Architecture
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Three Lost Days at the Biggest Architecture Show in the World

People often say that their hometowns or favorite cities are unique. "There’s no place like New York," they declare. This is true, up to a point—no two cities are exactly alike—but, broadly speaking, it’s nonsense. Almost every modern city is like New York, because nearly every city is substantially like every other city: There are traffic jams and suburbs and hip, formerly industrial neighborhoods and decaying ones. But Venice? Venice is different. There’s no place like Venice.

The same quality that made the Queen of the Adriatic a world power in medieval and Renaissance Europe—her amphibious nature, unassailably positioned out in a lagoon, her finger on the pulse of [...]

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The Sublime Sci-Fi Buildings That Communism Built

The House of Soviets in Kaliningrad. Photo by Frédéric Chaubin, from "CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed."

The architecture of the Eastern Bloc—a conundrum of impossible complexity, or at least that's what it looks like judging from the daily view of my collection of coffee table books. Yes, that's right, coffee table books. The recent glut of art volumes devoted to Soviet architecture may be surprising to anyone who previously thought "Soviet architecture" had about as much to do with "art" as "Soviet leaders" had to do with "glamour." Yet here is a whole bookshelf to contradict that view. There's Taschen's CCCP: Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed, Hatje Cantz's [...]

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Brutalism Briefly Unbullied

Paul Rudolph's cube-y little marvel of building, the Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York—one of the many Brutalist buildings subjected to whinnying opposition by faux-aesthetes—is one step closer to salvation. The county has agreed to entertain hotel designer Gene Kaufman's proposal to renovate the building and transform it into "a center for artists, exhibitions and community meetings." Photo

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The Ugly-Beauty Of Brutalism

Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago

Updating a cultural canon, in any form, is an endless battlefield due to our persistent tendencies, 1. to create ever more art and 2. to fail, just as rapidly, to agree on its value. Witness debates about revised editions of any literary anthology, or, say, the National Film Registry. At times worthy works receive just recognition; other times, age seems all that’s required to give mediocre works the gloss of historical grandeur. But let’s not get off track discussing Sex, Lies and Videotape vs. Forrest Gump. Rarely is the navigation of this question of aesthetic value more difficult and commercially charged than in architecture. After [...]

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Brutalism's Bullies

In late April, the city of Baltimore issued a certificate of demolition for the Morris A. Mechanic Theater, prevailing in a lengthy quest to destroy one of its most unique buildings. With a character somewhere between a stone-age helmet and a concrete cog, the nearly fifty-year-old building’s assertive structure has earned the affection of a small number of enthusiasts who embrace its almost oppressively functional style of architecture—and almost no one else. The theater, designed by the revered and often imperiled architect John Johansen, will be replaced by a condo.

The story of the Mechanic has become overly familiar. Brutalism, a muscular and monumental architectural style [...]