Thursday, June 19, 2008

Future schlock

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This architect-as-rock-star lark has gone too far.

In 50 years, we've moved from the buttoned-down, "less is more and even less is even more" school of building design, through the wink-nudge postmodernist period to arrive at the "too much isn't enough" school. These architect wallahs and their misguided clients are in a bidding war for the most bizarro concept.

Guy de Maupassant is said to have lunched every day in the Eiffel Tower's restaurant because it was the only place in the city where he wouldn't have to look at the tower. Whoever gave planning permission for the structure pictured above obviously feels that a century hence Chicagoans will thrill to it as Parisians do to the Eiffel Tower today. (Do they really? Or is it just tourists who love it because it reassures them that, yes, they really are in Paris?)

Anyway, the thing in the picture will be the second-tallest building in the world (for a year or two, probably) when completed in 2011. (Tip of the hat to Ephemeral Isle.)

Londoners have nicknamed one of the city's wilder new skyscrapers "the Gherkin." Any guesses as to what Chicagoans will call their modest new addition to the skyline? "La Baguette"? "The Screw You Building"? "The Joint"? "The Twister"? Maybe they could paint candy stripes on it so it could be known as "The Peppermint Twist Building." We are Chicago, City of Broad Shoulders, and We Will Never Be Understated!

Once, unthinkable eons ago — a hundred years — there was something called classicism in architecture. The reigning idea was that a building should express a continuity with the past of Western civilization, and that it should not unduly call attention to itself, in the way that a gentleman does not raise his voice. That was then, this is now, when the only continuity our architects of ego-eyed vision know how to express is with the future as imagined in video games, and their only tone is a shout. Maybe one day not far off, when the historic record has vanished from human minds and exists only as bytes in obscure computer files, Chicagoans will love their by-then world's 25th-tallest building.

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8 comments:

zazie said...

Very good post indeed ; somebody once told me that humour is often the mask of despair ; is it the way you feel toward the "art" of our century ? BTW, I am fed up with people admiring "contemporary art" ; it does not make sense, since there has always been an art which people called contemporary!
The man who had dinner at the Tower restaurant to make sure he would not have to see it was either Tristan Bernard or Alphonse Allais, I think; the latter is also known for having once declared that towns should be built in the country to make them healthier....
True Parisians usually don't even bother to climb up the Tower, or the Sacr� Coeur, or the Arc de Triomphe for that matter....If they are in a wandering mood, they stroll around la Place des Vosges or Notre Dame and la Sainte Chapelle, or la Place Dauphine and the Quai Voltaire....
As to the new "thing" in Chicago, it looks like a huge surgery instrument that might be useful for a doctor in Gulliver's Travels!

Rick Darby said...

Chère Zazie,

Ah, good to hear from you again. I hope you are well.

I like some contemporary art and architecture. What puts me off is when they try to score by being edgy or shocking, and in the case of buildings, when they are completely out of step with their surroundings.

Ah, you've made me nostalgic for Paris. Still, I hope, a wonderful place for strolling, especially where you can get away from the traffic. I am especially fond of the Jardin des Tuileries and the old bridges across the Seine.

yih said...

I'm going to say exactly what I said to VA when she changed the look of her blog.
GAWD THAT'S UGLY!!!
Balls and strikes, I call 'em as I see 'em. My opinion, take it or leave it.
Want to know what I consider ugly?
THAT'S UGLY!!!
''The Tower of light'' that the previous Prez Bush praised as part of his ''thousand points of light'' BS.
I'd be more than happy to demolish it. It's a downright eyesore.

Lawrence Auster said...

I hope Mr. Darby is not telling us that that ... THING has actually been approved for construction.

yih said...

Under construction now. According to Wikipedia, FWIW.
I don't disagree with Rick, it does indeed resemble a giant ''joint''.
Coincidence?

C. Van Carter said...

Postmodern architects hate human beings.

Take a look at this:

http://www.gulfnews.com/business/Development/10222659.html

leadpb said...

That gulfnews link is something. I've been hoping to run across an article that gets into the deep tissue of Arab culture and Islam vis-a-vis the astronomical decadence of the Emirates, Dubai in particular. Or a book perhaps?

Lawrence Auster said...

"Postmodern architects hate human beings.

That goes without saying. But the architects did not authorize this building. The authorities of midwestern, heartland, City of the Big Shoulders Chicago authorized it.

Modern Western culture is a vast project aimed at crushing humanity and destroying everything the West has been.