Architects like the most Guggenheim of Bilbao than the one in New York. Or what is the same: the one who designed Frank Gehry that the mythical building that Frank Lloyd Wright projected for the corner that connects Fifth Avenue and 89th Street in Manhattan. The Bilbao museum occupies the 12th place while the New York mothership is the 16th in the selection made by fifty renowned designers from around the world for The Now Institute, a research center associated with the University of Los Angeles (UCLA).
Those that for Tadao Ando, Steven Holl, Richard Rogers, Kazuyo Sejima, Toyo Ito, Rafael Moneo, Kengo Kuma or Denise Scott Brown are the best buildings of the 20th century make up a canon -one hundred buildings of the 20th century-, which has just been translated into the editorial Gustavo Gili. That cast of fifty or so contemporary teachers is not surprising when it comes to choosing the most outstanding author, it was assumed that it would be Le Corbusier. The relevant, and unexpected, is not even to find out which Swiss building is the winner: Villa Savoye. The true contribution of the book is the appendix with the complete voting of each member of the jury. It is this information that allows us to know better the fine print of the great works at the same time as the architects who vote.
Thus, we know that the favorite designer of the rupturist Daniel Libeskind, author of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, is the organic Alvar Aalto, to whom he votes in the first four positions. Also that the favorite building of the late Zaha Hadid was a rationalist interior: the one that Loos devised for the American Bar in Vienna.
What do Kazuyo Sejima, Shigeru Ban, Carme Pinós and Eric Owen Moss have in common? That the solid red brick offices erected in 1906 by Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo (New York) for the Larkin soap company is his favorite building. Also the incombustible Bag of Amsterdam that Hendrik P. Berlage erected in 1903 assembled the first vows of Pelli, Maki or Tadao Ando. The immaculate Sidney Opera is the favorite property of the Cartesian Richard Meier and, well, the concert hall of Jorn Utzon must be like a dream for the American because it is like a meier that takes flight.
Unlike other plural canons – the books of the century or the best films in history – architects show in this volume that they are not short-sighted: there are more outstanding buildings in the first half of the 20th century than in the second. The recount confirms that the absolute king is Le Corbusier, in all its versions: the rationalist of the Villa Saboye (the first place), the brutalist of the Chapel of Romchamp or La Tourette (second and ninth) or the social one of l'Unité d'Habitation de Marseille (twentieth). It is also clear that between the imagination of Le Corbusier – known topically as the Picasso of architecture – and the contained elegance of Mies van der Rohe – the second with more buildings – the ability to reinvent the Swiss is what generates more admiration. The first project of a Spanish architect comes from the hand of the prematurely disappeared Enric Miralles – who signed with Carme Pinós the Cemetery of Igualada, where he was buried in 2000 at the age of 46. It occupies the 49th position, ahead of the Museum of Roman Art of Mérida de Moneo (61º) and of the mythical Pedrera (Casa Milá) of Gaudí (63º). The maritime station of Yokohama, of the Alejandro Zaera from Madrid and the British Farshid Moussavi, is the 100th project.
The jury is portrayed as much by what you choose as by what you do not value. That is why the real selection is not the hundred buildings of known leftovers: they are the thousands that the jury gathers those who draw the route of the lesser known outstanding architecture of the 20th century. Among those buildings to discover, Moneo breaks a spear by Torres Blancas -of Sáenz de Oíza-, by Casa Ugalde -of Coderch-, by Casa de las Flores, of Secundino Zuazo, or by the Civil Government of Tarragona, of its teacher Alejandro de la Sota. Moneo likes the deconstructivist Kiasma that Steven Hall built in Helsinki more than the intimate chapel that Eero Saarinen built at MIT or the Park Güell, another Dominique Perrault favorite that does not get enough points to enter the canon.
Is the Villete Park by Bernard Tschumi better than the Whitney Museum by Marcel Breuer? Better than the Bridge House of Amancio Williams and Delfina Gálvez Bunge in Mar de Plata? That many deconstructivist works – such as Thom Mayne's Diamond Ranch School, which runs the Now Institute and the book's prologue – or Peter Eisenman's VI House are chosen before the Chrysler Building, certainly indicates where the Now Institute is listed , which the jury chose.
A building by Zaha Hadid, its fire station for the Vitra company, is ranked 99th and none of the Pritzker Kazuyo Sejima gets a position indicating, perhaps, that the Japanese is a 21st century designer.
In addition to Le Corbusier, the top 10 includes Mies van der Rohe twice: the Barcelona Pavilion (rebuilt) in third position, and the Farnsworth House in the sixth. In fourth place is the spacecraft that Piano and Rogers planted in Les Halles in 1977: the Pompidou Center.
The best of Frank Lloyd Wright is not considered a house but its Johnson factory. Kahn ranks seventh with his Salk Institute. An architect who just built, Pierre Chareau, puts his Parisian Crystal House in eighth position and, surprise, the great excluded from the canonical architectural stories of the twentieth century, Eero Saarinen, sneaks into the 10th place with its TWA Terminal In New York.
It follows that Alvaro Siza does not interest or is unknown – only his Porto pools are included. That Lina Bo Bardi has finally become a popular architect and that, having talent, it is not necessary to be an architect to make architecture: the house of the furniture maker Gerrit Rietveld occupies the 23rd position. In Latin America, Barragan and Niemeyer are hardly valued. The United States is the most represented country. And Africa … will have to wait for the next century.