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Thread: Silver Towers - by I.M. Pei

  1. #136

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    I also think its possible to be over-educated to the point you dont think or find out for yourself anymore and have been told what to think and what to appreciate.

  2. #137

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stern View Post
    Someone disagreeing with you does not equal a gap in their education. Such a viewpoint is conceptually immature.
    Never said that. And I never would.

    We ALL have "gaps" in our education. That is my point.

  3. #138
    Crabby airline hostess - stache's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alonzo-ny View Post
    I also think its possible to be over-educated to the point you dont think or find out for yourself anymore and have been told what to think and what to appreciate.
    Equals becoming jaded.

  4. #139

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stern View Post
    Someone disagreeing with you does not equal a gap in their education. Such a viewpoint is conceptually immature.
    Yeah Stern, that doesn't describe Fabrizio at all --he of the lively and inquisitive mind, free thinking humorist, questioner of received wisdom.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabrizio View Post
    Never said that. And I never would.
    That I believe.

    Fabrizio, it seems the erectors of straw men have encamped about you. Mi dispiace.

    We ALL have "gaps" in our education. That is my point.
    That's right, and there's no need to be defensive about it. The wise know this. If you know everything, what's left to learn?

    Quote Originally Posted by alonzo-ny View Post
    I also think its possible to be over-educated to the point you dont think or find out for yourself anymore and have been told what to think and what to appreciate.
    That isn't education, that's regurgitation of received wisdom.

    Education is acquiring the tools to think for yourself so you can see things as they are. It's always good to question your teachers --just as you question these posts.

  5. #140
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Silver Towers has various zones / open space between and surrounding the Towers. Some of that space is quite well used by residents, particularly the garden in the SW corner of the site which contains some of the loveliest trellising roses and beds of bulbs in the entire area. The forsythia alone (all along the western border) are intoxicating. When May comes around I strongly suggest folks take a stroll by -- take a peak between the red roses and into the lushly planted garden. Places like that don't just pop up on their own in the middle of NYC but are a clear indication of folks who care -- and who put in lots of time to make things grow.

    Another spot that is quite well used is at the SE corner of the site where a little playground with sandbox sits just off of Houston Street. On sunny days little kids are playing there and having a great time.

    The central open space (where the Picasso inspired sculpture is found) is not used -- and actually has "Keep Off The Lawn" signs posted at the edge. It is designed almost as a negative countrepoint to the mass of the Towers -- and is neither a gathering space nor a plaza for passing through. It is meant to to viewed from the outside -- either from the cobble stoned roadway which encircles it or from the sidewalks leading to the Towers.

  6. #141
    The Dude Abides
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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    Though Krier's easily the smartest architect I've conversed with, he's an extremist with a social agenda that goes way beyond architecture and extends to luddite de-industrialization. He doesn't like anything about modern times; why, he even has his suits made.
    Most brilliant people tend to be at least a bit radical. I don't think that takes away much from his opinions.

    I came across an interesting interview Krier gave, with a fellow anti-Modernist. You've probably seen or heard these words before, but for others here who are interested:

    Interviewer: Certain spatial structures having particular mathematical qualities provide positive sensory feedback to an observer. Mankind has built these, from the scale of cities, down to the scale of artifacts, so as to give meaning to the environment. I don't refer to meaning in one's life, but to meaning in one's surroundings that is contained in cognitively accessible complexity. A wholescale removal of meaning was perpetrated by the modernists in pursuit of their agenda. How could this have happened when it goes against our physiological make-up?

    Krier: Modernism is a totalitarian ideology which, like all dogmatisms, is based on unprovable assumptions. It is unable to tolerate, let alone accept opposition, contradiction, or refusal. If you accept such fantastic assumptions you necessarily abandon your own cognitive capacities and blind yourself to overwhelming evidence, in spite of interior and exterior contradictions. Modernism's declaration of war against tradition was not just a rejection of obsolete traditions but it included all knowledge and know-how which does not fit its reductive vision of humanity, history, technology, politics, and economy. It is a systematic rape of man's psychological and physiological make-up. It therefore took three generations to recover from a mental rape which goes against human experience, against accumulated human intelligence, instinct, and sensibility.

    Interviewer: Modernism has replaced the means that human beings use to connect to each other, and to external structures. The city as a framework for establishing connections among members of an urban population has been changed to a spatial structure whose aim is to disconnect. This applies both to path connectivity -- people easily walking to meet one-another face-to-face -- and also to visual connectivity between an individual and the built components of the city. My investigations reveal that a city is a system of systems -- with a logical architecture (in the sense of computer architecture) that is far closer to the human brain than to existing electronic computers. Cutting connections, as the modernists have done, is akin to cutting the wiring in a computer or the neurons in the brain. After decades of psychological conditioning to a sterile world, people have accepted disconnectedness as a way of life. Are human beings changed so they no longer value spatial structures that satisfy basic sensory and social needs?

    Krier: Your question contains the answer. Modernism operates through incapacitating people's autonomy and ability to think individually. It is a form of radical brainwashing from which very few, once they have experienced it, are able to escape. Millions have fallen victim to its powerful lure, yet it is as if nature with each new generation was producing antidotes for such massive ideological aberrations; that at least is my hope.
    OK, so recuse yourself.
    I think I already have. Besides, most people pass judgment without full impartiality. We are human, after all.

    Deploring Modernism in the Seventies made you a crackpot in most architects' eyes (still does, actually in architecture schools). Its biggest sins are in the realm of urbanism, and imo its greatest achievement is the modern house --Fallingwater, Villa Savoie, Farnsworth House. The public loathes modern houses and generally would rather have its buildings fancy than plain.
    I'll take your word for it in the case of architects. But I was speaking more broadly about society as a whole. For me, by the time the seventies were drawing to a close, Modernism's achievements had already wrought enough havoc on enough formerly healthy urban areas that it began to come under fire (sometimes literally). When were the last public housing projects built?

    Modernism's hardiest philosophical contribution has been ironclad, dogmatic insistence on endless originality. Almost everyone on this forum has bought into it, and its the cause of both the cacophony and the dissatisfaction.
    Perhaps originality, but not creativity. Modernism, almost by definition, removes many of the possibilities for creativity. (Unless you consider Gehry a more or less pure Modernist.)

    Give architects a break; let them try their hand at doing a traditional building now and then, and don't accuse them of unoriginality when they do. You might like the result. And what do you really care what Lord Foster decrees?

    (A reminder: there wasn't much originality to Penn Station either, and the architects didn't writhe in guilt. I'm pretty sure Foster hated it when he was at Yale, and I bet he's among those who now decry its destruction.)
    Not sure what the reference to Foster is for. You should know I'm one of the bigger fans of traditional buildings (done right, of course) on this forum. And as for Yale: isn't it telling that their Dean of Architecture is one of our most accomplished "traditionalist" architects?

  7. #142
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    I'll repeat this again to ensure I haven't dug myself into a bigger hole than I intended:

    I would not be against the landmarking of these towers if it was limited to the towers themselves. I may not recognize their brilliance as a result of my lack of knowledge, so I'll accept that they're worthy of designation.

    But why landmark the entire site? Haven't we all concluded that the layout is an example of poor planning? Why landmark a one-story supermarket?

    These questions haven't been answered by ablarc, Fabrizio, Citytect, or anyone else in favor of designation (except for Berman, of course, whom I'll never trust). Until something concrete is given in support of the current proposal to landmark the entire site, I cannot extend my support for it. (And I suspect many others who cannot divorce the buildings' architecture from the site's plan will not be satisfied either, until those questions are answered.)

  8. #143

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    Quote Originally Posted by pianoman11686 View Post
    Not sure what the reference to Foster is for. You should know I'm one of the bigger fans of traditional buildings (done right, of course) on this forum. And as for Yale: isn't it telling that their Dean of Architecture is one of our most accomplished "traditionalist" architects?
    Foster was a student at Yale when Rudolph was Dean, when Penn Station was being demolished and Saarinen, Kahn and Bunshaft were regular visitors. He's also leader of a hate campaign directed at Britain's traditionalist architects (Quinlan Terry, Leon Krier, et al.) and Prince Charles. He went so far as to propose legislation forbidding the building of new architecture in a traditional style. Needless to say, this went nowhere.

    He did, however, cow most British architects into lockstep allegiance to Modernism and contempt for new traditional architecture.

    .

  9. #144

  10. #145

  11. #146

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    Quote Originally Posted by pianoman11686 View Post
    But why landmark the entire site? Haven't we all concluded that the layout is an example of poor planning?
    It's only poor planning if you insist the currently favored planning theory is the only route to virtue. Pei's plan has no streetwall, it has no ground floor retail, it insists that you see his buildings as free-standing sculpture. All that is frowned upon these days, and indeed it's not the way to get a good city if it's done over and over. But the city isn't threatened by a single instance of experimental nonconformity in this particular place; it's much hardier than that.

    If these buildings were as banal as Stuyvesant Town and as thoughtlessly placed, I'd say tearrr 'em down. But they're not banal and they're not thoughtlessly placed.

    Pei's building placement is totemic; each is placed in a way to maximize its likelihood to be perceived as a free-standing, stirring piece of mega-sculpture --like an Easter Island figure. The buildings' relationships are meticulously worked out to resist interpretation as a geometric pattern of any kind; their long faces are turned at 90 degrees to each other, and their footprints are shifted to avoid alignment. They're consequently runic and mysterious, placed by representatives of the spirit world. And if you open yourselves to them, these spirits will move you through the agency of the buildings. In the middle, you're in a fairy circle, and you just know they're oriented to a precise locus in the far reaches of the universe. Energy flows and it can suffuse you if you let it. Who knows? If you open yourself enough to its magic, you might even learn to meditate.

    These buildings have EXACTLY the same effect on me that the slab had on the apemen in 2001. I am conscious of the movement of clouds and aware of the rotation of the planet. I am in a place.

    A unique place. Unlike any other.

    Well, not quite. You can get a substantively similar feeling (but pronouncedly different in detail) faced with Pei's towers at Philadelphia's Society Hill --just as deliberately placed but to subtly different effect, intermingled as they are with Colonial-era townhouses. Or in Boston at Harbor Towers. These are anti-Beaux-Arts arrangements; all Beaux-Arts practitioners would condemn them because they deliberately fly in the face of traditional techniques of building placement. (This also makes them anti-urban.)

    Other Brutalist architects use the same device of precise and eloquent placement to similar effect: Pei himself at Kip's Bay, Davis and Brody at Chatham Towers (an ENCLAVE --equally separated-- in Chinatown), Sert's Peabody Terrace on the River Charles, with its third tower subtly cranked off the orthogonal to refer obliquely to the riverbend.

    This is abstract art, utterly non-representational; being abstract, it's inherently difficult and demands effort from the viewer. Lots of folks are disinclined to put in the effort or think it's humbug --but lots of folks dismiss Jackson Pollock. If you can't relate to these buildings viscerally, it just means you're not allowing yourself to be receptive to their energy; it doesn't mean the energy's not there. Some folks can't relate to Richard Serra either, they think he's just an impostor.

    An aside to Alonzo: I wasn't handed any of the above by professor or book; it's wholly experientially-derived. Next sunny weekend, try on your own to find the magic of this place. You have to be open. You know ... the way they tell you in est.

    Why landmark a one-story supermarket?
    Why indeed? That's just Berman being a jerk.

    Until something concrete is given in support of the current proposal to landmark the entire site, I cannot extend my support for it. (And I suspect many others who cannot divorce the buildings' architecture from the site's plan will not be satisfied either, until those questions are answered.)
    Maybe not "concrete." Does "abstract" qualify? Is "spiritual" concrete? Come to think of it, is "artistic"?

    .

  12. #147

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    Thanks for the pics Zippy. By happy coincidence, you posted them as I was typing my screed.

    That chain link fence is an abomination. Needs to be removed immediately.

    .

  13. #148
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    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post
    It's only poor planning if you insist the currently favored planning theory is the only route to virtue. Pei's plan has no streetwall, it has no ground floor retail, it insists that you see his buildings as free-standing sculpture. All that is frowned upon these days, and indeed it's not the way to get a good city if it's done over and over. But the city isn't threatened by a single instance of experimental nonconformity in this particular place; it's much hardier than that.
    Well, to be a wise-guy for once: WSV is across the street. (But I get your point.)

    Pei's building placement is totemic; each is placed in a way to maximize its likelihood to be perceived as a free-standing, stirring piece of mega-sculpture --like an Easter Island figure. The buildings' relationships are meticulously worked out to resist interpretation as a geometric pattern of any kind; their long faces are turned at 90 degrees to each other, and their footprints are shifted to avoid alignment. They're consequently runic and mysterious, placed by representatives of the spirit world. And if you open yourselves to them, these spirits will move you through the agency of the buildings. In the middle, you're in a fairy circle, and you just know they're oriented to a precise locus in the far reaches of the universe. Energy flows and it can suffuse you if you let it. Who knows? If you open yourself enough to its magic, you might even learn to meditate.

    These buildings have EXACTLY the same effect on me that the slab had on the apemen in 2001. I am conscious of the movement of clouds and aware of the rotation of the planet. I am in a place.

    A unique place. Unlike any other.
    Can't say I've ever felt anything like that. When I'm back in town, I will give it a try.

    (As an aside: I think it's fascinating you felt all that, which Krier (and his interviewer) insisted is impossible with any Modernist work. Just goes to show how divergent our reactions can be, even coming from similar backgrounds.)

    This is abstract art, utterly non-representational; being abstract, it's inherently difficult and demands effort from the viewer. Lots of folks are disinclined to put in the effort or think it's humbug --but lots of folks dismiss Jackson Pollock. If you can't relate to these buildings viscerally, it just means you're not allowing yourself to be receptive to their energy; it doesn't mean the energy's not there. Some folks can't relate to Richard Serra either, they think he's just an impostor.
    I think that, as an amateur, I've reached the point where I feel I'm out of my league. I've neither the training, experience, or vision to see what you see, or to feel what you feel for these buildings. It is too abstract for me.

    My only concern with accepting your account is this: if one must be willing to put effort into appreciating a work of art, how many people can realistically derive the same enjoyment that you do? It seems they need not only be knowledgeable enough to recognize abstract brilliance; they also need the time to experience it, to digest it, and to love it.

    Your comparisons to Pollock and Serra are fair, except for one major difference: architecture, because it is a uniquely public art, cannot be limited to a gallery, or a museum. Indeed, in your opinion, Silver Towers are the gallery, and the museum. Most people choose to go to MoMa to view a Pollock or a Serra; most people do not choose to contemplate Silver Towers.

    Relatedly, works of traditional art have distinct owners. They're auctioned off and treasured. These buildings aren't. They're collectively owned by the public. They cannot be hidden from view. Which begs the question: do we landmark buildings in spite of the public's inability to appreciate them? Do we let a minority of opinion-givers decide what qualifies as art, and is worthy of perpetual existence, to be given a special distinction when the majority may very well consider it indistinct, and an eyesore?

    I suspect your answer will be yes, going back to examples like Penn Station. All I'm saying is, as of now, I can't reconcile that in my mind. And I think I'm better versed in architecture than most people I know.

    Why indeed? That's just Berman being a jerk.
    Well, at least we agree on one thing.

    Maybe not "concrete." Does "abstract" qualify? Is "spiritual" concrete? Come to think of it, is "artistic"?
    Concrete, meaning: understandable, readable, interpretable. Most of which your post satisfies.

    (And double thanks to Zippy for the photos. I now have no excuse to consult Google Street View.)

  14. #149

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    Ok Ablarc I now fully understand what you see. I hopefully will get down there and maybe I will see differently but I am going to wait on that. I may see what you see but the thing is your saying this works on a one off basis but the horrible WSV is immediately to the north. In fact earlier in this thread i got confused and thought it was this site that was flanked by the horrible 1 story retail all around. So I suspect that what you say might be true and maybe as a one off it works. BUT its not a one off. WSV effectively takes all that away and together they dont work.

  15. #150
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    As has been pointed out the Silver Towers buildings and their immediate surroundings are what are being considered for Landmark status. The NE corner of the superblock (the grocery store) and the eastern edge of the superblock (the block-long low-rise Coles Athletic Center) are NOT under serious consideration for Landmarking (only Andrew Berman is taking that stance).

    In my perfect world one would see the non-Silver portions of the block cleared -- and that turned into green space.

    More park for the Towers in the Park.

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