Behold the classical disorders

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A gathering of embellishments inside the Weiss House, in Providence.

The other day I got word that the British architectural historian James Stevens Curl – with 40 books under his belt – had written another, Making Dystopia: The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism. Due out next August from Oxford University Press, it tells the tale of how modern architecture vanquished classicism in a short and remarkably uncontested battle for dominance in the architectural establishment.

Unable to acquire a book that has not been published yet, I sent away for his Oxford Dictionary of Architecture. The author’s wry skepticism of modernist architecture is on full display. It arrived in the nick of time to help me defend the classical embellishment of a house whose interior I had extolled in my recent post “Stan Weiss’s house divided.”

Look at the shot of gathered embellishment, above, in Weiss’s house. One reader called it “awkward” and described its faults at length, concluding that “whoever designed the interior trim scheme knows nothing about classical architecture and picked a batch of moldings from catalogs and put them together as best they could. But a sorry mish-mash it is.”

I very strongly disagree, and am glad to have Curl’s dictionary to back me up. It may indeed be that Weiss’s scheme is not quite canonical, may betray disorder among the orders, but the history of the classical canon is itself a string of deviations from the original Greco-Roman orders. Over the centuries, some deviations have become acceptable, others are still considered deviant.

Under the heading “Order,” Curl, noting the disorderly variations even within the original canon, writes:

The Greek-Doric Order has no base, and sometimes (as in the Paestum Orders of Doric) entasis is exaggerated and the capital is very large, with wide projection over the shaft; the Ionic Order has variations in its base (Asiatic and Attic types) and capital (especially in relation to angle, angular and Bassae capitals where the problem of the corner volute is dealt with in different ways[.]

In the same entry Curl describes more recent discontinuities:

John Outram (1934-) incorporates services into what he called the “Robot Order” (Ordine Robotico), or “Sixth Order,” not coyly hidden away, but expressed as a new polychrome Order visible throughout the building [hiding service tubes.] … His work was hysterically described as “sheer terrorism” by a defender of the Modernist faith (although the Piano-Rogers Beaubourg, Paris, which shows off its service innards, of course, escaped such strictures).

This may be inside baseball (or “Greek”) to some readers, but the point is that variation is the only constant in classical architecture.

Andrés Duany, in his not yet published Heterodoxia Architectonica, stresses that the string of treatises that frame the canonical discourse is suffused with contradiction. The Greek and Roman orders as interpreted by Renaissance classicists underwent extensive modification as to what is acceptable, and the very idea of exalting only the “acceptable” was under stress long before the modernists came along with their bludgeons. The needs of practicality and the impulses of artistic creativity have always caused the classical orders to be considered less as a boundary than as an inspiration for stylistic change. Ineptitude and haste also feed the mix, and might be said to be as integral to the evolution of practice in the descent, as it were, from Greek and Roman forms, occasionally, no doubt, in a positive manner.

To me, it seems evident that the key to distinguishing what is or is not acceptable, what is or is not unduly disrespectful of the classical orders, is the result. Is it beautiful? I concede a degree of canonical ignorance regarding the by-the-book strictures of Weiss’s critic. Yet, as they say, ignorance is bliss. If a degree of tolerance truly equals a cesspool of ignorance, I can only plead guilty. But again, look at the photo above and decide for yourself. Ditto the photo below, which the aforesaid critic sent to exemplify his critique.

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Stan Weiss’s house divided

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Stan Weiss’s recently newly renovated house on Providence’s Pratt Street.

For decades until a year or two ago, Stan Weiss’s antiques collection graced the graceful, gilded the lily so to speak, by residing in downtown’s Tilden-Thurber Building. Then he sold Tilden-Thurber to former Providence Mayor Joe Paolino Jr. Weiss also sold his mansion, Halsey House on Prospect Street, to Paolino. (This much I recounted in my book Lost Providence.) In return he got lots of money, of course, but also a building on Fourth Street, off Hope, where he now houses the famous Stanley Weiss Collection, plus a modernist domicile on Pratt Street, where he now houses himself and his delightful wife, Beth. On Tuesday, near the conclusion of its renovation, he invited me over to take a peek.

Originally a mid-’50s ranch moved from higher up on College Hill, the house on Pratt – after or rather because of a ’70s era renovation – was as bad looking as the circa ’00 modernist box designed next door by architect Friedrich St. Florian for a client. Pratt Street is College Hill’s sandbox for the modernists. Indeed, Weiss hired St. Florian to help redesign the house.

And the result? Well, the result probably belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records. In no house on Earth, I would venture to assert, does the outside express more profound disagreement with the inside. To approach the sullen exterior from Pratt in no way prepares a visitor for the classical heaven inside the front portal. Knowing Stan and Beth for years, I was not entirely unprepared, but was totally astonished nonetheless. So imagine the surprise, nay the joyful sense of relief, that will greet a pizza delivery man!! Or, on some other evening, one of Weiss’s colleagues in the art of selling fine antiques. Who can even begin to imagine what Joe Paolino might think.

Pictured above is that approach on Pratt. Below, shots of the interior are followed by shots of the exterior, including, finally, the view from Benefit Street below.

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“Aware now of its dullness”

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“View of Delft,” by Johannes Vermeer. (Mauritshuit)

Early in Girl With a Pearl Earring, Tracy Duvalier’s novel set in 17th century Holland, is a passage that launched several thoughts about architecture and design. The teenage girl has just become a maid in the household of the successful painter Johannes Vermeer. She is allowed on Sundays to visit the home of her mother and father – he was a maker of Delft tiles until a recent accident blinded him. She describes her first visit home:

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“Girl With the Pearl Earring,” by Johannes Vermeer. (Mauritshuis)

When we ate dinner I tried not to compare it with that in the house at Papists’ Corner, but already I had become accustomed to meat and good rye bread. Although my mother was a better cook than [Vermeer’s cook] Tanneke, the brown bread was dry, the vegetable stew tasteless with no fat to flavor it. The room, too, was different  no marble tiles, no thick silk curtains, no tooled leather chairs. Everything was simple and clean, without ornamentation. I loved it because I knew it, but I was aware now of its dullness.

The description suggests, with delicacy, how embellishment – of cuisine, of decor, of architecture – brings a more or less subtle richness to life. Maybe those without such embellishment get the greatest pleasure from it, if and when they can experience it. Maybe it is possible to love “dullness” only through deprivation of embellishment. If so, then maybe we need more traditional houses on public streets. serving (as I noted in “Beauty as a social good“) as free art museums for the general public, including those of low income, who need only stroll by to enjoy and who may appreciate it the most.

So cities with strong preservation societies preserve a social good. Right? Or maybe they preserve houses whose beauty makes it harder for the poor to bear the relative aesthetical poverty of their lives. Maybe modern architecture enriches the lives of the poor.

Hey! That’s going too far! Anyway, some food for thought about architecture.

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Paolino vs. Industrial Trust

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Proposed 36-story tower on site of Industrial Trust Building. (GoLocalProv.com)

According to GoLocalProv.com, former mayor and longtime property owner Joseph Paolino Jr. wants to tear down Providence’s beloved Industrial Trust Building – widely known as the Superman Building – vacant since 2013.

Who does the PR for this guy?

The Industrial Trust’s chief rival as iconic building is the Rhode Island State House itself. Paolino’s proposal is even worse than Governor Almond’s plan 20 years ago to demolish its neighbor, the Masonic Temple. It was vacant since 1928 (the same year the Industrial Trust was completed). Now the temple is a successful luxury hotel.

GoLocal declared the Industrial Trust to be “Rhode Island’s biggest eyesore.” Huh? Maybe the writer meant “white elephant.” which would at least be accurate.

GoLocal’s story “Plan to Build Hasbro Headquarters in Providence – Demo Superman Building” reports that Paolino’s plan is one of several responding to rumors that the toymaker might acquire rival Mattel. Poor Pawtucket! Imagine losing both Hasbro and the PawSox in one fell swoop.

I’m sure GoLocal’s reporting of Paolino’s proposal is accurate; it’s Paolino’s proposal that reads like fake news.

Imagine Paolino paying millions to buy the Industrial Trust, then paying millions more to clear the land, then paying millions more to build an ugly 36-story tower on it when he already owns a large vacant lot across the street.

Why? How does this make sense?

In fact, Paolino’s proposal makes perfect sense in the context of Providence’s recent development history. The policy of the current and recent mayors seems to be this: Tear down everything that represents the city’s venerable brand and replace it with anything that can be relied upon to weaken its brand.

Hey! Sounds like a plan! This plan has a pedigree that reaches back to the Vietnam War: “We had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

For those shaking their heads in wonder, yes, Providence has already traveled down that road. The Downtown Providence 1970 Plan, announced in 1960, proposed demolishing the city’s beauty and replacing it with ugliness. Pure urban removal. Fortunately, only Cathedral Square and Westminster Mall were built. The former, though the brainchild of modernist icon I.M. Pei, remains dead space. As for the latter, Paolino himself deserves a lot of credit, as mayor in the 1980s, for removing the failed pedestrian mall, which was just as ugly as Cathedral Square, and replacing it with a street that can sit alongside many of Europe’s finest for beauty and civility.

But poor Joe Junior appears to have learned nothing even from his own role in the history of the city where he once was mayor.

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Industrial Trust Bank Building, erected in 1929. (Photo by David Brussat)

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The telescope as sculpture

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Porter Garden Telescope from Telescopes of Vermont (Russ Schleipman)

Years ago I was wandering through a naval equipment store in Provincetown, on Cape Cod, and found a telescope of high quality and elegant appearance. It was too pricey for me, $500 or so. I wanted something through which I could spy on downtown Providence from my fifth-floor loft in the Smith Building, right behind the Plunder Dome – City Hall – whose offices were a target. Or to watch people strolling on that sliver of new waterfront visible to me at the base of College Hill, some 980 yards straight down Fulton Street from my aerie. My wife gifted me a lovely brass telescope that, alas, looked better than it worked. It always sat next to one of the windows in our loft, but for actual snooping I had to make do with a set of binoculars.

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Today, I’d rather own a Porter Garden Telescope, designed in 1923 by Russell Porter, of MIT. I have a garden to put it in now, or rather a backyard. (It was a garden when we bought the house; now it is a backyard.) It is definitely not for peeping down from a lofty apartment at the cutie disrobing in her apartment on the west slope of College Hill. (I hasten to add I’ve never seen one of those.) It is for looking at the heavens – the planets, the moon, the stars.

But though it would grace our backyard – turning it back into a garden in one fell swoop – it belongs in the Louvre. (An original now sits in the Smithsonian.) It hasn’t the slightest resemblance to the Platonic idea of a telescope. Recently at a party in Boston sponsored by the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, I met Corina Belle-Isle (a name that also belongs in the Louvre). She represents Telescopes of Vermont, a firm in Norwich there that makes and markets the Porter reproductions, which she described to me, as it won last year’s Bulfinch award in the category of craftsmanship/artisanship.

Russ Schleipman, the president of Telescopes of Vermont, has written:

[T]he Garden Telescope was conceived as a superb optical instrument, Art Nouveau bronze sculpture, and working sundial, all in one. It was a model for the 200 inch Hale Telescope at Mt. Palomar in San Diego, and thereby found its way to the Smithsonian. Decades later my father, Fred Schleipman of Norwich,Vermont and the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, driven by a deep passion to do so, organized a talented team for the express purpose of resurrecting this unique instrument, adding superb modern optics and considerably enhanced functionality.

He adds:

Though it is a reflecting telescope, the familiar tube is absent. Instead, a bronze leaf holds the optics. They lift out in seconds, leaving a graceful sculpture and working sundial which can be permanently installed outdoors as a distinctive centerpiece.

Each telescope requires 400 hours of labor to produce, and so I can imagine that each of the production run of 200 copies will boast the slight differences that set this bronze reproduction apart as an act of craftsmanship. Here is a more technical description of the telescope, which is 66 inches tall (including its pedestal) and weighs 110 pounds:

A six-inch mirror and eyepieces of 50 and 75 power deliver the moon, Jupiter and its moons, and Saturn with great detail. Currently there are thirty six in the world. The telescope, pedestal and optics case (made by a maker of cases for fine London and Belgian shotguns) comprise the kit, which sells for $65,000 US, plus delivery.

So now I have a garden but I still lack $65,000 – the price, and a fair one. It would make a fine Christmas gift, and a savings, for those out there who last year gave their loved one a Lamborghini with a ribbon on top. Yet, as a work of art, to see photographs of it serves as a gift in its own right, which I am happy to convey to my readers in their hundreds and thousands. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

***

The first shot below is Vermont Gov. Hartness peering into the eyepiece of the telescope. Below are images from the Telescopes of Vermont website, which includes an elegant video of Russ Schleipman explaining the operation of his advanced reproduction of the original.

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Don’t fob off cheap, easy link

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Proposal for new bus hub under the Rhode Island State House lawn.

Friedrich St. Florian and Dietrich Neumann, RISD and Brown architectural illuminati both, have concocted what may be the most interesting, perhaps the best, idea for a new bus terminal to replace the one at Kennedy Plaza. In a Providence Journal oped, “A bus depot below the State House lawn?,” they describe how the depot could be built under the lawn within the slope of the hill that leads up from Providence Station to the Rhode Island State House.

The state Department of Transportation has vaguely proposed a new depot above ground along with a private component. Both elements, it appears, would be arrayed on either side of Providence Station, on Station Park or on a strip of the State House lawn created by relocating Gaspee Street to a point that would narrow but even out the lawn. Unclear is which element would go where. The state’s plan, poorly thought out as it is, also includes a “skyline-altering” tower for the private component.

As I’ve written in several posts, I disagree with any plan that features a new central bus depot. This is unnecessary and was not specifically mentioned in the $35 million bond issue passed in 2014 and now expected to finance the state’s portion of the plan.

The state does not need a new central bus hub. A better link for riders between the buses and the trains is easy-peasy. A continuous bus loop connecting Kennedy Plaza and Providence Station would accomplish this for bupkis – a few thousand dollars a year.

The state’s real purpose, I think, is to eliminate bus riders and idlers (two groups that partly overlap) from the plaza so it can be redeveloped as a “public square.” Burnside Park already serves quite well as a public square – unless the real reason is to make it easier to redevelop the Industrial Trust (“Superman”) Building.

A plan to remake Kennedy Plaza into a space more congenial to more people is not without merit, but it should be done straightforwardly. It could be accomplished by changing bus routes in downtown from a system where buses stop only at Kennedy Plaza to one where buses stop briefly at the plaza and continue on to bus stops on every block or so throughout downtown. That is how most cities configure their bus systems. That would thin out, though not eliminate, the plaza’s bus and bum populations.

The elements of a public square could then be constructed as imagined by the downtown design firm Union Studio (see below). I would not tear down the arched entry to the skating rink, and I would bring back the Art Nouveau kiosks replaced in 2015 by cheesy, sterile waiting kiosks. The continuous bus loop between the plaza and the Amtrak station would continue to make sense in such a plan, if a new public square is carried out.

Or the state could save the $35 million bond money, or split it between the public square and a bus sub hub next to the municipal courthouse on Dorrance Street, a proposal that was envisioned (along with a Providence Station bus sub hub) in the thinking behind the bond issue. This would allow the broader scheme to move forward more swiftly.

As for the Neumann/St. Florian proposal, drawings published with their Journal oped do not seem to bear out the suggestion that the view corridor to the State House would be unaffected. The cherished view from in front of Providence Station would be mostly blocked by the entrance portal to the underground hub on Gaspee. They could dig deeper into the hill, perhaps, but that would be more expensive. That might also avoid the unfortunate flattening out of the graceful set of hillocks leading up to the State House.

Finally, their plan suggests no private component. If that was not considered necessary to bring about the new depot, it’s hard to see why the state would have led with its chin by planning to put a number of new buildings on or near the State House grounds.

Tinkering with sacred land around the State House remains unnecessary and unwise.

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Rendering of the proposal to renovate Kennedy Plaza as a public square. (Union Studio)

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Another totally giftable book

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The front (right) and rear covers of Lost Providence. The front features the Butler Exchange.

Lost Providence, by yours truly, would make a great gift for anyone keen on the history of Providence, the blessing of traditional architecture, or the bane of modern architecture. Or, dear reader, get it for yourself.

Most bookstores in Providence and vicinity carry the book, I believe, and for those living outside the vicinity, it can be purchased through History Press or Amazon. Make sure you order the book, not the postcards, unless you want the postcards as well. Someone accidentally ordered the postcards through Amazon when she thought she was ordering the book (which can also be ordered as a Kindle e-book). Understandably, she was not pleased and (not understandably) gave my book just two stars. Boo-hoo!

That may have been a drag on sales and may still be, though some people who actually read the book have given it the maximum of five stars, along with reviews that actually have made me blush with pleasure. (Bless you all!). Still, if anyone wants to review it themselves, I will bless you, too. It does not need to be a lengthy or comprehensive assessment, just a positive one (only kidding!). You can do that through the Amazon link above.

Regretting any drag on sales may seem mercenary. Still, if a beautiful world may be said to be a better world, buying Lost Providence may be said to have a noble purpose. I am sure most people who used to read my weekly column at the Providence Journal for a quarter of a century and who have read this blog since its inauguration almost a decade ago feel the same sense of loss in their built environment as I do.

So if the book’s status as a rootin’ tootin’ good yarn (with a happy ending) doesn’t compel you to buy Lost Providence, then maybe this is your chance to chalk up your good deed for the day.

So, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you.

Posted in Architecture, Lost Providence, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More of Yale’s new campuses

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Central image from RAMSA card celebrating two new Yale residential colleges.

Got a wonderful gift in the mail today. It was a card from Robert A.M. Stern Architects, of the sort I often get, and which often give me pleasure. But this was more – more pleasure, because more photos of Yale’s new Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray residential colleges. Beautiful!

It is impossible to have too many for conveyance to readers.

Much of the Yale campus built in the decades before World War II was designed by James Gamble Rogers. Robert Stern, who led the team from RAMSA that designed the two campuses (including Melissa DelVecchio, Graham Wyatt and Jennifer Stone), took his inspiration from Rogers’s Collegiate Gothic, a refreshing break from the modernists who built most new Yale buildings since, including Paul Rudolph’s school of architecture, of which Stern was dean for quite a while until recently.

The photos printed with the card gave me fits to photograph myself for transfer to this post, since it was late afternoon before I got around to it, forcing me to use unnatural light. I gave up. I went online for shots. These come from a combination of the RAMSA and Yale sites, including RAMSA’s usual project mini-monograph and a Yale slideshow of photos by Michael Marsland. I’ve added a Yale publicity video of the campuses (unavoidably, Yale officials serve as talking heads), and a drone video of the campuses, and have taken some shots from these, and also I have added a very interesting time-lapse of the construction, which is followed by some video of scenes on the new campuses, from which I’ve taken yet more screenshots. Yet, inspired by the photography on the card, I went back and tried my best to reproduce them digitally for this post.

Dinner is approaching, so I am just going to slap them up as orderly as I can and hope for the best.

I can say that the top photo and first two photos below are by Peter Aaron/OTTO from the card from RAMSA, the next three are from the RAMSA website, and the next score or so are from Yale, either by photog Marsland or from Yale videos. Finally, there are shots from the drone video for Yale. The Yale time-lapse video from YouTube is here.

If RAMSA wants to send me a better version of the top shot, without the crease in the card so faithfully reproduced, I will happily sub it out. [Done.] Finally, I apologize in advance if some of these shots are either credited wrongly or uncredited. I will gladly print corrections. I put up with these looming credit woes because the photographs, by whomever, are so lovely. And credit for that goes to Yale, for insisting on such beauty in the first place.

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Graceful pavilion at Grace

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The Pavilion at Grace, Grace Episcopal Church, Providence. (Bowerman Associates)

The new addition to Grace Episcopal Church has opened on Westminster Street in downtown Providence. In this day and age, all additions to lovely old buildings are potentially hair-raising affairs. Churches are not immune to the insult of poor taste and modernist conceit, often boring from within. So when word got out that Grace planned an addition, concern was the proper response – in spite of assurances from its rector, the Rev. Canon Jonathan Huyck, that a design sensitive to the original was the goal.

Now that the Pavilion at Grace is open, no worries. Centerbrook Architects & Planners, in Centerbrook, Conn., has updated Richard Upjohn’s 1844 original Gothic Revival church – the first asymmetrical church of that style in America – with a touch of the Art Nouveau. A most inspired choice, given the pressure the rector must have felt to go full-tilt modernist.

Maybe the Pavilion at Grace also provides us with the true distinction between the terms modern (or modernist) architecture and contemporary architecture. Both modern and contemporary have similar connotations, and for most of their lives as words in the English language merely meant “of today.” But modern(ist) architecture implies a degree of devotion, at least, to its founding principles’ rejection of the past in general and, especially, of past styles, from which it rarely if ever deviates. Contemporary can then perhaps be interpreted, in architecture, as meaning (at its best) that which uses the latest design and construction techniques, without any sense of snubbing the past or past styles. (The Pavilion was built by Bowerman Associates.)

That’s what the Pavilion at Grace does so graciously, fulfilling (if I may be so bold as to suggest) the churchly role of anchor. At any time when change destabilizes society (often in good ways), religion should remind us that the future must be as much a continuation as a reformation of the past.

The Pavilion is an engaging and evocative, not to mention useful, feature of Westminster Street and downtown, whose strengths build on continuity with the past. Congratulations to Rev. Huyck, to his congregation at Grace, and to the downtown community!

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These two images are the interior (lower top) and the plan (lower bottom) of the Pavilion. (Centerbrook)

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Review: “Classic Columns”

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Sackler Library at Oxford University, designed by Robert Adam. (ADAM Architecture)

Aside from my own book Lost Providence, Robert Adam’s Classic Columns, published by Cumulus Books, London, is the recent book that I would place highest on my list of books to give to friends or family members interested in architecture – or you could gift yourself. It’s the holidays. This is allowed.

Gifting oneself may or may not be fully ensconced in holiday tradition at this point. In fact, we should ask Robert Adam himself. In Classic Columns Adam reveals himself as the most subtle and fecund thinker about tradition, as the proper basis for architecture, in our era. Adam is the founder and a principal of the London firm of ADAM Architecture, so his theorizing has its basis in practice. In the past year I have written three posts quoting from his book (while also promising a review, which you are reading at this moment). The three posts are here, here and here.

Each post has arisen from my being bowled over by passages that engagingly describe the differences between traditional and modernist architecture. Here are three passages exemplary of Adam’s clear yet profound thinking.

Passage the First:

The word “authentic” is so closely linked to the concept of “truth” and we are so respectful of the experts who believe that historical authenticity is important that we rarely question its relevance. To whom does it really matter? Take a casual visitor to an old building; is his experience spoiled or devalued if he mistakes a new repair for an original part of the building? How far do you have to go to make sure this doesn’t happen? Do you have to go so far that you contradict one of the key objectives of doing it in the first place – to restore the wholeness of the original work of art so that it can be appreciated? Indeed, this seems to be the case. … The coherence of the design is less important than making sure that every visitor knows for sure which stones are new and which old? Surely not. But this is the ridiculous situation that the principle of historic authenticity forces on us. This kind of thing only matters to academics and experts, and if they really want to know, they can find out anyway.

Passage the Second:

Living languages are not scrapped and reinvented every fifty years. We may express ourselves a little differently from Charles II or Nicholas Hawksmoor but we can use their expressions today because what they were is part of what we are. Our civilisation and means of expression are modern but they carry their past with them and we are the richer for it.

We are not limited to the use of the past. We can use the latest technology. It is no longer necessary to learn a special language to use a computer, really advanced technology does what we want it to do. As new technology becomes – to use the buzz phrase – “user friendly,” we can, quite literally, make it speak our language. Voice simulators can quote Jane Austen and injection moulding can quote John Soane.

Passage the Third:

Until the later twentieth century, all buildings were traditional or customary. That is, either they deliberately drew upon some aspect of the past either unselfconsciously in customary or vernacular buildings or they made conscious references to the past in tradi- tional or high-style revivals. While the desire to be up-to-date and the wish to be different have always existed, there was no theory of a complete aesthetic disengagement from the past. It is this absence of complete and deliberate disjunction that allows older villages, towns, and cities to have a harmony while containing buildings of quite different styles and periods.

In all three passages, Adam describes the most essential differences between modern architecture and traditional architecture. Without the flapping of arms and gnashing of teeth in which I usually engage, Adam describes the crossroads that humanity has reached in the style wars, which modernists try to ignore but which not a few traditional architects acknowledge with some degree of uneasiness. That is because we are all part of our culture, like it or not, and right now this choice, supposedly just a matter of taste, is exactly not just a matter of taste. And since society has wrongly embraced the wrong choice at the highest levels, talking back is literally to speak truth to power. So no, it is not easy or comfortable to do. But the consequences of not doing it will be horrifying.

It is the great unacknowledged issue of our time. If humans want to continue to follow the path of modern architecture, it will take society down one of two roads. We are on the road that takes us toward a totalitarian state. This is what modern architecture is about. Modernism is cold because its chosen metaphor is the machine. It exalts the spirit of a governance that treats each citizen as a cog in a machine. If we want a better future, humanity must turn toward traditional architecture, which has evolved its path, on our behalf, slowly over many centuries through trial and error that seeks honestly to identify and develop the techniques in design and building that reflect nature and thus benefit humanity.

This is our choice, and nowhere is it writ more clearly and forcefully than by Robert Adam in his book Classic Columns.

So buy it for those you love and respect, and for yourself, and for the future.

***

I apologize for confusing some readers of my last post on parks in Providence. If you got it through an email with an introduction beginning “Is Providence without …” I accidentally flipped the yes and no at the end. It should read “… Zipf says yes, I say no.”

Here it is, corrected:

Is Providence without “City Beautiful-era” parks? Catherine Zipf says yes, I say no:

https://architecturehereandthere.com/2017/11/30/city-beautiful-parks-of-la-prov/

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