Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beauty, extracted

In a comment on yesterday's post, I was asked to "lay off the SCI-Arc bashing."

The request came from VOITURE12
, who is evidently associated in some way with that Downtown hothouse of design speculation and self-gratification, and who reminds me that "some of us are actually decent human beings and [adding his or her intended emphasis] architects!"

In all fairness to VOITURE12
, I went back to the SCI-Arc website and took an extended look at all the images posted there under "Faculty Work." I was sure I could find something charming, delightful, amusing, pleasing to the eye, historically attuned, beautiful or even—could it be?—sublime to post here, and make myself look less a curmudgeon.

Of the 23 listed faculty members (of which one seems to be a collaborative and several seem to be visual artists rather than architects), only a small handful elected to submit photographs of
finished work, either because their snazzy computer-aided renderings and swoopy scale models are so much more engaging than their finished buildings . . . or, as I rather strongly suspect, there are no finished buildings to photograph.

Of the finished structures I
did manage to find photographs of, here's the cream of the crop (obviusly, the copyrights belong to whomever they belong):

But surely the prize find was this study in SCI-Arc's triumphant poetics of negation:

VOITURE12, I don't doubt that SCI-Arc students and faculty are decent human beings. In fact, I'll have a beer with you any time (majorhancock@gmail.com). But the work, alas, speaks for itself.


  1. There are ambitious architects and there are good architects. Even so, anyone can slap a few detail photos in a magazine (or on a blog) and lament the quality of the work, but that is a more "ambitious" approach to journalism than a "good" one. All that said, architecture programs do change over the years, and while I would probably not elect to go to SCI_Arc under Moss's directorship, I am very satisfied with the level of education I received in the early 90s under Robert Mangurian's. and there we have it. Moss: ambitious Mangurian: good

  2. I wasn't suggesting that students can't get a good education at SCI-Arc, no matter who the director was, is, or will be. You basically get the education you give yourself, as I've learned from experience. I'm happy yours was successful and fulfilling, and I would like to see your work.

    But I do question any theory and philosophy of architecture -- one embodied in almost all the student, faculty and alumni work that I've seen from SCI-Arc -- that dismisses the past as irrelevant and tries overly hard to reinvent a wheel that has been working, turning and evolving, for millennia. For the sake of being contemporary, these self-styled iconoclasts throw beauty categorically upon the scrap heap as well, much to the detriment of the people who have to live in or around their graceless, disorienting buildings.

    There's nothing more clichéd than the avant-garde, as now-discredited movements like Constructivism, Futurism, Brutalism, and Post-Modernism show. As Oscar Wilde put it in a quote I've already posted: "It is only the modern that ever becomes old-fashioned."

    As for my "ambitious" approach, although I actually am a journalist in my day-to-day life, I don't consider this blog journalism. If it's anything at all serious, it's social commentary; but it's also in large part just entertainment...for myself, if for no one else.

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