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Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume II

From Le Corbusier to Rem Koolhaas

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Hardcover published by New York Review Books (New York Review Books)

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About This Book
In the first volume of Makers of Modern Architecture (2007), Martin Filler examined the emergence of that revolutionary new form of building and explored its aesthetic, social, and spiritual aspirations through illuminating studies of some of its most important practitioners, from Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright to, in our own time, Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava.
 
Now, in Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume II, Filler continues his investigations into the building art, beginning with the historical eclecticism of McKim, Mead, and White, best remembered today for New York City’s demolished Pennsylvania Station. He surveys the seemingly inexhaustible flow of new books about Wright and Le Corbusier, and continues his commentaries on Piano’s museum buildings with an essay focused on the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum in Los Angeles.
 
There are less well known subjects here too, from the Frankfurt urban planner Ernst May to Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome. Filler judges Edward Durell Stone—the architect of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, the Huntington Hartford Museum in New York City, and the Kennedy Center in Washington—to have been “a middling product of his times,” however personally interesting he may have been. And he looks back at James Stirling, who in the 1970s and 1980s was “a veritable rock star of the profession,” responsible for what Filler considers some of the very few worthwhile postmodernist buildings.
 
The essays collected here are not entirely historical, however. Filler also focuses on some of the most recent projects to have attracted critical and popular attention both in the United States and abroad, including Rem Koolhaas’s CCTV building in Beijing and Bernard Tschumi’s Acropolis Museum in Athens. He argues that Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa’s New Museum in New York City is “one of those rare, clarifying works of architecture that makes most recent buildings of the same sort look suddenly ridiculous.” He calls Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s brilliant reimagining of the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia “a latter-day miracle...a virtually unimprovable setting” for its art. He finds Michael Arad’s September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero “a sobering, disturbing, heartbreaking, and overwhelming masterpiece.” And he argues that Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and their work revitalizing the High Line and Lincoln Center in New York make them today’s “shrewdest yet most sympathetic enhancers of the American metropolis.”
 
Filler remains, in these nineteen essays, a shrewd observer of the pressures on architects and their projects—money, politics, social expectations, even the weight of their own reputations. But his focus is always on the buildings themselves, on their sincerity and directness, on their form and their function, on their capacity to bring delight to the human landscape.
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In the first volume of Makers of Modern Architecture (2007), Martin Filler examined the emergence of that revolutionary new form of building and explored its aesthetic, social, and spiritual aspirations through illuminating studies of some of its most important practitioners, from Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright to, in our own time, Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava.
 
Now, in Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume II, Filler continues his investigations into the building art, beginning with the historical eclecticism of McKim, Mead, and White, best remembered today for New York City’s demolished Pennsylvania Station. He surveys the seemingly inexhaustible flow of new books about Wright and Le Corbusier, and continues his commentaries on Piano’s museum buildings with an essay focused on the new Broad Contemporary Art Museum in Los Angeles.
 
There are less well known subjects here too, from the Frankfurt urban planner Ernst May to Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the geodesic dome. Filler judges Edward Durell Stone—the architect of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, the Huntington Hartford Museum in New York City, and the Kennedy Center in Washington—to have been “a middling product of his times,” however personally interesting he may have been. And he looks back at James Stirling, who in the 1970s and 1980s was “a veritable rock star of the profession,” responsible for what Filler considers some of the very few worthwhile postmodernist buildings.
 
The essays collected here are not entirely historical, however. Filler also focuses on some of the most recent projects to have attracted critical and popular attention both in the United States and abroad, including Rem Koolhaas’s CCTV building in Beijing and Bernard Tschumi’s Acropolis Museum in Athens. He argues that Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa’s New Museum in New York City is “one of those rare, clarifying works of architecture that makes most recent buildings of the same sort look suddenly ridiculous.” He calls Tod Williams and Billie Tsien’s brilliant reimagining of the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia “a latter-day miracle...a virtually unimprovable setting” for its art. He finds Michael Arad’s September 11 Memorial at Ground Zero “a sobering, disturbing, heartbreaking, and overwhelming masterpiece.” And he argues that Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston and their work revitalizing the High Line and Lincoln Center in New York make them today’s “shrewdest yet most sympathetic enhancers of the American metropolis.”
 
Filler remains, in these nineteen essays, a shrewd observer of the pressures on architects and their projects—money, politics, social expectations, even the weight of their own reputations. But his focus is always on the buildings themselves, on their sincerity and directness, on their form and their function, on their capacity to bring delight to the human landscape.
Product Details
Hardcover (336 pages)
Published: August 20, 2013
Publisher: New York Review Books
Imprint: New York Review Books
ISBN: 9781590176887
Other books byMartin Filler
  • Makers of Modern Architecture

    Makers of Modern Architecture
    From Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry
    Everyone knows what modern architecture looks like, but few understand how this revolutionary new form of building emerged little more than a century ago or what its aesthetic, social, even spiritual aspirations were. Through illuminating studies of the leading men and women who forever changed our built environment, veteran architecture critic Martin Filler offers fresh insights into this unprecedented cultural transformation. From Louis Sullivan, father of the skyscraper, to Frank Gehry, magician of post-millennial museum, Filler emphasizes how their force of personality has had a decisive effect on everything from how we inhabit our homes to how we shape our cities. Why was the sudden shift in architectural fashion that wrecked the career of the Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh not enough to destroy the indomitable spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright, who rose from adversity to become America’s greatest architect? Why was Philip Johnson, “dean of American architecture” during the 1980s, so haunted by the superior talent of this less-fortunate contemporary Louis Kahn that he could barely utter his name even at the peak of his own success? How did Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s dictum “Less is more” give way to Robert Venturi’s “Less is a bore”? Surveying such current urban design sagas as the reconstruction of Ground Zero and the reunification of Berlin, Filler also trains his sharp eye on some of the biggest names in architecture today, puncturing more than one overinflated reputation while identifying the true masters who are now building for the ages.

    Louis Comfort Tiffany

    Louis Comfort Tiffany
    Artist for the Ages

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