A few weeks ago, it was reported that Damien Hirst has commissioned MRJ Rundell + Associates to built 500 eco-homes in Ilfracombe, Devon, UK. The design will be revealed within the next few months and construction will begin in 2013.
It is irksome to detect the underlying -yet so predictable- scepticism in various news stories on this project, especially since the design has not been revealed yet. In a period when the construction industry is in such turbulence, the architecture community should embrace and applaud such initiatives. The fact that the developer of this project is an artist of such high caliber will inevitably trigger a broad public discussion, which if it will be of a constructive nature, it could contribute to the project’s success.
Branding is one of the most intriguing aspects of this project. It is rare that property developers are as widely known and have the celebrity status of Hirst. If this project proves to be successful, then perhaps it might encourage more “celebrity construction projects” to be commissioned. The triviality that is sometimes associated with various celebrities should not underestimate the economic potential of such endorsements.
Similarly to a celebrity perfume, the personality behind the perfume may be scrutinized but that does not make the perfume necessarily smell bad. The personality simply increases its commercial value. Therefore, “celebrity construction projects” of various scales might produce good architecture and could contribute to an unexpected market twist. It will be interesting to see the added value that a personality can add to a construction development.
Furthermore, a “celebrity construction project” could potentially promote not only the project but architecture, as it could become a more prominent discipline in the non specialized media and perhaps encage a more general audience to its discourse…
I decided my first blog post to be related to Hirst, symbolically, because the first design brief that we were given in first year in university was to design a house for Damien Hirst.