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Sullivan's spectacular masterpiece Guarantee Building

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#21
steel said:
I can say that those same buildings clad in fakey historic dodahs and forms will not be turned into good urban buildings. I do know that phony historic crap is often foisted on an unsuspecting public as as solution for a building to "blend in" ,as if blending in is a sign of good archietcure.

There are many good contemporary (as opposed to modern) buildings which highlight the urban scene and provide great complements to their true historic neighbors while expressing the nature of our society and technology today as opposed to 100 years ago.
When you say you dislike "phony historic crap," do you mean all buildings built in a historicist manner, or just the really awful, obviously fake ones? For instance, if someone took past styles and created something original with them (like H.H. Richardson did), would you still reject it as not being of our time? What makes a building "of our time?"
 

steel

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#22
Jack said:
When you say you dislike "phony historic crap," do you mean all buildings built in a historicist manner, or just the really awful, obviously fake ones? For instance, if someone took past styles and created something original with them (like H.H. Richardson did), would you still reject it as not being of our time? What makes a building "of our time?"
By definition taking styles from the past is not going to produce something original. I do believe that if your intent is to make something that tries to look like it is from the past then you are mocking the buildings that ARE old buildings and missing incredible opportunities that are available in gearing your design to a contemporary society.

Old buildings are not beautiful just because of their style. They are beautiful because they have been aged by time, because so many lives have passed through them and because that certain detail and style spoke of society and of the technology and craft of making that was available at the time.

Sure someone could make a perfectly good replica of a historic building. They could get all the materials and proportions correct and you would look at it and think....Oh that was built 100 years ago......what good is that?...and then 50 years from now someone will say....Oh that was built 150 years ago instead of ...Oh that was built 50 years ago.

Another part of this argument is that the fakey historic buildings that are so common these days are not done with any kind of quality and craft. They do not even get the proportions and materials correct. Cheap Cheap Cheap styrofoam fakey buildings. In 50 years that is what our time will be known for.

Instead what we should be known for are buildings built on the needs of our society. Buildings who's form is in tune with the users and the urban setting, expressive of our technology and of the latest technologies such as sustainable design and using the latest proven materials.

The Guarantee building was an ultra modern building for its time. What if the owner had insisted that Sullivan build a colonial style high rise instead.
 
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#23
steel said:
By definition taking styles from the past is not going to produce something original. I do believe that if your intent is to make something that tries to look like it is from the past then you are mocking the buildings that ARE old buildings and missing incredible opportunities that are available in gearing your design to a contemporary society.
How is taking past styles not going to produce something original by definition? How is it mocking the past? You're suggesting that virtually all Renaissance and Victorian architecture mocks the past and does not reflect the time in which it was built because neither period is known for creating a truly original style. And yet, those buildings are very much uniquely products of their time.

steel said:
Old buildings are not beautiful just because of their style. They are beautiful because they have been aged by time, because so many lives have passed through them and because that certain detail and style spoke of society and of the technology and craft of making that was available at the time.

Sure someone could make a perfectly good replica of a historic building. They could get all the materials and proportions correct and you would look at it and think....Oh that was built 100 years ago......what good is that?...and then 50 years from now someone will say....Oh that was built 150 years ago instead of ...Oh that was built 50 years ago.
Why does it have to be a replica? Why can't it be a reinterpretation, like Richardon Romanesque, Victorian Gothic, Modern Classical, or countless other styles that were grounded in the past?

steel said:
Another part of this argument is that the fakey historic buildings that are so common these days are not done with any kind of quality and craft. They do not even get the proportions and materials correct. Cheap Cheap Cheap styrofoam fakey buildings. In 50 years that is what our time will be known for.
I agree. But that should be solved by encouraging better education about the past styles of architecture.

steel said:
Instead what we should be known for are buildings built on the needs of our society. Buildings who's form is in tune with the users and the urban setting, expressive of our technology and of the latest technologies such as sustainable design and using the latest proven materials.

The Guarantee building was an ultra modern building for its time. What if the owner had insisted that Sullivan build a colonial style high rise instead.
And it came from a time period known for historicism. If the ultra modern Guarantee building could exist in a time period like that, then why can't modern architecture of today co-exist with revival buildings?

As far as I'm concerned, no style is dead, irrelivant, or ill suited for modern living. The needs of modern socierty are met just as well in a neoclassical building as they are in a modern glass box. Function and style aren't as tied together as people would like to believe.
 

steel

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#24
The fact that the ultra modern Guarantee exists is the reason we can not go back. It advanced the bar as did everthing that has come since. We may ride in a quaint horse and buggy but we certainly do not use it for transportation in a serious way. Once you advance to a new level going back is nothing more than an exercise in nostallgia.

By the way Modern or contemporary means far more than "glass box" Don't limit your imagination as to what is possible in architecture today.
 

BKM

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#25
Jack said:
What makes a building "of our time?"
This is the critical question right here! Do we trust worshippers of the machine, airy-fairy intellectuals who speak in arcane terms out of literary criticism to define "of our time"?

steel said:
The fact that the ultra modern Guarantee exists is the reason we can not go back. It advanced the bar as did everthing that has come since. We may ride in a quaint horse and buggy but we certainly do not use it for transportation in a serious way. Once you advance to a new level going back is nothing more than an exercise in nostallgia.

By the way Modern or contemporary means far more than "glass box" Don't limit your imagination as to what is possible in architecture today.
How can you say this, given that the urban environment created by modern architecture and URBAN PLANNING has created an environment that is in many respects WORSE than traditional planning and architecture?

The idea that the only worthwhile architecture is that which is completely new is a conceit of the 20th century. No other period of history demanded that it be completely new. Architecture and art in general should evolve, not merely be new for the sake of novelty.

I prefer glass boxes to looming black wedges or tiresome titanium clouds that offer the pedestrian blank walls and glaring sunlight reflections to the neighborhood. Especially in a dense downtown environment (if you want to build amorphous follies off in the woods, go for it).
 
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#26
The idea that a classical building is not original is completely bogus. Any building that is not an exact replica of another building is an original building. Some elements are reproduced from previous examples because the architect found them appropriate to the problem he is solving. Within the recurring elements of classical architecture (or any traditional form of architecture) the number of possible variations is infinite, and new elements can be gradually invented to combine with the old and create infinitely more variations.

When you want to write a book, you don't start by inventing all your own words. You tell the original story that you came up with using the words and syntax of an established language. That doesn't make your story any less original.
 

Luca

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#27
So much to say...so little time...


I think jaws and BKM addressed the 'originality' issue and the 'quality issue' well.

But let me go down to an even more basic question. How important is originality in arhcitecture?
At the extremes of the spectrum one miught say it is all important (even if the building collapses) or of no importance at all. Most would probably be somewhere in the middle.

I contend that IN ARCHITECTURE ORIGINALITY IS OF VERY LITTLE WORTH. Sure, INNOVATION that allows for the same inherent functional quality at lower cost or IMPROVEMENT that creates an even more harmonious form is worthwhile. But, PER SE originality in a functional object (like a building) is worthless.

A bias-cut, Loropiana cloth, blue pinstripe suit from Brioni is not original; but is arguably perfect. Conversely, I can make a suit out of tinfoil, fishing net and dried dog turds and, yes, it would be original. But it would suck.

The cult of originality is premised on the common, banal fallacy of personal uniqueness and centrality. this is why it is sustained only in 'subjective' endeavors such as figurative and performance arts. Unfortunately, starchitecture is now treated as a figurative art, rather than a profession.
 

Mee

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#28
"Less is more"

Luca said:
I'm asking because I am interested in understanding the REASON why your personal preference veers toward a less ornate, perhaps spare (?) style. What is it about ti that you like? Have you contemplated the causality of that preference? Imagine it's a 5-year old asking you 'why?'
I like good modernist /minimalism. The reasons I like it because it serves and shows frankly what it has to. To me, it's clean, clear, easy to understand and less maintenance. I personaly enjoy simple esthetic with less ornament.:)

I believe that every designer has theirown favourit style although the work they have created not always fit thier preferences. There are many reasons that those buildings have been created. I also have designed many styles of residential.( classical, contemporay, japanese, modern.....) but if I were a millionair and had my own paradise to be built, I would select natural-modern. :-| Weird?
hahaha :-D

PS: Sorry if my English is difficult to understand. I'm an alien. :6:
 

steel

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#29
BKM said:
How can you say this, given that the urban environment created by modern architecture and URBAN PLANNING has created an environment that is in many respects WORSE than traditional planning and architecture?

The idea that the only worthwhile architecture is that which is completely new is a conceit of the 20th century. No other period of history demanded that it be completely new. Architecture and art in general should evolve, not merely be new for the sake of novelty.

I prefer glass boxes to looming black wedges or tiresome titanium clouds that offer the pedestrian blank walls and glaring sunlight reflections to the neighborhood. Especially in a dense downtown environment (if you want to build amorphous follies off in the woods, go for it).

I NEVER EVER said that only new architecture is worthwhile. There are principles of design worth keeping from every era. But should we make our cars look like an 1870 buggy? Should our magazines and newspapers have graphics that look like 1901? Should your I pod be covered in lacy decoration or perhaps it should be 50 times bigger than it needs to be so that you can pretend it was made in the 70's I said that we should build for today based on today's society with today's technology. This phony Disney way of building pretending everything is cutsie olde timey is cheating our selves of what is really possible.

As for other eras...... There have been many periods in architectural history where the past has been tossed off. The Romans had a great impact on the technology of architecture with the use of arches domes and vaults. Much of their architecture was dedicated to glorifying this technology. The great gothic churches were the highest technology of their time. The technology gave the building its incredible form. The Renaissance threw off the Gothic and turned back to the Romans to glorify the ideas of the Roman time. It was appropriate for them to do this since this was a time of rediscovery of all the knowledge lost in the middle ages.

Here is an analogy:

If the Gothic architects decided the building should be historic rather than of its time they would be using the gothic technology to support the building. They would build slender columns and delicate arches. Then they would come in and clad it all with heavy Egyptian ornament. they would fill in the large window openings and paint hieroglyphics on the walls.

A good contemporary building does not have to be an amorphous folly or gigantic sculpture. A good modern building can energize a street. It can conserve energy and it can delight the senses. You don't have to build a structure that pretends to be from another era.
 
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BKM

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#30
jaws said:
The idea that a classical building is not original is completely bogus. Any building that is not an exact replica of another building is an original building. Some elements are reproduced from previous examples because the architect found them appropriate to the problem he is solving. Within the recurring elements of classical architecture (or any traditional form of architecture) the number of possible variations is infinite, and new elements can be gradually invented to combine with the old and create infinitely more variations.

When you want to write a book, you don't start by inventing all your own words. You tell the original story that you came up with using the words and syntax of an established language. That doesn't make your story any less original.
Excellent summary of the issue!

Don't get me wrong. I like some, a great deal even, modernist (as in style, not the modern era). My ideal residence, absent an original pre-Civil war Greek revival or Ferderalist townhouse (pretty rare out here in California :)) would probably be a Pierre Koenig glass box. But, to claim that this is the only way of building, the only way of being modern, seems...strange...to me.

steel said:
Here is an analogy:

If the Gothic architects decided the building should be historic rather than of its time they would be using the gothic technology to support the building. They would build slender columns and delicate arches. Then they would come in and clad it all with heavy Egyptian ornament. they would fill in the large window openings and paint hieroglyphics on the walls.

A good contemporary building does not have to be an amorphous folly or gigantic sculpture. A good modern building can energize a street. It can conserve energy and it can delight the senses. You don't have to build a structure that pretends to be from another era.
I don't accept your analogy. Why, again, is it necessary to forever reinvent the wheel? The problem with modernism as a style is it so rarely does what you claim it can in your last pararagraph. By rejecting millenia of precedent, everyday C-list architects struggle with accomplishing the goals which you claim to support. Nobody (well, maybe Luca :)) would deny that the modern movement has created landmarks that are beautiful. It's just that the everyday environment created by everyday architects and commercial builders using modernism as a style is almost always impoverished. We are talking Greek Revival Pattern Books and self-trained carpenters versus franchise fast food and concrete block strip malls.

And, we are not even talking about modernist planning-the primacy of the car, rigid separation of land uses, large monolithic structures that destroy the fine grain of traditional urbanism.
 
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mendelman

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#31
I'm a tad confused about what you're suggesting, steel.

Are you suggesting that no new buildings should use or even allude to historical styles (ie. Federal, Gothic, Calssical, Romanesque, etc.)? Thereby requiring that each new building be an original expression of "Architecture", absent any references to preceding architectural history.

or

Are you suggesting that exact repilcation of specific historical buildings and poor execution of historical styles (ie. clumsy EIFS classical entablatures and cornices, etc) be avoided?

If you are suggesting the former, I would disagree. Orginiality as an ends is very dangerous and destructive for architectural practice.

If you are suggesting the later, then I wholeheartedly agree. Here is a link to some examples of newly built structures that do not ignore context, human scale and architectural history. And they also do not replicate specific buildings/style in an attempt to look “old”.

here's another building I like:




This is a brand new mixed-use building that is sympathetic to the adjacent late 19th century commerical district at W. Belden and N. Halsted in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. I like this building and believe it was built using comtemporary building techniques and materials.
 
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steel

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#32
BKM said:
I don't accept your analogy. Why, again, is it necessary to forever reinvent the wheel? The problem with modernism as a style is it so rarely does what you claim it can in your last pararagraph. By rejecting millenia of precedent, everyday C-list architects struggle with accomplishing the goals which you claim to support. Nobody (well, maybe Luca :)) would deny that the modern movement has created landmarks that are beautiful. It's just that the everyday environment created by everyday architects and commercial builders using modernism as a style is almost always impoverished. We are talking Greek Revival Pattern Books and self-trained carpenters versus franchise fast food and concrete block strip malls.

And, we are not even talking about modernist planning-the primacy of the car, rigid separation of land uses, large monolithic structures that destroy the fine grain of traditional urbanism.


I think you are confusing bad architecture and bad planning with Modernism. Though they are often the same thing, modern architecture does not automatically = bad architecture just becasue so much of our built environment is bad. Have you looked around at the so called historic architecture being foisted on the public these days. The goofy colonial style strip malls, the plastic greek revival banks, Stupid looking carbord arches pastered on facades. Bad architecture is universal these days.

I have never said that we should throw out time tested principles of architecture and I am not calling for Corbusian garden cities. You could apply most of Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language" principles to modern architecture and still have a minimal contemporary building. Modernism does not equal cold and inhuman. That is an interpretation based on the plethora of bad developer architetcure that we all except in our cities. I can show you block after block of pure historicy crap going up in Chicago right now. Historic does not = good architecture.

There IS no reason to reject a millennia of precident but is there a reason to put Greek columns on a contemporary building? Excepting the basic underlying principles of design developed over thousands of years is much different than decorating a building a certain way. If it is ok to make our buildings look like yesteryear why not dress up our Ipods look like Victrolas then??????????

mendelman said:
I'm a tad confused about what you're suggesting, steel.

Are you suggesting that no new buildings should use or even allude to historical styles (ie. Federal, Gothic, Calssical, Romanesque, etc.)? Thereby requiring that each new building be an original expression of "Architecture", absent any references to preceding architectural history.

or

Are you suggesting that exact repilcation of specific historical buildings and poor execution of historical styles (ie. clumsy EIFS classical entablatures and cornices, etc) be avoided?

If you are suggesting the former, I would disagree. Orginiality as an ends is very dangerous and destructive for architectural practice.

If you are suggesting the later, then I wholeheartedly agree. Here is a link to some examples of newly built structures that do not ignore context, human scale and architectural history. And they also do not replicate specific buildings/style in an attempt to look “old”.

here's another building I like:




This is a brand new mixed-use building that is sympathetic to the adjacent late 19th century commerical district at W. Belden and N. Armitage in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. I like this building and believe it was built using comtemporary building techniques and materials.

This building is certainly well built and it gets details more correct (though not entirely)than most. This is a rare higher quality historic building. Take a look at the crummy historicy bank building down the block at the corner of Armitage.

Certainly your example building is not offensive but a quality contemporary building at this site could have offered much more to its tenant and to the street. On top of that I think it takes away form the history of the original (true) old buildings. Those buildings have real history behind them. That history adds meaning to them.

Should Paris construct buildings which look like they were built in 1675 so they match the adjacent buildings that were really built then? I think that would be rediculous. How silly... You are in Paris on vacation. you stand and take some pictures in front of some buildinsg that you THINK are form 1675 and it turns out they were from 1995....Wouldn't you be disappointed once you found that out?

It is interesting that your list of historicy buildings show the Harold Washington Librbary. This building has been widely criticized for all the things you have been painting Modernism with. It is a cold monolithic street killer. Its interior is cold and confusing and many people find the palce unpleasant to use.
 
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BKM

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#33
steel said:
I think you are confusing bad architecture and bad planning with Modernism. Though they are often the same thing, modern architecture does not automatically = bad architecture just becasue so much of our built environment is bad. Have you looked around at the so called historic architecture being foisted on the public these days. The goofy colonial style strip malls, the plastic greek revival banks, Stupid looking carbord arches pastered on facades. Bad architecture is universal these days.

I have never said that we should throw out time tested principles of architecture and I am not calling for Corbusian garden cities. You could apply most of Christopher Alexander's "A Pattern Language" principles to modern architecture and still have a minimal contemporary building. Modernism does not equal cold and inhuman. That is an interpretation based on the plethora of bad developer architetcure that we all except in our cities. I can show you block after block of pure historicy crap going up in Chicago right now. Historic does not = good architecture.

There IS no reason to reject a millennia of precident but is there a reason to put Greek columns on a contemporary building? Excepting the basic underlying principles of design developed over thousands of years is much different than decorating a building a certain way. If it is ok to make our buildings look like yesteryear why not dress up our Ipods look like Victrolas then??????????
Up to your last paragraph, I agree with you somewhat. I'm not defending the Colonial motel. Much modern "traditional" building is a banal pastiche. Modern economic and social forces certainly have led to a debased built environment-you cannot blame the Modern Movement entirely for this.

I would respond, however, that this built crudscape reflects the fact that high style architecture, the architecture of the academy, the magazines, the press, the prestigious prizes, has largely abandoned the need for everyday architecture. When the best and brightest are building one-off custom estates and blob museums, high style architecture no longer contributes to the design of the everyday built environment. Plus, these crudscapes you de*****te-would they really be better when built in a "modern" style? I doubt it. Even the half-ass pediments and foam trim are better than a blank concrete box or poorly detailed glass mass. The everyday architects and clients have rejected the ideology of the modernist style without having the MONEY, skills, knowledge, or, let's admit it, taste, to build "quality" traditional buildings. Especially as the de*****tion of craftsmanship and materials by modernists throughout the 20th century helped dry up the reservoir of skilled building craftsmen-meaning to get the good stuff means hiring a tiny elite who get paid a lot of money.


As for your last paragraph, I would argue that the principles of Classical architecture-even columns and pediments-are timeless. They express architectonic forces in a way that modernists interested in "expressing structure" should support. Columns, pediments, three part division of a facade, all the traditional rules reflect deep seated psychological forces-they are a time-tested way of humanizing our built environment in a comprehensible manner. Traditional details also make it possible for a building to be attractive without being perfect. Mies requires a lot of money, a lot of time, first rate contractors, and an eye for detail. A good traditional building-when he traditions have not been debased due to ideology and economic forces-does not require this perfection to work well.

Better a building with columns than a windowless concrete box or a poorly detailed glass cube using cheap glass and bad joints.

Edit: I would also point out that buildings are different than ephemeral consumer electronics. Or, should be.

It's wierd...the vBase software catches and deletes the wrod de - ni - grate. Which is obviously not a race-based epithet. :p

steel said:
It is interesting that your list of historicy buildings show the Harold Washington Librbary. This building has been widely criticized for all the things you have been painting Modernism with. It is a cold monolithic street killer. Its interior is cold and confusing and many people find the palce unpleasant to use.
It certainly beats the Rem Koolhaas Seatlle library, though. Check out City Comforts for a scathing critique of that monolithic black borg cube. (Not denying the problems of Harold Washington.)

Again-why and how would a more contemporary building be by definition "better." Especially because such a modern building would probably be closer in character to the blank walled Old Navy box on Clybourne. You want to see comemrcial grade modernism in full flower, look at North Avenue. I'll take the pastiche. :)
 
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steel

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#34
The fact that you put on some plastic columns does not eliminate the fact that the building has no windows.

As a matter of fact there are many historicy buildings that have no windows. Many of them try to conceal that fact by adding fake windows. The fact that they put in fake windows tells me that they do not even understand the basic reason why a window is a good thing to have. If they can not even understand basic priciples of how interior and exterior interact on a building how are some foam pediments going to help?
 
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#35
Fake traditional and pastiche architecture is a direct application of postmodernism. The idea was to borrow elements from past styles without truly being faithful to them because that would carry their historical significance into the present. Instead the aim is irony. Remember how silly we were to like Victorian architecture? This deconstructed form exposes the emptiness of the soul of man etc etc etc...

Any minimally competent architect can create faithful traditional and classical styles just by picking up a book and reproducing what is seen in it. They don't because they don't want to. It wouldn't be original, you know? And didn't Le Corbusier say that true architecture was a window that was either too small or too big? If they made genuine traditional buildings their membership card at the modernist club would be revoked. Pastiching the past allows them to keep distance between the traditions of architecture and the dogma they adhere to.
 

mendelman

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#36
Ok...so I understand now what you are suggesting, steel.

Here is another commercial building on Michigan Ave:
The Apple Computer store:


Is this what you would prefer to see more of? I agree with you about wanting more varied streetscapes (don't think I am anti-Modernist). I'm more concerned with a building's relation to its location (commercial buildings must allow for "window shopping" in a urban setting, etc).

Or the Gap store on Michigan Ave:


Also the Lincoln Park Home Depot:


And some future housing in Lincoln Park (I was only able to photograph the development's sign):


Granted the Harold Washington Library is rather ponderous, but it is more Post-Modern than Revivalist, and it does deaden that portion of State St.

Can you post any photos of buildings as examples of your desires?
 

steel

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#37
I am working on it

jaws said:
Fake traditional and pastiche architecture is a direct application of postmodernism. The idea was to borrow elements from past styles without truly being faithful to them because that would carry their historical significance into the present. Instead the aim is irony. Remember how silly we were to like Victorian architecture? This deconstructed form exposes the emptiness of the soul of man etc etc etc...

Any minimally competent architect can create faithful traditional and classical styles just by picking up a book and reproducing what is seen in it. They don't because they don't want to. It wouldn't be original, you know? And didn't Le Corbusier say that true architecture was a window that was either too small or too big? If they made genuine traditional buildings their membership card at the modernist club would be revoked. Pastiching the past allows them to keep distance between the traditions of architecture and the dogma they adhere to.
I think you are giving many of these "architects" too much credit.
 
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BKM

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#38
steel said:
I think you are giving many of these "architects" too much credit.
Maybe. Which is why a living, firmly established architectural tradition provides more guidance to third-rate designers and contractors than a philosophy of "build anything you want, as long as it "reflects our time"" whatever the latter means.

I like some of the modernist buildings posted by mendleman, by the way. Note thy are typically smaller floorplates in a traditional streetecape (you can't separate modernist planning from modernist architetcure. they both come from similar reductionist roots-worship of efficiency,. technology and movement, rejection of traditional ideas of urbanism or architecture). Mendleman's buildings work ok because they are inserted into that traditional storefront pattern.

The more problematical Home Depot reflects a deeper issue: how to deal with very big, long monolithic buildings. Might I be lynched for suggesting a good colonnade would be a better way of providing rhythm and interest to that streetscape than a white wall with flush windows? :)
 
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#39
steel said:
By the way Modern or contemporary means far more than "glass box" Don't limit your imagination as to what is possible in architecture today.
I wasn't limiting my imagination, I was giving two secific examples of building types. A neoclassical building is a specific sort of historicist building, and a glass box is a specific type of modern building. If anything, I have more of an imagination for recognizing that original things can be done with both historicism and modernist ideas.

As for iPods looking like Victrolas - that would be silly, but I think it would be kinda cool if iPods had fancy designs on them. That would be adapting something historic to a new form and creating something original.

Also, none of the buildings Mendleman posted strike me as being wildly original. They use elements seen in buildings since before the 1950's. At what point do things like glass walls become historic rather than contemporary?
 
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