Makers of Modern Architecture, Vol. II: From Le Corbusier to Rem Koolhaas

Martin Filler. New York Review Books, $29.95 (360p) ISBN 978-1-59017-688-7
In this superb follow-up to his first volume of essays on modern building’s pioneers and major designers, architecture critic Filler (formerly at House & Garden, now a contributor to the New York Review of Books, where these 19 essays first appeared) brings his expertise to bear on architects who have been neglected (Carlo Scarpa), those who have fallen out of critical favor (Edward Durell Stone), and others whose standing has been debated (Eero Saarinen), while deftly evaluating the work of contemporaries such as Bernard Tschumi and Snøhetta. The recurrent theme is personality and how it plays into the art form: Rem Koolhaas’s “morally neutral attitude,” for instance, as embodied by his controversial CCTV building in Beijing, which Filler faults for its “unconscionable destruction” of nearby landmarks and its chilling aloofness. Similarly, he suggests that James Stirling’s “abundant architectural gifts” were thwarted by his irascible disposition. A highlight of the collection is Filler’s deeply moving essay in support of Michael Arad’s National September 11 Memorial—an unforgettable piece of writing that cuts through the media babel that surrounded the memorial’s unveiling. Always a strong believer in public buildings’ “direct social implications,” Filler could be called the presumptive conscience of the architect; and his contribution to both architecture criticism and general readers’ understanding is invaluable. 8 pages of photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
Release date: 08/20/2013
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