Food for thought or Philosophical Molotov Cocktail?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by sandyv, Dec 28, 2016.

  1. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member
  2. HERE'S a link that should work.
    The article is mostly reactionary clap-trap.
    With this in mind, it is worth pondering what fearsome changes have been visited upon that little word “art” over the course of the last century.​
    Art has always been a purveyor of change. Nothing fearful about it, except in the closed mind of the author.
    In one sense, what we have been witnessing is the application of the principle of affirmative action to culture.​
    At least he lets us know clearly where he's coming from.
    Forty years ago, the typical art museum was a staid and stately place.​
    It still is in so many instances. One wonders if Kimball has been to the Met, the new Whitney, SF's new MOMA, to name just a few. He ought to check out the austere, old world Nueu in Manhattan.

    There's still plenty of staidness and stateliness to be found. But, yes, it has a different look and feel than it did 40 years ago.

    And, yes, people now wear jeans to the opera house. SHOCKING! My guess is that the ones in jeans in the balcony are getting as much if not more out of the music as the rich folks full on foie gras and dressed in gowns with adorning jewels.

    This elitist approach to art is neither terribly philosophical nor a molotov cocktail. It's just another excuse to fight a culture war on expressive progress.

    His main problem is seeing the world as so black or white, that it becomes either the old masters or feces in a bag. By limiting himself to the extreme example, he doesn't have to bother himself with all the stuff in the middle, which is where most of art lies. It's easy and manipulative to give examples most people would laugh at, but he's dismissing much great art by lumping it in with some of the extremes he discusses. And, even those extremes, if this were at all philosophical, would be given a fair hearing instead of an immediate dismissal.

    It's not that he doesn't make some good points about consumerism and some places where popular appeal has become more important than depth. But these get lost in a sea of impenetrable and burdensome stodginess.
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    This sort of sums it up - It does not attempt to meet people on the level of their everyday experience, seducing them inside with quiche, cappuccino, and the latest art-world trend. Apparently he is unaware that quiche went out by the end of the 1990s and that quiche is a 500 year old French dish. Using it as some sort of indicator points out that he probably hasn't really set foot in any of the museums he criticizes, since it's unlikely that any of them make quiche a centerpiece. And what's wrong with cappuccino? A museum serving a classic beverage dating back well over 100 years is suddenly a problem?
    Not much else to say, he has his head stuck in the ground.
  4. The coffee bar or restaurant, the movie theater or gift store or interactive computer center vied for attention. Art merely added the desired patina of cultural sophistication, the increasingly faint echo of civilizational aspiration.​
    My attention span was getting taxed plowing through the written article as I kept searching for all the "essay below" references and never finding them. So I needed to listen to the YouTube video. I got to the quote above and I just threw my hands up at Kimball's pronunciation of one of my favorite words.
    From Google's pronounced pa-TEE-na. (Long "E"). Not PAT-inuh...DUH! I will not accept his pronunciation no matter how many learned bonafides he's acquired.
    Other than that I just couldn't figure out what he was talking about. A failure to communicate effectively.
  5. I love the Hundertwasser. Great concept and it didn't prevent me from enjoying the art. I'm not that easily distracted. I can appreciate complementary experiences, even at the same time. Different strokes.
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The museum itself as a piece of art is a paridisal post-modern concept. There is absolutely no reason it shouldn't be as enjoyable, interesting, and fascinating as what is inside its walls.
  7. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The problem arises when the purpose of the building ( any building, not only museums ) is for itself to serve as a tourist attraction.​

    Your original statement on this topic said nothing about tourism. However, I have never seen any dictum, rule, or law that states what a building housing art can or cannot be. In fact, if one assumes that art should be more widely appreciated, the "tourist" route is useful. The other direction is to follow the regressive view that the author of the article espouses, which seems to be something you agree with here.
  8. I don't think of the Hundertwasser as staid and stately. And I agree that stately can still be enjoyable, interesting, and fascinating. I love staid and stately museums. Just don't think museums should be limited to that.
    In any case, some of the focus in the article was on art itself, which the author seemed to think should be cast in more traditional aesthetic terms, and he seemed to be using the buildings as an excuse for his more reactionary take on art, dismissing performance art, dismissing Jeff Koons, etc. He seemed to me to be demanding both literal and figurative walls of austerity and "respectability" around art that would stifle much of it.
  9. From a tourist perspective I'm of the belief just from media coverage over the years the more quirky the facade of the gallery/museum the more it attracts those that expect something weird, unusual and attention getting.
    You can probably thank the long history of media coverage on the Mapplethorpes, Koons and others for slightly turning the art world into somewhat of a side show. Folks now want to see in a museum if it's true about someone displaying a sculpture of a 500 lb woman sitting on a toilet. In fact the movie "Nocturnal Animals" opening credits shows morbidly obese nude women dancing in slow motion to great effect. Very odd and trippy. Is that art? Or is that an attention grabber to draw the crowds?
    It's definitely show biz, but at least it pays, right? What's wrong with that?
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Simplified, is it the picture or the frame that is paramount, and should that figurative picture have a didactic purpose.
  11. Sandy, because pictures are shown, there will always be a frame, whether a literal one or a wall or context on or in which
    the work is seen. For me, it's not a matter of a universal "which is paramount?" It's a matter of lots of possibilities. You are
    going to get artists and curators who will want to play with different ideas and modes of presentation. And those can be
    rather interesting, sometimes bringing out important aspects of the work. Of course, some will also fail. Theater, symphonies, operas pretty much have to be interpreted in order to be experienced as performances. Some prefer staid performances. Others will appreciate a wide variety of interpretations, even those that may stray from the "original intent" or means of the artist. We rarely hear Mozart "as intended" since his music is most often performed not on original instruments but on more contemporary-sounding ones. I can accept even the most classical paintings perhaps presented in more contemporary settings and ways. It can even give them renewed meaning and energy.

    Some art may have a didactic purpose, in varying degrees.
  12. I think the moral of the story [in "Nocturnal Animals"] was about the paradox of the 'tortured artist' unwilling to kill the life that inspired him in the first place and therefore unable to progress to something real. F*$k art. It doesn't mean anything without love.​
    Phil, I take it then you interpreted and I'm assuming liked the movie as a good example illustrating how personal life affects the works of a creative artist?
    I couldn't glean that once I heard the dialog at first meet up at the restaurant where he says to his future wife that her eyes are sad like her mothers where she answers back with the tired cliched line... "Please don't tell me I'm turning into my mother".
    After that all the metaphoric imagery like the red couch just became a clunky way to tell a story.
    In your view, Phil, was the movie a work of art or just an uninspired and contrived depiction of the art world?
  13. Thanks for the link to Architecture versus Art.
    The objective of the interior of modern museums being compatible with the displayed art is suggested by Gehry's Bilbao (good compliance) versus the Libeskind's Denver museum addition or perhaps the same architect's Royal Ontario Museum addition (bold and uplifting exterior, problematic interiors).
    Gehry also succeeded I think in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the outside reflecting the late 19th and very early 20th century multiple small buildings it faces, while the elevated and curved interior volumes serve as an appropriate and relatively unconfined space for the sculptures and other art therein.
    The addition to the new wing of the Musée national des beaux arts de Quebec (MNBAQ) in that city has an amazing complicity with its natural surroundings (Plains of Abraham), making one think a bit of the philosophy inspired by the Austrian artist who transformed visions of museums and houses in Vienna.
    When I am not photographing, and even when I am pursuing that pastime (a strange word for it as the aim is not inherently to "pass time"), my other hobby is architecture. Four years of my younger existence living well within London's green belt nurtured my appreciation of Renaissance and Georgian architecture.
    At some later point such Cartesian symmetrical beauty became as staid as the traditional museum (I'm not referring here to the works within it) and I sought freer expressions of the human enclosure.
    That I found in the vernacular architecture of Europe, transposed and reinterpreted by local builders in the 3 and 4 hundred year old buildings of my region.
    The doors and windows of those original buildings are placed only where internal needs required them. The simple but harmonious interactions of walls cut from local timber, roofs (once thatched then of wood) and dormer windows (again placed only where needed by the occupants, and not obeying some symmetrical plan of dictated harmony) proclaim a structure befitting human needs and lifestyle.
    Much like the philosophy of Hundertwasser. That more of his thought frequent our places.
  14. Just some thoughts . . .
    Some of my most memorable and deep art viewing experiences have taken place in the totally messy, cramped, badly lit, creaky art studios and lofts of local artists. One of the best musical performances I've heard was Mozart being played solo by an Oakland Symphony conductor in the inner-city apartment of a friend on an out-of-tune upright piano.
    It's interesting that artists often create in much less than "desirable" conditions and surroundings, and yet we insist on the optimum conditions (as if there is such a thing) when viewing. What if it turned out that the act of dealing with distraction and focusing through distraction actually gave us a particular kind of awareness that might aid us in art appreciation? We take paintings that are often made amidst splatters of paint on the floors, ceilings that leak in corners, patched walls, streaked windows and claim that the optimum viewing experience is in a staid and stately museum!
    Many of the exhibitions I've seen actually seem to deaden the work by sort of purifying the surroundings. I think there are as many ways to show and experience art as there are ways of making it. Some of these ways work and others don't. When it comes to the presentation of art, I prefer to think there in terms of vision and possibilities. Architecture is art (and more). It's not art vs. architecture. It's art and architecture.
  15. What if it turned out that the act of dealing with distraction and focusing through distraction actually gave us a particular kind of awareness that might aid us in art appreciation? We take paintings that are often made amidst splatters of paint on the floors, ceilings that leak in corners, patched walls, streaked windows and claim that the optimum viewing experience is in a staid and stately museum!​
    I want to add that these things may sometimes not be distractions or not be felt as distractions at all. They may be authentic material aspects of life and surroundings that help provide volume, texture, and inspiration.
  16. Architecture not needlessly clashing with the art inside is very different from architecture which is limited to the "staid and
    stately." There's a universe between being staid and stately and not needlessly clashing. Architecture can be adventurous
    and informal and still not clash with the art it houses. The article of the OP still strikes me as reactionary and has more the tone of a culture warrior than a thoughtful essay. The article you provided, Phil, is a more reasoned piece.

    I think architecture may even impose itself without necessarily clashing. I've seen Monet's water lilies enough not to mind a strong
    curatorial or architectural statement providing a context that insinuates itself in such a way as to give me a new, and
    perhaps even exotic, perspective on them. I hope l'Orangerie is always around for its great presentation of Monet, but that
    some houses and some curators will put a different or even radical spin on the lilies, I think, can also be welcomed.
  17. Art and function are not always companions. Architecture serves man (at its most basic it is the walls and roof that separate man from the exterior) and has a functional quality as well as an aesthetic purpose. More than 1.3 billion dollars later, the Olympic stadium in Montreal is art, and beautiful, but its suspended and oft reconstituted roof has been a disaster in practical terms.
    On a much more humble level, and as an example of the effect of place on an exhibition, here are some photos of my seasonal art gallery that sought (2002 to 2012) to use a restored heritage coach shed ("barn") as a place for art. Other than a floor and Lighting that I built, it is a simple 200 or more year old vernacular structure. I would prefer to show here more of the modern art than the images of somewhat crowded photographs (exhibitions changed frequently), as the paintings and sculptures more strikingly contrasted with the rustic surroundings.
  18. Old shed gallery interior 2
  19. Old shed gallery 3
  20. Old shed gallery 4
  21. Phil, I also have the occasional bird that is looking for a larger habitat. I once (only!) had a garter snake come up through a vent from the stone foundation and the crawl space below the floor, unfortunately when a couple from the west was just about to purchase a large abstract painting. The environment doesn't always help.
    The ambience and smell of the wood is great and the visitors have free range to walk the the farmer's apple orchard, but the floor has no squeaks. Contrary to the adjoining house that I restored earlier, I screwed rather than nailed the planks to the joists, something I did not realize earlier at the house which then guaranteed squeaks. Building is an ongoing education.
  22. I apologize for being late to the party. I'm just back from a quick trip. The question of what constitutes an appropriate viewing/display venue for art is as old as art itself. It is unlikely to be resolved with any one approach or solution. There are several cases that bear consideration: The Kimball has already been mentioned. It represents the highest evolution of the mid-century modernist approach. It is successful both as a purposeful piece of Architecture, and as the setting for its contents. The Louvre likewise is successful, even though not purpose-built as a museum (though one can make the argument that any palace is a de-facto museum). The Getty Center in LA is an extraordinary piece of Architecture in its own right, while generally accepted as also being an outstanding museum experience. We have previously discussed what I consider to be less successful examples of museum architecture, such as the Experience Music Project in Seattle. I really like Arthur's Old Shed Gallery. It feels very apropos to its purpose and content, as do the caves at Lascaux. One oddity to consider is Wright's Guggenheim in New York. It is a fascinating piece of Architecture and is generally very popular. Yet it gets mixed reviews as a display space. The sloping floor and curving walls of the ramp add an out-of-kilter perspective to the art displayed on its walls, most of which was expected by the artists to be viewed from a flat floor on a flat wall. I am also reminded of the original Temporary Contemporary in LA, a simple warehouse intended, literally, as the temporary home for part of MOCA's collection during a remodel of the main facility back in the early 1980's. It was so popular that it has become a permanent venue. One can argue whether or not Gehry's remodel is an improvement.

    In the end, the most basic criterion for any museum is whether or not it contributes in a positive way to the art experience. All of the successful examples noted in this thread do exactly that, whether it be a cave, a warehouse, a shed, a palace, or a purpose-built piece of Architecture. A "staid and stately" museum can be valid and apropos. It might also be simply boring. A case can be made for myriad approaches and solutions. I expect this to be true for as long as there is art to display. I try to take each on its own merits, just as I do the art that they contain.
  23. A further thought: Architecture, no less than any other art, is subject to the whims and vicissitudes of popular styles. To the degree that art has become democratized, so too has much of the Architecture intended as art's home. To the same degree that society has declared that virtually anything can be art, so too, most any structure can serve as a museum. The risk is that not every piece on display nor every building in which such are housed contribute equally to the edification or enlightenment of humankind. Over time, likely many lifetimes, humankind will winnow its way through the prodigious outpouring of "art" we see today, and will decide what really is "Art". The social, political, and religious opinions that drive us today will be of little consequence to that process. This will happen in the same way we as societies and cultures decide which buildings to preserve and which to demolish in the interest of new construction. The great danger exists in the ratio of chaff to wheat. Our descendants may well lose some priceless artifacts lost in the noise of creativity run amok. We as photographers see this even on this site. How many of us have the time to view and consider every image submitted? How many truly wonderful images do we miss in the flood of postings?
  24. I recently got to see THIS Arbus exhibit at the new MET BREUER in New York. (Here's an INTERIOR shot.) The building itself used to house the Whitney collection, which has recently moved downtown, now housing portions of the Met's collection. It's a fine example of brutalist architecture and has undergone a great restoration which revives its original flavor, which the Whitney had sort of papered over. Naming the museum for the architect (Breuer) himself gives the architecture its due and that was conscious on the part of the Met. In its newest incarnation, consistent with that period of architecture, the building avoids lightness and frivolity in favor of a kind of rugged seriousness and a highly graphic sense of the flow of space.
    Lots of people find such brutalist buildings, including this one, uninviting. So the Arbus exhibit started with a strike against it just by being in this building, according to some critics. And then, curator Jeff Rosenheim conceived the exhibit itself in a kind of hall-of-mirrors fashion, with repeating alternating columns with one photo per column (as can be seen in my first link of this post), so viewers were walking in all different directions and the photos were not hung in any particular order, such as chronological. Again, some critics were vocal in their condemnation. Too distracting, people bumping into each other, overwhelming, lacks focus, etc., etc.
    This was my first visit to the building since the Met took it over and I loved the building, not because I want every museum to have this institutional, heavy look but because it works for what it is, where it is, and when it is. In a strange way, I found its uninviting character rather inviting precisely for its toughness and unflinching lack of softness. It was like a challenge to penetrate, like shaking hands with the man of steel, only in this case it was concrete. And I loved the exhibit, not only for getting to see some rare Arbuses that haven't been shown before but because the photos are so good and the concept of the exhibit worked for me, again, not because I think every art exhibit would be effective if displayed this way but because I thought it was very in tune with Arbus's street sensibility and her subjects as well. The oddity, the randomness, the insistence on dealing with other viewers, all seemed to integrate so well with the photos on display.
    Inside the Guggenheim, I tend to feel like I'm forever on the way, never to arrive.
  25. The Met Breuer and Guggenheim I have yet to visit (shame!), but the disposition of the works on individual columns of the former would seem to entice the viewer to consider each image not as part of an ensemble but as a statement in its own right. When the viewing leads from one image to the next on a continuous wall it would seem more likely that the viewer connects more readily the sequence presented. Although any Arbus image is very likely part of an organic creative whole, the choice of individual picture columns may diminish overall focus, but Fred appreciated in part the relation of randomness of the exhibition to the nature of street photography (unless I miss the point), the perception of a complexity of human activity.
    The Guggenheim's spiral sloping floor mentioned by David and its presentation seems the antithesis of this, inciting the viewer to continue through an exhibition which presumably evolves in its contextual sense as one walks through it. I'm not sure about others, but I think I would be happier contemplating a work while positioned on a relatively horizontal floor.
    The outside of the seasonal art gallery repurposed from a former farm shed is shown in the attached image. It is the rear of the gallery, but the street side of this simple French inspired colonial building is very similar (with its central door for vehicle entry, now the gallery entrance). I like the fact that there is no indication outside of its rehabilitated activity, left as a surprise for those entering the building. The Breuer building, also repurposed in a sense (although the Bauhaus architect originally designed it for an art space, it contrasts with its surrounding structures which Breuer saw as being less permanent than his new building), and the Tate Modern, a former fuel fired electricity generation station, are similar in this sense, with the value of linking the art within, their present function, to past human activity.
  26. Actually, Arthur, the Arbus exhition worked in very much the opposite way. In this case, the whole became greater than
    the sum of its parts. Having the column concept create an architecture within which the photos could operate made them
    seem more connected rather than less. I didn't experience the columns as discontinuous. They were continuous in a
    different way. Sort of like staccato instead of legato but still achieving a melody but with perhaps more of a jazz rather
    than classical rhythm. It was a case where the exhibit was as impactful as any individual photo but where I felt each photo
    contributed to the exhibit rather than the exhibit overpowering the photos. Seen in this way, the seeming randomness, the
    heightened physical presence and consciousness of other lookers and therefore the emphasis on looking, one could glean an Arbus sensibility, the
    importance of her body of work as much as the importance of any or each individual photo. If you see only a single Arbus
    image, it's a poorer experience than seeing a bunch of them. Seeing them this way gave me, I think, an appropriate
    sense of just how she could single people out of a crowd. I agree with you that the viewer, in this exhibition, wouldn't have
    connected to a sequence but do think it emphasized the work as a body of work more than a typical showing might have,
    in that there was an overall concept tying them together and broadening them, just not a sequential one.
  27. Good point, Phil, about the building allowing for this exhibition to be temporarily constructed rather than forcing this
    viewing experience on all exhibits. Interestingly, though, the main criticism of the show, which I disagreed with, is that the
    modular setup itself forced a particular kind of viewing. The important difference is that, forced or not and like it or not, the
    exhibit was set up for this particular body of work and not more universally for all art shown at the museum. Also
    interesting is the word "force" in itself regarding presentation decisions. There are times when I do feel forced by the
    curator or exhibition designer into a way of seeing someone's art. I can sometimes appreciate very forceful, strong-willed
    presentations, though I guess there's a distinction between the kind of force behind strong-willed and the kind of force
    behind strong-armed!
  28. Yes, but once again I think it's important not to limit museum architecture to staid and stately. There are plenty of
    alternatives that won't fight with the art even while making strong architectural/aesthetic statements themselves.
    Considering adventurous and casual to be alternatives to staid and stately, I'd say there are plenty of more adventurous
    and casual museums that work just as well as some of the more traditional staid and stately ones without setting up a
    fight. Taking it a step further, even disharmony isn't always a fighting word.

    I've never been sure whether the Guggenheim puts me off or keeps me on my toes. I've never avoided an exhibit
    because it's there and I sometimes feel like the off-kilter experience heightens my senses. If I had to pick one all-purpose
    museum, it wouldn't be the Guggenheim, but I don't have to do that. I've just accepted it as the experience it is and am
    glad to have lots of alternatives.
  29. As for museums that are like airport terminals or Disneyworld entertainment centers, who am I to pour cold water on
    reaching out to tourists or making art more democratic and less elitist? If a museum can be made fun enough to attract
    families with young children, even if it doesn't present what I might see as the optimum viewing experience, and it
    exposes people to Picasso and Hockney on whatever level, I'd say it's a net positive. Let the kids and their families be
    drawn in by novelty and even, in some cases, pop-culture surroundings. They may just grow into an appreciation of some
    important art that they might not otherwise avail themselves of. If I think more people will come to appreciate some
    important art even through venues that I consider kitschy, commercial, or competitive, I'm actually willing to work harder to
    shut those things out that annoy me when I'm viewing if it means not shutting out more people who would perceive the
    more staid and stately venues as uninteresting or unstimulating to themselves. I like art to be shared and I like sharing
    art. That often involves compromise and not being too set in my own ways or too focused on just my own needs.
  30. Phil, I agree about the money angle and it's one of the reasons I love the Met and Met Breuer. Museums have become really expensive here in the U.S. though, to be fair so have baseball games and you pay about as much for a movie and popcorn as you do for a museum visit. The Met and Breuer have suggested admission charges but the contribution is voluntary and I've never seen pressure put on people to pay more than what they offer, which is often less than the price of admission. Back in the 70s a deal was reached between the museum and the city to make this happen. If only it could be a model for many other museums, though I suspect it's not the only one of its kind in terms of admission policy.
    And I also think you make an important point about being able to be critical of both art and architecture. There is, in fact, good and bad art and architecture and I've not usually hesitated to give my opinions here and elsewhere. I guess what turned me off in the opening article of this thread was a kind of generic rule imposed on museum architecture as opposed to what I would consider to be a fair critique of a particular museum or type of museum. That a museum should be staid and stately sounded more like a somewhat ill-conceived and blindly accepted rule than it did a thought-out critique. Not unlike someone who says "the best photos are ones taken with film, not cropped, and only post processed to the extent of dodging and burning." I am interested in learning through critiquing photos but those kind of rule-limitations don't do much for me and they didn't in the article about museums. The author's dismissal of much contemporary art along with his take on trends in museums just seemed an arbitrary adherence to a "strict" or "purist" point of view, which just doesn't work in a contemporary world. Again, I love more classical museums and appreciate the old standby works of art. I just don't want to limit either art or its presentation to that sort of a standard.
  31. Phil, I think it is important that art is often not the spontaneous invention of artists applying or at least being conscious of a theoretical background in aesthetics and graphics but also the result of traditions engaged by craftspersons who have evolved their designs empirically. This is the experience of the builders of medieval buildings (whether small wood structures or the largest stone cathedrals) and their successors through the Renaissance that occurred beside them and the application of their building art until the 19th century.
    This vernacular (people incited) architecture evolved beside and unaffected by the classical architecture first re-introduced and perfected by Italian mathematicians and architects and extolling the beauty of symmetrical elements and balance. The beauty of a simple 17th or 18th century rural house or shed owes to this evolution and connection to human needs, specific local materials and a great complicity with the surrounding natural environment, climatic, geographic and material.
    The old shed is a beautiful object. During its restoration I discovered several unique joints and assemblages and a structural design that are products of this evolution of craft. Industrial materials and construction outbid these builders, introduced other possibilities, but also froze this beauty. The practical vernacular houses and buildings, product of long traditions rather than classical or early 19th century industrial design, are the art of the people.
    Museums are hit hard in this decade and in many countries, for operating funds. Like symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras and opera, in which the 50+ population (and counting) is overwhelmingly present, extra funding is sought by enlarging the demographic base. Locally, Kent Nagamo and the Montreal Symphony feature several concerts with popular artists, such as its partnering Fred Pellerin, a wildly followed storyteller. Young conductors like the same city's Yannick Nezet-Séguin, new chef of the Metropolitan opera, have the potential advantage (like the younger James Levine in his day), to bring younger fans to the music hall. Art museums are also challenged in a similar manner, perhaps more on the question of democratizing art as in the demographics of its attendees. I agree, with Fred I think, that art shouldn't have rigid boundaries that might exclude the general population or certain exploratory trends, as its worth will in any case be determined much later and its contemporary viewers can take or leave what they view.
  32. Anyways, I wouldn't say museums are the actual replacements of religious places of worship, Roman and Greek civic structures which included temples, and before that tombs (i.e. pyramids, etc.) as the highest pinnacle of culture. Today in America, its probably far more the sports stadium, followed by shopping malls more than museums that society values as its highest aspirational achievement.
  33. Phil, "great" architecture is a really slippery critter to define. Some of what we consider great today was panned when originally designed and constructed (such as the Eiffel Tower). Some architecture, like other art, is deemed great almost solely on the basis of the name-brand architect (vis-a-vis Frank Gehry), rather than focusing on the character of the building itself. Louis Kahn's Parliament for Bangladesh is an example where both factors come into play. When selected to design the Parliament, Kahn was already an established master, so virtually anything he designed would have been given respectful consideration as high art, even if not to everyone's taste. That Kahn's design successfully addressed the nation's need for political identity is testimony to his rightful place as a master of his art. Even so, it is a building that would never be designed or accepted today in response to the same program. Our values, priorities, technology, styles, and aesthetic expectations have changed, and even if Kahn were alive a very different solution would certainly result. Every piece of architecture is just one take on the myriad solutions to a given design problem, influenced by the technical, social, cultural, political, aesthetic, stylistic, economic, religious, environmental, and other variables extant at the time of its design and construction. It continues to amaze me how many and drastically differing solutions there can be to a single set of design requirements.
    This reality is representative of one way in which architecture differs from the other arts. Every architectural project responds to at least three competing criteria: 1- The functional/operational needs/requirements of the client or occupant, including aesthetic issues integral to use and image of the building, and the available budget. In this regard, every building is a delicate, 3-way balance between quality, cost, and schedule. 2- Conformance to building, life safety, zoning, and other codes in the design, layout, structure, systems, finish, and location of the building. 3- The Architect's vision for the building as art and as a product of the creative design process, reflecting the Architect's (and the Owner's) aesthetic preferences in the application of scale, volume, positive versus negative space, symmetry, materiality, color, texture, reference to precedent, application of technology, etc.
    All of the museums and other buildings referenced in this thread are responses to these three competing sets of criteria. It must be acknowledged that the specifics of these criteria are constantly in flux, and so the design response is likewise in flux. How we evaluate works of Architecture (and other art as well), both old and new, depends both on the criteria in play at the time of their design and construction as well as the lens through which we perceive them today. Personally I find most of Kahn's work heavy, dark, and foreboding, but I acknowledge his genius as a master of design, even if his solutions are vastly different from what I, or his contemporaries, would choose to do. I would not want to live in any of Phillip Johnson's houses, but they remain fascinating exercises and explorations of his design ethic and vision.
  34. I would not want to live in any of Phillip Johnson's houses, but they remain fascinating exercises and explorations of his design ethic and vision.​
    David, perhaps one of your three criteria (a functional space for the occupant) in that case was not well thought out, or somewhat ignored by the architect. Man should enjoy his enclosures. Without extending the thought to the works of Johnson, architecture is like art in one sense, there are examples which many might consider good and bad architecture.

    I visited with friends the new museum addition in Quebec city yesterday. The principal architect was Shohei Shigematsu of the firm OMA (of Rem Koolhass). The majestic white spiral staircase over three levels, the large public spaces, the glass and connection with the nature outside, and the rooftop garden impress me, like others. I wonder though if the building contains enough gallery space given its actual footprint? The galleries are nonetheless efficient and the long tunnel (of varying volumes) between buildings is well used to house the very long and surprisingly beautiful Riopelle 'Hommage to Rosa Luxembourg' painting.

    I have to think a bit more about this building as it evolves with its two other detached sister buildings (a converted Bastille or 19th century prison and the original neoclassical design museum) and houses different exhibitions.
  35. Arthur, the famous, modernist French Architect Le Corbusier defined the home as "a machine for living." His few executed designs focused on the use of machine-made components (in lieu of the European penchant for hand-made residential materials). In response to your comment supposing that Johnson failed in regards to functionality, I would suggest that what constitutes successful functionality for me in no wise dictates what might work for others. My personal, aesthetic preferences for a home in which I would choose to live tend towards the Spanish California Colonial Revival, with tile floors, dark wood, wrought iron, tile roofs, wide eaves, textured plaster, etc. Note that I do not now nor ever expect to own such a house, as it would be inappropriate for my chosen location. Nor could I afford it. Still, it reflects my personal tastes. I also like the classic California Craftsman and/or Prairie style homes. My wife and I are tailoring our current home to reflect the Craftsman ethos to the degree feasible, and within our limited budget. In the end, any design that serves the needs and taste of the owner can be considered successful, even if not high-style. My own practice focuses on very vernacular buildings that are unlikely to grace the cover of Architectural Digest. Still, I have projects that have won design awards precisely through design expression of functional elements. Like your shed-cum-gallery, they succeed because they are absolutely honest, unashamedly flaunting their functional/structural components as aesthetic design elements. The highest praise one of my designs ever received was in regards its "elegant simplicity". I'll have to read up on the new museum in Quebec City.
  36. David, your interest in Spanish California Colonial Revival struck a cord, also that of Craftsman type that was invented in California and perhaps similar to the arts and crafts style we occasionally see here. Our visits to Spanish missions on the west coast were much appreciated. Vernacular architecture is often ignored by our locals, just as they used to throw out painted antique pine furniture about 50 or so years ago as being passée. I personally love the old vernacular architecture of our rural area near Quebec City which like the contemporary architecture you produce is of elegant simplicity. My wife and I also adore spending a bit of time in France or England for the simple country vernacular cottages and village life.
    The Quebec City museum was designed by OMA in NYC in partnership with Provencher Roy associates in Montreal. Some views are seen in

    If you can Google Quebec City museum and Globe and Mail of June 2016 you may see an article in English describing it. I tried to transfer the link but failed.
  37. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    The Craftsman movement started in England before the turn of the century, spread to parts of Europe, and the North Eastern United States, most notably the Roycroft Community in East Aurora, N.Y. Prefab Craftsman home kits (among other styles) were also available from Sears Roebuck & Co., delivered by rail to any station the buyer chose. A derivative and attractive version of the Craftsman Cottage did also appear in California.
  38. At the risk of going off-topic (but it's Sandy's topic): Sandy is correct in regards the genesis of the Craftsman movement. The Prairie movement kicked off about the same time in the Midwest US, invented and defined by FLlW, and rapidly expanded across the country as well. The very gentle California climate had already spawned bungalow-type houses. The resulting intersection and amalgam of styles flourished in the early 20th century, with a wide variety of locales, materials, combinations, and applications of the various design ethe. (Ethe is the plural of ethos. I had to look it up.) One of my most enjoyable architectural experiences was an October in Pasadena, CA, where I participated in the annual Craftsman Weekend event. The level of design and execution achieved by the Greene brothers and their contemporaries is truly fascinating, and something I would hope to emulate, should the opportunity manifest.
  39. I thought these two paragraphs added a bit of texture to the discussion of American Bungalows. It also relates to some of the stuff discussed earlier in the thread about architecture and class and how museums may be attempting to attract a less elite crowd.
    Libertarian socialist William Morris founded the British movement as a reaction against the Industrial Revolution's perceived devaluation of the individual worker and resulting degradation of the dignity of human labor. The movement naturally emphasized handwork over mass-production, with the problem that expensive materials and costly skilled labor restricted acquisition of Arts and Crafts productions to a wealthy clientele, often ironically derided as "champagne socialists".
    While the British movement also reacted against the eclectic Victorian "over-decorated" aesthetic, the Arts and Crafts style's American arrival coincided with the decline of the Victorian era. The American Arts and Crafts Movement shared the British movement's reform philosophy, encouraging originality, simplicity of form, local natural materials, and the visibility of handicraft, but distinguished itself, particularly in the Craftsman Bungalow style, with a goal of ennobling modest homes for a rapidly expanding American middle class.​
  40. Interesting that the British brought to the west from Bengali the house of that style and name that was retermed bungalow. These one story houses, often with verandas, were then built in many places of the world. In Canada a bungalow is invariably of one story (excluding basement). Also, what is normally called the neoclassical house of around 1800, and locally the unique Quebec vernacular version, has a bell shaped roof, the end of which covers the veranda. A local building overlooking Montmorency Falls from the end of the 18th century was the sometime habitat of Queen Victoria's father in that period and possibly was one of the first to have that form of roof, also imported from India (although I question this as being the only influence, as some areas of central France have roofs and overhangs of somewhat similar form and from a region that supplied early immigrants (including tradespeople) to North America).
    Architectural inspiration knows few boundaries, and this is seen in the form of museums throughout the world. The attempts in the twentieth and present centuries to welcome a greater cross section of the population to museums is reflected in the architecture trends and the multipurposing of these buildings (enhanced range of activities).
  41. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Arthur -- Must be a regional thing. Can't recall hearing Bungalow, except in books about India in the Raj-- must be a term used in Canada and India. Here in the USA, and when last I was in Great Britain, they were cottages. Can't speak about California as I don't go there.
  42. Speaking of off topic, but related nonetheless, I happen to be watching Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons*,
    featuring Ann Baxter, the eponymous villain from All About Eve and, it turns out, the granddaughter--a fact I just learned--
    of Frank Lloyd Wright.

    *A classic and stunning b/w movie, highly recommended for those who haven't seen it.
  43. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Interesting -- I'm something of an FLW enthusiast. Apparently he made more as a prominent dealer in oriental art than as an architect. Either Taliesin is well worth a visit, as is Graycliff.
  44. Sandy, the term describes different styles in different countries (USA, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland, and of course Bangladesh). Different low rise bungalow styles exist in the USA. The Ultimate bungalow, or California Craftsman style is a refined exterior and interior designed house using high craft and often exotic woods. Wikipedia shows some photographic descriptions of the varying styles that relate to the definition of "a low house, with a broad front porch, having either no upper floor or upper rooms set in the roof, typically with dormer windows." With an aging population and in regions where adequate land is available for their extended footprint, the one storey house devoid of levels has some attraction.
    I don't know many such low rise structures that are also convenient for museum or gallery exhibition of photographs or art. My coach shed seasonal gallery is akin to a bungalow or cottage of one or one and a half stories and its available exhibition wall space is limited to just under one hundred linear feet despite its 32 x 30 foot footprint and two compartment interior. Perhaps the most efficient use of space for photographic or art display might be a restored and repurposed multi rise factory structure or apartment building of several floor levels. However, the current multifunctional requirements of modern museums seeking enhanced public use require much more open and airey visitor and exhibition spaces. The gallery of the Fondation Louis Vuitton at the Bois de Boulonge, Paris, designed by Canadian-American Frank Gehry, is perhaps a typical example of this requirement.

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