Message - Re: WTC: General Observations

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Posted by  Paul Malo on September 18, 2002 at 09:40:04:

In Reply to:  Re: WTC: General Observations posted by lavardera on September 18, 2002 at 08:45:32:

I'm an admirer of Anthony Ames--not that I would ever do anything in this Mieresque idiom, but what he does he does very well.

About the righteousness business, "some of my best friends are Modernists" and indeed, some are "Classicists." I've taken over a classical studio, in fact, for an ailing colleague, and regularly have participated in review of that studio's classical projects. I've designed buildings in the classical tradition, and live in one by choice.

But by far most of my own work has not been classical, and I have never promoted the classical style in my own design studios. So where do I stand? I'm eclectic, and really don't think that choice of style will assure quality of architecture.

I do, however, see generic limitations of the usual Modern way of thinking and seeing architecture. This is not to say that we should not design buildings except for those that are "traditional." I wouldn't know how to design a high-rise structure as "traditional"--unless in the tradition of the most recent century.

But there are formal qualities and perceptual characteristics of all traditional buildings that need to be recognized and appreciated. This whole "style" business--and this "morality" issue--have been a red herrings, obscuring many basic design considerations.

I agree that most of the New Urbanism projects strike me as rather naive about architectural language and, in short, hokey.
There is a marketing aspect to this movement in addition to the theory, and the projects usual seem rather Disnoid in their contrived populism. All those goddam front porches, in fact!

We've been talkiing in another thread about "authenticity," and this sort of revivalism or calculated nostalgia seems suspect. Do the architects really believe that they can return to nineteeth-century village ambiance in a project built all of a piece by a speculative developer of (in the case of Disney) with its down-homey culture being monitored by a corporate Big Brother?

I don't think architects should take sides in these movements, but should try to discern what is relevant, as architectural issues, in any of them.

Regarding the WTC, I can't imagine a "classical" solution to this problem of a high-density urban development. Rome was not Manhattan. I can, however, see much to be learned from Rome that could be incorporated into the WTC project--such as the great civic interiors of Roman public buildings--the Pantheon was mentioned in another post, as a "figural space." New York had a magnificent interior in Pennsylvania Station, willfully demolished. The only architect to be seen carrying a protest placard when the wreckers appeared was eclectic Philip Johnson. The orthodox Modernists, no doubt approving of "progress," apparently didn't give a damn. They may have favored the apalling Modern replacement on the site.

As I've said before, it's not the choice of style that is of concern to me, but rather the limited conceptual approach and experiential consequences of the orthodox Modern paradigm. Just look at what has proposed for the WTC site--even by Muschamp's Deram Team. It speaks for itself.

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