Friday, July 04, 2008

Nicolai Ouroussoff And Buckminster Fuller

New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff reviews a Buckminister Fuller exhibit today, and he unintentionally reveals the truth about his own esthetic bias. Here is a brief quotation:

"Cold war culture has been back in style for a while now, at least in architecture circles. ... So 'Buckminster Fuller: Starting With the Universe,' ... is likely to stir waves of nostalgia. For people of my generation ... his architecture embodies the values of an era when it was still possible to believe that society was gliding steadily toward a better future. If parents sometimes drank too much, got divorced and neglected their children, these were only potholes on the superhighway to utopia."

Ouroussoff routinely criticises traditional architecture for its nostalgia, but here he admits that his own avant-gardist modernism is itself nostalgic. It is an attempt to go back to the naive faith in technology that inspired mid-century modernism.

Yet Ouroussoff also admits that no one has this naive faith in technology any longer. In fact, this faith in technology is not relevant to the great problems of our time, such as global warming, which requires that we put political limits on destructive technologies.

Ouroussoff doesn't realize it, but this 'fifties faith is why Buckminister Fuller projected real optimism about the future, while today's loss of faith is why current avant-gardist architecture is made up of empty gestures, which show off the architect's technological virtuosity but have no larger cultural meaning.

Nicolai Ouroussoff's review of the Buckminister Fuller exhibit is available at:


Blogger Abigail said...

I just listened to this awesome podcast by the New York Academy of Sciences about the Buckminster Fuller exhibit at the Whitney. It's instructive and detailed. Here's the link:

10:37 AM  

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