I just feel like doing nothing. No, it’s not the Vicodin; I stopped that. It was boring. Two of the little things and I was just a congealed person-thing who sat and poked at the keyboard and looked at pictures and couldn’t bring myself to resize a fargin’ photo, let alone think of what to say about it. So no. Last night I remembered I had to do my National Review column, and hello, my brain was ready for the task because I had ceased to partake of physician-approved narcotics. There’s a lesson in there: I’d make a bad opium addict. I fight all the time against the temptation to do nothing; why take something that pats you on the back and says “You go right ahead, pal, and go nowhere.”

But I feel a great psychic release after getting the wisdoms yanked; it has occupied a major portion of my Things To Dread But Do list for so long I feel greatly relieved to be past it, and I want to sit and relax and toast the future and all that. I’m not out of the woods yet, and Thursday I have to have a veneer replaced, but at this point I’m just OH WHATEVER when it comes to dental matters.

No swelling, by the way. Not to say I can’t tell I had four hunks of dentition excavated from my jaw, because I can, but I had two ibuprofen today, and that’s it. Last night I had ice cream, too. It’s the law. You get to have ice cream in these situations. Sat on the sofa and watched a near-impenetrable British series called Red Riding, a trilogy loosely based on the Yorkshire Ripper cases. By “loosely” I mean that it seems to have absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s a bit like “Life on Mars” without the cheery, upbeat mood. No one seems to turn on any lights, everyone smokes, everyone looks like hell, the interiors all look like hell, the city looks like hell, and the entire society seems to be crumbling into a weary smoky heap. The accents are almost impenetrable. Everyone seems to be corrupt, too. And drunk. It’s part one of three.

Interesting how the seventies have become, for some, an era that cannot be redeemed, no matter how much T. Rex and Bay City Rollers you put on the soundtrack. It’s eternally overcast and rusty and fraught with the creaks and groans of decline. The domestic architecture is stripped-down, that cheap soulless dreck trumped up with a modernist veneer; the civic architecture is unremittingly brutal, which is something I will never understand. The people who commissioned these works surely knew they were dropping enormous concrete machines fit only for draining the life out of everything around them. No one ever looked upon these structures and said they were lovely, or graceful, or pleasant to behold – perhaps because no one expected them to be. They were modern, which was enough, and they were honest, eh? Form follows function, and all that, and if the function is to make everyone’s stomach drop a notch when confronted with the machinery of the State, then let the thing be encased in concrete that oozes out like poisoned frozen frosting from between the wood frames that gave it shape. Let the slit windows remind people of the narrow spaces from which the defenders fired arrows at invaders. Blare every room with florescent light that makes the skin look coffin-white. It was a period in which architecture was unmoored from its most basic requirements: the serve the people who inhabited it, and serve the community in which it existed.

It’s better today, but only because it’s shinier, and that makes people feel better about it. Because it’s modern! Look, a shiny peculiar building whose form gives no indication of its function, and seems to be an expression of what’s possible with modern computer-aided design, and has no bearing on human experience or tradition, but look at those whimsically-placed windows: I’ll bet they have internet start-ups in there! I’ll bet there’s a lobby coffee shop with wifi!

I have an app called Archetizer, which features buildings from around the world. It reminds me that we are now in the Leaning Period of tall building design. One of the structures I saw today was this:

Because it’s important to demonstrate that a building can cock out its hip. Then there’s this entry from South Korea:

No. But I’m a traditionalist, I suppose; I don’t believe a building should spend most of its time attempting to retrain your expectations or reassure your preconceptions. But I’ll note that there was a period in the 70s when they started emphasizing the mass at the top of the building, and for some reason that fell out of favor. Because people hated it, and found it overwhelming and crude and blunt? Perhaps, perhaps, no doubt, but there had to be some serious artistic reason, too . . . Ah. Right. Post-modernism came in, and everyone could play with pediments and columns again.

That era gave us some clunkers, but the architecture of the 80s and 90s will hold up much better than the abstractions we have today. For one thing, you can look at those buildings and be reasonably assured you can find the front door. For another, they have roots. They belong. They contribute. All these modern buildings are just dancing with themselves.

New today: the Minneapolis page of the new pictures section. Such as it is. Twenty pages, sure to grow. Enjoy! See you around.


52 Responses to Dancing about architecture

  1. Beeble says:

    This is really a building dancing with itself. It’s actually quite cool when you see it, but thank goodness the rest of the neighborhood hasn’t followed suit.


  2. Will G says:

    Still with Red Riding through all three parts… it will make sense by the end.

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