3: Durability and Ephemerality, plus Books on History and Theory F 1997

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The creation of place, of cities, buildings, and landscapes, has traditionally been conceived of as a conservative art, as the creation of lasting artifacts that embody the achievements and ideals of a civilization. But given the volatility of our age, and indeed the widespread perception that one era is ending and another beginning, we thought it timely to explore this idea—to explore the twin themes of durability and ephemerality. How are attitudes to the durability of artifacts changing? How is the built environment itself changing as a result of evolving ideas? Has durability become more valued as a hedge against the unease of rapid change? Or has it become less valued, perceived as irrelevant, nostalgic, unnecessary? How do such attitudes influence the styles in which we design buildings and landscapes? How do they influence the perceived role of the public and private realms? How do economic factors, e.g., the globalization of capital, the economics of real estate development,the costs of materials, figure in this? These are some of the questions we posed to contributors, who answer them in various ways in the essays that follow.

Table of Contents


“It’s the Economy, Stupid!”

Luis Fernández-Galiano

20th-Century American Ruins

Camilo José Vergara

Enduring (Post)modernism

Angelika Schnell

High Tech and such Misnomers

Demetri Porphyrios

Intimations of Durability

Kenneth Frampton

Of Books, Bridges, and Durability

Henry Petroski

Temporary Contracts

Ellen Dunham-Jones

The Curse of Durability

Alexander von Hoffman

The Durability of Reputation

Gavin Stamp

The Euclidian Piazza

Marvin Trachtenberg

The Rugged Steed

Thomas J. Campanella

Webs of Steel

T. Kelly Wilson


Architecture after Modernism by Diane Ghirardo

Liane Lefaivre

Differences by Ignasi de Solà-Morales

George Baird

Inside Architecture by Vittorio Gregotti

Richard Ingersoll

Reconstructing Architecture edited by Thomas A. Dutton and Lian Hurst Mann

Andrew Herscher

Thirteen Ways by Robert Harbison

Thomas Fisher