Here, before I unveil a bit of the sad Fogg history, is an intriguing comment from Eric Daum, whose lengthy and erudite essay on the Gloria Dei Swedish Evangelical Church, in Providence, graced this blog several weeks ago:
I love the quote from the Harvard Magazine article: “Instead of a single main entrance to the museum, there are now two: the old one on Quincy Street; and a new, more welcoming one on the Prescott Street side, as Lentz explained.” This implies that the lovely, human-scaled Georgian door surround of the Fogg with its baroque split pediment is somehow less inviting than the industrial-sized Moulinex chopper through which museum visitors will pass and hope they are not Julienned.
I also have serious concerns about the grey wood siding, a material which has no precedent in Harvard Yard of the immediate neighborhood. Architects in Boston run in fear from brick, considering it limiting and boring and deliberately attempt the novel. One day, perhaps, they will learn that best solution is the simple solution, the obvious solution, the straightforward solution.
The Fogg defaced by Renzo Piano and discussed in my earlier post is seen in the photograph to the left. In 1925 it replaced the original Fogg, seen in the postcard reprinted atop this post. It was completed in 1896 in a Renaissance style designed by William Morris Hunt. It may be supposed that the replacement was due not to any mere change in stylistic preference but to a need for more space at a growing institution. The museum relocated to the new Shepley Bulfinch Fogg; the Hunt Fogg was used and neglected for another half a century. It was demolished in 1974 to make way for student dorms, assuredly of an ugly modernist style. That’s sad, too, but arguably preferable to the insult represented by the Piano abomination.
“One day, perhaps, they will learn,” Eric hopes. I do not think so. They will never “learn.” They will be evicted by an exercise of democratic power. I believe the return of beauty and common sense in architecture must await a rising in the public, putting pressure on civic leaders, developers and design professionals to build in a way that treats people not like lab rats in a perverted “scientific” experiment but like the citizens of a democracy.
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