Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, March 12, 2012, 11:15 AM
I’ve written magazine articles and blog posts about the Startchitect phenomenon [sorry for the broken links] over the years – the subject was visited in this week’s New York Times real estate cover story with a title I love: “Boldface Buildings in the Cold Light of Now” versus the less intense web version: “Starchitect Buildings Test the Value of a Name.” The article explores the buildings that faired well and those that didn’t, suggesting that the branding of a building doesn’t assure success.
I’m surprised the term hasn’t found its way into the dictionary yet, although Wikipedia has a comprehensive write up. I saw the Richard Meier designed buildings at 173-176 Perry Street (and later the sister building 165 Charles Street) in Manhattan as the first luxury development that fit my definition of the Starchitect phenomenon. It came online and sold quickly to west coast types who were awash in the aura of Meier’s phenomenal Getty museum achievement.
My take on the Starchitect phenomenon:
“The city is better for the starchitect phenomenon,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of the appraisal firm Miller Samuel, “because it enhanced the mystique of New York’s residential housing market. But during the frenzy, those buildings were marketed as if they had inherent greater value, and the jury is still out on that.”
I saw the evolution of events during the boom as going something like this:
- Prices began to rise rapidly
- New development surged
- Land assemblage costs spiked
- Developers looked for ways to differentiate (think pet spas)
- High costs drove development skew to high end
- Starchitects introduced to “create” value in emerging more affordable locations
- Starchitect branding became the baseline for all new development
- Branding morphed into designers and decorators
- Housing market corrected
- Starchitect buildings generally struggled as much as non-Starchitect developments
Being an appraiser, and thinking about values, I always looked at the Starchitect phenomenon as a way to artificially increase the net present value of the development – make it more front end loaded – i.e. create more buzz during the compressed marketing period pulling future upside to the developer rather than the buyer. Over time it all comes out in the wash and the branding power fades.
I see these projects as commanding higher prices than non-Starchitect developments built around the same period, but am skeptical they have a stronger staying power or more future upside.
Of course the Starchitect phenomenon moved on to commercial and global stages. I’d have to say that it was terrific for the NYC housing stock [Thank You Amanda Burden!] and will always have its place in the new development space. However the new development phenomenon that required nearly every building to have Starchitect branding was a one-off. It was over-emphasized and over-relied on, fed by an era of easy credit.
- Its A Good Time To Be A Famous Architect, Even If You Are Not That Famous [Matrix]
- Reflecting on Starchitects [Matrix]
- Boldface Buildings in the Cold Light of Now [NY Times]
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, June 6, 2011, 3:27 PM
I love this cartoon because it suggests so much to me about today’s new development urban housing market in the US
Ok, so the housing boom paid for the Starchitect’s premium for highrise luxury condos built in most of US urban housing markets resulting in one of the coolest periods of architecture since Art Decco.
Gwathmey, Meier, Gehry…
Here’s something I wrote about the Starchitect phenomenon way back in March 2006. Interestingly, the US housing market topped out a few months later.
The movement is long over.
Assuming much of anything gets building over the next several years, do we have generic 70 or 80’s style dull architecture to look forward to?
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Wednesday, May 31, 2006, 12:05 AM
I must admit, I have really enjoyed the burst of creativity in new architectural design as it relates to residential housing. It became all the rave during the later years of the recent housing boom. Some architects were name-brands before this trend but others have been marketed so heavily by developers that they become famous by their recent works.
I was reading the article Miami Is All About Its Celebrity Architects [NYT] this weekend and it occured to me:
Isn’t this the same Miami while gushing about its architecture that has a massive oversupply of new condos coming online over the next year?
Isn’t this simply a game of oneupmanship? Increased competition has raised the stakes for differentiation rather than some clever awareness of changing lifestyles?
With all the Starchitect developments in the major metro markets (and its all virtually the same players in the major markets), honestly, how many have been runaway hits in the past 3 years? …Sold out quickly or at least faster than the norm?
Have developers simply been caught up in the hype? Can we mark the beginning of the end of the boom when their use became popularized (say mid-2004)?
Here’s a few of Starchitect articles of interest:
Celebrity Architects: Behind the Curtain Wall [The Real Deal]
Should colleges hire star architects? [Chronicle]
Condo Couture [NY Mag]
Playing the Fame Game [LA Dwtn]
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Monday, April 17, 2006, 7:34 AM
Planetizen deserves a hat tip for pointing me to the article Can Architecture Help Housing? [Businessweek/Metropolis Magazine] with the subtitle: The ideological catfights over housing threaten to marginalize all of architecture. Could the parties agree for the greater good?
Architects and urban planners have not been known to get along. With the latest housing boom, this gap, IMHO has not narrowed much. Architects have gained the attention of developers who have sought out Starchitects as developers seek to differentiate their building from the competition. New urbanists and other urban planners tend to be more macro in their orientation. Detractors call New Urbanism plop architecture or public housing for the rich.
With the devastation the has leveled a significant portion of the gulf, observers wonder if architects and urban planners can get past the nit-picking that has traditionally characterized their relationship.
The Businessweek piece wonders whether this next generation of architects and urban planners can do better than those in prior generations.
Now that architects are taking shots at one another over housing, can we do better than we did in the last century, which gave us sprawl for the middle class and Cabrini-Green for the poorest of the poor? Can we close the great divide between fetishistic formalism and social responsibility? Or are we doomed to a world in which architecture’s leading practitioners use their work merely to comment on social tumult rather than actually trying to do something about it?
This will be put to the test in the Gulf region as large swaths of it requires rebuilding. Its unrealistic to assume New Orleans can be reproduced exactly as it was before, yet at the same time, is at risk to lose its identity.
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Friday, March 31, 2006, 9:06 AM
Troy McMullen’s thorough article today Condos With a Name: ‘Available’: The Architect May Be A-List, But the Location Often Isn’t;
Meier, Libeskind Languish [WSJ] talks about the Starchitect phenomenon and how thats not necessarily the panacea for real estate developers trying to move their product. [and my firm is cited as a source in the article - excessively shameless plug]
I recently wrote an article about Starchitects in New York Living and concluded that while it was an effective way to differentiate a new offering, the initial motivation for their services is now diluted as it becomes the norm and the efforts don’t tend to stand out as much any more.
Its definitely an exciting time for lovers of architecture.
One of the most difficult aspects of rating the success of a new development is how rapidly the units are being absorbed. Having been on both sides of the fence, first as a condo sales director more than 20 years ago, and since then as an appraiser, I can appreciate the dilemma that all parties go through in this process. There is a lot of money at stake and much of the success of the project depends the timing of its entry to the market. Its all about keeping the momentum going in the initial concentrated marketing effort.
The data is not verifiable in public record until closings begin and rumors among the brokerage community can spread like wildfire. The speed of absorption tells us how accurately the property is priced and how well the mix of units matches the neighborhood. The exageration of sales success can backfire as the development moves closer to completion. The gap between actual sales and “told” sales gets more and more difficult to explain as evidenced in this article and can result in a consumer backlash.
At the end of the day, its still all about price and its relationship to the amenities provided. And in a less frenzied market, price becomes even more critical and the market less forgiving.
Here is another article I wrote on the problems appraisers face in valuations within new developments:
Appraising “New” New York Real Estate [New York Living]
Posted by Jonathan J. Miller -Friday, March 10, 2006, 12:01 AM
In order to diferentiate their residential projects from one another as competition increases, developers are enlisting the services of name-architects…a.k.a. Starchitects. I wrote an article [Miller Samuel] on the phenomenon in the current issue of New York Living magazine which I periodically write articles for. [shameless plug -ed]
The use of Starchitects is growing in popularity as a marketing tool nationwide as inventory increases. It is also an added soft cost, so the use of this branding vehicle is placing more pressure on the bottom line.
I suspect that the growing cost of development (land prices, construction costs, along with marketing costs) will significantly stifle new products in the planning stages in the near future.
Here’s an excerpt:
The current Manhattan real estate new development scene is all about who instead of what. Branding has reached the housing market as a necessary and effective marketing tool to differentiate development projects as they enter the market. The housing boom prompted the explosive growth in creativity with condominium design as capital became more readily available to developers. This shift has been seen as a big step in a market that historically paid more attention to the exterior, rather than the interior of a building. Marketing has now morphed into the whole package, both inside and outside, including common areas and ancillary services. This creative packaging now includes bringing in a brand-name architect or other professional to leverage their reputation as an enhancement to the development….