Gwathmey's Promise


I know that we started our career as a writer publicly slamming Gwathmey Siegal Associates for the Sculpture for Living, and because of that, you might think that we have something against the firm. Particularly since we basically didn't let the issue to rest for two years. Three, if you include this paragrph, which borders on apophasis.


But the core point we wish to make is that the firm does great work in non-NYC cities, at times, and the promise of Gwathmey's early work, the stuff that made him one of the New York Five, is simply unfulfilled. Projects like Whig Hall addition/renovation of 1972 shows an out-of-the-gate appreciation of the surreal tension created when Corbusian modernism stitched into American urban and rural contexts. It's a project that presages not pomo kitsch, but what happened after pomo, when 1920s modernism became just another historical meme to be played with, creating something entirely new. Or, viewed differently, that all historial memes would lose their historical significance, and everything from caves to pediments to s-curves and ship's handrails all were simply legitimate tools for the expression of architectural ideas. Some bigger projects (the addition to the Fogg at Harvard included) are extensions on this theme.


Unfortunately, until the firm stops doing these segmented curved corners out of cheap aluminum curtainwall systems, with 80s-grid spandrel panels, with another blocky volume stuck on top of the building, as they are doing at 240 Park Avenue South, we are going to have to keep waiting for Gwathmey's promise to be fulfilled.


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