fell short a star or two”.


SKYLINE SILHOUETTE is the signature of a city... its civic genome. Clarity of this silhouette is a cognitive map for the world to understand a city's pride and her citizens to teach the world about its ethos. It must be so clear and simple that a child could draw their city’s skyline.

CIVIC VERSUS PUBLIC: We have lost the pageantry of skylines. What once were symbols of faith, emblems of power, icons of pride, or monuments to cultural legacy have been distorted into banal commercial identities and mechanical penthouses masquerading as art. Time once was that we could read a city's genome through the pinnacles, steeples, battlements, clock towers, bell-towers, obelisks, statues, carillons, and symbols of faith. Today these have been replaced by television antennae, broadcast modules, satellite dishes, and machinery rooms. There is precious little life or eloquence in contemporary skylines. We need to restore the pageantry of civic art as the privilege of having a silhouette on the skyline.

2. RELINQUISH THE SKY AND REDEEM THE STREET WE WANT OUR CITY BACK: The street and ground plane belongs to the citizens of a city, not the tenants/ owners/investors/managers of towers. Civic space is the most precious commodity, and the ground plane must breathe life back into the city that the tower displaces. Gone is an age where granite, wind-swept plazas are acceptable as public rooms: any tower than isn't flushed with life at its base is contempt for the robust vitality of civic life. What kind of conceit believes that the plazas of our cities are meant to intimidate, awe, and shock those who enfront our landmarks? Gardens, terraces, fountains, shade, dining, galleries, reception rooms: these are the places of a city where the hospitality of the street is paramount.



We have lost the pageantry of skylines

3. CORPORATE HERALDRY: As much as we might be lured into thinking logos and brands are contemporary heraldic blazons, they are cheap excuses for topping a building. No great art requires a caption, or a title for that matter. Signs prevail when architecture fails. Architecture must command the sky and firmament with more than just a name, label, or advertising chop. Whether spiritual or secular, a tower deserves its own coda. And only through distinctive design, born of the authenticity of place, fired by the hopes of its citizens, can architecture restore the lyrical and poetic leadership it must bring to a city's skyline.

4. LOST ANTECEDENTS: We've endured the emptiness of machine references as inspiration to the design of towers. We must find more suitable metaphors and allegories for towers. In the flora and fauna, in the arts and crafts, in the pageantries and ceremonies, in the folk songs and performing arts. These are the rich mnemonic legacies we draw from for all our designs. They anchor the design in a deep resonant heritage of authenticity while marrying this legacy to the provocative prophecy of advances in technology/science/building arts.

5. STORY-TELLING RESTORATION OF THE STORY-TELLING QUALITY OF ARCHITECTURE: There must beconsiderations that throughout history architecture and cities were rich in their story-telling quality. The abstraction of modernism stripped the identity of a city and its buildings to empty episodes of geometry and engineering precision. While this may be appropriate for background architecture, it surely is not what is essential to a signature building on a city's skyline. Every city has a story to tell; the litany of its citizens is a proud heritage. And a tall building should honour this history as much as provide an inspiration for a city's future.

6. INHABITED FACADES (MYSTIQUE OF VANTAGE POINTS): Architecture is a sculptural art. It comes to life as sculpture because we can inhabit it. Our facades always contain places where one can imagine standing proud of a facade, or in a special window, terrace, loggia, or balcony that becomes far more than just something that the tenant or occupant owns. For these sculpted facades become places where our imaginations find a home, too... for we all know the embrace of a building that has an exceptional quirk in a facade where the mind and heart wish to be while we are standing on the ground looking up at the tower.

7. CLOUD ACROPOLIS TOOTHPASTE-TUBE DESIGN: Gone are the boring, predictable designs that look as though they are wallpaper squeezed out of toothpaste tubes. A city deserves much more if it is to surrender its skyline to either a guest or intruder. And while the efficiency of paper-thin graphic moves may impress the asset manager, they cheat the citizenry, belie the intricacy of working or living in a tower, and offer precious little to the visitor, guest, or stranger who comes to a new town and sees in its distance something that they might find anywhere else in the world.

WE MUST BUILD AS IF WE ARE CONSTRUCTING ATOP A CLOUD ACROPOLIS: Temples for the gods becoming vantage points for the citizens of our cities for our time. No longer the dominion of High Priests with the sacred scrolls, we are children of the enlightenment where we determine our potential instead of having it prescribed by the church, monarchy, imperial rule, benevolent (and not so) despots, or corporations.

8. ARS SINE SCIENTIA NIHIL EST: ART WITHOUT SCIENCE IS NOTHING. Under no circumstances are we to forsake the responsibility of sustainable buildings, materials engineering, advances in structure and mechanical systems, nor the social sciences as part of the art of the tall building. Nor do we allow these engineering disciplines to hijack the artistry of the architecture. Art, and the Art of Architecture, can only excel when these two are in balance.

We have lost the pageantry of skylines

9. STARCATCHERS VS. SKYSCRAPERS: And we demand a new term for our Century. We call our towers 'star-catchers' that place the banality of the 20th-century commercial skyscraper in stark contrast to the artistry of a slender aspect ratio. There is poetry in form making, and reaching for the stars is as much about setting a new vision as celebrating a cosmopolitan city that embraces the diversity of people, faith, values, and the lifestyles that sustain the robust vitality of civic life.

10. TOO LOW THEY BUILD WHO BUILD BENEATH THE STARS: This quote from John Young's Night Thoughts is at the heart of all that we seek to achieve for a city: a gentle hope that our architecture will redeem the pageantry of great cities, restore the Civic Arts of Architecture as a symbol of a community's belief in its own future, and redress the emergence of new City-States with their own icons as emblems of their membership in the global community of the marketplace of ideas.



SKYLINE SILHOUETTE is the signature of a city...its civic genome.


© CivicArts LLP, 2011