No. 2, Summer 1997 Look Again: Recognizing Neglected Design

Look Again: Recognizing Neglected Design

No. 2

Summer 1997

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Our assumption, in asking writers to focus on neglected designs and designers, was that recognition, fame, and a place in the history books are sometimes obtained for reasons having little to do with intrinsic merit—personal connections with the “right” players in academia, the media, and the client pool; trendiness or sensational newness; marketing hype and skill; dazzling photographic images; personal wealth or brashness; and so on—and that a great deal of subtle, daring, and beautiful work, lacking such extraneous support, has been unknown even to well-informed appreciators of the designed environment. We expected to find a correlation between fine but little-known work and personal qualities such as modesty, distaste for self-promotion, and a sense of the hollowness and triviality of fame. And so we fantasized discoveries of mythical figures: isolated, unknown but extraordinary designers hidden in unlit corners of the world—our writers having had experiences like driving on a dusty road in North Dakota and coming across a cluster of buildings of extraordinary power and beauty, then finding their architect reading Portrait of a Lady in the local bar. Of course, this fantasy reflects the cliché of the Romantic artist; in fact, there is little relationship between an artist’s personality or behavior and the quality of his or her work, as is demonstrated by the long list of egocentric designers who somehow manage to transcend their psychic limitations in inspired architecture, even architecture sensitive to its users’ needs. (And, one has to admit, brutish arrogance often results in commissions; humility can have its drawbacks: lack of work). Yet the cliché has some truth: by and large, the work our writers celebrate is not showy, stylized, or hiply avant-garde. Its virtues are quiet. Frequently, this work “disappeared” for one of two opposite reasons—it seemed (but actually wasn’t) subsumed by the design conventions of its time, or it bucked the dominant high design trends by being idiosyncratic or by employing design language that was not considered au courant. Historians and magazine editors couldn’t stick any of their labels on it. And, yes, some of the designers had profound distaste for self-promotion and hawking their work as commodified images.

— William S. Saunders (excerpted from the introduction)

Table of Contents

Essays

Consensus Terrorism

Wouter Vanstiphout

Still Here

Max Bond

“Every Inch Alive”

Lisa Germany

A Thoroughly Modern Man

Simon Swaffield

American Curves

Thomas J. Campanella

Built Progress

Wilfried Wang

Curious Voids

Vittorio Gregotti

Due Recognition

John Morris Dixon

Genetic Code: Computer and Design Incompatibilities

Malcolm McCullough

Grace and Architecture

Roger Connah

Green Chaos

Robert Riley

Living with House VI

Bill Hubbard Jr.

Midwestern Master

Cynthia Weese

Process as Craft

Toshiko Mori

Sinan’s Bridge

William L. MacDonald

Still Modern After All These Years

Thomas L. Schumacher

The Absence of Presence

Diane Ghirardo

The Life of Ideas in Architecture

Robert Harbison

The Light Between Gardens

Carlos Jimenez

The Rewards of Experiment

Susana Torre

Why Not Pleasure?

James S. Ackerman

Reviews

As I Was Saying by Colin Rowe

George Baird

Stanley Saitowitz: A House in the Transvaal edited by George Wagner

Graham Owen

The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright by Neil Levine

Anthony Alofsin
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