Monday, 9 January 2012


Re Masters of the Postmodern Universe:

I’ve been in Weimar since 1999 researching a book on the Bauhaus, motivated by reading in Nicholas Pevsner’s groundbreaking book on Modernism in which he said that Gropius wanted to fuse art and technology to bring good design to the working classes. I had been a homeless boy in Depression Detroit.

My research has destroyed all my illusions. Gropius was an incompetent architect who complained bitterly to his mother that he couldn’t draw! (And had a private partner, Adolf Meyer, who did the heavy lifting.) Mies was ashamed of being a mason’s son and created “art works” that were uninhabitable. He sucked up, unsuccessfully, to Rosenberg and Speer until Gropius got him a rich man’s commission in Wyoming in 1938. There was no architecture class at the Bauhaus until 1928, when Gropius gave up and fled to New York.

My friend Bertrand Goldberg is the only major architect to come out of the Bauhaus (last class, 1933) and they are so hagiographical about minor Germans that he has never even had a Bauhaus Exhibition. (Now, Peter Behrens was a great architect, and they ignore him! Another scandal!) Philip C. Johnson didn’t study architecture until 1938, all the while writing scabrous letters about how obsessed Grope was with the working class. PCJ polluted the dialogue about Architecture in America, arguing as an insecure parvenu that only ART mattered.

Hence the POMO crap like the Chippendale Sony. PCJ never saw a new architecture wave he didn’t want to surf on. I hope the new MOMA director learned from his Columbia colleague Herb Gans how central humane values are to architecture. Starchitecture is the biggest dead end in the history of the genre: Talkable Architecture for the easily snowed, newly wealthy. The Bilboa Defect. (I explore these intuitions on the website of the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, where I just sold my lovely Louie Kahn house in Greenbelt Knoll for a 1784 villa at Seifengasse 10, Weimar 99423.) (Goethe lived at +1.)

Wish I could be there for the palaver. You are in good hands,though, with Witold Rybczynski, America’s best design critic by a mile.

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