Clockwise from top: Tianducheng via Wikimedia Commons; Baugespanne; Bauprofils via Swicon & The Guardian
What's the opposite of a scale model? A Bauprofil fits the profile: Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright recently took a closer look at what he called 'ghost buildings,' a Swiss concept, also known as baugespanne, in which a life-size, low-cost 'wireframe' limns a proposed building project in situ. "Constructed from metal rods or wooden poles, fixed in place by wire guy ropes, the Swiss baugespanne or bauprofile are usually erected for a month, outlining the full height of the proposed development, with protruding markers to indicate the angle of the roof and direction of the walls," Wainwright writes. "For taller buildings, tethered balloons can be used, and helicopters have even been employed to hover at a specified height for the tallest towers."Via io9's round-up
Of course, I initially thought he was referring to the Chinese ghost town phenomenon, the utterly desolate planned communities that seem to crop up, mirage-like, in the hinterlands of the Mainland. Indeed, Wainwright had covered the closely related saga of Zaha Hadid's Galaxy SOHO in Beijing—namely, that it's but a parametric shell of a building—before I (full disclosure) met him during Beijing Design Week last October. Given the generally overambitious and bloated real estate development business in China, it's egregious but perhaps not unexpected... and, in short, flies in the face of the highly prudent Swiss approach.Hence, the cognitive dissonance of "ghost buildings" that are intended to "avoid future planning disasters": The specters that I had imagined are exactly that, highly visible but largely unoccupied eyesores. Wainwright's point is that Oxford is launching a pilot program for this kind of on-site prototyping—he duly notes augmented reality apps to the same effect—which represents a more conscientious approach to real estate development. Perhaps planners could take it a step further and produce translucent walls, à la Do Ho Suh, for full ghost effect.
What do these buildings have in common?
Speaking of rhetorical opposites, the monuments of the starchitect era stand in stark contrast—physically, figuratively, functionally and aesthetically—to the modest camouflage of certain otherwise banal elements of the built environment. I was interested to learn about buildings that are not what they seem; I won't ruin the reveal what's behind the architectural mufti, so to speak: