You Got to Be Kidding Me!

Modern Architecture

Posted in Urban Planning by Stacy McMahon on September 24, 2006

Real quick, this Post article from last year about the approval of Norman Foster’s glass canopy for the Old Patent Office Building courtyard (link from DCist) gives me an chance to say something I like to say about architecture and urban design whenever I find someone to listen. The article includes the following sentiment beloved of, from what I can tell, every architect in the universe:

Not to build such a splendid, modern structure would have been a dumbfounding mistake. The error would have been noticed around the world, for sure. Today, architecture plays a significant role in establishing a city’s competitive credentials. To turn down a wonderful building out of excessive caution or misplaced preservationist zeal? Definitely embarrrassing.

My personal opinions aside (short version: I’m on the fence about modern architecture, but have no love for columns and porticos just because they’re traditional) it’s an even bigger error of judgement to potentially blight the landscape for the next century or more just to add a big-name building to the city’s resume, or because something similar looks cool somewhere else in the world. Followers build things to keep up with the Joneses. We should do-or not do-based strictly on our own needs and wants.

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2 Responses

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  1. Christina said, on September 24, 2006 at 6:11 pm

    But there is something nice about having architectural styles reflect the tastes of the times in which the buildings were built. Even the big ugly monolithic DDR (East German) buildings here have redeeming qualities. They represent history and someday so will the modern stuff. Maybe this is more apparent in Germany where you can walk through a city and see how building style has progressed over the last 800-1000 years, but eventually this will be the case in the US as well.

  2. ClintJCL said, on September 25, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    I find it nearly impossible to CARE what someone else does with their property……. Though public property is “everyone’s”, I suppose.

    I agree that it shouldn’t be a pissing contest to see who has the largest cock^H^H^H^Hcolumn, but at the same time, I don’t consider unique or different architecture to be a “blight” either.

    For homeowners, I think they should be able to do whatever they want. That would include my next-door neighbor creating a borg-like cube out of their entire property, putting pink My Little Ponies on their walls, or creating a replica of a Greek temple.

    I really don’t consider it my business unless it’s on land that I own. I think the world would be a better place if more people felt the same.


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