Enrique Norten :

An interesting piece over at Slate about Mexico-based architect Enrique Norten. I'm not sure I buy Rybczynski's dichotomy of modernism — rationalists versus anti-rationalists. Anytime you start with absolutes as theorist/pundit, you have to spend a lot of time shoe-horningg people into your framework. It's a ugly slope that begins all sorts, "yeah, but what about..." moments. Discussion is good. But shouldn't the discussion be built into the framework? Instead of always posing the next grand theory of the universe? Perhaps my anthropology education makes me a little too squeamishh about universals.

Anyway, Norten's work is really beautiful. Although, I'd really like more architecture critics to discuss how buildings relate to the streetscape. Not necessarily that a building shouldn't stand out, but "is it a good neighbor?" Or, "how is it scaled?" The gradual embiggening of America, I suppose. Good modernism from the post-WWII era was also so well scaled at the street level, doors and overhangs, don't loom. Unless on purpose.

For an interesting review that does talk about how the experience of a new buildign, read this Mercury News article about the new Richard Meier-designed San Jose Civic Center. A building that seems to have gone largely unnoticed outside of the Santa Clara Valley.

Richard Meier is an architect that stands at one end of Rybczynski's dichotomyy, but this building seems to be his most visually expressive yet. Perhaps it was an attempt to embody the city hall with symbolism. The dome is the most obviously symbolic and also looks the most contrived, at least from the photos. The beautifully curving sunshade is expressive but practical. The more perfect, and "rational", modernist expression of materials.

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