Message - Re: High-Tech !

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Posted by  Paul Malo on October 04, 2002 at 06:59:14:

In Reply to:  Re: High-Tech ! posted by BRUTUS on October 04, 2002 at 05:13:11:

As usual, the Greeks had a word for it: "hubris." Piano is a very fine architect, but still a Modern architect, of the generation that put a man on the moon. What for? You tell me, because I don't know. I suppose, as they say about why people climb Mr. Everest, "Because it's there."

We pour colossal sums of money into space programs, simply to show that we can do it, so far as I can see. The money might better go to Africa than the moon, in my estimation. But this was the argument often directed against the church, observing that the effort that went into building cathedrals might better have been used to improve the human condition.

But we, as architects certainly, defend our cultural landmarks as improving the human condition. The energy spent on the Taj Mahal would hardly have improved the lives of all the people of India for one generation. The priceless building has enriched the world for many, many generations.

Modernism tended to hubris, since this was intrinsic to the religion of progress. Another post today mentions Brasilia, surely one of the best examples of grandiose Modernism. We live with another here--our New York State capitol expansion, a monumental complex in the manner of Brasilia that has always been hated. It totaly destroyed the urban fabric of the city, and now is sort of a lifeless Acropolis--its temples venerating bureaucracy.

Yes, I admire Piano not only for his technical virtuosity, but for his innate taste--and, of course, for his ability to get such fine buildings built. But for all that, he's still a Modernist, doing twentieth-century high-style buildings. Be wary of these guys, given large projects--you may get Brasilias. It's the "diagram" complex, diagnosed by Herdeg. That's Brasilia, of course, Costa's simplistic diagram, inflated to an inhuman scale. Hubris.

Meier's Getty project in Los Angeles is another instance of the Modernist's difficulty at the urban scale. It differs from Costa since, as Steve (I recall) observed, Meier is really a "picturesque" designer, collageing fragments of High Modernism. So what the Getty became, in my view, was a mish-mash of lovely forms--delightful in its incidents but incoherent in its whole form.

Why did modernists have such difficulty at this scale? Because they wanted to wipe the slate clean, disregarding what might be learned from the past--lessons of urban space. Who needed lessons?

That's hubris.

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