A good friend who is also, by turns, a modernist sent me an old critique of his from when the Ruane Center for the Humanities, at Providence College, was dedicated. I referred to the center in a post today, “Take modernist bull by horns,” and he kindly revisited his criticism upon me. Here is his diatribe, published in “New England Diary,” and here is my response:
The modernists (in which category I place you for purposes of criticizing this piece of writing) call for new materials and techniques but, as here, you complain when they are used. Stamped detail and buttresses and arches that are not structural are a good example of that.
One can rail against PC for producing a building that is in many ways of the 21st rather than the 19th century, but PC did not promise to produce a 19th century building. It was not necessary. And it would have been too expensive to hire Eyetalians imported from Rome to carve its elegant lettering, and yet elegant lettering is what it has.
Your hypocrisy is appalling. You may be right that this is “faux Gothic,” but by complaining about it you reveal a depth of understanding that is inferior by far to the understanding that PC deployed in producing a building of this type.
Is it perfectly satisfying? No, of course not. Is it satisfying enough? Yes. Is it more satisfying than any modernist alternative would have been? A million times so, even if it had been crafted to perfection by the ghost of Mies himself.