Tuesday, December 11, 2007

5 points on architecture

1. The Gates of Paradise at the Met, according to Maureen Mullarkey, have become "doors to nowhere."
Severed from their purposes as sacred architecture, Ghiberti's panels are on tour as capital assets, pay-per-view spectacles in a techno-secular world.
If you haven't yet become acquainted with one of our finest writers on art (perhaps because she's an artist) you can keep up here. Mullarkey was well ahead of the New Republic's general diagnosis on contemporary art: that it's now money. When The New Republic and Crisis agree, someone's onto something.

2. The frequent Seinfeld shot of Tom's Restaurant, to my knowledge, never panned back to show the Cathedral that looms over it just a few blocks away. Sadly however, Ralph Adams Cram's greatest ambition has become, due to a 2001 fire, his ugliest church. I shant soon forget what it was like to walk the largest Cathedral expanse in the world through a 10x10 foot gopher tunnel. I could tell you a lot of stories about St. John the Divine (as could many others), but I'll leave it to a photographic essay. Use the "slideshow" feature. You too might be surprised to learn what the Cathedral is "in service to." Speaking of which, since when did St. Paul's Chapel become a permanent memorial?

3. How do you end a Gothic Revival? According to Michael J. Lewis (in his phenomenal book on the subject), you do so by abandoning Puginian principle, applying Gothic to commercial structures like the early 20th century's Woolworth Building in New York.
The identification of Gothic architecture with Christianity, so assiduously and lovingly championed by Pugin, had dissolved, leaving only a residue of vapid spiritual associations which lingered in such names as "Cathedral of Commerce" or the "Cathedral of Learning."
Enter modernity.

4. Then there's postmodern (now post-postmodern) architecture. How to explain? Try watching this constellation of starchitects gathered to give envious homage to Peter Eisenman. Then sit down with Philip Bess' essay on Eisenman. Or try the reverse. First read Nathan Glazer's straightforward statement that
Architecture in recent years has turned away from the pragmatic social and behavioral sciences to the wilder reaches of critical theory because its early efforts to design better housing turned into a failure.
Then watch the video and hear someone discuss about how architecture is now "beyond building."

5. Perhaps one of the reason tourists are generally despised is because their wide-eyed wonder is something locals have usually lost. Princeton historical society tours (I just took one) help in the recovery of such wonder. What a town. The Tour de Princeton is growing (more to come). The town in a word? Revival. Not only a Revival School, but Dutch Revival, Tudor Revival, Romanesque Revival, Greek Revival, Gothic Revival, and yes, Renaissance Sculptural Revival. To my embarrassment, I've never actually looked at this gorgeous thing at the convergence of 206 and Nassau. MacMonnies toiled in the fields of figural sculpture until a bird flew in. Fly away now, birdie.

Finally, do send your best photos to our North American Churches flickr group. It's growing every day.