1000 Years

The more I look around town, the more buildings I find by I.M. Pei.  Of all twentieth century greats, he seems to have built the most in Washington DC.  Here we have the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, completed in 1973, which is located just south of the Mall on 9th street.  Though I enjoy brutalist forms, I had an experience recently that made me second guess my unabashed love for the stark modernist style.  Late at night, I got off at the L’Enfant Plaza metro stop and found myself wandering around an uninviting and alienating  concrete landscape of soaring spaces that while beautiful in an awe-inspiring sense, were not comfortable to inhabit.  I felt nervous and dehumanized. It is already clear in the art world that modern art need not comfort.  As you can see from this sculpture by renowned artist Damien Hirst, art for its own sake need not be cuddly and immediately enjoyable to perceive.  There is a certain sense of pleasure or at least value in contemplating the conceptual qualities that the piece evokes in the viewer, even if that effect is shock revulsion.  But what about architecture?  There does seem to be some compelling reason to tailor the constructed spaces around us to actually be pleasant to inhabit.  The functionality of architecture remains integral in a way that art has managed to escape practicality.

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One Response to “1000 Years”

  1. Jo-Ann Neuhaus Says:

    Ah, you didn’t know that Pei’s firm, actually Araldo Cossutta was the design principal, designed only two of the four L’Enfant Plaza buildings. Elsewhere I mention Cossutta did the north and south buildings, so not the hotel (east bldg.) or west building; they are far more top heavy with very different end and corner treatments not to mention the less elegant design of the main facades. The east and west buildings were designed by a local architect who did many of downtowns less distinguished office buildings, Vlastimil Koubek.

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