Time for an intervention?
Last Sunday, CBS re-ran this piece on Sunday Morning, called "What's new is old." What starts as a piece about historic preservation, morphs into a brief examination of the work of Roman and Williams, an architecture firm in New York City. It's a nice piece, though in the brevity required of television it overlooks the reality that a number of firms have been working in a similar vein for decades. Nonetheless, I'm delighted to see this get national play.
That said, it's interesting to hear one part of the narration:
Critics call their old-fashioned designs, "a passing trend"
That simple statement actually minimizes the vitriol tossed in the direction of any architect who practices in a manner similar to Roman and Williams. I've written about this before, but it's worth mentioning again because of the sheer absurdity of the situation. Talented designers who create beautiful buildings such as the one highlighted are actually looked upon as intellectual inferiors by a great many architects, and virtually all of academia. In my humble opinion (ok, maybe not so humble), anyone who looks at that work and can't appreciate it is either completely brainwashed or a sociopath.
I never went to college — I don’t believe in college for writers. The thing is very dangerous. I believe too many professors are too opinionated and too snobbish and too intellectual, and the intellect is a great danger to creativity … because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth — who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter — you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.
Bradbury, as always, is brilliant and observant. I certainly don't advocate against college, but there's simply no question that some of our creative professions, such as architecture, have suffered greatly from over-intellectualization. I like to refer to it as pseudo-intellectual activity, since so much of it is absurd and easily dismissed. The entire foundation of the modern movement in architecture, for example, is at its core a dismissal of everything humans had done prior to the twentieth century as somehow irrelevant. Many of us wouldn't care about that bizarre bit of rationalization except that it has stuck for over a hundred years and remains the dominant teaching paradigm.
Which all leads me back to Roman and Williams. I really don't think architecture is filled with sociopaths, though I have run across a couple that I suspect are in that camp. Instead, I think we've had a collective brainwashing so intense as to lose touch with our core sense of human delight and emotion. If you really think that building in New York in the video is emblematic of a "passing fad" or irrelevant because it's inspired by traditional design, you need one of these:
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