Saturday, December 10, 2011
Words to live by, from Woody Allen
"The only thing standing between greatness and me is me," Woody Allen
From the PBS American Masters series, Woody Allen: A Documentary Part 2. There's more at the end of the documentary:
When I look back on my life I've been very lucky that I've lived out all these childhood dreams. I wanted to be a movie actor and I became one. I wanted to be a movie director, and a comedian, and I became one. I wanted to play jazz in New Orleans and I played in street parades and joints in New Orleans and played in opera houses concerts all over the world. There was nothing in my life that I aspired toward that hasn't come through for me. But despite all these lucky breaks, why do I still feel like I got screwed somehow?
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Quote of the Day
Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom. - Steve Jobs
Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.
Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom.
Coming back after seven months in Indian villages, I saw the craziness of the Western world as well as its capacity for rational thought. If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things—that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it. (Quoted in Walter Isaacson's biography of Jobs)
Friday, October 14, 2011
Here are the most recent, there are 500+ more here.
Mayor Mike visited Zuccotti Park, now Chase CEO Jamie Dimon should invite #OWS to Occupy Chase Plaza - and help with tents, hot food etc.
"I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love." Steve Jobs
Bought 2 arch guides in Amsterdam. More than 30% of bldngs on both lists since 1940. Have they been to Amsterdam? #ArchitectsAreIdeologues
From Amsterdam on a perfect day: When the Dutch ride Vespas, the noise is a pleasant summer drone. Italians? A raucous cacophany!
“There’s class warfare, all right,” Warren Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Strikes me @ ps1.org/calendar/view/… that many New York urbanists have an ideological rejection of New Urbanists based solely on style (Pt 1)
Yo! The 20th century is over—we don't have to be "Modern" anymore
Duchamp's urinal was "created" 94 years ago. Must we still pay the consequences today? #bringbackthebeautiful
Beautiful architecture speaks to the senses Lot of contemporary architecture speaks to intellect Without common sense the intellect is dumb
I've lost what little patience I had for new architecture that supports alienation, anomie, depression, misanthropy, nihilism ... and ego.
New Urbanist-leanings of Guggenheim Lab paint democratic vision of a civic ideal. What is your civic vision?: bit.ly/pU99ii RT@NewUrbanism
Paul Newman talks about urbanism - and gets it all right bitly.com/vvpnew
Andrew Sullivan asks if we need more roads (hint: "no) bit.ly/2manyrds
@NAHBhome: old days of selling sububan houses like hotcakes are over. In new world, we have too much sprawl and too little walkable urbanism
Curbed shows Starchitects' houses but skips all the Starchitects who live in traditional buildings like Rem & Zaha http://bit.ly/starchi
October 14, 2011 in Architecture, Baseball, Books, Classicism, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Film, Food and Drink, History, Jokes, New Urbanism, New York, Personal, Quote of the Day, Religion & Metaphysics, Science, Sports, Television, Travel, Urbanism, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, August 02, 2010
V&V REDUX: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
"EVERYTHING CHANGED in December 1910," Virginia Woolf famously wrote, and there are tipping points and turning points like that we sometimes recognize. In 1848, democracy swept across the European continent (often forcefully beaten back by authoritarian governments). In 1989, every Communist government in Europe fell within two months after the first breach of the Berlin Wall.
I’m old enough to remember when the civil rights movement turned a decisive corner in the early 1960s to become an idea supported by the majority of Americans. In The Best and the Brightest David Halberstam wrote that the turning point for opposition to the Vietnam war came when Walter Cronkite first criticized the conflict on the CBS nightly news. And I can point to the exact minute when peace, love and long hair arrived at my high school later in the 60s, radically transforming it overnight.
Woolf was talking about full-blown Modernism arriving in her upper-middle-class circles. The most evident sign was an emphasis on individual freedom. For many, this meant an emphasis on greater social and economic mobility that foreshadowed a broadening of democracy. For Virginia and her friends, it meant becoming proto-Modernists of the worst sort: depressed, self-involved, sexually ambiguous and willfully promiscuous. And nominally-Socialist but obnoxiously-superior upper-middle class intellectuals.
Funny, that still sounds like the "avant-garde" just a few months shy of one hundred years later.
Non-architects might wonder why there are so many references to Modernism in Veritas et Venustas (Truth and Beauty).
This is an important question, because a) normal people (that is, non-architects) usually don't recognize the problem, and b) I’m not anti-Modern, as one might reasonably conclude. I’m an architect educated in the 20th century who's made more than my share of loving pilgrimages to masterworks like Bilbao and Fallingwater, and I once wrote an article on how to visit the buildings of Le Corbusier scattered all over Europe. With details such as how to stay in the hotel in the Corb-designed Unité d’Habitations in Marseille.
The answer to the question is two-fold. 1) At the beginning of the 21st Century we are at a new tipping point, which 2) the entrenched interests of Modernism are fighting tooth and nail. Having argued for a hundred years that Modernism is the only appropriate expression of the time, they can’t accept that the culture has moved on to become eclectic and diverse.
For me, a Classical architect and a New Urbanist, this is restraint of trade. Representatives of my union, the American Institute of Architects, frequently work against my interests. The architecture critic of my hometown paper, the New York Times, constantly argues against everything my colleagues and I do (and he’s joined in that by virtually every architecture critic in the country.) My students tell me I’m a very good teacher, but almost no university wants to hire me, because most architecture schools are run by rabidly dogmatic Modernists. Somehow, they claim to do this in the cause of pluralism.
BUT, and this is an important "but," their position is increasingly an esoteric, unpopular one. There’s no question that society in general has turned a corner.Modernism was the cultural expression of a good deal of the second half of the 20th century, but we’re in the 21st century now, and for most Americans Modernism is just a style – not a lifestyle or an ideology. It’s normal today to work in a high-tech office and go home at night to a new Traditional Neighborhood. On the way home, one might have dinner at a chic new place with Minimal design, and the next night go to a new French bistro with hundred year old tiles imported from Paris, complete with Gauloise stains. This particularly applies to Richard Florida’s "Creative Class" and David Brooks’s "BoBos."
In a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the paper’s architecture critic talked about a new survey of the hipper than hip twenty-somethings in Silicon Valley. “People love gadgets,” said the sociologist who made the study.
”They all want their own computer and a plasma television, but at the same time they also love the traditional look.... I pressed them for reasons and they explained, ‘We’re working in high-tech impersonal settings all day; we want to go home to Grandma’s house.’ That was the exact phrase one used.”Princeton University surveyed its students and found that the overwhelming majority of its students wanted to live in Gothic colleges while at the university. Since Princeton had already built in the preceding decades what therefore amounted to a two-century supply of Modernist dormitories for a handful of students, they created a new policy for future building.
The center of the campus, which includes all the undergraduate housing, will be a Gothic zone: new colleges there will be Gothic. (Brief clarification: Princeton is switching from a dormitory system to an undergraduate college system in which each "college" will have a dining hall, a library, and other common facilities. The student survey also showed that’s what the undergrads want.)
The rest of the campus – with classrooms, laboratory buildings, athletic buildings, parking garages and the like – will be the “anything goes” zone. Construction has started on Whitman College, a new Gothic quadrangle designed by the second winner of the Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture, Demetri Porphyrios. At the same time, the university announced a gift of an increasingly ubiquitous Gehry-designed building on the edge of the campus.
Much of the money for Whitman College was donated by Meg Whitman, the young Chairman of eBay (a BoBo). While the Gehry building was donated by the octogenarian Princeton alumnus Peter Lewis, Gehry’s biggest patron. For ideological reasons, Whitman is more likely to appreciate Gehry’s design than Lewis is to like the new Gothic building. Gehry himself ungraciously and publicly criticized Whitman College, as did Robert Venturi, who has designed several important buildings at Princeton.
I say “ungraciously” not only because they are biting the hand that feeds them: why does Gehry feel that it is his role to lecture the students and tell them they must like what he likes? He went so far as saying that an institution of higher learning should not build a traditional building today. (How tolerant and pluralistic is that?)
In fact, with Whitman College, Princeton, which a decade or two ago usually considered only important Modernists such as I.M. Pei, Minoru Yamasaki or Charlie Gwathmey for new commissions, has decided for the first time in five decades to build a genuinely Traditional building. In that decision, they are joined by colleges and universities all around the country, some of whom are also tearing down or recladding their Modernist buildings. Some are doing that for aesthetic reasons, some because their Modernist buildings require too much maintenance, and some for both reasons.
A recent article in the Harvard Crimson said,
“The decades-long debate over whether Mather House or the Leverett House towers holds the dubious distinction of being the ugliest residence on campus may have just been settled once and for all—thanks to the opening of One Western Avenue, Harvard’s newest, and perhaps most hideous, graduate school housing unit.”The title of the article was, Snap, Yo’ Momma’s Uglier than One Western Avenue.
The architect of One Western Avenue is also the chair of the urban design department at the Harvard School of Design (HSD). It’s believed this is one of several actions by the HSD faculty and administration that led Harvard President Lawrence Summers to recently snub the school while deciding what to do about the enormous campus expansion he’s planning on the other side of the Charles River from the main campus.
The new section of the campus will eventually be as big as the old campus is now. To the consternation of the HSD, it seems that every Harvard department except the HSD is represented on the committees studying the expansion. Naturally, the school’s architects, landscape architects and urban designers think they are the faculty whose advice is most needed, and they publicly complained in the Boston Globe. (To see the article, click here.)
What has brought us to the situation in which the President of Harvard University avoids his own design faculty (rated number one in America) when he wants design advice? Plain and simple, it’s the result of too many bad new places made and endorsed by the faculty, accompanied by an ideological stance among the architectural establishment and its educators that is simply out of step with the culture at large.
President Summers doesn’t want a polemical statement: he wants an open-minded examination of how to best expand Harvard. He wants to know what will lead to the best result, and evidently feels he won’t get that from his own faculty.
This ideological rift between the leaders of the architectural profession and the rest of society is a new phenomenon. When Harvard brought Walter Gropius from Germany to run the architecture school before World War II, he was embraced by Harvard, Boston and much of the American establishment. Gropius set up a seminar program for Fortune 500 leaders that led to built results such as Lever House and the Seagram Building on Park Avenue and the Prudential Tower in the Back Bay. The New York Times, the Boston Globe, Time and Fortune lauded them. Harvard itself hired Gropius to build on its campus, and his firm The Architects Collaborative became the largest and most important firm in New England.
Architects like Gropius were in the vanguard of that significant cultural change. Architects now, while saying that they are promoting the new and the different, are actually fighting for things to remain the same.
New and different were the buzzwords of Virginia Woolf in 1910, and Gropius in 1940. They are essential words in the philosophy of Modernism, which quintessentially sees itself as a force for change in a Traditional world. What is obviously different now is that Modernism is more than a hundred years old, and the dominant philosophy for the last fifty of those, if not longer. New and different today should mean something other than a Modernist monoculture. As expressed by the leaders of the HSD, it's the same old thing.
Almost a hundred years after the change described by Woolf, we are beginning to change just as radically again. This is not a rejection of Modernism, but it is as different from Modernism as Modernism was from the culture of our great-grandparents in the early 20th century.
This is exactly what most of society wants. Who opposes the change? Professional Modernists.
It is they who are afraid of the sort of evolution and change described by Virginia Woolf.
Friday, January 01, 2010
Happy New Year
To make a long story short, a recent discussion about a 1990s movie gave me the thought that the 20th century equivalent of Voltaire’s famous saying Il faut cultiver notre jardin might be Il faut se vautrer dans la boue de notre jardin (“We must wallow in the mud of our garden").
Here’s hoping that as we leave 2009 behind, we also leave behind the excessive materialism and egotism of the 20th century and come closer to returning to the Garden of Eden.
Peace, Love & Joy in 2010
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Tonight Is Said To Be The Loudest Night Of Chants
TEN PROTESTERS WERE KILLED TODAY, on a Shia holy day, by a regime that is supposed to be upholding Shia rule. It would be wonderful if this could be the end of the current government.
One of the ten killed is the nephew of the man most consider to be the rightfully elected President.
The government crackdowns on mourning ceremonies in the past week provoked many people in the more traditional neighborhoods of south Tehran as earlier clashes have not, some residents said.
“People in my neighborhood have been going to the Ashura rituals every night with green fabric for the first time,” said Hamid, 33, a laborer who lives in the southern Tehran neighborhood of Shahreh-Ray and declined to give his last name. “They have been politicized recently, because of the suppression this month.”
Yet few protesters expected the scale of the bloodshed that broke out on Sunday. The memory of Hussein is so potent among Shiites that killing for any reason is strictly forbidden on Ashura, and Iranian rulers have always tried to avoid violence or even state executions during a two-month period surrounding the holiday.
“Ashura is a very symbolic day in our culture and it revives the notion that the innocents were killed by a villain,” said Fatemah Haghighhatjoo, a former member of the Iranian Parliament who is a visiting scholar at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “Killing people on Ashura shows how far Khamenei is willing to go to suppress the protests.”
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Sarapocalypse No? (was The Real 2012)
2012, the End Days, the Apocalypse — call it what you will, but be afraid, be very afraid:
We were warned.New World Order Update: NBC had the original clip taken down, but here's a replacement ... and now they've taken down the replacement. I can't find the original at NBC.com, but Keith Olbermann ran it on his show, and that you can see on YouTube. The video-in-a-video starts at 1 minute 17 seconds.
PPS: And here's a comment from Jon Stewart: