Repost: Happy or Hayworth

Remember when the AIA invited Pharrell Williams to keynote its last annual meeting? I don’t know whether that ever happened, but I had reason to revisit the post I did on March 22 criticizing the AIA for inviting Williams, and expressing my bafflement at the line “What it feels to be a room without a roof.” I still feel that criticism was valid, but I did click to watch the “Happy” vid again and the scales fell from my eyes. A room without a roof is, of course, a public square, a civic plaza, a space surrounded by walls – the facades of buildings – but without a roof. And if the walls are ugly, it’s a room without a view.

Groovy! Let’s all clap in time, look up, and look at the sky! Is not the sky just another word for a perfectly wonderful roof?

Well, that’s a philosophical question well above my pay grade, but I repost my original reaction to the AIA’s invitation with this tart rejoinder to my own confusion. Click on “Happy” and be happy. Note, however, that to survive in most of the environments used as backdrops in the video, a roomful of happiness would be required to ward off depression. And also don’t forget to click the link to the video of Rita Hayworth clips backing up The BeeGees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” Now there’s something that is sure to make your happy happy! (And then to stoke yourself up even more, click the link to the video of old movie scenes shot in the old Penn Station. Ahhh!)

Architecture Here and There

Pharrell-Williams-First-24-Hour-Long-Interactive-Music-Video-Happy-Pharrell-WilliamsThe American Institute of Architects has announced its basic lack of seriousness as an organization by announcing that the artist who recorded “Happy” will be the keynote speaker for its upcoming convention.

Now, I just watched/listened to “Happy” for the first time just now and found it much more enchanting than I had expected. As a guy who never claps along, I almost clapped along. I don’t know what it is to feel like “a room without a roof,” but I don’t think that this line gives Pharrell Williams the authority to address a convention of architects, however existentially silly they may be (and indeed are).

But if I were going to commit institutional existential silliness, I would prefer instead to hear what the artist who put together this clip has to say. It is a video of scenes of Rita Hayworth dancing in movies stitched together into…

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About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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