There never was and probably never will be another architectural critic as impassioned, omnivorous, and outspoken as Ian Nairn (1930–1983). Largely self-taught, he conducted a one-man crusade against the outrages of post-war British architecture, which he contrasted with the best work of past centuries. But he was no reactionary: He found excellence and mediocrity in every era, dismissing one Gothic cathedral as mechanical and unfeeling—the same deficiencies he found in the widely acclaimed Royal Festival Hall of 1951. "What I am after," he wrote, "is character, or personality, or essence." He accepted the wartime destruction in London as the price paid to defeat evil; now "It is burning again, but this time only to satisfy developers' greed, planners' inadequacy, and official stupidity."
Entries in Books (4)
Last month, our publisher, Balcony Press, had the pleasure of sponsoring a signing to celebrate the release of Scott Johnson's new book, Performative Skyscraper: Tall Building Design Now. The event featured remarks by Qingyun Ma, Dean and Della + Harry MacDonald Chair, USC School of Architecture. It was held at Johnson Fain Studios in Downtown LA.
To purchase the book, (all proceeds go to the USC School of Architecture) contact Natalie Egnatchik.
Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Architecture After Images. Edward Dimendberg. (The University of Chicago Press, $65).
A timely and penetrating study of a firm that has surged to prominence on the strength of two headline projects in New York: its imaginative transformation of Lincoln Center and the High Line (in association with Field Operations). In both, the architects were highly respectful of existing structures and that augers well for an even greater challenge: extending the Museum of Modern Art without destroying the American Museum of Folk Art. MoMA outraged the architectural establishment by threatening to demolish its next-door neighbor. It will require all of DS+R’s skill to integrate Tod Williams & Billie Tsien’s unique building into the new structure, and convince an overbearing institution to reconsider its threatened act of vandalism.
Our own homes reveal so much about us and about the inner-workings of our minds. Is there clutter? Is everything carefully stowed away? Which rooms have been best thought-out? The kitchen with a well-worn batterie de cuisine? A library with perfectly organized, floor-to-ceiling stacks of books?