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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bad Hair Day

Imagine a bad-hair day when you are not looking so good, but unfortunately you are on display for all to see in this way in perpetuity. This happens routinely to architects and why today, you might reconsider being, or having wanted to be (as I have), an architect. You design something which becomes literally etched in stone and await accolades or public humiliation. The stain is hard to wash off with dirty laundry always out on the clothesline. Want to see what I mean? Here are excerpts from a book written in 1979 by Paul Goldberger (then architecture critic for the New York Times) regarding Lincoln Center:

"These are for the most part, banal buildings, dreary attempts to be classical that took the form that they did not out of any deep belief in the values of classicism, but out of fear on the part of the architects that their clients, the conservative boards of directors of the center's constituent organizations, would not accept anything else."
"The Juilliard School is probably the best Building at Lincoln Center, but one says that reluctantly, because here, too, architecture is being graded on a curve."
"Harrison's Metropolitan Opera House is merely a pompous and simplistic form, made tolerable by a pair of Chagall murals."
"What is wrong with these buildings is not that they are classicizing, it is that they are so bad at it - they are mediocre and slick classicism, with a heavy-handedness of form and vulgarity of detail."


Are you feeling better now? Fortunately the quality of performances is top-notch and the public enjoys the central plaza and its fountain - one of the most notable in the entire city.

For a glimpse into my writing process, here is what I started to write today and abandoned, when any enthusiasm I had was lost after reading architecture critiques. I also planned to feature the fountain as one of the few major ones in NYC, contrasting that to Paris or Rome. The working title was The Sun Also Rises:

Somethings loom so large or are so regular that we forget about them. Like the sun or Lincoln Center. This 16-acre complex of 8 buildings with nearly a dozen theaters is the prototype for cultural centers everywhere and its tenants are like a who's who of the arts: Juilliard School, The Metropolitan Opera, New York City Ballet, New York City Opera, New York Philharmonic, School of American Ballet. The "travertine acropolis of music and theater" was built in the 1960s and is located at one of the most strategic locations in NYC - between 62nd and 66th Streets near Broadway, Columbus Circle and Central Park. You can read about it here or at the Lincoln Center website ...

About the Photo: The New York State Theater is on the left, The Metropolitan Opera house in the center and Avery Fisher Hall on the right.

6 comments:

Lucy said...

O well, you have to expose yourself to the opinions of the critics if you want to do anything that will be seen by the public at all.
In the end, many people have grown affection for this public space, even if it is "banal"...architecturally.
Interesting post in that you are revealing your thinking process quite
openly. Hopefully you don't get rained on quite as much as these buildings have been...

David said...

Wonderful narrative as always . . .you enable interesting, thoughtful and fresh views of the familiar . . . much thanks . . .

Brian said...

All said and done, if I was an architect and had a number of reviews like this, it would be devastating.

Fredrik said...

I haven't seen The Lincoln Center, but by the look of your picture I have to agree with Paul Goldberger. This is the work of a copy cat. A bad one as well. But I like the picture, with all the lights and reflections!

Marie-Noyale said...

If you keep your work to youself,nobody will criticize it,nobody will praise it...
If you open to the world,you have to be ready to accept critics good or bad,that's life,but to me much more rewarding.
I don't know if that makes sense,but English is not my first language..
Anyway,I love this picture,lights and rain reflections.and I enjoy your blog very much, for the eyes and the mind.

ehanson said...

Great photo. I love how the sidewalk is so glossy. The lighting is especially good to.