Vernacular, in an academic or art-speak context, is a word worthy of healthy suspicion. It is used to designate populist styles, to suggest a common language that bubbles up from below rather than a discourse dictated from on high. It’s generally freighted with ideas about authenticity: vernacular styles are … Continue Reading Vernacular Urbanism?
When I visited St. Petersburg last May, the Mariinsky 2 was still a work zone. Now it’s open. The new building is undistinguished and even quite ugly from the outside. I haven’t seen the inside yet. But I did write about the controversy over its site, cost and design … Continue Reading Fit for a Tsar
I was elated when it was announced the Corcoran wouldn’t be leaving its historic home on 17th Street NW. But still, what does it say about the institution that they even considered the idea? With the recent announcement that the Corcoran will seek some kind of partnership or alliance with … Continue Reading The Corcoran’s next step
Last week, I spent two and a half very pleasant days at the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual meeting of intellectual leaders from around the planet, with a focus this year on China. I moderated two panels, one on telling stories through film, another on re-imagining public space. I wrote … Continue Reading At the Aspen Ideas Festival
What a difference a week makes. On March 20, at a Congressional hearing, it looked as if the controversy whipped up by Susan and Anne Eisenhower, and further fueled by the dogged work of a small anti-Gehry group (the National Civic Art Society, which is pretty much anti-everything of or … Continue Reading Rallying behind Gehry
I was skeptical at first, and for a long time. I still wonder about the enormous columns that will support the tapestry with which Frank Gehry memorializes the life and accomplishments of Dwight D. Eisenhower. But the more you think about it–and I suspect I over think it in this … Continue Reading Reviewing the Gehry-designed Eisenhower Memorial
Yes, I got a “wag of the finger” from Stephen Colbert last night. Unfortunately, I was watching “My Fair Lady” at the time and didn’t know about my new pop-culty cred until this morning. But it’s just as good as a rerun web clip. He singled out my review of … Continue Reading Wag of the Finger
The Washington Post has a new arts blog, to which I contribute from time to time. This past week, I floated the idea that perhaps it’s not worth spending millions of dollars, and diminishing the beauty of the Jefferson Memorial just to create a car-bomb safety perimeter. I don’t think … Continue Reading Which security plan? None of the above.
Ever noticed that some of the nicest places to sit on the National Mall are around the edges, gardens such as the one outside the Botanical Garden building, or the sweet little swamp and wetlands next to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian? The designers of the new National … Continue Reading Greening the Mall
This week’s Sunday column takes up the question of where a new museum, devoted to Latino Americans, should go. On the Mall? At the base of the United States Capitol? Or somewhere better situated to drive larger urban design goals for the city of Washington? I prefer the last of … Continue Reading A New Museum on the Mall?
As gripes go, I admit it is a small one. But it’s sad to see windows appear in new buildings only to be covered over from the inside when a retailer with a basic corporate template for the floor plan moves in. You see this all over Washington, and in other … Continue Reading Open those windows