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.