My misgivings about “interpretive” interventions in historic precincts grew during a 2003 trip to see a trio of additions at Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park: Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s Liberty Bell Center; Kallmann, McKinnel & Wood’s Independence Visitor Center; and Pei Cobb Freed’s National Constitution Center. I’ve admired work by each of those partnerships elsewhere, but at Independence Mall, all three seemed badly miscast, particularly Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. Perhaps they were intimidated by the setting’s gravitas, or were persuaded to abandon their woodsy post-and-beam manner for a less congenial mix of masonry and metal. Whatever the reason, inside their new shelter
I’m baffled by people who dismiss whole categories of things. Two decades ago, I was summoned to the office of House & Garden’s new editor in chief, Anna Wintour, and saw my dumbfounded expression reflected in her sunglasses as she declared, “I don’t like adjectives. You use too many adjectives. That’s all.” How can you eliminate a major part of speech, I wondered? Did she realize that her ultimate accolade — “It’s so modern” — is one-third adjective? But now I confess complete antipathy to an entire building type: the visitor center. Photos ' Paul Warchol The Capitol Visitor Center
Architects from Vitruvius onward have written about the building art with the same promotional goal in mind, and modern masters, led by Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, gave new impetus to the role of architect as self-publicist in print. But not every architect is a natural writer, and the interview can be a much more efficient method for putting one’s point of view across to the public in general, and potential clients in particular. Photo ' Jesse Frohman/Corbis (above left); Brooks Kraft/Sygma/Corbis (above right). Verbal heavyweights: Both Philip Johnson (above left) and Thom Mayne have been known to take
Interviewing celebrated architects can be like Dancing with the Stars. But no matter how big the name, it still takes two to tango. Unlike many of my fellow critics, I was neither trained as an architect nor ever had the slightest urge to become one. Apart from my notable lack of hand-eye coordination (which has made me as poor a draftsman as I am a ballplayer), I am particularly unsuited to the building art because I simply could not abide an inescapable part of the architect’s job: talking about one’s work before, during, and even long after the design and
The conjunction this season of four architecture exhibitions on Midcentury Modernism at its most promising and exuberant seems less a coincidence of timing than proof of a new attitude, telling us much about the present even while illuminating the past. This transcontinental grand slam began in New York in June with Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe, at the Whitney Museum of American Art (through September 21); continued in July with Between Heaven and Earth: The Architecture of John Lautner, at Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum (through October 12), and Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling, at the Museum of Modern
Last year marked both the 10th anniversary of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the 30th of Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers’s Georges Pompidou Center—the two most influential cultural buildings of our time.
It may not have been cause and effect, but the 10th anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao late last year coincided with the opening of several new museums that seem intent on being everything Frank Gehry’s Basque bombshell is not. Let’s call it the rise of the Quiet Museum. Among them is Rafael Moneo’s low-key addition to the Prado, which has earned praise for giving precedence to the works on display rather than upstaging them with architectural bravura. But one man’s deferential is another man’s dull. Art critics seem to like the Moneo wing more than their architectural counterparts, some