An article by NewSchool of Architecture and Design (NSAD) Acting Provost Kurt Hunker titled “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered: Critical Events Since 9/11” is featured in the Summer 2012 edition of eVolo, a respected architecture and design magazine. Hunker is considered an expert on the critical literature of tall buildings, and he has presented his research on the subject at various conferences and forums.
The eVolo article is based on earlier research by Hunker presented at the 2011 International Alvar Aalto Meeting on Modern Architecture in Jyväskylä, Finland. Hunker’s research into the criticism of tall buildings dates back more than a decade, and it has drawn particular attention in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 on New York’s World Trade Center, at one time the tallest building complex in the world. In late 2001, Hunker presented a paper on the critique of high-rise buildings in the 20th century at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat international conference in London.
In his research, Hunker evaluates what has been written by architecture critics about tall buildings and their role in society. He explores how critics make connections between architecture in the new global economy and the concept of “spectacle,” or how the architecture of tall buildings reflects cultural values. “The sense of wonderment that surrounds much current critical writing on tall buildings is an acknowledgement of the presence of spectacle in skyscraper design today,” he writes in the eVolo article. Hunker defines this tendency as “the spectacle of the technical.”
In regard to criticism of tall buildings in relation to 9/11, Hunker writes that “the pervasive fear that tall buildings in a post-9/11 world would forever after serve as ‘targets’ for extremists does not seem to have materialized into any kind of significant factor.” Hunker also notes that Asia and the Middle East have now “eclipsed the big cities of the United States as the urban laboratories for cutting-edge high-rise design that gets built.”
Hunker has also brought his expertise in tall building criticism into the classroom. Along with adjunct faculty member Raul Diaz, Hunker created a graduate-level design studio on tall buildings that gave students the opportunity to develop their own tall building ideas for the redevelopment of San Diego’s historic E Street post office block.