Viñoly Vanquishes Opera

He uses those glasses to get a view of the stage. (Getty)

Rafael Viñoly is known for his dramatic buildings, which in New York include the boomeranging Brooklyn Children’s Museum and the controversial New Domino housing development on the Williamsburg waterfront. The Urguay-born, New York-based Mr. Viñoly also has a thing for real drama, that of the stage, reports Observer opera critic Zachary Woolfe—even if at the same time, in his difficult way, the architect criticizes his multifarious colleagues:

Last week the architect Rafael Viñoly was speaking—not kindly—about colleagues of his who think they can do things besides make buildings. “This is a profession,” he said dryly, “that generates an enormous amount of arrogance.”


This summer Mr. Viñoly has returned to the Bard festival to design (with Mimi Lien) the sets for New York’s first fully staged production of the sumptuous Strauss rarity Die Liebe der Danae, which opens on Friday, at Bard’s theater in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.; it’s directed by Kevin Newbury and conducted by Leon Botstein.

“Architects feel empowered to give opinions about politics and sociology and philosophy without knowing much about it,” Mr. Viñoly said by phone from Beijing, where his firm is building an engineering school. “Kind of in the same way that they think they can design furniture or fashion or utensils for dining. I think architects tend to believe that they can almost do anything, which is a wonderful characteristic, but in some cases you just fall flat. Theatrical design is just a completely different vocabulary. It’s a very, very difficult thing to do well.”

He’s right: when architects play set designer, the results can be iffy.

Read the entire piece over on our Culture page.

Viñoly Vanquishes Opera