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Grand Prix.


By Wolf D. Prix. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz. 2005. [euro]29.80

Prix writes like a star and thinks he is one. Like the buildings, this publication slams together lecture notes, interviews, personal pleasantries and others without too high a regard for scholarly virtues, or accuracy or argument. It is also repetitious. Prix sees himself as inheriting the ersatz post of Crown Prince of Vienna from Hans Hollein. The partnership of Prix and Swiczinsky now parenthesises so that what was simply 'blue heaven' is now also 'build heaven'. Together they evolved or gave birth as virgins to the psychograph, a diagram which can be rotated into a model, plans or sections which derives from, Prix says, the unconscious. Lacan might question that the unconscious thinks let alone creates but it certainly, pace Freud, plays a big part in dreaming. And now the Viennese Coop's dreams are being built, in Vienna, Los Angeles, Groningen and so on. Alongside this almost patented designing technique, they want to complete the Tower of Babel and design only Open Architecture.

While the writings as translated read clearly, with not too much jargon, the writer's position slips in and out of focus. Prix knows what he dislikes: facility managers, the inevitable fate for most architects who are not stars; minimalist box designers who fail to recognise the inherent architectural quality of the Coop's work; Austrian conservatism; and any criticism which is always about the critic not the work. Among this bestiary, Prix is perceptive about Philip Johnson; less than convincing about globalised economics which he calls turbo-capitalism, a term that may sound hip in Austrian; and likes: architecture that threatens, has an emotive charge, transgresses norms, sticks out a lot, and Zaha. Why then is the book so sweet, endearing and even nostalgic? He is polite and charming about his teachers, an agreeable trait from my point of view; he is consistent over the time-span of these pieces, remarkable given that much is aphoristic in the tradition of inconsistent architectural chat; and, after nearly 40 years he still wants to be a roadie for the Stones. This is a book to dip into, and it will irritate, confuse, anger and depress you. But Prix is not boring.
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Title Annotation:Get Off of My Cloud: CoopHimmelb (L)AU Texts 1968-2005
Author:Dunster, David
Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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