May 14, 2009

Some Reasonable Words about Prince Charles

With so much venom and anger being vented at Prince Charles for daring to enter into a debate about style, Simon Jenkins, writing for the Guardian(UK) gets it right about Prince Charles and the modernist/classicist debate. Some interesting arguments about preservation are also raised that may be apropos to the 3rd Church debate.

I can't improve on it by commenting, so I link to it here. I'll just point out my favorite line, answering the charge of HRH being "undemocratic"

The debate has never died. It is kicking dust down at the old barracks site in Chelsea, where a proposed cluster of towers in a park by Lord Rogers, in the style of postwar Roehampton, is pitted against a terrace by Quinlan Terry in the even older style of Wren. In support of the latter, the "unelected" prince has written to the unelected owner of the site, the Qatari royal family, while the unelected architects have written to the unelected press. Never has the concept of franchise been so abused.

Preservationism Stands in the Way of Transit Options

Preservationists on Chicago's South Side are calling for local officials to stop the demolition of a small building standing in the way of a planned Metra Commuter train stop because the building was designed by Mies van der Rohe.

The "Test Cell" Building stands in the way of a proposed Metra Stop

This insignificant tiny bland box was designed by the German Modernist architect van der Rohe during his tenure as the architect of the Illinois Institute of Design and should be saved. According to one silly preservationist, this brutish little eyesore is akin to doodle by Rembrandt. One has to wonder when the hijacking of the preservation movement by ideologically driven modernists will come to an end and common sense will begin to prevail?

It seems to me that this building logically fails in almost all criteria that a building should have to mandate preservation.

1. The building is great - Lets face it, the building is like the Tribune says "a clunky brick box" only an idiot would think this building is intrinsically great.

2. The building is a significant example of its style - Go to any college campus in this country and you'll find a dozen of these miserable boxes cluttering up the landscape. As for an argument that it's the hand of a master, I doubt that Mies personally even drew the plans, like the Third Church of Christ Scientist, the architect didn't design this, his underlings probably did. If he personally laid the brick on this building maybe I could see it, but that isn't the case either.

3. The building is irreplaceable - Some buildings, like Penn Station were masterpieces that when they were torn down are lost forever. One could theoretically rebuild it, but the costs and the circumstances of today effectively render this impossible. This bunker could be built to the original plans in probably two or three days virtually anywhere, but what would the point be?

Some would claim that that would be "dishonest" but then I don't understand the obsession of modernist preservationists with "original materials." Architect drew the plans, the form is the important part, that's what makes it architecture, the hundreds of buildings reconstructed in Europe over the past 60 years after World War II are testament to this, they ARE great buildings, built to the designs of architects great and small, that they are new materials is irrelevant. One wonders if some sort of 60s new age thought got into preservationism? It's as if the stone and brick itself were somehow sacred by being arranged by the master, or the workers infused the brick with its zeitgeist of its particular time.

The real shame is that this miserable little junky building is standing in the way of real progress, a train station that will help revitalize the area. As the Tribune article says, hundreds of cars will be taken off the freeway adjacent to the school, and to stop genuine improvement for an ugly banal minor work by an architect that SOME people claim a master, is not simply stupid, it's the most irresponsible sort of architectural hubris imaginable.

May 13, 2009

Lecture tonight on Sacred Architecture

Tonight at the CIC, architect Art Lohsen of Franck & Lohsen Architects, will be giving a lecture entitled, Transcendent Beauty, the Importance of Catholic Architecture.

The lecture will be tonight, May 13 at 7pm at the Catholic Information Center, 1501 K Street NW, and is hosted by the Foundation for Sacred Arts.

I have attended this series thus far and have been impressed by the quality of the speakers and the topics as well. I encourage anyone interested in Catholic architecture to attend. I have another function I'm committed to, otherwise I would be there tonight.
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