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  #1  
Old Posted May 30, 2012, 9:42 PM
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Why classical architecture makes little sense for today's D.C.

Why classical architecture makes little sense for today’s Washington


May 18, 2012

By Roger K. Lewis

Read More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/reales...7YU_story.html

Quote:
The nation’s capital is the only American metropolis where debates still break out periodically between architectural traditionalists and architectural modernists. Why does this debate — once dubbed “battle of the styles” — persist in Washington? Why is modern design in this city still a hard sell at times?

Today almost all practicing architects in the United States are, in the broadest sense, modernists. Just ask the thousands of architects in town this week attending the 2012 American Institute of Architects national convention. Their talents and aesthetic tastes vary widely, but few design buildings replicating architecture of the past or buildings festooned with historic motifs and ornamentation borrowed from previous centuries.

The latest debate in Washington concerns Frank Gehry’s controversial, non-traditional design for the Eisenhower Memorial. The design has attracted much criticism from many quarters, and for many different reasons. But it has been especially condemned by those who assert that classicism is the only appropriate design language for creating a national memorial or monument in Washington. In fact, some classicism advocates do not limit their critique to memorials or monuments. Dismissing much modern architecture, they believe that new buildings, particularly in Washington, should be clones or derivations of Greek, Roman and Renaissance antecedents. Members of the Washington-based National Civic Art Society are among the most outspoken critics of the proposed memorial, and of modernism in general. The society is “dedicated to the traditional, humanistic practice of architecture, urban design and the fine arts, advocating the humanist tradition as the unrivaled source of artistic forms and conventions.”

The “humanist tradition” cited by the society refers to the classicism of antiquity rediscovered and reinterpreted by Renaissance, post-Renaissance and Beaux Arts architects and scholars. Humanism was the rational antidote to anti-humanistic deism and mysticism of the Middle Ages and Gothicism. But the society’s exclusivist credo tolerates no deviation, asserting that humanist tradition is “unrivaled.” Clearly, “unrivaled” means that non-traditional concepts for creating art and architecture are inferior and must be rejected.

Classicists predicate their argument on notions of familiarity, tradition, nostalgia and meaning. Universally recognized classical motifs and ornament have been around for more than 2,000 years. People presumably associate classicism with stability, permanence, authority, elegance and grandeur. National Civic Art Society members believe that modern architecture is devoid of these attributes.

Thus, the society argues that Washington has been and should continue to be a city of classically inspired architecture. They support their argument by pointing to countless classically styled government and civic edifices such as the U.S. Capitol and White House; the Supreme Court; Union Station; the National Gallery of Art West Building; the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials; and the Federal Triangle. All were built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, as were thousands of traditionally ornamented residential and commercial buildings.

.....
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  #2  
Old Posted May 30, 2012, 11:01 PM
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Gehry is a DISASTER of an architect.

I'm not a fan of modernism, but I'm sure someone out there can do better than Gehry...he's disgusting.
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  #3  
Old Posted May 31, 2012, 1:03 AM
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1. I didn't see any arguments in that block of text for why classicism is wrong for Washington.

2. Regardless of what you think about the larger debate of classicism, pretty much everyone agrees that Gehry's design for the Eisenhower memorial *sucks*.
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Old Posted May 31, 2012, 5:46 AM
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Unless the memorial is supposed to be temporary, why in the HELL would you use faddish, temporary architecture? Please don't go modern on this.
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  #5  
Old Posted May 31, 2012, 12:24 PM
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BAH!

Where to begin on this mess of a "story"?
First, the US Capital being the "Only" city where the debate between Classic and Modern is on going? HARDLY. It is a never ending war from SF to NYC, across the states and across the world.
Second, the very NOTION That "Classical" is not suited for the US Capital. The whole POINT of it's style is to be built AS a classical caital. It's buildings Temples to the worship of the founding father, it's offices massive imposing structures to symbolise Americas' greatness as it sees itself. To say Classical style has no place in the US Capital, is akin to saying Books have no place in a LIBRARY!
Third the 'writter' of this dribble falls into the fallacy of "assuming" that all modern architects are "modern' in their style. He is in a sense "since the majority of new buildings are not Classical, we should not build ANY new Classical buildings ever again.". THIS is the type of thinking that led to the Architectural Holocaust of the 50's and 60's. THIS is where this sort of thinking leads. First with "Why build any new Classical?" and then quickly into "Why do we even need all those old ones? Lets tare them down for something New.

BAH!

And as for Gehry...
I have said it before and I'll say it again, Gehry is worse then a disastor, the man is a HACK a Posion, he infects the minds of others with his melted "Blobitecture and tries to pass of his 'style' as somethign revolutionary, when it is nothing but crumpled paper and melted blobs!

OH! How it gets my Curmudgeon blood boiling!
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  #6  
Old Posted May 31, 2012, 12:59 PM
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Surely the classicalism of DC buildings beats the shit out of the mouldy and extraordinarily fugly concrete behemouths of the seventies that were championed as progressive/modern, etc. (visit any large university that expanded during that period and you will instantly know what I am talking about).

I work in one such monstrosity. What may have looked modern in the 1970s often looks repulsive today. can you imagine if the crumpled tinfoil starchitects take over and ruin the urban landscape, as did the brutalist stalinist/leCorbusier starchitects in the 70s?
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Old Posted May 31, 2012, 1:18 PM
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gehry's eisenhower memorial is terrible, and a poor ambassador of non-classical architecture in this discussion.

but every classical memorial made in DC in the past 30 years is also terrible (i'm looking at you WWII)
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Old Posted May 31, 2012, 3:27 PM
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That's because they didn't go classical right. They tried to mix in the new.
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  #9  
Old Posted May 31, 2012, 4:10 PM
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Brutalism will have its revival. But that just helps your point - better to have a style for official buildings that is not subject to falling in and out of fashion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MolsonExport View Post
Surely the classicalism of DC buildings beats the shit out of the mouldy and extraordinarily fugly concrete behemouths of the seventies that were championed as progressive/modern, etc. (visit any large university that expanded during that period and you will instantly know what I am talking about).

I work in one such monstrosity. What may have looked modern in the 1970s often looks repulsive today. can you imagine if the crumpled tinfoil starchitects take over and ruin the urban landscape, as did the brutalist stalinist/leCorbusier starchitects in the 70s?
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  #10  
Old Posted May 31, 2012, 4:16 PM
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Frank Gehry has made some really incredibly buildings though, the first that comes to mind is Beekman Place in NYC. Now that is a gorgeous timeless building. But most of the stuff he makes is pretty god awful. I looked up his Eisenhower Memorial; it doesnt even make any sense.
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  #11  
Old Posted May 31, 2012, 5:05 PM
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I feel it needed to post a rebutal to this nonsense...
When even the Eisenhower family themselves are against the blasted eyesore, you really know something is wrong:

Daily Caller

Quote:
The family of the late Dwight Eisenhower has come out against a planned memorial to the former president that they believe is inappropriate, unsustainable and not in keeping with his wishes.

Plans for the memorial, designed by architect Frank Gehry, call for a life-size statue of a barefoot, seven-year-old Ike surrounded by eight-story-tall pillars. The pillars hold up basketball court-sized steel mesh tapestries that show images of barren Kansas plains.

The memorial will cover a four-acre space just off the National Mall, and is expected to cost taxpayers roughly $100 million.

“We were under the impression that the design that Mr. Gehry put together was kind of a work in progress,” Susan Eisenhower, the president’s granddaughter, told The Daily Caller. “They changed the concept rather significantly in 2011, and then the next thing we heard it was on the fast track for approval.”

Susan Eisenhower said her grandfather, whom she knew well, would have hated the design.

“[The memorial] could be modern, but it needs to be simple, elegant and sustainable,” she said. “Because that is where we are in our history, and that is how he wanted to be remembered.”

“We were there for his deathbed wishes,” she continued. “I know this. All of us in our family are quite confident on this point.”

tERdespite the family’s objections, Gehry’s plans for the memorial have progressed, prompting Susan’s sister Anne Eisenhower to write to the National Capital Planning Commission on the family’s behalf.

In her letter, Anne argued that the current design does not meet Congress’ criteria for a durable memorial celebrating the president’s accomplishments. She also argued that the mesh tapestries are bound to collect blowing debris that could easily make the memorial look “dated or uncared for in a matter of years.”

“The Eisenhower family is requesting an indefinite delay in the design approval and ground breaking — pending further discussions with the family significantly changing the concept, scale and scope of the memorial,” the letter read.

David Eisenhower, Susan and Anne’s brother, resigned from the commission overseeing the memorial to protest Gehry’s design. But so far the family’s complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

“Contrary to what certain people are saying, and I recognize that some people don’t think the family has much of a say in this, but we’re really representing [President Eisenhower’s] interests,” Susan Eisenhower said. “All of us knew him very well. All of us were on the verge of marriages when he died. I was in my thirties when my grandmother died. We lived on an adjacent farm. I mean, we knew them very well.”

The Eisenhower family is not alone in their objections to the current design. Writing in National Review, conservative commentator and activist George Weigel blasted the planned memorial as a “travesty” that was “steamrolled through the federal bureaucracy.” And National Civic Art Society president Justin Shubow has written a book-length denunciation of the project.

“I can’t find anyone who likes this design,” Shubow told TheDC. “Does anyone think it’s beautiful or uplifting?”


Shubow’s organization now has a website cataloging the complaints over Gehry’s design and how he was chosen as the memorial’s architect.

Typically, memorial design competitions can be entered by just about anyone. Maya Lin, the architect behind the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was an undergraduate at Yale when she submitted her iconic design. But Gehry was chosen after 44 other entries were submitted — and he was not required to propose an actual design.

“We wonder whether there was a true competition at all,” Shubow told TheDC.


The National Civic Art Society and the Eisenhowers also complain that the man responsible for constructing the statue of Eisenhower as a boy, Charles Ray, is famous for his sculptures of group sex and naked children.

“Without making any comments about Charles Ray’s artistic following — I’m sure he has a significant one, Frank Gehry speaks very highly of him — but I think it’s not hard to see that he is absolutely not the person who should sculpt Dwight Eisenhower,” Susan Eisenhower said.

For now, critics of the project are trying to publicize their objections to its design. A National Planning Commission meeting has been scheduled for March to discuss the memorial. The meeting is open to the public.

“The entire process — the competition and design itself — has flown completely under the radar,” Shubow said. “We think that as soon as Congress and the American people see what’s going on, they’re going to share our disgust.”

Both Daniel Feil, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission’s executive architect, and John Bowers, Gehry’s representative on the project, did not respond to TheDC’s requests for comment on this story
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Old Posted May 31, 2012, 7:17 PM
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Yeah so I am having the feeling that the author of this article doesn't care about probably one of the most disgusting crimes in architectural history.

The loss of the Singer Building.



For the ugly One Liberty Plaza.



This is what the person supports and it is disgusting.
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  #13  
Old Posted Jun 1, 2012, 7:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roadcruiser1 View Post
Yeah so I am having the feeling that the author of this article doesn't care about probably one of the most disgusting crimes in architectural history.

The loss of the Singer Building.

This is what the person supports and it is disgusting.
Nowhere in the article does the writer support erasing neoclassical architecture in favor of poor modernism, so it is spurious to jump to the conclusions you are. Being in favor of contemporary design and being in favor of replacing anything obsolete with the contemporary are tremendously different territories. This is the architectural equivalent of claiming Obama will kill your grandmother because he supports healthcare reform.
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Old Posted Jun 1, 2012, 7:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mhays View Post
That's because they didn't go classical right. They tried to mix in the new.
Well, what is classical?

Is this classical?


blogspot.com

Is this classical?


tumblr.com

Is this classical?


futouring.com

Is this classical?


eahn.org

Is this classical?


blogspot.com


Post industrial culture seems to have brainwashed the entire world into thinking that all buildings are the same underneath a stylistic application of 'architecture' and those buildings with Greco-Romanesque columns applied to them are 'classical' and those without are 'modern.' That these discrepancies cannot be made by our public anymore only proves to me that 'classicism' as a stylistic rubric must be abandoned.

'Neoclassicism' came about because of an enlightenment era discussion on what the pure origins of humanity were. The consensus was that Greek temple design was the ideal, most primitive-perfect form of human design. What theorists and architects of that time failed to address was the fact that the Greeks never had opera houses, train stations, factories, skyscrapers, or art museums, and that the Greek temple was really only a giant functionless sculpture which nobody was ever allowed to enter. Herego, the solution was to glue Greek temple fronts onto apartment buildings, factories, or whatever else the Greeks didn't have in an attempt to make it 'pure.'
I bring this up only because it echoes the conversation occuring here. 'Classicism' is referred to as some set of agreed upon rules that can generate fantastic architecture because it is pure and unquestionable.
But doesn't the application of that Greek temple design dilute the purity of anything it is applied to when it is not a temple? I don't disagree with the use of invention and creativity in bending the rules of classicism, but the intellectual conflicts in the work above should suggest that 'classicism' is devoid of the value of purity, clarity, and humanism it claims to represent.
'Classicism' is an over-generalization of cultural history which excludes the disorder and chaos inherent in therein, and which is used to criticize 'modernism' for promoting those values. 'Classicism' was the continual mixing of 'old' with 'new,' and that we can't acknowledge creative evolution or even the value of invention (why can't we mix old with new, exactly?) really speaks to the hazards of 'classicism.'

The entire 'classic v. modern' argument needs to end. It won't anytime soon, since contemporary culture prefers branding and image more than much else, and there won't be architectural conversations in the public realm that talk about much else besides how a building will look on a postcard in the meantime.
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Last edited by CGII; Jun 1, 2012 at 8:22 PM.
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  #15  
Old Posted Jun 2, 2012, 12:58 AM
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source

The Eisenhower Memorial proposal looks like an unfortunate retread of Phillip Johnson's Kennedy Memorial in Dallas. Not good.

There's nothing worse than starchitects trying to out 'Maya Lin' each other.

I like Gehry's work for the most part, but this is a bland misstep.
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  #16  
Old Posted Jun 2, 2012, 4:45 AM
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Well it's plain and simple. To fit in with the D.C grid, and fabric, buildings are debated to be built in an OLDER style. I wouldn't say the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden built in the 70's or the National Museum of the American Indian built in 2004 are perfect, BUT they satisfy the needs of critics who want D.C to stay old, YET also give D.C some modernism. I love that D.C is one of those cities that's STILL 90 percent old buildings, something NYC lost a long time ago.
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