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:


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