architecture-end-excess-tease

A Modest Proposal

As Western economies begin to recover, extravagant, eye-popping architecture is giving way to a subtler new aesthetic. In the U.S. and Europe, architectural values are shifting from can-you-top-this designs toward more efficient, functional building.

A Blind Man's Inspiring Life

Every day, the headlines are heartbreaking: the children orphaned in Haiti, the victims of bomb blasts in Baghdad—to say nothing of all the people who don't make the news with their pink slips or foreclosure notices. Still, each of us can get bummed out by our own quotidian problems—your mother-in-law is visiting again?—no matter how ridiculously small. So here's another reality check for serial whiners: Hugues de Montalembert's Invisible, a mini-memoir of loss in which the dirtiest word is "pity," especially when used with the prefix "self." This slender volume puts questions of life and suffering into sharp focus, without sanctimony or sentimentality—qualities which would deeply embarrass its worldly author.Thirty years ago, de Montalembert was enjoying life in New York City as a painter and a filmmaker when he burst in on two thieves trashing his apartment. One of them threw paint remover in his face. By the next morning, the 35-year-old artist was totally blind. He plunged as...

The Roosevelts in New York

What bride wouldn't be thrilled by the gift of a splendid new house, big enough for a growing family? Yet in 1908, when 26-year-old Franklin D. Roosevelt came home for the first time to 49 East 65th Street, just off New York's Park Avenue, he found his wife, Eleanor, in tears. "This was not her house, she sobbed," according to the biographer Joseph Lash. "She had not helped plan it, and this wasn't the way she wanted to live." The brick-and-limestone townhouse had been built by Franklin's mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, who'd promised it to the newlyweds in a note that included her own sketch, complete with a curlicue of smoke rising from the chimney. What really made Eleanor cry was that FDR's mom had built a double townhouse—and installed herself next door, with communicating doors joining their living rooms, dining rooms, and a pair of bedrooms. Eleanor would later write of her mother-in-law: "You were never quite sure when she would appear, day or night."Less well known than Hyde...

Aline Saarinen: '50s Wonder Woman

Today, except for a few projects like the moribund TWA terminal at JFK, Eero Saarinen is better known for his furniture than his buildings. His "womb" chairs and pedestal tables (designed, he said, to "clear up the slum of legs" in the American home) are still big sellers for Knoll. But does anyone remember that he designed the beautifully soaring Dulles airport? Or CBS's "Black Rock" headquarters? Saarinen might find it oddly familiar that his chairs have eclipsed his architectural achievements: early in his career, he'd struggled against the long shadow cast by his father, Eliel, the revered Finnish architect who'd founded their Bloomfield Hills firm, just outside Detroit. Two years before Eliel's death in 1950, Eero had rushed to pop a champagne cork and toast his Papa after a telegram arrived congratulating Saarinen on his winning design for a memorial to commemorate the Louisiana Purchase in St. Louis. But the cable was a mistake: Eero had submitted his own idea—he was the...

In Dallas, Even the Arts Are Big

When President Eisenhower stuck a silver shovel in the dirt at the groundbreaking for Lincoln Center in 1959, he talked about America's desire to share "the good things of life with all our citizens." The architects of the arts complex apparently didn't get the message. Built on an urban-renewal site—West Side Story  was filmed there just before the bulldozers arrived to tear down the tenements—Lincoln Center turned its back on the neighborhood. Its travertine, colonnaded buildings were set high on a podium with fortress-like walls, creating an Acropolis of the arts that might as well have posted a NO LOITERING sign for any Sharks or Jets still hanging in the 'hood. Patrons of opera or ballet could drive into its vast garage underneath the various performance spaces and never set foot on the surrounding mean streets.Lincoln Center is still the country's premier cultural complex, but it's getting competition from an ambitious project in—are you ready for it, New Yorkers?—Dallas. This...

Art: CAI Guo-Qiang’s ‘Head On’

Of all the astonishing works in Cai Guo-Qiang's exhibition "I Want to Believe" at New York's Guggenheim Museum, the one I can't get out of my head is "Head On." The piece consisted of 99 full-size synthetic wolves stampeding up the museum's spiral ramp with such force that the front of the pack lifts up into an arc of flight, like Santa's reindeer—only to crash headlong into a wall of glass. Oof! Cai is best known for art events using choreographed explosions—shown off to spectacular effect at the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics—and his art is filled with multiple meanings: celebratory but also resonant of war and terror. Those wolves are as cuddly as any furry toy, but also as scary as snarling animals. Maybe they linger in my memory because so much has happened since they careered through the museum last spring. Now there's the wolf at every door. That wild pack of Wall Streeters that finally hit the wall. Or perhaps it's just the quieter hint in "Head On" that every...

Metropolitan Museum of Art Gets New Director

After a closely watched international search, the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York have chosen a new director—only the ninth in the Met's 138-year history—and they found him right under their noses: tapestries specialist Thomas Campbell, 46. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Cathleen McGuigan. ...

Waterfalls and New York City

The buzz on "The New York City Waterfalls" was loud enough that a boatload of reporters chugged out into New York Harbor one recent steamy morning with the installation's artist, Olafur Eliasson, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg for a first, up-close look at the project: four cascades, ranging in height from 90 to 120 feet, installed at sites along the East River. The falls work by an elaborate system that pumps water up from the river, then lets it tumble down a tower of scaffolding. Not that you need to get on a boat to see them. There are good vantage spots along the river—and that's the point, says the 41-year-old Danish Icelandic artist. He wants New Yorkers to explore the waterfront that most of them have turned their backs on, to see their city in a new way. The day the project opened, the tumbling curtains of water reflected the gray skies: they looked remarkable but not quite as spectacular as you might have thought, coming up against the powerful cityscape around them. But the...

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