Posts tagged with "Martin Filler":

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Martin Filler lyrically recounts the luminaries of modern architecture

Martin Filler's new book Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III: From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin is as moving as the other two editions in the series: not only are his portraits individualized, but their particularities are given broad and vast depth in history. As Filler describes the Italian-born Latin American emigre Lina Bo Bardi’s writings, "they are anything but a dry educational treatise." This is equally true of this text. 

Filler has a literate writing style, smoothly telling stories about individuals both liked or strongly disparaged; Maya Lin is a benign favorite and Albert Speer an ominous criminal. The essays were originally written for The New York Review of Books where they found an apt home. Yet, for me, Filler's style could be better suited for creative literature because of the vivid word pictures he draws of individuals, their works, and the generalized historical fabrics in which they belong. 

On most of his critiques I am in agreement, but on Frank Gehry, I part ways. Filler is not uncritical but ends up agreeing with most of the press that Gehry is deservedly the most celebrated contemporary architect, except for his Seattle Museum of Pop Culture. I think that Gehry’s style is too peculiar and doesn’t fit into its siting, although the famous Guggenheim Bilbao is perfectly sited within the urban fabric, in my opinion. 

Filler becomes somewhat poetic when comparing Louis Kahn’s sculptural powers to Michaelangelo’s: both conceived that all forms are embedded within materials and receive their powerful force by coming into being through the artist’s touch. In the Kahn chapter, Filler also sees Kahn’s "irrepressible egotism" most obviously in his philandering personal life.

In dealing with his subjects Filler exhibits keen or probing observant insight. In the introduction, we find that Renzo Piano won his enviable commissions as much from his superbly able and talented skills as from his ability engaging to potential clients. Filler carefully weighs the religious, social, personal, aesthetic, and political strains of his subjects, so we get a crammed-full picture, a three-dimensional image of the individuals, like in Margot and Rudolf Wittkower’s Born Under Saturn.

When Filler takes on Edwin Lutyens as a figure equal in influence, although polar opposite in style, to Le Corbusier we get a sense of Filler's droll wit. He refers to Christopher Wren’s affecting Lutyens as a "Wrenaissance." In the midst of speaking on Wiener Werkstatte, he brings up Rafael Viñoly’s 432 Park's grid, remarking that it resembles a waste paper basket of Josef Hoffman. This is an essay in kitsch, says Filler.

Humor aside, Filler is poetically determined to bring out the breathtakingly serious gift that Frederick Law Olmsted gave to mankind in his designing such landscapes as Central Park and its slightly later progeny, Prospect Park, together with his partner, Calvert Vaux. Regardless of their being created in the 19th century, Filler says, they are ageless. This could be extended to Filler’s historical accounts.

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Zaha Hadid settles lawsuit, donates proceeds to laborers’ rights charity

One of the biggest architectural head-to-head matches of 2014 has come to an amicable end. As AN reported last fall, Zaha Hadid sued New York Review of Books critic Martin Filler for defamation for comments he made about her in a review of Rowan Moore’s Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture. In his piece, Filler knocked the starchitect's record on workers' rights, writing that an "estimated one thousand laborers” had died working on the Al Wakrah Stadium (above) she designed for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. As it turned out, construction on that project hadn't even started yet. Filler acknowledged his error and apologized. Now, Hadid has withdrawn her lawsuit and the two parties have settled out of court. While we don’t know the amount of the settlement, we do know that Hadid and Filler are making a donation to “a charitable organization that protects and champions labor rights.”
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Eavesdrop> Muckraking Architecture Critics!

Zaha Hadid has sued the New York Review of Books. The complaint, filed last month in Manhattan Supreme Court, takes issue with a piece by architecture critic Martin Filler that allegedly mischaracterized her comments on the deaths of hundreds of migrant construction workers in Qatar, where she has designed a soccer stadium for the 2022 World Cup. According to Hadid’s lawyers, the article is a “personal attack disguised as a book review” of New York Observer architecture critic Rowan Moore’s Why We Build. It apparently quotes the Pritzker Prize winner as saying that architects “have nothing to do with the workers” and goes on to characterize her as being a generally uncaring and difficult person. The lawyers went on to point out that no workers have died on Hadid’s project, which, as a matter of fact, has yet to begin construction. The suit has stirred up quite a bit of activity on social media, including a tweet from Paul Goldberger, who said that the suit was unwise as it will earn Hadid a reputation as “the architect who sues critics.” The NYRB has since issued a retraction.
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To Every Season

Wednesday night the Guggenheim held a benefit dinner to honor the fiftieth anniversaries of the Wright museum and of the Four Seasons restaurant. During dessert Guggenheim Director Richard Armstrong interviewed Phyllis Lambert and critic Martin Filler about the two architects, though Lambert held sway for most of the conversation. Lambert was delightfully off the cuff throughout her remarks. When asked about meeting Wright, Lambert, she replied that she and Philip Johnson thought Wright was “from another century,” apparently a reference to Johnson’s banishment of Wright to the hall outside the famed International Style show. She was complimentary about Wright’s building for the way in which it breaks up the street wall of Fifth Avenue, an urban transformation simultaneous with creation of the Seagram Plaza on Park Avenue. Filler cited the great metaphor-maker Vincent Scully’s characterization of the Wright building as a primitive drum in the heart of Manhattan, and praised the building for being as relevant today as it was when it opened fifty years ago. Talk of Mies and Johnson, however, dominated the conversation. At one point, Filler said that Johnson could be more Miesian than Mies, citing the Four Seasons interior as an example. Lambert disagreed, saying that the interior was all Johnson and that Mies would have created an entirely different restaurant had he been in charge. Lambert’s I-was-there certainty was difficult for Filler to refute. Also in attendance were Four Seasons restoration architect Belmont Freeman, Architectural Record’s woman about town Suzanne Stevens, Winka Dubbeldam, Michael Bell, Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenman and Cynthia Davidson, Michael Gabellini, Gisue Hariri, and Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi.