The distinguished old master dealer, Robert Simon, held his first exhibition of a contemporary artist this past November and December. Entitled The Third Rome : Allegorical Landscapes of the Modern City, it was devoted to the current work of Pamela Talese, a Brooklyn-based painter known for her haunting views of gritty industrial sites around the Navy Yard and Red Hook. Brought to Rome for the first time in twenty-two years by a fellowship at the American Academy and following up a suggestion by an architectural historian she met there, she began to explore more recent neighborhoods outside the historical center. By “more recent,” I mean areas developed in the 1920s and 1930s, that is, the Fascist Era. Exploring the neighborhoods on her bicycle with her painting box and folding easel strapped on, Ms. Talese felt attracted to certain buildings that stood out for their clean, simple lines and elegant design. These were prime examples of Fascist architecture—modest, functional residential edifices, utilitarian civic structures, and a few public buildings. Virtually none of these appear in the surveys of Fascist architecture—with one notable exception, the Foro Italico (formerly called the Foro Mussolini).
Architecture | Urban Design
The people of New South Wales have been anticipating the upcoming state election almost since the last election four years ago, never a good situation. As regular readers of our dispatches from Sydney know, the soon to be defeated Labor Government has for the past sixteen years, with its inimitably bland, shiny-suited glee, trashed poor old Sydney. A place which with the slightest effort could be the most beautiful city in the world has instead deteriorated into a kind of Los Angeles without a Raymond Chandler, a Melbourne without intricacy, a Singapore without ambition. One of the most urgent tasks facing the next state government will be the reform of NSW’s broken planning system, a system I saw in action (if that is the right word) during the disillusioning two years I spent in a cubicle at the NSW Department of Planning.
Let me say first of all, as editor and publisher of New York Arts, how fortunate I consider myself that I was able to spend a few minutes chatting with Jefe Anglesdottir, the renowned Danish architect, familiar to anyone who has so much as glanced through Metropolis or The New York Times's T Magazine for his malls, museum car parks, and the cutting-edge houses of worship he has designed for what he calls "oddball sects," for example the Positivist Temple in Częstochowa and the South Beach Rosicrucian Center. In recent years his restless creativity has led him into other art forms, most recently opera production. His first effort in the field is ambitious, nothing less than Wagner's Ring des Nibelungen for the Launceston Opera in Tasmania. For this interview I flew to Abu Dhabi, where I met with Mr. Anglesdottir in the Al Dar Lounge, said to be the most luxurious VIP lounge in the world.
OFFICE MELNIKOV is the world’s preeminent bihemispherical atelier for the repositioning of post-architectonic, post-spatial contemporary urban outcomes. We aim to monetize underutilized urban problematics through such interventions as active frontages, hot-desking, mandatory wifi corridors, vectored elegification, meMORALization, bespoke damage control, pop-up interventionalism, pre-conceptualized ‘just in time’ consumer harmonics, inspirational value engineering, demographic smoothing, fact-based ironification, storytelling, nuancement, guided flânerie, n+1ism, Big Data, Smart Data, cloud-based bricks and mortar and maximalized floor space envelopes. We also celebrate heritage and ecological values, where practicable.
Disqualification: I haven’t been to MoMA in at least fifteen years and after this week hesitate to ever go again. If this disqualifies me from commenting on the museum’s latest expansion plans then adieu, dear reader and happy days. The planned demolition of the former American Folk Art Museum is scandalous and, after MoMA seemed ready to reconsider earlier in the year, surprising as news rarely is. It is one of those demolitions, not on the order of the old Penn Station, but similar to the extent that thought of a wrecking ball piercing that facade, the actual moment of impact which now seems so likely to happen, makes one wince. Absent ideas and evocations, architecture can fall into this particular etiolation of the imagination, a kind of dime store minimalism whose effects are indistinguishable from the property developer’s philistinism. It is also self-punitive; if the former AFAM needs MoMA as an earthworm washed up onto the sidewalk needs a kind rescuer with a leaf, MoMA needs AFAM just as much, for a child needs to eat more than white bread and margarine for dinner. You can't just dress up in glass and call yourself modern.
My reaction to the release of what Infrastructure NSW calls a 20 Year State Infrastructure Strategy was what I am going to call an epiphany. It was almost nothing, certainly born as much out of laziness as principle, more the morbid blue glow of the florescent lights in Sydney’s new made in China train carriages than an incandescent halo centered over the head. To decide ‘I shall have a cheese sandwich for lunch’ would be both more useful and more profound than my realization that I can’t, or won’t, or don’t want to write about Sydney’s boring and intransigent problems anymore.
In its shopfronts cashmere sweaters the colors of macaroons. Behind their digicodes its reposing hameaux. In its ballot boxes three out of every four votes for Sarkozy. Hidden in their Maseratis its children dressed in black. The sixteenth arrondissement of Paris is a peninsula between the Bois de Boulogne (which belongs to it) and the Seine; there is the slight feeling of a border crossing, of breaching a feeble forcefield, upon entering or leaving. One can find here the works of Perret, Sauvage and, soon, Gehry, but it is the section of the Earth’s surface with the greatest concentration of buildings by Hector Guimard (1867-1942). The seizième is to Guimard as Oak Park is to Frank Lloyd Wright, except that it contains works from all periods of the architect’s career, from 1891 to 1927. Along the way one passes other buildings which support the contention, inherently arguable and worth arguing, that the sixteenth is the most architecturally interesting arrondissement. Annexed to the city in 1860, the seizième grew up in what we might call, with light apologies to Robert Caro, The Years of Hector Guimard, a complex, under-appreciated and richly contested period in the history of modern architecture. A new eclecticism began to rebel against the last moments of a played-out Haussmannization. Many modernisms were in play. Art Nouveau, which seems barely able to contain Guimard’s work, let alone the output of the entire period, may now seem the stuff of coffee table books, a particularly beautiful dead end, a fashion, a decorative style, but its surviving remnants hint of an influence more spiritual than physical.
À ses devantures les pulls en cachemire aux couleurs des macarons. Derrière leurs digicodes ses hameaux reposants. Dans ses urnes les trois-quarts des votes pour Sarkozy. Cachés dans leurs Maseratis ses enfants habillés en noir. Le seizième arrondissement de Paris est en effet une péninsule entre le bois de Boulogne (qui lui appartient) et la Seine. Une frontière invisible le cerne, une petite résistance entre l’arrondissement et sa ville. On peut y retrouver les bâtiments de Perret, de Sauvage et (bientôt) de Gehry mais le seizième est le lieu de notre planète avec la plus grande concentration des bâtiments de Hector Guimard (1867-1942). Le seizième est à Guimard ce que Oak Park est à Frank Lloyd Wright, mais on peut y voir les bâtiments de toutes les périodes de sa carrière, de 1891 à 1927. Parmi ces bâtiments il y a bien des autres qui soutient la proposition, discutable j’espère, que le seizième soit l’arrondissement le plus intéressant sur le plan architectural. Après sa annexion à Paris en 1860, l'urbanisation arrivait au seizième pendant les années de Hector Guimard, une époque de plusieurs modernismes. À Paris un nouveau éclectisme architectural a commencé à résister l’Haussmannization épuisée. L’Art nouveau ne peut pas décrire l’ensemble de l’architecture de ces années, ou même l’architecture de Guimard lui-même, qui changeait au fil du temps. Puisque sa architecture n’était pas influente par rapport aux modernismes des années suivantes, l’oeuvre de Guimard vive trop souvent aux musées plutôt que dans les rues. Bien qu’il était une impasse dans l’histoire de l’architecture, qui ne veut pas habiter une telle ruelle.