Have architects been spending too much time designing buildings? That was the paradoxical question at the heart of a symposium sponsored by the Architectural League of New York on the boom years of the early 21st century. The February 22 conference, called “The City that Never Was: Urbanization After The Bubble,” was about the buildings that resulted from the mismatch “between the flows of capital and the needs of the real economy," in the words of panelist James von Klemperer, a design partner at Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)
Though the symposium’s setting was SoHo, much of the focus was Spain, where overbuilding has produced at least 15 “ghost airports” and a 26,000-seat polo stadium in a city of 22,000 people with no polo tradition, according to Javier Arpa, an architect and curator who helped organize the day-long conference. Arpa was joined by Llàtzer Moix, a Barcelona-based critic, who lamented the countless Spanish projects motivated by the greed of developers and banks (he called the easy credit “like petrol in the hands of a pyromaniac”), enabled by the egos of star-architects, which have left Spain over-built and financially hobbled.