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December 19, 2007

Architecture and Urbanism Linkage

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Charles Paul Freund documents a juicy case of preservationism gone loony.

* New York Magazine's Year in Architecture sure isn't my year in architecture.

* John Massengale has a funny go at a typical New York Times architecture review. It would be sooooo much easier on the nerves if the Times would just admit, once and for all, that they don't run architecture coverage, let alone architecture criticism. Instead, they run starchitecture propaganda.

* Town planners have a lot to answer for, writes Stephen McClarence.

* These days, it looks like it's the starchitects (and their sponsors) as well as the planners who have it in for our cities. Check out this recently approved addition for the Tate Modern, for example. Does that say "London" to you? It says "Vegas-gone- deconstructionist" to me.

* Here's an excellent introduction to the heterodox architect and theorist Christopher Alexander, a hero of mine. Here's the transcript of a legendary debate between Alexander and avant-gardist Peter Eisenman.

* Katie Hutchison thinks that there's little that's as beautiful as a worn, painted floor.

* MBlowhard Rewind: The architecture establishment would like you to believe that the history of architecture is the record of one blazing innovation after another. Back here, I argued that architecture history is better understood as a series of revivals.



posted by Michael at December 19, 2007



While I don't even pretend to harbor even 1% of the knowledge you have about architecture, and share many of your misgivings about the current direction it's taking, I'm afraid I can't fully agree with you, as there is some ostensibly "modernist" architecture that I enjoy deeply around my home state.

Recently there was a retrospective of the work done by a desceased local architect of who I'm quite fond of.

What I find disagreeable with most of the current modernist/post-modernist agenda isn't the innovation in design, but the crappy implementation, shoddy workmanship, lack of care towards utility and disdain for regional motifs and climate concerns. Of course this is hardly a fully modern problem.
Here we have a damn gorgeous building, which is not very well captured in the picture, but in the pre air-con days (which they only installed a couple of years ago for the main hall) summer made the inside like a sauna.

I'd take Ossipoff's breezy, smartly positioned, modernist and ultimately functional designs over the grand Romanesque vaults of the Bishop Museum.

All that being said, most modernist architecture in Hawaii is crap. I work in a building on campus which has cracking exterior hallways, flaking paint and catastrophic AC failures. It's one saving grace is an enclosed bamboo garden which is angled well for the sunlight. When the Java Sparrows fly in to roost, one almost forgets the perennial danger of a coolant line in the ceiling busting and ruining my workstation.

So, in a related note, what buildings built in the last 20 years *do* you like?

Posted by: Spike Gomes on December 19, 2007 8:13 PM

About the only positive thing I can say about the Tate Modern addition is that London is already the most Modernist-architecture-polluted major capitol in Europe (Berlin is a close second), so one more piece of egojunk won't do all that much more damage.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on December 19, 2007 9:42 PM

Its difficult to just name the buildings , it would rather be simpler to choose trends .Modernist architecture maybe the only thing which could be considered challenging even in the future, considering the years of trends that have been followed.Its the only thing that can help you differ one city from another.

Posted by: Architects India on December 20, 2007 1:07 AM

The architecture establishment would like you to believe that the history of architecture is the record of one blazing innovation after another.

wait, you mean there was architecture before the bauhaus?

seriously though, i hate the Times' ouroussoff as much as anyone else here but he is right about that the calatrava wtc station is a terrible design, unneeded and a waste of money. and i am a big fan of transit too. plus this is probably the only time i have agreed with ourousoff ever on anything with architecture.

time magazine also ran their favorite 10 buildings of the year, i think it was the exact same list...they might need to look into plagerism and copyright issues

the issue of the preservation and the church... it will be interesting to see how this plays out because there have been many cases with preservation laws being voided with religious buildings since it has been ruled that it gets in the way of the practice of religion. i believe this was argued and won by a church in downtown seattle that wanted to demo & sell (i forget the exact name of the church it was but it is literally in the shadows of the BofA Tower). anyhow thankfully in this seattle case a developer has stepped into save the attractive church but as for this brutalist church - good riddance

Posted by: JW on December 21, 2007 12:09 AM

My favorite quote:

Daniel Libeskind, whose own extension for the Victoria and Albert Museum was abandoned, described it as “a wonderful project”, and Rowan Moore, director of the Architecture Foundation, said that “it has the potential to be a very dramatic building”. However, Gavin Stamp, the architectural historian, dismissed it as “bloody stupid and pretentious”. He said: “It is spoiling Scott’s great cathedral of power. It involves the demolition of the symmetrical south facade. With the money to serious arts being cut due to the Olympics, I’m dismayed to hear that money has been found for this. Isn’t the Tate big enough?”

Hear, hear.

And as for the official justification for spending this money?

“Today’s announcement is an important endorsement by government of the contribution that the arts make to society as a whole and the importance of British art at an international level. This commitment confirms London’s position as one of the leading international centres for the visual arts.”

Ah, yes, we're going to do propoganda for the contemporary art-industrial-complex. Three cheers for that.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on December 22, 2007 10:37 AM

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