Source: Time.com Link: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1669978,00.html Title: "Master of the Modern" Date: October 20, 2007 The front slide reads: Perhaps the twenty-first century has desensitized us somewhat. The images don't always seem so spectacular. There is the Lever House, for instance; photographer Shulman framed the image from the plaza of the nearby Seagram Building, and from a perspective of almost fifty years later, it is difficult to comprehend the significance of either Bunshaft's Lever House or Rohe's Seagram Building: Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image! Completed in 1952, Lever House was the first glass and steel Modernist office building on what was then the all- masonry expanse of Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan. By 1959, when this picture was taken, it was a much photographed icon. So Shulman moved back to frame it in a new way under the plaza overhang of another Modernist milestone that had joined it just a year earlier on Park — Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building. • • • Most folks I know tend to look at architecture more from a scientific and utilitarian perspective, and that seems in step with the general collective outlook. We tend to focus on the function of a thing rather than the theory behind it, to the point that theories of function are considered artsy. And some of those theories of function are artsy. For instance, I once worked in a pizza restaurant where the cook's counter was arranged from left to right. This way, as the cook finished assembling the pizza, s/he could simply turn around and drop the thing onto the conveyer for the forced-air oven. Simple enough, right? Yet a new manager arriving from a store across town could not handle the concept. She rearranged the cook's counter in the image of her prior store, which worked from right to left. And even though it was perfectly obvious that we could not rearrange the whole freaking oven to accommodate this, well, the boss is the boss. So in the course of the next week, cooks tripped over one another, dropped pizzas, and eventually burned themselves falling against the oven as they tried to maneuver around one another. The manager could not, for the life of her, understand the practical consideration of working left to right, dropping the pizza on the conveyer, and then starting over. After all, her store worked right to left, and that's the way her store was going to work. The mere function of moving left to right was unacceptable. Imagine, then, carrying out a similar debate on the scale of an an office highrise. • • • The Green Residence (Herb Greene), Norman, Oklahoma, 1961: Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image! Called the "Prairie Chicken" house by Life magazine, Greene built this very ahead-of-its-time home for himself, his wife and two young children. Influenced by the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and the highly original Bruce Goff, it seems to look forward to the undulating forms of Frank Gehry. Perhaps there was a reason it took until Frank Gehry. Strangely, though, while Gehry's designs, including the Bilbao Guggenheim, Walt Disney Hall, and Experience Music Project, are generally regarded as some sort of urban nouveau-chic, we see in Herb Greene's design an early inspiration, and one settled in America's heartland. • • • Less spectacular are two shots (1, 2)of the Woods Residence, a 1950 design by Paolo Soleri and Mark Mills. The caption for the second, an exterior shot of the home, reads: • • • Architecture is a fascinating blend of art and science. In the end, though, function tends to reign supreme. While I might have some appreciation for the avant garde paradox of a public library without tables, chairs, or bookshelves, the contemporary context of libraries suggests the facility would lose a tremendous portion of its functional value. To the other, though, in challenging the supremacy of functionality--a futile effort under most circumstances--an architect might be looking toward the future. After all, there may well come a day when the majority of our libraries haven't a single book in them, and people simply walk up to network terminals, access specific information, and have it transferred to various media including paper. Libraries as we know them may well become museums of a sort, with a curator and preservation teams, and everything within them made available electronically to the public. It's not like you can go to the Louvre or MoMA and check out an exhibit for a week. The internet era has brought new perspectives and challenges to every communicative medium. In the meantime, there is a time and place for making art of function. I promise you, though, a pizza kitchen is not that place.