Somehow over the years, Van der Rhoe’s great quote has been changed to the devil is in the details and is used to describe the difficulty of work. It has attained such a pejorative meaning now, especially when applied to the realm of negotiations or politics.
The original quote, God is in the details, is such a positive anthem that speaks to the poetry of the minutiae and the artistic focus and follow through required to achieve anything of worth.
I do not know the etymology of the misquote but the fact that it changed from a message dealing with spirituality and aesthetics to a verbal shortcut describing the burden of work is fascinating and bizarre to me.
Every physical element has been distilled to its irreducible essence. The interior is unprecedentedly transparent to the surrounding site, and also unprecedentedly uncluttered in itself. All of the paraphernalia of traditional living –rooms, walls, doors, interior trim, loose furniture, pictures on walls, even personal possessions – have been virtually abolished in a puritanical vision of simplified, transcendental existence. Mies had finally achieved a goal towards which he had been feeling his way for three decades.
Maritz Vandenburg, Farnsworth House
The High Line is a 1.45 mile elevated greenway, reclaimed from the old elevated freight rail line on the west side, from Chelsea to the Meat Packing District.
It is a great idea and a unique space and I look forward to hanging out on it during autumn and winter. I just wished that the concrete walkway and wild grasses levitated above the street for a few miles more.
This was taken a few years ago when I was wandering in the National Gallery’s East Wing in Washington, DC.
In front of a huge Mark Rothko was someone standing close to the painting, maybe inches away, his hands clasped behind his back. For some reason, I knew it was I.M. Pei, inside one of his best (and one of his favorite) creations, admiring a wall decoration on a wall he designed. I rushed up behind him to take a photo of this diminutive giant in front of this massive Rothko. I was too slow with my Leica (bastards!), and missed the shot.
I managed to take this photo soon after but I can still perfectly recall the image of him in front of that ten foot painting.
Bastards bastards bastards.
This past Sunday, “Mad Men” (Season 3 Episode 2) referenced the venerable architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable when Paul Kinsey and Pete Campbell were meeting with the developers of Madison Square Garden, discussing plans to knock down Penn Station.
It quotes Ms. Huxtable’s article in the New York Times from 1963 about Penn Station, called “How to Kill a City”. The New York Times has offered the full article in PDF to download and read here.
A eulogy in October of ’63 ran in the editorial section:
Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed.
– “Farewell to Penn Station,” New York Times, Oct 30, 1963
Comparing the old to the new, Vincent Scully of Yale University remarked,
One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.
The original Penn Station was a steel and glass shrine to transportation, an elegant Beaux-Arts temple with its 150 foot high ceilings and a waiting room modeled after the Roman Baths of Caracalla.
Now it is an underground Habitrail™, lit by yellowed fluorescents and flavored by the odors of Roy Rogers™ and Cinnabon™ stinking down the corridors. Excepting the mad scurry for Amtrak platforms after the track number has finally been revealed on the big board, it is an oppressive space completely without joy.
Life Magazine has posted an entire series by Eisenstaedt of WWII soldiers’ farewells at Penn Station here.
Peter Moore and his wife Barbara documented the death of Penn Station and published their work, The Destruction Of Penn Station.
The only consolation is that Penn Station’s demolition was a large factor in the creation of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1965.
I love museums. Architecture for most means fixating on the outer form of a building. For me the quality of the interior space defined by this form is paramount.
These spaces can be such quiet mazes, winding through somber, reflective rooms.
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