Monday, December 17, 2007

Does New York City Need an Architectual Overhaul?

As I can neither draw nor imagine myself drawing, the title of this post might be somewhat on the misleading side. I developed my strong interest in architecture about 15 years ago when I was the archivist for Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates for about two years. I quickly realized that while I have, as I say, limited visual talents beyond imagining amazing sets and intricate blocking patterns for actors, I am fascinated by architecture as perhaps the highest mode of human interactivity, for no one, even a person living in a hut in a jungle, can escape architecture and how it affects (or does not affect) our existence and experience.

Which is why this article in today's New York Sun struck me for some reason. It's a review of a new book, "Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics After Modernism," and it deals with the idea that the hegemony of architectural modernism in New York City is something of a fallacy. During the tough, anti-Communist middle years of the last century, when the lean, brutal yet ineffably gorgeous Lever House and Seagram Building, for example, were the all and the it, the determined absence of ornamentation and the keen eschewing of classicism, it seems, was far from embraced by all corners of the design world. Perhaps New York City, then, needs a bit of an architectural overhaul -- and a new way to see how its architecture evolved during the 20th century.

James Gardner's use of terms in the aforementioned article is a little on the heady side (here's another piece by him, by the way, on Frank Gehry and the IAC Building in Chelsea) but it's eye-opening reading nonetheless.

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