I made up that word to headline this post about “Cantilever Architecture,” a set of the world’s most ridiculous works in that category, including one (the last one) by Santiago Calatrava, part of whose last name helps form the word cantilevetravatecture, which I hope fits into my blog’s headline space.
Why did I make up such a long and difficult word? Because I can!
“Cantilever Architecture,” on the website Archilovers.com, was sent to me by Malcolm Millais with his own proposed headline, “Because We Can!” He refers to the reason why architects like to design buildings that challenge the laws of physics. Because they can! That is hardly a good reason to design a building that, because it looks like it might fall down, probably is indeed more likely to fall down (other things being equal) than most buildings.
Millais knows whereof he speaks. He is an engineer as well as an architect, and brought together his knowledge of both subjects in Exploding the Myths of Modern Architecture, published in 2009. (I repeated my Providence Journal review of Exploding as a blog when Andres Duany said that it was the best critique of modernism in recent times.)
“Because we can” is a bad reason to build a building that flies in the face of nature, but it is also a simple description of a very complex phenomenon. As modern architecture grows long in the tooth, its practitioners must reach ever further from sensible design practice to do what modern architecture does best, and thinks is worth doing – which is to make the public go “Wow!” They can’t make it beautiful, a strategy they have abandoned to traditional architecture. What they can do is to challenge occupants of their buildings to jump up and down to see whether the engineers did their job well enough. Will the cantilevered wing of the building fall down? It must be hard to resist the challenge!
Well, feel free to resist the challenge of deciding which example of cantilever architecture in the article is most likely to collapse under stress. In fact, in case my proposed headline does not fit, I hereby, henceforth and forthwith suggest a new one “Jump Up and Down, Please!”