Beyond Buildings


Bad (and Some Good) News Friday

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Three bits of news this week, unrelated, but of interest for those who care about architecture:


From Norman, Oklahoma, comes the news that Bruce Goff’s Bavinger House has collapsed. There seems to be some controversy about whether the cause was a “micro-burst” in a recent storm, or whether the current owner, the client’s son, caused the collapse because of his disagreement with efforts to preserve the structure. Equally remarkable is the controversy this house’s structure provokes in the comments on the story. Goff’s architecture is of interest for those who look towards the edges of what makes a good building, whether in terms of aesthetic, structure, arrangement, or relation to the context. I, for one, found my experience at the house an exhilarating glimpse into another possible form of domestic spatiality. I hope the damage can be repaired; for now, we are all being kept from the site and its current reality.


From Beijing comes the news that artist, architect, and social critic Ai Wei Wei has been released. I would like to think that all of us writing and speaking about his case had some effect, but I daresay that it has more to do with larger social and political realities than with anything any of us said. Whatever the case, I do hope that he will be able to pick up where he left off and give us some great forms, spaces and images; his Signs of the Zodiac are currently on display in front of New York’s Plaza Hotel.  In a related story, it is wonderful to read German magazine Der Spiegel make one of that country’s worst architects, Gerhard von Gerkan, twist and turn in explaining the nature of his relation with the Chinese state and his feelings about Mr. Ai. My last encounter with von Gerkan (he is very proud of that aristocratic “von”) was when we were both on a jury in Taiwan and he argued vociferously for not choosing Toyo Ito as the designer of what turned out to be the beautiful Kaohsiung Stadium.


Finally, from the Netherlands comes the news that the culture budget is being slashed by a quarter, and the national institutes of architecture and design, as well as various grant-giving organizations are being combined. The Berlage Insttitute, a post-doctoral program, and the Rotterdam Architecture Biennale are being defunded.  As somebody who has been very involved with those institutions, it is horrible news.  Populist Geert Wilders wanted to cuts to be more like 70%. When I was Director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute, I argued for greater efficiency and collaboration in the design field, but this operation is being carried out with a blunt ax rather than with any kind of apparent intelligence. Be that as it may, it still leaves this country with the most progressive and effective design advocacy, archiving, and display mechanism of any country in the world. It would be more than worth emulating in this country.



Comments (1 Total)

  • Posted by: Anonymous | Time: 7:39 PM Wednesday, November 09, 2011

    The House is no longer visible from the road. It was reported that Nick Harm of OU stated "as long as the Bavingers own the house, no support will ever occur. That's just how we do business." - Nick Harm. It was reported that the house was destroyed in an effort to stop day and night harassment toward the Bavingers after several family members were killed in an effort to take the house.<

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About the Blogger

Aaron Betsky

thumbnail image Aaron Betsky is the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, and in 2008 he was director of the 11th Venice International Architecture Biennale. Trained as an architect at Yale, he has published more than a dozen books on art, architecture, and design and teaches and lectures about design around the world. Aaron worked for Frank O. Gehry and Associates and Hodgetts & Fung Design Associates as a designer, taught for many years at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and between 1995 and 2001 was curator of architecture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. From 2001 to 2006 he was director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.