Plumb Lines

August 27, 2009

For the New York Times…

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 11:20 am

it’s always 1950, the past is always something to be swept away, and California always represents the future. In a petulant and parochial jab at the Grey Lady’s hometown, Nicolai Ourousoff writes:

The country’s creative energy shifted westward, to Los Angeles, whose vibrant mix of urban grit and nature, abundance of relatively cheap land and lack of confining historical traditions allowed architects to experiment with a freedom that had become virtually impossible in New York.

Confining historical traditions? Does the Times really still think that a rich architectural history is an obstacle to innovation?

As the architectural triumphs of Barcelona, Paris, and London in the last few decades show, and indeed, as every major architect seems to know nowadays, innovation is only possible against a background, and the richer that background the more fruitful the innovation. Many of the best works of recent years bear explicit reference to architectural tradition, like Foster’s new Reichstag dome. Even more radical recent works have been successful precisely because they are situated among buildings built a long time ago, like Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center.

David Schaengold

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