The Expo 67 Test

I was mulling over the way architecture has hit creative vapor lock, but rhetorically insists that recently designed buildings are somehow more current than classically designed buildings, which are dismissed as “mere pastiche.” I’ve talked about this before, in response to seeing the TV program Architecture School.

To give an idea of the stasis I see, I’ve come up with what I call the Expo 67 Test:

If this building had been built or proposed as a national pavilion at Expo 67, would it have caused any aesthetic controversy at all?

(It’s the “or proposed” that’s the real key — as any student of 20th century architecture knows, there are an awful lot of unbuilt but influential projects out there.)

This article at TheAtlanticCities about yet another proposal by Zaha Hadid that fails the Expo 67 Test was the immediate spark. That ceiling, from inside the stadium, looks like nothing so much as the Olympic Stadium in Munich for the 1972 games, and that in turn was clearly based on the BRD (West German) Pavilion at Expo 67.

Jobshenge is another building that utterly fails the Expo 67 Test. It keeps being described as “futuristic,” and I suppose it is, but only with those ironic scare quotes — it would look completely at ease in a 1960s Kubrick SF movie.

The interesting thing is how the Expo 67 Test can be expanded to other arts as well:

* Would this painting look out of place in a gallery show at Expo 67?
* Would this piece of music have sounded out of place as “new music” in a concert at Expo 67?

Etc., etc., et bloody cetera.