Friday, November 16, 2007

Nicolai Ouroussoff Reviews Jean Nouvel's Tower

As one more proof that avant-gardist architecture is intellectually bankrupt, consider Jean Nouvel's tower, proposed for a site next to the New York's Museum of Modern Art, and Nicolai Ouroussoff's review of it in the New York Times.

Jean Nouvel's design looks like a Dr. Seuss parody of a highrise. It is the usual boring glass and steel tower, but the cross-bracing is in random locations, and the facade is set back in random ways, making the building look like it is wavering and just barely managing to remain standing.

Of course, Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff is terribly impressed with this design, but (unfortunately for his credibility) his review may be the worst-written article that has ever appeared in that newspaper.
It begins with a title that is a grand cliche: "A Tower Will Reach for the Stars." Most writers would be ashamed to use a title that is so hackneyed.
Its text begins with this point: "If New Yorkers once saw their skyline as the great citadel of capitalism, who could blame them? We had the best toys of all" - as if that were a compliment to the design. I don't think that the people who designed the Empire State and Chrysler building thought of them as toys - but it is a good description of this Dr. Seuss building.
Then he continues by misrepresenting John Ruskin: "It brings to mind John Ruskin’s praise for the irrationality of Gothic architecture: 'It not only dared, but delighted in, the infringement of every servile principle.'" Ruskin actually was talking about the freedom of the individual craftsmen who built the Gothic cathedrals, which obviously has nothing to do with this building.
So, this is the sort of architecture admired by a critic who writes in cliches, who thinks of buildings as amusing toys, and who either misrepresents or misunderstands the history of architectural criticism.
Jean Nouvel's tower will be almost as tall as the Chrysler Building, making it one of the most prominent buildings in New York's skyline. It will mark a significant change in New York's architecture - from the stylishness of the Empire State Building, Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center, to the boring boxy highrises of the 1960s and 1970s, to the goofy architecture of today.
And the New York Times has just the right critic to herald that goofy architecture: Nicolai Ouroussoff.
See this review at:

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Typical American Today

A story on the front page of today's NY Times includes a description of someone who might be a candidate to represent the typical American consumer today.

When you read the quote from the article below, ask yourself whether this is the sort of person who made America great or the sort of person who symbolizes America's decline. The Times apparently thinks that he helps to make the nation great, since it says that his being forced to cut back on his consumerism is "an ominous portent for the national economy." But I suspect that the Americans of 50 or 100 years ago would have considered his consumerism to be a symptom of a drastic decline in the national character.

RENO, Nev., Nov. 5 - As his wedding day approached last spring, Marshall Whittey found that his money could not keep pace with the grandiosity of his plans. But rather than scale back, he chose instead, like millions of homeowners across the country, to borrow against the soaring value of his home.

He and his bride, Holly Whittey, exchanged vows on the grounds of a sumptuous private estate in the Napa Valley. They spent their honeymoon at a resort in Tahiti.

But now, in an ominous portent for the national economy, Mr. Whittey has grown tight with his money. His home is worth far less than it was a year ago, and his equity has evaporated. And like many other involuntary adopters of a newly economical lifestyle, he can borrow no more.

"It used to be that if I wanted it, I'd just go and buy it and finance it," Mr. Whittey, 33, said. "I'm feeling the crunch, and my spending is down significantly."
A sales manager at a flooring and tile company, he [Whittey, who lives in Reno] exudes the unflappable air of someone raised amid the easy money of the casino world.

Until recently, he and his wife regularly embarked on shopping sprees of $1,000 and up. He bought a 21-foot boat and two flat-screen televisions for their home. He sold his old truck and bought a new one, he said, "just 'cause I didn't like the color."

Mr. Whittey could live in such fashion because his company was making good money and his house was appreciating. But today, the value of his own home, which reached $500,000, has fallen and a separate investment property he bought seems likely to fetch far less than the $580,000 he owes the bank. His commissions have diminished, so his income is down.

His neighbor recently fell behind on house payments, prompting the bank to foreclose. Anxiety reigns.

Take a look at the picture of this guy in the Times article at
At 33, he seems to be on the borderline between overweight and obese, and he is photographed sitting on his couch in front of his oversized flat tv screen.