Copyright Vladimir Kagan 2010
Friday, a week ago, was my big Day with Paul Goldberger, the distinguished Architectural critic for The New Yorker, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of numerous erudite books on Architecture. The newest one: Why Architecture Matters.
Gale Coudert and her Coudert Institute put together one of her terrific seminars, this time a roundtable luncheon to discuss the merits of Architecture and Design. The participants were Paul Goldberger, Richard Sammons and Anne Fairfax of the firm Fairfax Architects and myself. The Moderator was the well-known design director of Tiffany, John Loring.
I was in heavy company! Being outnumbered by architects three to one, I had to hold the Fort on the design portion of the program. If Paul Goldberger was the wordsmith, I had better have a good visual presentation to hold up my side of the equation. I assembled photos of architecture, designer's work plus my designs.…(I spend a week fine-tuning my presentation.) To enlighten a lay audience, I introduced them to the ubiquitous designs of everyday life: the Bobby Pin, the Zipper, the safety pin, a pair of scissors. Someone had to design them…but who?
Next, I took them on a journey of the impact a designer can have on a product. For illustrations, I showed the steam engine railroad of the 40's and Raymond Lowey's streamlined redesign, the original typewriters to the sleek IBM Selectric and followed the development of the first Apple desktop to the ethereal Air Laptop that makes everyone drool! I followed this with a challenge to separate Extreme Design…is it art or is it design? Wonderful examples of Marc Newson, Ron Arad, Frank Gehry, the Campana Brothers, Zaha Hadid and Phillipe Starke. It was amazing to see the reaction and as the fine lines got blurred. Designers today, all too often strive to achieve notoriety through extremes, regardless of function.
I concluded my presentation with the strong influence of architecture on my design evolution…not cause and effect, but the parallel thought process.
Richard Sammons and Anne Fairfax were fully dedicated to classical architecture and quite voraciously opposed to modern. They were an excellent foil to us, the dedicated modernists. They mesmerized us with the luscious classic residences they had created for the ultra-rich. Executed with superb precision and details. (After that, who wants to live in a minimalist environment?) Even I confessed, that I am no longer a minimalist. “Less is More” has been replaced by “More is More”. Their lecture lesson in “Architecture 101” was mostly over the heads of most of the audience, including myself, but the comparisons to classic Roman and Greek architecture was fascinating. Richard Sammons is an articulate advocate of the classics and inspiring to listen to.
Paul Goldberger was the encyclopedic devote of 20th Century Architecture. He brilliantly articulated modern's mission. He dissection of Mies Van Der Roe's esthetic proportions in the Seagram Building compared to the Greek Classics was understandable in lay terms. The audience could follow and appreciate the message and the messenger.
Our brilliant moderator, John Loring helped bridge the irreconcilable difference between the modernists and the devout traditionalist.
In retrospect, our meeting was much like the US congress…irreconcilable difference of opinions…. but much more civility!
Here is a link to the review in the Palm Beach Daily News:
Paul Goldberger and Dale Coudert