Explore the world with AIA

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Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona. (archdaily.com)

The American Institute of Architects has announced its sponsorship of a new set of tours that even I would be happy to take. They are not the tours I would expect the AIA to host, not with its almost exclusively modernist agenda. That isn’t to say its tour brochure, “Explore the world through architectural adventures,” published on ArchNewsNow.com, excludes modern architecture. You are advised (as a sort of “trigger warning”) that Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao is on the tour of the Atlantic coast of Europe, and that Antoni Gaudi is the designer of “Modernist” marvels.

What struck me, rather, was how much care was taken to assure potential tour-goers that they will not have to put up with modernism exclusively. For example, text for its tour of London refers to “towering triumphs,” and the modernist heart surely flutters at the prospect of mounting the Shard. But then we learn it’s just Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s.

I’m sure the AIA wants to make money. Focusing on the world’s iconic modernist buildings probably would not help sell tour packages, any more than atonal music helps fill seats at a concert hall. Music directors usually sandwich such ear-benders – which they somehow feel a sort of scholarly mandate to program – between classical masterpieces so it’s harder to avoid a Bartók without missing something you like. How much easier it would be to simply drop a modernist tour brochure into the wastebasket and forget it!

So while the AIA leadership cabal must cringe, they are doing the right thing. In these big-ticket fundraising efforts, the marketing folks must be paid heed.

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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2 Responses to Explore the world with AIA

  1. Steven Semes says:

    Now what do you have against Bartok? Boulez or Stockhausen maybe would be better names to throw out for modernist music. Yes, I know some Bartok is rather, um, challenging, but a lot of it is great. The Concerto for Orchestra, despite its title, is probably the greatest symphony of the twentieth century. Poor Bela, at the end of his life had a conversion back to tonality and wrote some lovely music. The Third Piano Concerto, for another example.

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    • I have had a lifelong aversion to Bartok. I know that there are worse, and I didn’t realize he had a late conversion to tonality. I might easily have put Shostakovich or Shoenberg or just plain old Berg, or all too many others. But the fact is that my parents told me that as a baby I used to always begin to cry if Bartok came on. Gotta go with that! By the way, I have had your essay “La Violon d’Ingres” up on a tab for ages to read. I have just printed it out and will read it now.

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