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Archive for the ‘memorials’ Category

 

The National Mall 1/20/09

The National Mall 1/20/09

We have a new president.  As a person of mixed-race today quite special for me, as it was for most Americans, regardless of their ethnic-identity. There is not a lot for me to to add to the chatter about our new Commander-in-Chief.  I am hardly qualified to be a political pundit so I won’t even try. As I watched the oath and parade I was taken, of course, by the architecture. Everything was designed to be grand and looked so beautiful on TV. I have never been impressed with Washington in person. Though, there are exceptions.

The National Building Museum is appropriately, exquisite. Its exterior is playful and pretty. Its interior is a marvel of light and air. It was initially designed as the pension office for Civil War veterans and, as such, originally had short ramp-like steps. This feature made it , perhaps the first building designed for this disabled in the country. That is something beautiful in its own right. It is not the rule unfortunately.

Most of the city and its monuments, although grand, are unexpectedly dingy in person and downright gaudy in design.  But, they photograph majestically and that is how we know them. Washington, like Los Angles, the other city we all know from pictures, is a giant stage. Its buildings are the set-pieces of our republic and we know them by the individual moments in history with which they cooresepond.  Perhaps that is why they look so dull in-person. The knock-off classical temple that houses Lincoln could never compete with the lyrical beauty of the great speech delivered in front of it.

The true architectural grandeur of the city comes when it is taken on as a whole. The image to the right is from the inauguration this morning. It is with photos like these, with the entire mall and a sea of citizens within, that we understand that the city truly lives up to L’Enfant’s design “for aggrandizement and embellishment . . . at any period however remote.”

 

 

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wtcmodel

The American Architectural Foundation is donating a giant architectural model of the World Trade Center to the museum that now resides at ground zero.

The massive 7-foot, gleaming towers were used to pitch architect Minoru Yamasaki’s design for the site. The foundation brought in a restoration team to spiff-up the model which was, of course, built to be temporary. For more details please check out the National Trust’s Preservation Nation blog. You should be reading it anyway.

I’m happy the model will be included in the September 11 Museum’s collection. The model is a work of art unto itself. I think it presents as good memorial to the tragedy as anything else I’ve seen. This model, built before the building, represents all the hope, community and team-work that go into a major architectural project. It is a symbol of the enterprising nature of humankind.

I can remember people discussing the design for the memorial immediately after the attacks. Given all that thought I have to say I am a little disappointed with the memorial competition entries and what the committee eventually decided to build. None of what was proposed has the simple clarity of the Staten Island September 11th Memorial.

The two, bent, wing-like forms of the Staten Island memorial easily suggest the towers and their absence from the view. The the fact that they are undelivered”postcards”, simply but profoundly expresses the sense of longing the loss of so many Staten Islanders brought to their community. It is one of my favorite memorials.

 

Memorials are built conscious of their place in history. This makes them interesting in the study of architectural history but can also stifle their artistic integrity. I feel like this may have happened at ground zero.

What are some of your favorite memorials? why? Do you prefer the simple, suggestive forms of modern memorials or the more triumphant early modes? Comment, I would love to hear from you.

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