Condo Cool: Starchitect Branding in NYC

Sondra Fein 

Zaha Hadid’s Mobile Art Pavilion, commissioned by Chanel, sits in Hong Kong Harbor, its smooth, curving white form filled with contemporary artist’s musings on the fashion house’s iconic quilted clutches. The mobile pavilion – ready to bring its show on the road to Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, and Moscow – calls our attention to the disposable, mobile design that is fashion. But what does this collaboration between Chanel and Hadid say about the architect, and about architecture? Zaha is no stranger to working with fashion, or with handbags for that matter. In fall 2006, Louis Vuitton introduced Hadid’s “Bucket” bag. The architect, one-upping the fashion world, transforms to three dimensions the famous Vuitton trademark monogram, extruding the monogram from the bag’s surface in a characteristically fluid gesture that announces to the fashion world – and those who covet the objects and imagery that constitute its products – that architecture is the hippest and smartest form of fashion, its products the ultimate status symbols. Tiffany’s latest artist-in-residence is none other than Frank Gehry, offering his formalist-chic objets, draped across sinuous necklines and torsos of women modeling necklaces, rings, and jewelry of his design. The November 2006 Vogue features SANAA architect Kazuyo Sejima in a spread on her buildings for Dior and Prada. Are these cultural statements that architecture has gone mainstream? No, it’s just the opposite: here is potent evidence that architects and the star power of a starchitect brand is eliding with and supporting the exclusivity of the highest-end fashion. “Starchitects” and their work are brandable, and their brand is marketable to global buyers of high-end luxury goods. These go beyond the objects of fashion and retail, of course, to the other great object that causes unprecedented lifestyle lust and envy: real estate, and especially the luxury condo... [+]

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