Buildings may never be the same, says Guggenheim architect

War on Terrorism: Design
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Architecture may never be the same after 11 September, with more emphasis on safety, says Frank Gehry, the creator of the futuristic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.

"The attack on New York has changed our lives and our task as architects," he said this week, opening an exhibition of his work in Bilbao to celebrate his masterwork's fourth birthday. His remarks reflect a deep debate in the architectural world, traumatised by the impact of the New York attack.

"Priorities are going to change. Architecture might become marginalised because safety will become paramount. People are bound to feel apprehensive about skyscrapers ... so we'll have to think about installing fire escapes on the outside of buildings and improving fire-resistant materials," he said.

Mr Gehry, who was in New York on 11 September, fears imaginative flair in architecture may be extinguished by the new mood of sobriety and fear gripping his profession. "We've enjoyed a period of euphoria in the last 30 years in the US and in Europe for the last 10. We were happy, we enjoyed ourselves ... That great period has perhaps ended. Now we must think more about safety," he said.

After the success of Bilbao, Mr Gehry designed an even more fantastic construction for the Guggenheim in New York. "But I don't think it'll ever be built. It was just a dream."

Luis Fernandez-Galiano, architecture professor in Madrid and editor of Architectura Viva magazine, said yesterday there was great uncertainty among architects. "Skyscrapers are no longer being designed ... No one wants to live in them and investors are afraid that high-rise offices will not sell.Architects saw their task as creating emblems, symbols, art forms," he said.

"Buildings will now be more sober, serving the people who live in them. Donald Trump made a big thing of inaugurating his Trump Tower but now he keeps a parachute in his office."

Not all architects share the gloom. Peter Eisenman, architect of the new Holocaust memorial in Berlin who lives in New York, insists adventurous buildings are still needed.

He said: "We can't hide behind anonymous buildings. Urban living is about density and we're still going to need skyscrapers. We have to live our life, and carry on building symbols worth attacking. And if Frank stops building Gehry buildings, I quit."