Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

Service of Leave it Alone, Already II: Why Buy a Landmark if You’re Going to Destroy It?

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Booth Cottage Photo: chicago.curbed.com

I complained, in the 2016 iteration of this title, about the person who bought a Brooklyn brownstone I once coveted that had all of the original plasterwork that they tore out. “Couldn’t they have bought another house?” I thought after I visited the remodeled, stripped down atrocity on a house tour. That post addressed physical attacks on public buildings—The Waldorf Astoria and Grand Central Terminal.

Photo: curbed.com

I had a similar sinking feeling when reading Michael J. Lewis’s article, “Bulldozing a Modernist Landmark” with subhead “The looming demolition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Booth cottage is the latest example in a long history of our culture’s disregard for its architectural past.” The owner’s complaint about the Glencoe, Ill. property: it’s a small house on a big lot. So pick on another property!

Lewis wrote: “People are usually surprised to learn that America’s historic buildings, no matter how significant, go unprotected unless there is a local preservation ordinance. Even those ordinances are typically toothless, since they can be overruled for reasons of ‘hardship,’ a category so elastic that the inability to maximize the profit potential of your property can count.

Photo: 6sqft.com

“As it happens,” Lewis continued, “there is a preservation ordinance in Glencoe, but the Sherman M. Booth cottage has been given only ‘honorary’ landmark status. That means that demolition can occur, but the town can mandate a 180-day stay of execution. For the moment, the cottage still stands; behind-the-scenes negotiations might save it yet.”

Lewis cited statistics kept by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy which report that only two of Wright’s structures have been demolished with 380 existing, so losing a third may not be the big deal I think it is. Your thoughts? Why are Americans so blasé about their architectural history?

Photo: travelandleisure.com

Service of Sudden Change

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

change 2

Change is part of life. I like to hope it comes out for the good more than not. I find it fascinating to watch either way.

No building there's Grand Central flipWalking east with Madison Avenue at my back on 42nd Street last week I saw the most remarkable thing: the full Vanderbilt side of Grand Central Station I’d never before seen. At first I was disoriented thinking, “What is that?” until I realized that the building that had hidden this view for as long as I can remember was gone. No doubt a new one will quickly take its place so if you want to see this in person, best make haste.

Cosi closed flipContinuing to my office on East 45th Street I noticed that a chain restaurant that had been on 44th and Third Avenue for years had closed. I liked Cosi for its Signature Salad and special flatbread and bought it often at one point, though not lately. I tend to eat yogurt these days and don’t often buy lunch at restaurants unless meeting others. And my office is next door to the Amish Market that sells anything delicious that I might want. I’d thought that lines at this Cosi branch were unusually short as newer chains and two $1 pizza establishments opened within a block or two which may be the reason for the closing.

Pumpkins are favorites of mine. I love the color and shape. I centered one between two pots of summer flowers illustrating summer meeting fall and imminent natural changes as my favorite season tries to hang on.

What’s your favorite season? Have you noticed any sudden or surprising changes in your neighborhood? Fall meets summer flip

Service of Warring Design Styles

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Butler Library, Photo: Wikipedia

Butler Library, Photo: Wikipedia

 

 

I like interiors that mix design styles–contemporary art with 18th century antiques for example–but for some reason I can’t explain, I find visually jarring lawns or fields around Victorian, New England saltbox, farmhouse or traditional style houses strewn with contemporary sculpture and oversized copycat Calder mobiles.

That’s why Jillian Steinhauer’s article on hyperallergic.com, “Columbia Students Object to Installation of Henry Moore ‘Monstrosity,'” caught my eye.

Sidenote: The reporter writes for a well regarded online art news source that describes itself as “a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today.” She ridicules these stuffy, unhip students and alums who are clearly clueless when it comes to art. Because I agree with them about the installation’s placement–though I like Henry Moore’s work–I felt mocked by her perspective, like a Bernie Sanders supporter at a Donald Trump rally.

What started out in Steinhauer’s article as the protest of three seniors and one alumnus who “expressed their horror” in an op-ed in the university’s daily student paper became, in an update, 1,000+ who signed a petition to prevent the installation of “Reclining Figure 1969-70” [Photo below, right] in front of Butler Library.

The initial four, one currently a law student at Yale, described the work as a “ghoulish figure,” a “monstrosity,” an “ugly hunk of metal,” “a desecration of our home,” and an “arrogant middle finger to the world.”

Steinhauer continued: “They liken it to ‘a dying mantis or a poorly formed pterodactyl.’

Henry Moore's "Reclining Figure 1969-70"

They slander it as ‘an idealization of a chewed wad of gum.’”

She inserted: “Who said art didn’t still have the power to shock — the art of a British modernist working in a family-friendly zone between figuration and abstraction, no less?”

She continued with the students’ complaints, punctuated by her own observation: “Whatever its artistic merits, placing the sculpture in front of Butler Library will put an eyesore on an otherwise crisp, geometric, and symmetrical landscape. Moore’s ghoulish figure clashes with the neoclassical aesthetic instantly recognizable to generations of Columbians.”

She again editorialized, before sharing another comment from the article in the student paper: “And my favorite: All of this is not to say that modern sculpture has no place at the University. It just doesn’t belong in the center of campus.” And she concluded: “Please, no one tell these folks about postmodernism. They might do something drastic.”

She didn’t note another point made in the op-ed: “Adding insult to injury, the narrow stretch of lawn that Reclining Figure will inhabit is the only part of South Lawn permanently open to the public. The sculpture’s girth will intrude on the precious few square yards of grass where students congregate together, be it over soccer or cigarettes.”

I was surprised that nobody commented on the potentially horrific cost of this sculpture–to protect, maintain and insure it–at an institution that already charges students in the high five figures for a year of study. Maybe it was a gift so Columbia didn’t have to pay for it?

Is the goal of art to shock? Do you appreciate the juxtaposition of contemporary sculpture installed outdoors with traditional backgrounds?  Can you shed light on why I comfortably mix contemporary art with antiques inside but have trouble when it comes to this jumble outside?

 

agree to disagree

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