Ultimate folly

In search of the right superlative

Patrick Gwynne’s York Theatre extension, part of De Matos Ryan’s refurbishment.
Patrick Gwynne’s York Theatre extension, part of De Matos Ryan’s refurbishment. · Credit: Hufton & Crow

Big, bigger, biggest. Good, better, best. No, they are not the same.

But sometimes it seems there is some confusion. We want our something to be the something-est. But on the route to the ultimate, detail is often lost. Zooming out stops you seeing anything except the big picture. That brick ‘ziggurat’ is now a lump. Those large panels on San Francisco MOMA look like a huge, rather dirty bedsheet wrap thanks to their attraction of infinitesimally small particles of dirt (a cheap, rather grubby, Christo). Rem Koolhaas talks about the culture of ‘bigness’ and has produced a fair chunk of it himself. But in a world of mega institutions and mega buildings we need to treasure the smallest, finest – and best. We need to zoom in.