Imagine AIA’s neighborhood

Winner for custom housing: Studhouse, in Winthrop, Wash. Would it have won without the amazing backdrop? (AIA)

Studhorse, in Winthrop, Wash. Would it have won without the amazing backdrop? (AIA)

Then there’s this! Here are the 10 award-winners for 2015, just announced by the American Institute of Architects. Imagine throwing them together into a “neighborhood” alongside the winners of the AIA’s previous decades’ worth of residential design competitions. Consider how high such a neighborhood would rank for beauty on anyone’s list. It reminds me of Rem Koolhaas’s poster that gathered some of the world’s most iconic modernist towers into one setting. Rem being Rem, his point was the same one the critic Paul Goldberger makes every now and then – that modernism has created some great buildings but never a great city. I may not agree with that statement entirely, but it’s on target. Isn’t anyone listening?

(Check comments after winners. Glasses of ice water in AIA’s face!)

Collection of modernist icons gathered by Rem Koolhaas. (

Collection of modernist icons gathered by Rem Koolhaas. (

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.
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6 Responses to Imagine AIA’s neighborhood

  1. Steven Semes says:

    David, you have a choice between having a city and having a zoo. Modernist designers are good at making zoos full of exotic animals. They have yet to discover how (or even to feel the need) to make a city.


    • That’s an excellent simile, Steve. The modernists think a city is someplace people go to for thrills, whereas traditionalists think a city should be someplace that exalts the spirit by offering a range of civilized settings for actions ranging from private to public. Comfort, beauty and enchantment, which may include aesthetic thrills, can be fit together in ways that do not jar the human sensibility, but modernists have not figured that out and it is not part of their portfolio to try. Passing gradually through the transect of an urban aesthetic, properly designed, should exalt the nuanced phases of the soul. Architects and urbanists should see their jobs as adding small and rising exaltations to the pleasures of performance by humans of their everyday tasks and their civic duties. The sum of the experience of a city should be satisfaction of personal needs in a setting that, through design, softens the difficulties inherent in human existence.


  2. Tim Andersen says:

    Excuse me, but I believe the Winthrop, WA, house is called “Studhorse” in Huff Post article, and from this angle appears ready to mount a small pavilion.


  3. abdaigle says:

    The funniest post yet! And the profession doesn’t think it needs to get real? Just imagine…


    • Why should the profession get real? It is not being challenged for major commissions in most places, and seems willing to accept that most people don’t like modernist work and would rather have traditional houses. Why the AIA shows so much desperation in its PR is baffling to me. Meanwhile, most classicists don’t seem very interested in any organized attempt to challenge society to permit an even playing field for major commissions. The industry now operates with a degree of prejudice against tradition that does not exist in any other field. If this prejudice operated against an ethnicity or a religion instead of a hallowed institution like tradition, every sensible and sensitive individual and organization would be up in arms.


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