Monkey with a T-square?

Design on first email of TradArch "Hetero or not?" thread. (Gregory Shue)

Screenshot of building design on first in recent TradArch “Hetero or not?” thread. (Gregory Shue)

“Hetero or not?” and “Is this classical?” are parlor games played by members of the TradArch list, the online discussion group for classical architects. Will classicists find a particular building “canonical” or outside of the canon? Recently, a thread of this sort involving a proposed building of awkwardly assembled classical vocabulary elicited a query of whether it was “like a painting gorilla modern art critic exam?” Another query featured the evocative line “Click randomize then render.”

Opera House in Rome by Zaha Hadid. (

Art museum in Rome by Zaha Hadid. (

Bertil Eklöt, who became the first person to purchase a Brassau. (

Bertil Eklöt, who became the first person to purchase a Brassau. (

Oddly, stray parts of modern architecture heaped at random produce a building more rational in appearance (within its ilk) than heaping up stray parts at random from traditional architecture. That is because modern architecture is intrinsically more random in conception than traditional architecture. You’d have to think a moment or two longer to decide whether it’s a real building. It is possible that a picture of such a concoction might actually fool some people into thinking it’s a real building, perhaps by Zaha Hadid.

That should say something deeply profound about the entire project of modern architecture, indeed of modernism generally.

Here is the entry on, “Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist,” about the paintings by a monkey that fooled art critics into believing they were serious works of modern art. I wrote a post in 2011 after the death of artist Cy Twombly. I wrote of a girl tried in France for kissing a blank white painting, or “painting,” by Twombly. But it was a real painting, worth real money – $2.7 million. Go figure.

The “My little boy could do that” line leaps instantly to mind. Why nobody offers my little boy Billy $2.7 million is a matter of PR, not a matter of talent. I’m not saying that Cy Twombly has no artistic talent, or that my little boy is the next Rembrandt, merely that everyone has artistic talent if it is defined so broadly. A canvas painted white? That takes balls, not talent. And if so, then it really is PR and not talent that can send you – you, dear reader! – laughing all the way to the bank.

The world is a very nutty place, and getting nuttier.

(In that post I had opined that my 3-year-old son Billy’s scribble-scrabble and dooly-dooly – terms of artistic style that I myself coined as a child – showed talent equal, at least, to that of Cy Twombly. I would repost that post here but the Journal disposed of all my old blogs in its online archive.)

About David Brussat

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. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am 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 employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy,, 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.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Art and design, Humor and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Monkey with a T-square?

  1. I confess that I am totally confounded and mystified by the concept of a debate about heterodoxy in traditional architecture, let alone Classical architecture. Formal evolution over centuries is the sine qua non of our architectural culture, no?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.