A Kunstlerfest in Chicago

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The White City at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893. (Pinterest)

James Howard Kunstler’s magisterial book The Geography of Nowhere lays waste to the ideas that laid waste to America, but his thoughts on suburbia – crudscape and all that – come after the book’s “opening monologue” about the history of architecture amid the march of society toward modernity. After approaching the conclusion of the 19th century, he writes that “[t]o understand Modernism, it is helpful to consider what immediately preceded it.” He refers to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, in Chicago, along the waterfront of Lake Michigan.

In terms of architecture, the fair was a culmination of all the historical styles that had paraded through the decades of the nineteenth century, like a series of marching bands, each in its own striking constumes – from the Greek Revival of the 1830s, to the Gothic cottages and Italianate villas of Downing’s day, to the Second Empire Mansardic business blocks on every Main Street in America, the Fifth Avenue chateaux of the robber barons, through every other sort of exuberant confection of America’s post-Civil War industrial boom. The Columbian Exposition was the climax, the grand summing up.

After describing its ringmaster, Daniel H. “Make No Small Plans” Burnham, he continues:

The enormous exhibition halls, designed by a Who’s Who of America’s most prominent architects, were done in a high classical manner that went ancient Rome a few steps further – pillars and arches and domes and spires and cupolas and swag-filled entablatures and capitals dripping acanthus leaves, all of it holding to a single unified cornice line. The buildings, the ceremonial arches, and even the lagoons were studded with statuary. Lit up at night by wondrous new incandescent floodlamps, it looked like the climactic scene of Thomas Cole’s “Course of Empire” series. Fair-goers nicknamed it the White City.

Even the usually skeptical Henry Adams gushed: “As a scenic display, Paris had never approached it,” he said. “The world had never witnessed so marvelous a phantasm.” It was especially amazing, he went on, that such a sublime spectacle arose out of the mercantile banality of Chicago. “One saw here a third-rate town of half-a-million people without history, education, unity, or art, and with little capital – without even the element of natural interest except the river, which it studiously ignored – but doing what London, Paris, or New York would have shrunk from attempting.” …

[Charles Follen] McKim saw that this was an architecture worthy of the forward-looking, rationalistic culture of big business and big industry that America had become at the end of the nineteenth century. It was calming, orderly and elegant. It harked back not only to America’s glorious past, but to our deeper continuities with European culture. Its restraint expressed supreme self-confidence and intellectual clarity, not the dark superstition and medieval hugger-mugger of the romantic styles. Its decorative motifs – arched and pedimented windows, columns, pilasters, garlands, roofline balustrades, quoins, cartouches – more straightforward in the sense that you didn’t have to read the novels of Sir Walter Scott in order to appreciate their meaning.

On my bucket list is a trip back to Chicago of 1893, sixty years before I was born there. Sadly, the fair was fake – not really fake, no, but temporary and constructed of papier maché. They were going to tear it down after its run of six months, but it burned down first. Only the Palace of Fine Arts survives. It was rebuilt in solid material, and remains along Chicago’s lakefront. I sure hope H.G. Wells can be revived to crank up his time machine.

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Is this possible anymore?

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Semur-en-Auxois, Dordogne, France. (Photo by Joel Pidel)

Above is a photo of a town, Sémur-en-Auxois, in the Dordogne, a department of southwestern France. Below is Sarlat-la-Canéda, in the same district. They are both beautiful, and it makes sense to wonder whether there is any hope that towns and villages like this are possible anymore, and if so, whether they should be built.

The photos were sent to the TradArch list by architect Joel Pidel. Not long after, architect and planner Tom Low started sending a series of drawings of his “Pocket Court Project.” The reaction on the list was extraordinarily heartening. Of the painting here he writes:

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Here is a #watercolor version of the sketch rendering of one of the pocket oval greens and cottage designs for the #PocketCourt- Project. The colors, shade, shadows, and textures help accen- tuate the design to another level of detail.  Also the previous posts help document the design process journey with many of the decisions and incremental processes it takes to get there. Also this #handmade design and incremental approach has advantages including elevated creativity, increased efficiency, ability to change scale, and a pace enabling the designer to think things through while in parallel crafting the ideas.

Low credits architect Sara Hines and her recent book Cottage Communities: The American Camp Meeting Movement for his pocket-court imagery. Her book explores “[t]he invention of detail that arose using simple parts with care and imagination, a love of geometry and craft,” and “what secrets can be learned about organizing spaces, human scale, proximity, design, and subtle tricks of planning that sustain the experience.”

Of course, Low’s image is not quite the Dordogne, nor need it be. But it is a start, a very good one, and I am sure others in this country, such as Hines, and elsewhere are thinking outside the box and toward the time when habitation made by hand creeps back into and takes over the heart of the way we design and build today. In the meantime, while the craftsmanship involved is rebuilt, costs may require a more tooled approach to craft.

There are some who say this sort of thing should not be built today, that it is not “of our time.” Well, maybe that’s what’s wrong with our time – not the only thing (by far), but suggestive of our era’s deepest flaws. Is there anyone aside from the modern architects, the major developers and their camp followers who think our built environment is worth writing home about? I doubt it. And they know we are on to them. As they laugh up their sleeves on their way to the bank, they are whistling past the graveyard.

“We can land a man on the moon, so why can’t we …” Well, we can, and will.

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Sarlat-la-Caneda, Dordogne, France. (Photo by Joel Pidel)

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Fond adieu to Horne’s Paris

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The Pere Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris. (whatsfreeinparis.com)

Here are several more passages lifted from the closing chapters of Alistair Horne’s engaging Seven Ages of Paris:

Less felicitous were architectural scandals like the Tour Montparnasse (started in 1959, but not finished till 1973), greatest urban project since Haussmann, and designed to be the highest skyscraper in all Europe, menacing the ascendancy of the Eiffel Tower and the Invalides. Then, opened in 1977, came Richard Rogers’ [and Renzo Piano’s] Centre Pompidou, unhappy child of the first international competition ever held in Paris.

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Tour Montparnasse (Wikipedia)

In this first passage Horne describes the Tour Montparnasse as an “architectural scandal.” He does not mention what I’ve long understood, that it was approved by Paris development authorities under cover of the protests that beset the city in 1968. He says it was “started in 1959, but not finished till 1973.” He must have meant that it was conceived by its developer who then struggled through what one would expect to be a hostile permitting process before starting construction in 1969. In any event, harkening to Guy de Maupassant’s famous line criticizing the Tour Eiffel, Wikipedia states that “the view from the top [of the Tour M.] is the most beautiful in Paris, because it is the only place from which the tower cannot be seen.” In 2008, a poll of editors on Virtualtourist found the Tour Montparnasse to be the second ugliest building in the world, beaten out for that honor only by Boston City Hall.

Regarding the Centre Pompidou, the second-place entry was submitted by a team consisting of Raimund Abraham, John Thornley and Rhode Island’s own Friedrich St. Florian. I have never seen an illustration of the design, but it cannot have been more obnoxious an insult to Paris than the Centre Pompidou. (That is my opinion. In an interview with the New York Times in 1997, St. Florian said he was consoled in his also-ran status by the belief that the Piano/Rogers design was superior.) Horne continues:

Then came François Mitterrand, whose hideous new “people’s opera” at the Bastille (begun in 1985) would dig as big a whole in Paris finances as any of those dug for dealing with the motor car. (“What is the difference between the people’s opera and the Titanic?” went a joke at the time. Answer: “The orchestra on the Titanic actually played.”) A poll conducted among Parisians in 1990 ranked the Centre Georges Pompidou as the first monument they wished to see pulled down, the Bastille Opéra the second.

To end with what beauty can do in the classical style, here is Horne’s description of a section of the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery containing the mausoleums of Paris’s great banking, merchant and commercial families:

Together they present the greatest collection of architectural singularity in all Paris. Miniature pyramids rub shoulders with gothic chapels decorated with gargoyles and lacy pinnacles. A reduced Madeleine [bank as Greek temple] vies with what seems to be a replica of the Panthéon or a tiny Taj Mahal; another caprice is a pyramid supported by turtles and illustrating on its four sides an ibis, a bullock, a car and a sunburst, the whole bombe surprise topped by a giant egg.

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Centre Pompidou, in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. (Dezeen)

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The eye, the mind, the heart

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Heat mapping shows how the eye perceives the two buildings. (geneticsofdesign.com)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so sayeth just about everyone, but how does the mind influence what the eye of the beholder sees? If the eye informs the brain and the brain informs the taste, then there must be something deeper than whim informing people of what they think is beautiful in architecture.

Ann Sussman, who has given much thought to the matter and, in her 2015 book Cognitive Architecture, written with Justin Hollander, has assembled research by scientists and others sniffing down that road, will be speaking next Thursday in Boston at an event sponsored by the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. The event opens at 6 p.m. at the College Club of Boston at 44 Commonwealth Ave. Tickets are $25 for ICAA members and $40 for others.

As described by the chapter, Sussman’s presentation will:

review new findings in biology and neuroscience that outline what our brain expects to see, including how it’s hard-wired to avoid looking at blank facades, most quickly processes bilaterally symmetric things – and is preset to look for faces or face-like objects without any conscious input on our part.

Naturally, this is music to the ears of the classical revival, whose advocates (including me) often find themselves without an effective response to the claim that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The answer often emerges as “Yes, but …” – Sussman provides the details for an effective rejoinder to that classic modernist dodge.

Learn more and purchase tickets at the New England chapter website.

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Preservation in Charleston

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Charleston’s Four-Mile House, site of alleged murders circa 1812. (Ronald Ramsey)

Should historic preservation be a quest for beauty or a quest for knowledge?

That was the question at issue on Saturday in Charleston., S.C. Both are valid goals but I argued that beauty should be top priority. The panel, “Unfolding Perspectives in Preservation,” was sponsored by the College of Charleston’s Historic Preservation and Community Planning program along with the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. I was invited to join the fun by my old friend Nathaniel Walker, a Brown doctoral graduate now assistant professor at the college and moderator of the panel, which he organized along with his colleague Grant Gilmore. Walker’s essay “Architecture and Food” will be fondly recalled by readers of this blog.

Impaneled with three academics at odds with my priorities, I gave it my best on behalf of beauty. My interlocutors argued for saving buildings on behalf of narratives that trace the aesthetic, historical, technological and moral roles of architecture as the primary rationale for preserving buildings and other cultural artifacts, and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder anyway.

Here is a summary of my argument that I sent to help Nathan introduce me to the audience, though he didn’t actually read it aloud:

David believes that modern architecture is unattractive, uncivil, unprincipled, unsound, unsustainable and hence unsupported by the large majority of the public. This deep skepticism shapes his view of historic preservation, which has lost its way. Preservation organizations need to get back to basics or risk losing relevance – and membership. They must refocus more on the threat to civic beauty that half a century ago changed preservation from a hobby to a mass movement. In cities and towns where most historic buildings have already been preserved, preservationists must concentrate on saving their settings by opposing unsympathetic interventions in historic districts and promoting new architecture that strengthens the beauty of those districts and serves as a model for the rest of the city.

Preservation is not so much about the past as about how we move into the future.

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View from the stage at Randolph Hall. (DB photo)

The give and take among the panel was polite, as you might expect of an event in the Holy City (a longstanding nickname). I got a lot of gentle ribbing about fluctuating perceptions of beauty from Robin B. Williams, of the Savannah College of Art and Design (the RISD of the South). He is the nation’s leading expert on historic pavements and their preservation, upon which subject I found much more common ground than on the subject of the nature of beauty. Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the beholder’s perception of beauty is a construct of many less subjective factors, including much recent scientific research on how neurobiology pushes the human brain to prefer traditional over modern architecture – that is, beauty over what I call, for lack of a better term, ugliness. (I have written about that often in this blog.)

Whitney Powers is a local architect of the modernist persuasion, involved with local design authorities and community boards. She is president of Studio A Architecture. According to the event description, she “specializ[es] in the adaptation of both old buildings and new design philosophies to serve contemporary Charleston.” However little of the former may be evident in her work, so far as I could tell, she gave, in this discussion, as good as she got, arguing that local community needs outweigh beauty in such service.

Ray Huff, the star of the panel, is head of the Clemson Architecture Center in Charleston and an internationally celebrated modernist at Huff+Goodin Architects. He was my chief antagonist, arguing that the classical detailing and ornament that I view as beautiful reminds blacks around the nation (and elsewhere) of slavery. He said he recalls reading on my blog that I oppose the proposed modernist design  of the slavery museum to be built in Charleston. Reluctant to be “shamed,” I reasserted my opposition to the design. I argued that minority populations do not associate classical motifs with slavery. They certainly do associate the plantation houses of slave owners with slavery, but it cannot be that the evil that happened in a particular building typology may be logically blamed on the broader classical style of architecture. Yet that is the argument made with considerable wit, eloquence and a wry smile by Ray Huff, but also many others with less reason than he has to take offense at new classical and traditional buildings.

Are minorities actually reminded of slavery by dentil moldings, roof cornices, rows of columns with Corinthian capitals and that sort of thing? Some are, but most? I kinda doubt it, really. Huff and many others make this argument, and it is not without a degree of plausibility. But I believe that they see the connection more vividly than most people because they study the language of buildings, such as it may be. When the monument to Martin Luther King Jr. was built, however, many blacks applauded but others asked why Lincoln and Jefferson deserved temples but not King. This debate will continue long after Ray, Whitney, Robin and I stepped off the stage at Randolph Hall.

The panel coincided with an art exhibit, “Ahead of the Wrecking Ball,” also at Randolph Hall, by the Halsey Institute of the work of Ronald Ramsey, a native Charlestonian and artistic savant – “a one-man preservation army” – who over decades has meticulously drawn old houses slated for demolition in Charleston. One of these, shown atop this post, is the so-called Four-Mile House, built in 1783 and razed in 1969. “Better Known as Murder & Trap House” is inscribed by Ramsey under the title of his illustration. In about 1812, the tavern’s owner and his wife allegedly killed several travelers who, at different times, had stayed there and then disappeared. They were convicted on one charge of murder and executed.

“Did the Four-Mile House kill those people?” I asked the audience. “No! Other people killed those people.” Ditto slavery. Houses do not own slaves. People do. Maybe that is a simple-minded argument, but that does not make it illogical. Slavery may taint specific buildings that existed before, during and after slavery (including Jim Crow), but that does not mean traditional architecture as a class is therefore tainted. Go down that road and you can argue against erecting a new building of any style, including modernism.

An effort was made to suggest that Ramsey, in his work, valued the old buildings fated to be torn down no more highly than the modernist ones arising in their place. Not likely. Ramsey had no schooling in design, so his natural instinct for beauty was not bowdlerized by the blue-noses of higher architectural education like that of so many proponents of modernism.

I suppose my favorite moment on the panel came as the discussion addressed what to do with midcentury modern buildings, such as those known, for some curious reason, as “Brutalist.” The event literature referred to this as “the awkward topic of modernist structures that have failed to earn public affection.” We were discussing an old bank drive-thru. I pulled out my Nikon camera, held it up and declared that photography was a neat solution to the question of whether to save buildings that have few admirers. They can be razed and replaced by (one hopes) nicer buildings, yet survive as illustrations in books, available to future generations as long as libraries (and the Web) exist. The crowd laughed, but I can’t say I believe many agreed. The feeling, as one audience member said, was that it would not be the same. Still, we cannot preserve everything that is fifty years old – the current requirement. Priorities must be set and beauty, it seems to me, is first, at least, among equals – for the sake of a public already largely turned off by its built environment.

Preservationists ask why we preserve because many preservationists, and especially those with jobs in preservation, have forgotten why we preserve. But it is not rocket science. We preserve because we love and respect beauty above all. Preservation was a hobby before 1950, dedicated to saving actual historic structures (“George Washington slept here”) over decades and even centuries when people tended to believe that a demolished building would naturally be replaced by a better building. When people started to believe, increasingly, after 1950 that a demolished building might well be replaced by something worse, preservation was swiftly transformed from a hobby into a mass movement. That’s the essential truth about preservation. And it is not difficult to understand why we preserve if we understand that truth.

Whether that truth is what emerged at the College of Charleston on Saturday afternoon, I have no idea. Either way, the four of us had a helluva good time, and I happily join my fellow panelists in thanking our hosts for inviting us to discuss an issue that is so close to the heart of Charlestonians.

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The panel was held inside Randolph Hall, at the College of Charleston. (Photo by David Brussat.)

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My TB post on style wars

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Here is the January post for my blog at Traditional Building: “Assertively Classical: Thomas Gordon Smith at Notre Dame” was written before the already intense political climate intensified by two- or three-fold after the inauguration of that successful entertainer. The post features Thomas Gordon Smith, the classicist prof at Notre Dame who was profiled in the most recent TB. My post’s concluding fillip on Trump and architecture was sprung on readers in the hope that momentum might plow them through the last couple of paragraphs before realizing their danger. Enjoy!

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And the race is on!

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Part of the historic district of Charleston, S.C. (HarbourView Inn)

Providence. Friday, February 10. 7:45 a.m.

This is a completely absurdist concept for a blog post, but my cab to Green Airport, outside of Providence, will (I hope) pick me up in 45 minutes. So here, to be brief, are images for several proposed buildings in Providence and Charleston, my destination today. Readers play by guessing which buildings are planned for which cities. (Answers at bottom of post.) I will be out of town until Valentine’s Day, next Tuesday.

Whether I manage to post during my trip – I will be on a panel about preservation at the College of Charleston tomorrow – is entirely circumstantial. …

… It is a couple of days later, and after a couple of days at the George IV Inn near the College of Charleston campus, I am staying at the home of my friend Nathan Walker, who as a professor of architectural history invited me down to Charleston to join a C. of C. panel on preservation – more about it later. Now I can finish up this blog, which I failed to complete before leaving Providence because the cab that was supposed to pick me up in 45 minutes arrived in 15 minutes, temporarily aborting this post, which recommences with little left to do but find one more image for readers playing this game to gnaw on below. Not much of a race, it seems.

But here are the four proposed buildings:

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Clearly, knowing which building is which clarifies which city is leading in the sweepstakes for reaching city nirvana first. Both cities are already closer to the finish line than most American cities will ever be, because both were fast out of the preservation gate. But both cities have also allowed modernists to set up obstacles along the way, and are just now trying to negotiate those roadblocks. Charleston brought in Andrés Duany, the leading theorist of the New Urbanism, to reform its development process. Providence has … well, it is difficult to think of what it has done lately to try to put itself back on the path to beauty. It has, in an extremely modest way, watched as “bad trad” poses its weak challenge to the modernist approach preferred by the local design establishment.

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History of Maya Lin’s Wall

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Crowds at the memorial dedication, Nov. 13, 1982. (Wally McNamee, Corbis, via Getty Images)

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Sculpture of soldiers facing Wall. (Library of Congress)

Maya Lin’s Wall on the Mall, dedicated to Vietnam’s fallen warriors, has long struck me as being less than the optimal commemoration of a national tragedy. Its gash in the Mall looks as if it symbolizes a loss in conflict as much as a loss of life. Balancing this, and equally controversial, was a sculpture added, to Lin’s dismay, of three soldiers, by the late Frederick Hart. The architectural historian Catesby Leigh has written an even-handed account of the memorial’s victory in a major design competition, the artist’s relationship to the committee that commissioned the contest, battles between supporters and opponents of the design, changes resulting from those battles, its erection, its public reception, and the inevitable fluctuations in its reputation and its popularity.

Leigh’s lengthy essay, “Anti-Monument,” appears on a new website called Critical Read devoted to the back story of great works of art, or, in its own words, “Critical Read tells the true stories behind works of the fine, literary, and performing arts.” The subjects on its website so far include queer symbolism, contemporary ballet and Salmon Rushdie.

Leigh properly regrets the recent decline of monumental architecture from traditional memorials honoring community to memorials whose goal seems to be more therapeutic. Here is Leigh’s diplomatic summation of the Wall:

[T]he Wall is an inspired work, if not “a work of genius.” In its stark simplicity and contextually astute insertion in the Mall’s landscape, it enabled a minimalist aesthetic that often repels the public to resonate deeply with it while signaling, as Lutyens’s Thiepval arch had done half a century earlier, a widening of the range of meanings and emotional responses that memorials can elicit.

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Pastel drawing by Maya Lin included with her competition entry. (Library of Congress)

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Le era (er, error) de Corbu

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Plan Voisin (1925) would have obliterated much of central Paris. (Fondation Le Corbusier)

Here is what Alistair Horne has to say about Le Corbusier in his book Seven Ages of Paris. It is on page 330. In my opinion, he lets the guy off too lightly.

… [A]fter 1919 most new building shifted towards the public sector, with a marked slowing – particularly in the 1930s – in the building of luxury apartments, now stark and become simply “machines for living” with little that was decorative. Instead cinemas started to proliferate. The style of architecture changed, with a brief flash of inventiveness with the arrival of Art Deco in the mid-1920s – almost exclusively for the worse. It was perhaps just as well that there was a depression, with money short, otherwise the Swiss Architect Le Corbusier might well have been able to refashion Paris in his own image. Le Corbusier had plans to destroy much of the centre of Paris on the Right Bank, replacing a grid of shoebox towers over 200 metres [656 feet] high. Perhaps for once Parisians had reason to thank the tangle of municipal building regulations descended from Bonnier’s 1902 prescriptions.

Plus some further animadversions upon what Mencken, in his 1931 essay “The New Architecture,” sloughed off as nothing more than a fad. (If only!)

In practical terms, the one enduring (though visually questionable) success Modernism in Paris could claim was the great Trocadéro complex built for the World Exposition of 1937, although some contemporaries with long memories thought the structure little better than the pseudo-oriental mishmash left over from the last Expo, which it replaced. A man called Freyssinet wanted to construct on Mont Valérien a tower 700 metres [2,297 feet, most of half a mile] high, up which you could drive a car; instead, here, on the site designated by Napoleon for his Palace of the King of Rome [his son], uncompromisingly angular structures (of the sort Mussolini was building in Rome and Stalin in Moscow) were dominated by the Soviet and German pavilions. Symbolic of their time3s, there an aggressive Nazi eagle glared across at the new Soviet Adam and Eve, striding optimistically towards an unrealizable future. Like the regimes they represented, both pavilions would disappear – though the central feature linking them would survive to house the new Modern Art Museum and the Museum of Man.

Well, okay, Alistair Horne is suitably skeptical of Corbu and modern architecture. Below is the Trocadéro, and below that the old Trocadéro to which Horne refers. (Wikipedia) I like both more than he does. When I first saw the (later) Trocadero from the Eiffel Tower, it did not occur to me to condemn it as a modernist blotch on the beauty of Paris but as a work of “stripped” classicism – the architectural establishment’s conventional response, in the years leading up to the fall, to the challenge posed by modernism: classical lines with most of the ornament shaved off.

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Chace plans downtown digs

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When it was announced several years ago that Providence developer Buff Chace would purchase the Journal Building and the parking lot across from it on Fountain Street, he expressed the hope of erecting a new building on the latter site. Now Chace has in fact announced a six-story residential project with a grocery store on the first floor facing Washington Street and a restaurant facing Fountain. Good news!

Here’s the Journal’s Saturday story: “6-story building proposed for downtown parking lot.” Mark Reynolds’s article ran without any illustrations of the proposal – perhaps there are none yet – but a couple of quotes inspire hope that the building, if built, will add to the character of downtown.

Chace says he intends his first effort at an entirely new building will be “a modern building that is harmonious with the downtown historic fabric.” For those who see some unwanted backsliding in the word “modern,” any new building that has plumbing and other such advanced systems is a “modern” building, no matter what it looks like. I don’t think he meant “modernist.” Anyway, zoning requires the design of new buildings in downtown to protect its historical character. Nobody expects it to be made of marble. “It has to be affordable, too,” he says, “Otherwise it doesn’t happen.” So, he says, it will be a brick building. Good.

Chace told Reynolds that this will be “the first time that he has built a building from scratch in downtown.” Not his first attempt, though. A decade or so ago he hoped to build a new building, elegantly classical, across Union Street from his Alice Building on what is now called the Grant’s Block, where he hosts free movies weekly in the warmer months. He showed me a picture, which I could not find in my files, and it was lovely. But while looking for it I came across an earlier proposal from a version of the Downcity Plan (led by Chace and his friend Andrés Duany, the New Urbanist guru) for a couple of new buildings, traditional in style, on the Grant’s Block, which is the illustration at the bottom this post.

Later, Chace and Duany imagined, in 2004 or ’05, as part of a charrette to expand the Downcity Plan, placing a new building on the Journal’s other lot on Fountain, behind the Biltmore Garage, and a second new building that would have replaced the Journal’s executive garage (the green snubnose eyesore) and the modernist addition above it with a hotel (I think) facing a renovated Emmett Square off Kennedy Plaza. An illustration of that proposal is at the top of this post.

Pardon me while I roll my eyes. Howard Sutton, who was then the Journal’s publisher, went nutso at the audacity of someone even thinking of (let alone actually drawing!) fictional buildings on land they did not own. What a baby! It diminished Sutton in my eyes – after all his vaunted editorializing in favor of revitalizing the city.

Good grief! So it’s time something was built on that old parking lot, which I know so well. I recall the Journal demolishing several buildings on it back in the 1980s, I think. Likewise on the block behind the Biltmore Garage. These are mistakes that merit correction, and I am pleased that Buff Chace has proposed to make a start in that direction. Good on him!

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New buildings proposed for Grant’s Block, circa 2004. (Cornish Associates)

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