Andreozzi’s Shingle on acid

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Not long ago, during an online conversation about whether traditional architects can steal back the world “modern” from modernist architects, Rhode Island architect David Andreozzi, who is president of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, linked to a house he’d designed in Westerly from 2003, and called it “modern.”

I objected. It was a traditional Shingle style house, of, yes, a wild and crazy design, but a dazzling example of how creative tradition can be. That’s different from being “modern,” unless Andreozzi was using the word, as he wishes to do, in its normal meaning: of today; using the latest methods – which could equally apply to a new traditional house. The discussion about the word and its usage went on and on. It was laudable and fascinating.

In my opinion, however, the modernists successfully kidnapped the word a hundred years ago, and the trads are unlikely to be able to free it and limit its use to its proper meaning as long as modernists control the architectural discourse. Ending that control is more likely to occur if traditional architects concentrate on designing great traditional buildings that teach the public that beauty is an equally valid design strategy for today, not just an artifact of the historical past. And they can also repeat, as I like to do, the argument that modern architecture is ugly and stupid – using, of course, as others are more likely to do, sophisticated versions of that argument. This house is obviously not ugly or stupid so it cannot be modern architecture.

But that’s neither here nor there. Readers should look at the photographs of Andreozzi’s Fertig residence and decide for themselves whether it qualifies as “modern” architecture.

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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, 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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8 Responses to Andreozzi’s Shingle on acid

  1. Pingback: Lovely Simon Hall at Indiana | Architecture Here and There

  2. David Andreozzi AIA says:

    Link to original geometries, jest that is the golden section… https://postimg.cc/5YLMJhw6
    Link to more fun http://www.andreozzi.com/david/dsir/fert/Index.htm

    Like

  3. David Andreozzi AIA says:

    Hi David,

    Thank you. As we have discussed many times, over many cocktails, it is rare that one gets the opportunity to move the state of traditional architecture forward because it takes such a unique patron to allow you to do it. But this is what I felt like I was trying to do for the first time in my career. Take the little I have learned about the shingle style, the principles of the Picturesque, and the New England vernacular, and try and move it forward rather than reproduce it which I have done for over three decades. To me, that is attempting to be modern, which to me translates to shingle style on acid. David, we cant let the disease we know as the international style claim ownership of word that has been used for centuries before. Speaking of the picturesque, couldn’t we credit artist, cleric, and author William Gilpin in his 1770 book “Observations on the River Wye” as being the first major search for modernism in its rejection of high style traditional classicism? Let’s all agree it is worth the fight to kidnap the word modern back from the white walkers for our future generations… it is our duty. Our unity and persistence is our dragon glass.

    Love you man!

    Very fondly,

    David

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    • David A., as I’ve said many times before, the modernist kidnapping of the word modern is a done deal. Many people still use the word in its intended meaning in the non-architecture context, and still know what is meant when it is used incorrectly by modernists. Yes, the modernists have the advantage in using the word modern to mean their particular brand of architecture, with its implication that all previous, historical brands are not “up to date” or “of today” even if they were built today. But we traditionalists and classicists cannot get the word back, and if some of us try to recapture the word modern and use it in its broader, normative meaning while also using it and expecting followers of the discourse to distinguish when we are using it the old way and when we are using it the modernists’ way, our discourse will descend into confusion without making the slightest progress in excluding the word from misuse in discussing architecture. That is too bad. Battle lost long ago. No possibility of winning it today. Better to spend the effort on other more useful tasks in the style wars.

      My challenge at the end of this post was an effort to illustrate the problem. Am I using the word “modern” in quotes to mean anti-traditional or, as David A. would wish, recently built? If the former, the answer is clear. If the latter, the answer is wrapped in confusion. To set the profession straight on the correct meaning of “modern” would be to play into the hands of the modernists by making it more difficult for the public to understand the arguments put forward by anti-modernists. This is sad but true.

      The fight between traditional and modernism is not unwinnable, not at all, and cannot be avoided as long as distrust between the public and the (modernist) profession continues. A third way, a compromise, whatever you want to name it, is in fact a surrender. I do not see your Contextual Sustainability as such a compromise, or an effort to abandon the existing obvious answer – a return to traditional and classical design that has proved workable for centuries. The fight between the trads and the mods is being won by the trads thanks to the ICAA and our chapter and others. It is not near to *having* won, but the progress is undeniable as trad work grows more common and modernism increasingly operates under a cloud – a cloud that would not exist without the continuation of this fight now for decades, since Reed’s “The Golden City” and before.

      Leon Krier and Nikos Salingaros are correct in their critiques here of my reluctance to fully embrace their honorable effort to recapture the word modern. However, I think their extraordinary minds are best applied to more productive work than trying to recast the use of the word modern. Too late for that, alas.

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  4. Leon Krier says:

    David,
    You have given up despite your regularly understanding and explaining the fraud. Modernism is a form and expression of imperialism, obsessed with imposing its “superiority, its dominion, its uniqueness, its goodness, its rightness, its creativity, its progressively ” it is part and parcel of a “manifest destiny” syndrom. Language is a living thing, it does not belong durably to anyone, however powerful and power-hungry. Andreozzi is right to claim the term because it is true to the dictionary.
    Leon

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    • David Andreozzi AIA says:

      Dear Mr. Krier,

      We have never met, but I know you very well. Your books and lectures have helped direct me and energize me on my path for decades. I have been fighting the fight over the years with CORA, AIA CRAN, and now the ICAA. But what I really want to do is bring ALL organizations together with a common goal to fight this together around what I call Contextual Sustainability, next April in Boston. The unwinnable fight of Modern vs. Traditional must end. With the ICAA I am planning a two day seminar that I hope will change that narrative once and for all. I want to assemble 4-500 architects and designers to unify for that change.

      I have been trying to figure out how to invite you to speak. We have many common acquaintances including Christine Franck and Robert Orr who sits on my New England ICAA board. I was hoping to do anything I could, pull every possible string to have you there next year. Since I have your ear, please give me the opportunity to tell more about this seminar, what Cultural Sustainability means to me, the many allied organizations and press outlets that I already have on board if I decide to take the financial risk to move forward with it. My email address is dsra@andreozzi.com

      In any case, thank you for the inspiration,

      Sincerely,

      David

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  5. David,

    The debate, as always, is biased when it is framed in the confusing terms of dominant architectural culture.

    Andreozzi’s house has all the elements of life: fractal scaling, symmetries, color, detail, curves, water, etc. It therefore opposes the Modernist style, which forbids those qualities, or includes some while suppressing all the others.

    Perhaps Andreozzi does not wish to say “traditional” because this house is innovative and certainly does not follow Greco-Roman typologies. It is “modern” because it was built recently using the latest construction innovations we have today.

    It’s a shame that we didn’t catch David Andreozzi as he strolled outside past the restaurant in Boston where you, Ann Sussman, and I were enjoying a bowl of clam chowder. I would have loved to chat with him on precisely this point.

    Best wishes,
    Nikos

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