Posts Tagged ‘postmodernism’

Gwathmey and the New York Five

October 19, 2009

The appreciation of Charles Gwathmey by Nicolai Ouroussoff titled “As Heroes Disappear, the City Needs More”, published in the New York Times about two months ago, highlighted Gwathmey’s association with the “New York Five” and the white-gray debate in the early 1970s.[1]  Nice to see some attention to that transitional period, when Modernism in architecture was turning into something else, not yet named.

Ouroussoff is right to tie the NY5’s focus on “architecture as art form” to the sense that Modernism as a project of social reform had failed.

The group’s greatest contribution, in retrospect, was its assertion that architecture had not reached a dead end. The architects saw themselves as artists and thinkers — not activists — and this was particularly true of Peter Eisenman, sometimes to a fault. The distorted grids of his early houses, with their references to Renaissance precedents and Structuralist theory, were not only a way to thumb a nose gleefully at [Jane] Jacobs-style populism; they also elevated conceptual ideas above material and structure, the life of the mind over the life of the body.

But this narrative, while not uncritical of the conceptual move, glosses over an obvious question.

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