Though austere modernism is presently in style with the erudite, kitsch in contemporary architecture is far from gone. In fact, architects like Jean Nouvel, whom I recently wrote about here, just keep going further and further with a new kind of kitsch — not the ersatz postmodern sort, but rather an overly showy, contemporary sort. It’s a bit difficult to describe, so here’s a photograph:
Ew. How old does Nouvel think we are? Image courtesy hornbyhomes.com
I think that this goes too far. We are not six years old. Contemporary architecture is highly expressive, but in a project likes this, that bizarre plastic-y stuff is more about Nouvel’s ego gone out of control than anything else. The space is overdone in many different ways, and though it is true that a design like the one above is not necessarily bad in all settings, in the Musee du Quai Branly (Quai Branly Museum for non-Francophones unable to figure that out) it does NOT work. Elegance is not a thing of the past — a contemporary elegance must be found by balancing the drive to express a certain element of something with function and with taste. Yes, taste should play into architecture. Good contemporary architecture (see On Deconstructivism) is expressive, yet refined.