From wonderment to disgust, the opening of Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959 was met with a wide range of reactions from the public. This profound cultural moment was distilled in a series of witty cartoons published in the New Yorker that simultaneously lampooned both the innovative architecture and its critics, which were recently shared in a blog post by the Guggenheim Museum. Through detailed sketches, cartoonist Alan Dunn represents the experience of the building, from staring into the exterior porthole windows to walking around the grand ramp. In one drawing he depicts the perspective from the first floor looking up at the dome, giving a sweeping sense of the curvature and geometries of the building.
In an article for The New Yorker, Ben Mauk examines the rise of the private art 'museum.' In the centre of Berlin there sits a "heavy, grey, and shrapnel-pocked" bunker, designed by Nazi architect Karl Bonatz under the direction of Albert Speer which, in 2003, was transformed into a private gallery. Having been bought by Christian and Karen Boros in order to display a portion of their sizeable collection of contemporary art, the only way for a member of the public to gain admittance is by registering online for a group tour. For Mauk, however, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Read the article in full here.
In The New Yorker's latest Postcard from Rome Elizabeth Kolbert talks to Renzo Piano in his Senate Office at the Palazzo Giustiniani, just around the corner from the Pantheon. Piano, who was named a Senator for Life by Italian President Giorgio Napolitano in September 2013 (when he was 75 years of age), immediately "handed over the office, along with his government salary, to six much younger architects." He then "asked them to come up with ways to improve the periferie - the often run-down neighborhoods that ring Rome and Italy’s other major cities." Kolbert attests to Piano's belief in the power of museums and libraries and concert halls. For him, "they become places where people share values [and] where they stay together." "This is what I call the civic role of architecture."
With their latest cover, The New Yorker is addressing the tragic unrest in Ferguson which has followed Monday's decision not to indict the officer who shot Michael Brown in August, using an image of Eero Saarinen's iconic Gateway Arch. The image, designed by Bob Staake, shows the arch divided, black on one side and white on the other in reference to the racial tensions that underpin the dispute. "At first glance, one might see a representation of the Gateway Arch as split and divided," says Staake, "but my hope is that the events in Ferguson will provide a bridge and an opportunity for the city." To read more about the ideas behind Staake's design, visit The New Yorker's website.
The relationship between immortality and architecture is ancient one. Writing in The New Yorker, Alexandra Lange discusses the past and future of cemetery design in relation to a new exhibition on display in New York. Featuring a selection of 1300 individual mausoleum designs stored in Columbia University's archives, Lange notes how "patrons weren’t picky about originality. In the late nineteenth century, memorial companies might just bring back a shipment of angels from Carrara to be distributed among future clients." These "rural estates in miniature" eventually gave way to more contemporary designs which dabbled in Realism and Cubism. What will the people of today house their remains in? For Lange, "the design we take personal pleasure from everyday is now less likely to be architecture and more likely to be an interface." Read the article in full here.
If this registers no reaction from you, let me explain why it should. Paul Goldberger is the crowned prince of criticism. He began his career at The New York Times in 1972, where he worked under Ada Louise Huxtable, our reigning critical queen, and where he won a Pulitzer Prize. In 1997, he switched media empires:
But, after years of “fighting for adequate space” in an increasingly shrinking column, Goldberger won’t be finishing his writing days as Architect Critic of The New Yorker, but as Contributing Editor of Vanity Fair.
Many will conclude that this is a death knell for architecture; that if architecture cannot justify its own column at The New Yorker, one of the most influential publications in the world, then it must no longer be deemed relevant. This is what happened when Michael Kimmelman, an Arts reporter with no architectural training was appointed to cover architecture at The Times. Critics tweeted: “NYT to Architecture of NYC: Drop Dead” and “Architecture: you’ve been demoted.”
I too will add a cry to the din: “The Architecture Critic is Dead!” But you know what? Good riddance. Because criticism hasn’t died the way you think. It’s just been changed beyond recognition. And frankly, for the better.
Read more on the transformation of architecture & its criticism after the break…