San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King would like to see a moratorium on the use of "icon" by architects and their "enablers":
The word should be banished from the world of design, and with it the notion that the worth of new buildings is measured by how much they stick out - vertically, stylistically, you name it.
King has been reading the proposals from the teams competing to build a new transbay transportation terminal and tower in San Francisco. All three of the front-runners use the i-word.
England's Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, working with a local architecture firm and two developers, calls its design "a strong and iconic portal," an "iconic gateway," and "an iconic expression of San Francisco's position as the center of gravity for new technologies, creativity, multi-cultural initiatives and knowledge leadership." (That last phrase merits enshrinement in the Towering Babble Hall of Fame.)
"Wow," King comments. "No wonder it's so hard to find a place to park."
The other two teams offer, respectively, "a memorable icon" and "a slender iconic shape acting as a beacon from all approaches."
Across the bay in Emeryville, two new residential developments are actually called Icon @ Park and Icon @ Doyle. For those not familiar with Emeryville, it's a slender sub-municipal strip of land that until the 1990s was known mostly for its legal card rooms. Today it's where you go around here to get your Trader Joe's and Banana Republic fix. There is nothing iconic about Emeryville except perhaps for the symbols on the computer screens at Pixar headquarters.
Image: an icon of Saint Stylianos of Paphlagonia.