Comedia della postal mod


First planners’ engraving (l.); second planners’ engraving (r.)

The humorist and fenestration cleanliness engineer Stevenson Hugh Mields has sent along another First Issue envelope with an engraving of not one but two proposed modernist plans, which he has named “Optical Illusion,” and which I have placed for readers’ amusement next to his earlier First Issue engraving from January.

The latter envelope was evidently sent to a Dutchman: “P. A. J. Van Der Loo/Paradijsstraat 63/Voorsburg, Holland.” What did he make of it?

“Close examination reveals,” Steve writes, “that the 10-story office building pad is floating over the high-tech one-story reduced-F.A.R. [floor/area ratio] office of the future. Or perhaps a lab for biological WMD?” I laugh. You laugh. We all laugh. WMD has officially entered the realm of sit-down comedy. But let us not forget that this was 1967. WMD as we know it today was still not yet even a figment of our collective funny bone.

One shudders, and not just at the designs. The leftmost engraving shows planners around a table planning a project to be inflicted upon an actual site, also depicted. The second engraving shows no planners planning but two plans, one hovering over the other. In neither case is an associated site depicted. Maybe the top plan is about to land on the bottom plan. Place them side by side and they could duke it out. Maybe neither plan really exists – ha ha! – recapitulating WMD en avance! Or, worse, maybe they do.

The committee that designed these two examples of the U.S. Post Office’s responsibility to stroke America’s elites and their earnest designs upon our future apparently used two different engravers for the job: Art Craft (l.) and Artmaster (r.) It would be unfair to blame either engraver for the manifold flaws of the three plans. Were they competing for a more lucrative job within the postal administration? Let’s hope the job went to the Art Craft. Artmaster seems to have produced a study in awkwardness.

We are invited to compare the two plans. Recalling that the envelopes were issued in 1967, it is curious that my favorite of the two, the one with the 10-story building, the swimming pool and the little people walking about, features a ground-floor arcade with graceful arches. How did that get in? Was this early-onset PoMo? Go figure!


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. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others 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 Architects, Architecture, Architecture History, Art and design, Development, Humor, Landscape Architecture, Urbanism and planning and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Comedia della postal mod

  1. abdaigle says:



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