Two types of architecture: good architecture, and the other kind

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THE ARCHITECTURE CRITIC for New York magazine wrote about the work of Robert A.M. Stern in an article entitled Unfashionably Fashionable. I commented:

“There are two kinds of music,” Duke Ellington famously said. “Good music, and the other kind.”

When I had Bob Stern as a teacher, the architectural academy and the architectural establishment were equally open-minded. Bob Stern, Peter Eisenman, Léon Krier, Michael Graves, Richard Meier and many others formed a disparate and friendly group that agreed with Duke Ellington, accepting many things (and each other), as long as they were good.

Today, we have ideologues controlling much of “the discourse” in the academy and the establishment. In musical terms, they are saying that everyone must work in the tradition of Philip Glass: Classical music, Hip Hop, bebop, jazz, folk, rock, indie rock, pop…are all verboten. They’re more close minded than the Tea Party.

Is this about to change? Things like the New York article or one in the magazine of the American Institute of Architects by Aaron Betsky in which Betsky calls the traditional work of former Stern employee Tom Kligerman “breathtaking in its sophistication and beauty,” suggest that maybe they are. The magazine has probably never published Kligerman’s work, and has certainly never praised it before.

Worth noting: like most people other than architects, the readers of New York are not ideological about traditional or modern design. You particularly see this in New York in the hangouts of the young and the hip, where you find traditional design, modern design, and places that comfortably combine both. Craftsmanship and natural materials, both conspicuously missing in the work of most Starchitects and New York’s gleaming tall towers, have been strong trends for years.

About John Massengale

Architect, Author, Educator, Urbanist.
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