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Can we still believe in iconic buildings?

Norman Foster's "gherkin" in London, Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim - is this the age of the iconic building? Or are they just expressions of political and architectural vanity? Two leading critics debate.

By Deyan Sudjic   June 2005

Dear Deyan26th March 2005 Over the last four years, you and other architectural critics have been regularly announcing the death of the iconic building—that Eiffel Tower for which every declining city yearns. Like Nikolaus Pevsner, who often proclaimed the terminal illness of movements he didn’t like, your description of historical change carries some heavy baggage.

You described in the Observer (26th October 2003) the attention-seeking structures of Will Alsop, Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava, and ended with an ominous prediction: “Perhaps, like art nouveau which flourished briefly at the end of the 19th century, the icon has become ubiquitous just…

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