Monday, November 10, 2008
Cool, weird buildings
I've been off-and-on rereading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead recently. It's a very strange book that does some odd things to make its points. The one that gets me the most is a newspaper columnist who writes about architecture who is a fairly recent college graduate and the daughter of a partner in a famous architecture firm but is widely regarded as both an expert and an impartial judge of architecture for reasons I haven't grasped yet. Also, she spends much of the book with the theory that the foolish public would never, ever accept what is essentially modern architecture. (Though she thinks it's great.) The Fountainhead is set at a time when modern architecture was still a fairly new thing in America, but had been thriving in Europe for decades, which one would think even a reviewer fresh out of college would have known, to say nothing of an expert. And the book was written in the forties, when modern architecture was pretty well established even in America. And of course, the style she is so certain the public could never accept, or one very much like it, became the dominant architectural style for the rest of the century.
I get that we're supposed to see the folks who like modern architecture as visionaries that are ahead of their time, but the sheer pervasiveness of modern architecture by even the time the book was written serves to make the characters who say it's never going anywhere come off as crazy* (or at least a little stupid) to my reading, though I get that they're not supposed to.
But one of the things I can appreciate about the book is that everyone is tremendously passionate about architecture one way or another in an unrealistic but at least fairly logical way.
I would not say that I'm passionate on the subject, but I know a little bit about it because the history of architecture tracks art history to some degree, also I tend to hang around with engineers.
Anyway, I really enjoy when some website throws together a long list of cool-looking buildings around the world, and a few that are just plain funny-looking. The only one of these I've ever actually been to is one of the less cool ones, the Luxor Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
So go, look, enjoy, and feel free to clue me in about what's going on with the Fountainhead, if only to tell me to improve my willing suspension of disbelief.
*She believes that greatness, such as the main character's architecture, is doomed to fail and will be destroyed by the 'collectivist' masses around them. So she feels she has to destroy him herself so he will be destroyed by someone who loves him, since his destruction is inevitable. I have known a couple of women who let love make them so incredibly axe crazy that they might well have found this logic acceptable, but it just seems so silly given the subsequent ubiquity of modern architecture.