Monday, January 02, 2006

The "Mozart of modernism."

Paul Goldberger starts this recent New Yorker piece on the new Hearst Tower with “Norman Foster is the Mozart of modernism.” The article lavishes 1400 words glowing about the new tower in New York with nary a negative observation. From the article…
[…] Foster’s brilliance can be seen in the way that he exploits this engineering trick for aesthetic pleasure. The triangles are the playful opposites of the dark Xs that slash the façade of the John Hancock Center, in Chicago. They give the building a jubilantly jagged shape. Foster started with a box, then sliced off the corners and ran triangles up and down the sides, pulling them in and out—a gargantuan exercise in nip and tuck. The result resembles a many-faceted diamond. The corners of the shaft slant in and out as the tower rises, and the whole form shimmers. Such a scheme could have become a pretentious exercise in structural exhibitionism, but in Foster’s hands it presents the perfect foil for [Joseph] Urban’s building. The design avoids the two most obvious approaches: imitating the style of the base or erecting a neutral glass box. Joseph Urban’s goal in the original Hearst Building was to create a respectable form of flamboyance, and Foster has figured out how to do the same thing with his tower, but in unquestionably modern terms, and without compromising his commitment to structural innovation. […]
It is great to be excited about architecture. DYWSC? is looking forward to more even tempered coverage of the structure though. “Modern” appears like such a compliment when Mr. Goldberger uses the word, but some have moved away from such casual endorsements. It would be great to hear how Mr. Foster engages the Modernist tradition with his Hearst tower. Surely the triangulated structure and façade are meant to be less neutral than that most quintessential Maison Domino, or more fairly, General Motors Headquarters. Are we to understand that the triangulation also informs the interior of the project, instead of acting merely at a scale of the city? Does the 20% structural saving come from improving the usual grid of columns and beams, or just from the exterior columns acting as diagonal bracings? Wouldn’t it be great if the 80% recycled structural steel points to an update to the modern tradition of optimization, instead of just earning it New York’s first gold rated LEED building?

These questions are floundering an open-en
ded because at some level, any metal or steel skyscraper has “modern” traits. Is it too much to ask of such a widely appealing periodical to have more specific or engaging reviews? When DYWSC? visits it will make an effort to write a review that lives to the standards this blog espouses. Until then, bravo to the new Progressive Reactionary for labeling the article as “overly enthusiastic” and rife with just ”wide-eyed awe and fascination.


Blogger progressive reactionary said...

J- thanks for the plug. glad to see somebody else also notices Goldberger's spineless blandness when it comes to architectural criticism. looking forward to hearing your own review of the foster bldg!

10:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, yes. I agree with both of your posts. Why don't newspaper editors just farm blogs for good critics, because some of the guys writing today are without je ne sais pas.... backbone.

2:47 AM  
Anonymous Frank said...

Nice photo-merge for this post, where did you get them?

2:57 AM  
Blogger J said...

PR, A, and F,

Thanks for your comments. Even though PR is new to the sphere (these words are written by a 3-month-old blogger) the blog is already on my rotation to visit daily. Keep up the good work! This post's photo is a collage of portraits found using It did take a while to find similiar poses.



10:32 AM  

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