Architecture: The shock of the view

Vertigo! an exhibition by Rowan Moore, gets dizzy attempting to dramatise contemporary architecture.

Vertigo! named after the 1958 film by Alfred Hitchcock, is a cliff-hanger of an architectural show in Glasgow, and a requiem to the 20th century.

Ten big, brash projects make it clear that size matters. Shanghai's 100- storey money market tower will scrape the sky, while in Hong Kong a mountain has been lopped off next to the harbour to create the world's biggest duty free shop, at Chek Lap Kok airport. The world's single biggest structure, the Millennium Dome at Greenwich, is big enough to hold 75,000 people at one time. And when all 50 cinemas in Ontario, California, screened the launch of Titanic, 1 per cent of the total number of movie-goers viewing it in the world were there.

Not all of this architecture-on-steroids is great, or even designer-label. But all 10 projects have either been recently completed or are in progress. "It's not a Utopian city of the future, but a microcosm of life as it's actually happening," says Rowan Moore. And that's what induces a faint feeling of unease.

The way Moore carves up the world vertiginously is to represent universal themes with scale models and photos: Culture (the new Tate at Bankside), Politics (Norman Foster remodelling the Reichstag); International Space (Hong Kong airport, by Foster again, with the world's first Minimalist airport lounge, by John Pawson for Cathay Pacific) and Public Space (Yokohama Port Terminal, by Foreign Office architects). Private Homes (Lake Las Vegas resort, by Berkus Studios) is shown next to Public Housing, the Kitagate high-rise towers by Kazuyo Sejima, and the theme of Money is represented by the Shanghai financial centre, by KPF. For Spectacle, the Greeenwich Dome is shown adjacent to Artificial Nature - the landscaped gardens in Duisberg Nord, Germany, by Latz. Both projects turn industrially polluted soil into pleasurable places. Shopping is a vast mall at Ontario Mills, California, by Communication Arts.

Vertigo! looks at architecture beyond the buildings, as industrially polluted wastelands are cleaned up and reclaimed, while elsewhere in the world vast areas are being concreted over for the leisure industry - posh words for sex and shopping, according to Moore.

The exhibition begins in an Identikit white cube gallery space that shows the conversion of the power station at Bankside, by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, into the new Tate. The young architects Caruso St John's transformed the cavernous Victorian Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow for the Vertigo! exhibition as part of the celebrations for Glasgow City of Architecture and Design 1999. Its installation is a scaled-down version of what is happening at the Tate and all over the world, as obsolete buildings empty of machines to become galleries and exhibition centres.

The exhibition avoids the commonly made distinction between "high" and "commercial" architecture. Architects are just part of a great team of landscapers, lighting designers, engineers and "imagineers" (as they call the theme-park designers of these huge areas that have been cemented and glassed over). Moore goes so far as to ask, in the catalogue: "Are architects superfluous?" Clearly not.

But the exhibition suggests that the clients who sponsor architects and the people who use their buildings are just as interesting. Videos and stills throughout show people in the locations.

Vertigo! is not pushing a style, like most architecture exhibitions. It tries to show buildings and their interiors in a dramatised fashion. But the disparate nature of Vertigo! makes it hard work for the visitor. Certainly it is eclectic, but the symbolic expression of function by allusion to the past in familiar details has ceased. Moore deals with buildings culturally and socially, not with their form, or niceties of architecture.

It is a polemic about industrial decay - our ability to build over it and see beyond it is awesome. Vertiginous, even. But as an exhibition it falls a bit flat, largely because the scale models, photographs, pull quotes and talking heads in video loops can't convey the experience of such excesses. The soaring overhead natural light in the cavernous halls of Chek Lap Kok, the way you will leave your stomach behind on the ascent to the world's tallest tower in Shanghai, the experience of standing in the Dome at Greenwich Peninsula, cannot be evoked with models and photographs.

You leave the exhibition with a screening of Clueless which Moore chose because it's a laugh about shopping. He wanted to screen Dawn of the Dead, a horror film set in a mall, which probably says more about his real attitude. It's just that he had to please the sponsors.

Vertigo: The Strange New World of the Contemporary City is on until 16 May 1999 at the Old Fruitmarket, Albion Street, Glasgow G1

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all