April 28, 2009

Even Security Guards know its Ugly

Today my boss was out and about taking photographs for a presentation on the architecture of Washington DC, and like so many other photographers in DC and the country, was accosted by a security guard for his trouble.

Now for those of us in DC who have a fondness for architecture, this troubling intrusion on our civil liberties is no new news really. A while back some innocent tourists were confronted by private security guards about taking photos of Union Station, a DC landmark.
The Forrestal Building

My boss was taking photos of the monstrous Forrestal building in southwest DC, which you can see is a pretty ugly building. While taking his photos he was flagged down by a security officer and asked for usual sorts of questions and detained while the guard got his supervisor. My boss found the whole incident rather ridiculous, especially when the guard asked to see the photos, to which my anacronistic mentor explained he was taking slides photos, the guard was incredulous.

My good employer raised an interesting question telling his tale to me. Was he being accosted because he was taking photos of a modernist building? Now before you jump all over me for saying I'm accusing the Hegemony of some sort of plot, let me explain.

Consider this: my boss was out all afternoon taking pictures of other Federal buildings in DC, from the Capitol to the Federal Triangle. All of these buildings are "sensitive" to the same sort of degree that the Forrestall building is, they are all Federal office buildings. But one wonders why he, and every other tourist in town takes pictures (for the most part) unmolested till the cows come home. But the second that he begins taking pictures of a massively ugly Brutalist building he's questioned by security?

Maybe its that the security guards know that nobody takes pictures of such ugly buildings and they think that someone who does is a nut of some sort? I know that a lot of security is overzealous to a rediculous degree, but one has to wonder if even they understand how unpopular Modernism really is?


Kristen said...

that's not ugly.

Anonymous said...

that's fugly

Samuel John Lima said...

Hahaha! That's hilarious. And yes, that building is nasty.

Anonymous said...

Ugly yes, but there's also an ownership difference. Lots of the buildings south of Independence are privately owned and then leased to the federal agencies. Whereas Federal Triangle and the other handsome ones you mentioned are owned by the Feds themselves. That could be a reason for the different treatment, too.

John Curran said...

I think that is a really beautiful buiding!
I went to school at UMass; the whole campus was done in Brutalist style, and though I thought it was ugly at first, the style really grew on me.

Erik Bootsma said...

John, my condolences. Most modernists say we are conditioned by our history to find classical things beautiful. Our reactions to things are not due to objective beauty, but to conditioning.

I think you illustrate how the truth is just the opposite. You clearly had the right reaction to ugliness, but then were conditioned to like it, doubtless due to a good memories of other things there. I kind of have the same reaction to some modernist places, its more like nostalgia than really finding the place beautiful.

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