Thursday, February 25, 2021

Thinking About Architecture

Sometime last week, this article appeared in my Facebook feed, posted by a friend: "Why You Hate Contemporary Architecture." It's not a new article, although I readily admit not to have seen it before. It was published in October 2017. Another friend, more learned than I when it comes to architecture, commented that the article "massively oversimplifies." Still, since the initial proposal from Benchmark Development for a new building to replace the ill-fated 1970s strip mall at Warren and First streets inspired some discussion about "faux historicism" versus buildings that reflect their own time, I thought the article was worth sharing. 

This passage from the article has particular relevance for us here in Hudson.
For about 2,000 years, everything human beings built was beautiful, or at least unobjectionable. The 20th century put a stop to this, evidenced by the fact that people often go out of their way to vacation in "historic" (read: beautiful) towns that contain as little postwar architecture as possible.
That statement certainly goes a long way toward explaining the appeal of Hudson, where, in the beginning of the city's renaissance, people regularly cited the historic architecture as the thing that attracted them to Hudson. 

Then there is this statement, which I hope everyone remembers as a design for 11 Warren Street is developed and reviewed:
Good buildings recede seamlessly into their surroundings.
These two takeaways may be most compelling, but entire article is recommended reading. 


  1. Good traditional architecture also ages gracefully. Have a look at modernist structures built between 1950-80. They look like crap if they aren't meticulously maintained. And they cry out for attention, with little regard for their pre-existing neighbors. My reaction to bad modernist buildings is immediate and visceral, requiring no thought-- I recoil from them instantly. Aluminum and glass and stainless steel and poured concrete don't speak to the human spirit.

  2. Mies van der Rohe -- we all know him as an icon of the Bauhaus. the Father of less is More.

    He chose not to live in his own designed Lake Shore Drive Towers in Chicago. He preferred a prewar building across the street.

  3. Whatever one's opinions on the merits, the article Carole linked I found to be one of the most entertaining pieces of polemical writing that I have ever read. As to the individual buildings, or groups of buildings, some I very much liked, some I found flawed, or could use "improvement," (landscaping is your friend by the way), and some should be blown up, like that Trump tower in Atlantic City just was.

    1. I finally read the article and I agree, that was horrible. As an artist I have to think about what the same writer might have to say about contemporary art, that everything that has been done in the last 50 years is terrible. PLEASE! And there hasn’t been any good music since the 50’s. Willful ignorance. It’s 2021, try to keep up.

  4. Good buildings recede seamlessly into their surroundings? Some stand out, and have value, not because they're beautiful or recede, but because they're efficient and necessary.

  5. Leon Krier speaks of three cities- the private realm, the commercial realm and the civic realm. Old fashioned city planning in places like Hudson got the relationships right.
    We have a commercial grid, perhaps the very model used for Manhattan, and unlike Manhattan our founders made places and spaces for civil buildings. Those are your stand out buildings that should fit into a beautiful but neutral fabric. You can have a beautiful
    Ritual city or you can have a parking lot full of buildings designed to say “look at me”.
    Hudson doesn’t have long to make that choice;; otherwise “market forces” will design our city by default.

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