Mark Lamster | Essays

Back to the Future


Over on the Itinerant Urbanist, Karrie Jacobs recently wrote about her first impression of Daniel Libeskind's addition to the Contemporary Jewish Museum, in San Francisco, a tilted black cube wedged between two older structures. "This particular building seems uncommonly dated....a souvenir of a place we’ve visited and to which we’ll not be returning any time soon."

I've had similar feelings about Thom Mayne's new student center for Cooper Union, going up on Third Avenue in Manhattan. It's not so much that it's a bad building — a recent tour of the exterior (see above) and some new photos on Curbed suggest more than a few dramatic, well-considered spaces, and it's a hell of a lot more inventive in form and material than Charles Gwathmey's Astor Place dud across the street — but it does seem to me a building very much of a moment that has passed. The shifts, cuts, and slippages that read as "Decon" are by now several intellectual cycles behind the state of the theoretical/stylistic art. (Today, everything is green, green, green.) Ambitious architecture often suffers from some lag; it's the product of the long time between a job's commission and final realization. It's hard to stay ahead of the curve. This building has a big one.

Posted in: Architecture, Arts + Culture

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