Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age

Overview

For more than twenty years now, Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune has explored how architecture captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Kamin treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Terror and Wonder gathers the best of Kamin’s writings from the past decade along with new reflections on an era framed by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the opening of the ...

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Overview

For more than twenty years now, Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune has explored how architecture captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Kamin treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Terror and Wonder gathers the best of Kamin’s writings from the past decade along with new reflections on an era framed by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the opening of the world’s tallest skyscraper.

Assessing ordinary commercial structures as well as head-turning designs by some of the world’s leading architects, Kamin paints a sweeping but finely textured portrait of a tumultuous age torn between the conflicting mandates of architectural spectacle and sustainability. For Kamin, the story of our built environment over the past ten years is, in tangible ways, the story of the decade itself. Terror and Wonder considers how architecture has been central to the main events and crosscurrents in American life since 2001: the devastating and debilitating consequences of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; the real estate boom and bust; the use of over-the-top cultural designs as engines of civic renewal; new challenges in saving old buildings; the unlikely rise of energy-saving, green architecture; and growing concern over our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

A prominent cast of players—including Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry, Helmut Jahn, Daniel Libeskind, Barack Obama, Renzo Piano, and Donald Trump—fills the pages of this eye-opening look at the astounding and extraordinary ways that architecture mirrors our values—and shapes our everyday lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Since the crumbling of the World Trade Center, architecture has been at the center of our attention. We have watched the rapid destruction of Hurricane Katrina and the slow Gulf rebuilding process; the real estate boom and bust; the development of green architecture; debates over avant-garde building designs, and witnessed the high price paid for crumbling infrastructure. Blair Kamin, the veteran, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture columnist for the Chicago Tribune, has witnessed it all. In Terror & Wonder, he steps back and reflects on architecture in the post-9/11 age. Accessible; insightful; a fine choice for crossover readers.

Booklist
"Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, has constructed an elegant and thought-provoking book out of 51 of his timely yet timeless columns. . . . Crisp and colorful, expert and witty, Kamin’s involving essays address the complexities of architecture and how the built world affects every aspect of life."
TimeOut Chicago
"In the time Blair Kamin has served as the Chicago Tribune’s architectural critic, building has gone bananas. The Twin Towers fell and the Trump Tower rose, historic preservationists have had to fight tooth and nail for significant buildings, Dubai has gone mile high and the Chicago Spire became the Chicago Pit. His new book, Terror and Wonder, collects his writing from the Trib and elsewhere . . . about everything from McDonald’s to Mies."
The Huffington Post

“Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, thoughtfully and provocatively defines the emotional and cultural dimensions of architecture. He is one of the nation''s leading voices for design that uplifts and enhances life as well as the environment. His new book, Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, assembles some of his best writing from the past ten years.”—The Huffington Post

Wall Street Journal

“Kamin writes with skill and passion about how the inescapable art of architecture impacts our world and lives.”—Wall Street Journal

Washington Post Book World

“Kamin is a master of ‘activist criticism’. . . . His writing combines sharp aesthetic judgments with an investigative reporter’s instinct for money, power, and the inside story.” —Washington Post Book World

San Francisco Chronicle

“Kamin’s pieces are worth reading for anyone who loves cities, because he’s so good at conveying how individual buildings are parts of a greater whole.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Urban Design Review
Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, a collection of [Kamin’s] essays and reviews from 2001 to 2010, takes on subjects as fraught as the rebuilding effort at Ground Zero and the architecture of public housing. But it does so in a style that is approachable, clear-eyed and—perhaps above all—eminently reasonable. If the age was tumultuous, in other words, Kamin’s prose never is.”

— Christopher Hawthorne

Architectural Record
"[Kamin] spotlights architecture’s central role in the decade’s main events and trends. . . . [He] is, in the end, our most deeply-humane critic.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“When it comes to architecture criticism in the United States, no one does it better than Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune. A 1999 winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Kamin has written eloquently, intelligently and passionately about everything from the Chicago lakefront to the National September 11 Memorial in Manhattan. . . . [Terror and Wonder] is an excellent overview of Kamin's recent work, and of the state of architecture worldwide.”
Architects' Journal

“Prescient. . . . colourful. . . . Kamin’s criticism is sharp and readable, more so because he places ordinary people before architects, planners or developers in his appraisal of the changes he has witnessed to the urban environment over the last 10 years.”—Rakesh Ramchurn, The Architects Journal

Huffington Post
“Blair Kamin, Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, thoughtfully and provocatively defines the emotional and cultural dimensions of architecture. He is one of the nation's leading voices for design that uplifts and enhances life as well as the environment. His new book, Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, assembles some of his best writing from the past ten years.”
The Architects ' Journal

“Prescient. . . . colourful. . . . Kamin’s criticism is sharp and readable, more so because he places ordinary people before architects, planners or developers in his appraisal of the changes he has witnessed to the urban environment over the last 10 years.”

— Rakesh Ramchurn

Oxford Art Journal
"[The book's] organisational format, combined with Kamin's addition of a postscript for most columns, provides a sense of depth and continuity to what might otherwise appear to be a collection of brief snapshots. . . . Kamin's text enacts its own form of historical contextualization and it is one with considerable explanatory power."
The Architects' Journal
Prescient. . . . colourful. . . . Kamin’s criticism is sharp and readable, more so because he places ordinary people before architects, planners or developers in his appraisal of the changes he has witnessed to the urban environment over the last 10 years.

— Rakesh Ramchurn

Urban Design Review - Christopher Hawthorne
Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, a collection of [Kamin’s] essays and reviews from 2001 to 2010, takes on subjects as fraught as the rebuilding effort at Ground Zero and the architecture of public housing. But it does so in a style that is approachable, clear-eyed and—perhaps above all—eminently reasonable. If the age was tumultuous, in other words, Kamin’s prose never is.”
The Architects ' Journal - Rakesh Ramchurn

“Prescient. . . . colourful. . . . Kamin’s criticism is sharp and readable, more so because he places ordinary people before architects, planners or developers in his appraisal of the changes he has witnessed to the urban environment over the last 10 years.”
Wall Street Journal

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San Francisco Chronicle

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} “Kamin’s pieces are worth reading for anyone who loves cities, because he’s so good at conveying how individual buildings are parts of a greater whole.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Washington Post Book World

Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} “Kamin is a master of ‘activist criticism’. . . . His writing combines sharp aesthetic judgments with an investigative reporter’s instinct for money, power, and the inside story.” —Washington Post Book World

Booklist

"Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, has constructed an elegant and thought-provoking book out of 51 of his timely yet timeless columns. He begins not with the creation of structures but, rather, with their destruction: the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers and Katrina’s assault on New Orleans. In the wake of each catastrophe, Kamin examines reactions predictable and counterintuitive. There’s the ugly and dampening impact of clumsy security measures on architecture, travel, and public life, and the reckless building boom, which stoked the foreclosure epidemic and a plague of generic, bloated commercial and residential buildings, and left two massive skyscraper projects, the Spire and the Waterview Tower, in limbo in Chicago (“the first city of American architecture”). But he also writes of such buoyant successes as Santiago Calatrava’s winged addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum and Jeanne Gang’s “singular” Aqua Tower and celebrates the “blooming of green architecture.” Crisp and colorful, expert and witty, Kamin’s involving essays address the complexities of architecture and how the built world affects every aspect of life."—Booklist

TimeOut Chicago

"In the time Blair Kamin has served as the Chicago Tribune’s architectural critic, building has gone bananas. The Twin Towers fell and the Trump Tower rose, historic preservationists have had to fight tooth and nail for significant buildings, Dubai has gone mile high and the Chicago Spire became the Chicago Pit. His new book, Terror and Wonder, collects his writing from the Trib and elsewhere . . . about everything from McDonald’s to Mies."—TimeOut Chicago

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226423111
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2010
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Blair Kamin is the architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune. A graduate of Amherst College and the Yale School of Architecture, he holds honorary degrees from Monmouth University and North Central College, where he is an adjunct professor of art. Kamin is the recipient of more than 30 honors, including the Pulitzer Prize for criticism and the George Polk Award. His books include the critically acclaimed Why Architecture Matters: Lessons from Chicago and Tribune Tower: American Landmark

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Read an Excerpt

TERROR AND WONDER

ARCHITECTURE IN A TUMULTUOUS AGE
By BLAIR KAMIN

THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS

Copyright © 2010 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-42311-1


Chapter One

THE URBAN DRAMA

THE MOST UNFORGETTABLE AND CONSEQUENTIAL ARCHITECTURAL STORIES OF the first decade of the 21st century were not about great feats of construction; they were about spectacular acts of destruction, both natural and man-made. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina both played out on urban stages and in real time, riveting and unsettling the millions who watched them. This confluence of disasters reset the American agenda, turning the nation's gaze, if only fleetingly, toward its cities.

Before September 11, 2001, urban development concerns had taken a backseat to public fascination with the eye-popping, neo-baroque creations of such architects as Frank Gehry. But 9/11 and Katrina thrust the gritty field of city planning into America's public conversation: What should replace the tangled ruins at ground zero? Should New Orleans be abandoned or rebuilt? How should America implement the "new normalcy" of heightened security? When and how might Americans begin to reclaim their cities?

Amid the shock of disaster, the first task was to articulate the physical and emotional landscape of the moment—and what it portended for the future.

DISASTER

Raising Up a Fallen Sky

THE BEST WAY TO FILL THE CHILLING VOID IN THE LOWER MANHATTAN SKYLINE IS WITH A GREAT NEW URBAN CENTER, NOT A REPRODUCTION OF THE DESTROYED TWIN TOWERS

SEPTEMBER 17, 2001

Imagine if Sears Tower were suddenly, wrenchingly obliterated from the Chicago skyline and there was nothing but blue sky where an enormous black mass of steel and glass once stood. Then you have some idea of what the astonishing disappearance of the World Trade Center means to the New York skyline—and to the American mind.

In truth, almost no one loved the twin towers as they loved the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, the great art deco skyscrapers that exemplify New York's special brand of exuberance and arrogance. Even with the failed flourish of their modern Gothic arches, the twin towers were bland rather than bold, almost mute despite their chest-thumping height. Their scale-less gigantism overwhelmed the grand collection of Lower Manhattan spires that once dazzled the eyes of huddled masses yearning to be free.

But the towers were undeniably landmarks in the most basic sense of that overused but under-considered word. They marked the land. The shiny square boxes with the slice of sky in between compelled our glance as massive minimalist sculptures, neither beautiful nor stirring, but fixed points on the map that were impossible to ignore. They gave us our bearings, a way to orient ourselves. By sheer virtue of their enormous size, they lent coherence to the chaos of modern life. So it seems all the more jarring that they should succumb to that very chaos.

One-hundred-ten-story high-rises are not supposed to turn into pillars of dust and ash, pancaking downward with apocalyptic fury. Yet that is precisely what happened last Tuesday after hijacked jetliners slammed into the towers at 8:45 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., shattering the illusion of permanence once conjured by these man-made monoliths.

When the towers were completed in 1972 and 1973, it was painful to contemplate Lower Manhattan's skyline with them. Today that same skyline seems incomplete—and incomprehensible—without them. The sky where they once stood looks hauntingly empty, a void where just a week ago, tens of thousands of people traded bonds, managed money, wrote law briefs and insurance policies. The absence of the towers speaks louder than their presence ever did.

It would be disturbing enough if an earthquake had caused last week's damage and its thousands of deaths. Yet the fact that the calamity was planned and perpetrated by human beings makes it even more unsettling. Earthquakes can only happen in certain parts of the world. This nightmare could happen anywhere there is a very tall building that symbolizes the global reach of American capitalism—and a jet, filled with fuel, that can stoke an inferno able to melt a skyscraper's structural steel and cause it to collapse.

Now some zealots argue that the best course is to rebuild the twin towers exactly as they were before the attacks to show that Americans have not been intimidated. Others make the case that the World Trade Center site should be exclusively devoted to a memorial, like the tribute in downtown Oklahoma City to the victims of the 1995 terrorist attack on the federal building there. The film critic Roger Ebert even has suggested a grassy public space, perhaps including a cornfield, where two towers of more than 1,360 feet each once rose.

None of these ideas merits a thumbs-up.

Downtown Manhattan is not downtown Oklahoma City. It is, and is almost sure to remain, the world's financial capital. Setting aside a huge plot of land solely for a memorial would permanently disrupt the flow of commerce, aggravating the damage the terrorists already have done. Ebert's dreamy suggestion of a cornfield might work in a Hollywood screenplay, but it is sure to be a non-starter in the capital of capitalism. And it seems even more unrealistic now that Larry Silverstein, the developer who leads the group that purchased the Trade Center's 99-year lease in 1999, has signaled he is committed to rebuilding the complex.

Americans have always mixed down-to-earth practicality with the lofty idealism associated with the Puritans' desire to raise a shining city on a hill. So they should treat this site by marrying the pragmatic and the poetic: build new office towers that include a major memorial in the public plaza that surely will be placed between them. There is no need to mindlessly replicate the original twin towers. Why do that? The World Trade Center's design was terrible to begin with.

It would be far wiser to erect a new commercial center, at once less gigantic than the old one and more in keeping with the Lower Manhattan skyline. That does not mean a cluster of buildings that would literally reproduce the classic skyscrapers of the 1920s. It does mean creatively re interpreting those forms, using the latest technologies and the latest theories of how we can make cities lively.

Amid the deep gloom of this tragedy, it is hard to remember that the core of the American character is soaringly optimistic. A new commercial and civic complex, which vigorously demonstrates that this spirit lives on, would be the most meaningful new landmark—and the best way to fill the skyline void that is among the attack's most chilling legacies.

POSTSCRIPT

In the supercharged days after 9/11, when the air was thick with fear, some real estate developers wondered whether builders would ever again commission extremely tall towers—and whether city governments would approve them. "Never before has a world's tallest building been viewed as a liability. And now it is," said Chicago developer J. Paul Beitler, who once tried unsuccessfully to build a record-shattering skyscraper, the Miglin-Beitler Skyneedle, in Chicago's Loop. "Instead of being icons representing man's finest hour and business's highest achievement, they are now being viewed as targets in fanatics' gun sights."

After the crisis passed, however, the world went on a skyscraper-building binge, with China and Dubai leading the way. Upon its completion in 2010, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper (see p. 122) rose to an unprecedented height of 2,717 feet—more than half a mile high, or taller than one of the World Trade Center towers stacked on top of the other. Americans also returned to the sky, a shift symbolized by the 2009 reopening of the crown in the Statue of Liberty, which the authorities closed after the attacks. The tall building, in other words, proved far more resilient than the doomsayers had forecast.

The redevelopment of what soon became known as ground zero would prove far more challenging. That became clear in 2002 when the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation unveiled six mediocre redevelopment proposals for the 16-acre site. All included a memorial as well as office and retail space, yet none rose to the level of creativity the occasion demanded. "Six cookie-cutter losers," the Wall Street Journal's architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, branded them. Only in December of 2002 would Daniel Libeskind's captivating ground zero plan emerge (see p. 32), creating a brief moment of promise.

Don't Abandon New Orleans

THE BIG EASY, AN AMERICAN MASTERPIECE, DESERVES TO BE SAVED; ITS REBUILDING SHOULD STRESS SUBSTANCE OVER SHOW

SEPTEMBER 14, 2005

Four words describe the New Orleans that has been socked by Hurricane Katrina: disaster, yes; apocalypse, no.

The horizontal tableau of entire neighborhoods swamped beneath stinking, sewage-infested waters is as stunning as the vertical drama of the collapsing twin towers in New York. Big cities are symbols of human achievement. We do not expect them to be humbled by nature and evacuated any more than we expected terrorists to fly jets into skyscrapers.

But the relentless focus of the media eye on New Orleans' sunken districts and the unprecedented dispersal of its residents obscure the bigger picture: the real issue is not whether to rebuild the Big Easy, but how.

Cities are collective works of art, and New Orleans is one of America's masterpieces—a delectable multicultural gumbo whose value is only more pronounced in a nation where the same stores, banks, and malls make every place feel like every other place.

For that reason alone, the much-hyped "should we rebuild New Orleans?" debate is preposterous. Of course we should save New Orleans. To abandon it would be like Italy abandoning Venice. Besides, anybody who sets foot in this town knows that the great (and not-so-great) symbols of New Orleans don't need to be rebuilt. They're still there.

You could hold a Mardi Gras parade tomorrow in the bone-dry French Quarter. The modern office towers and hotels of the central business district, graceless though they are, remain standing, poised to resume their role as hubs of commerce. Some of the city's extraordinary neighborhoods, such as the Garden District and its white-columned antebellum mansions, came through the storm with little more than downed trees.

There is a difference, the surviving structures make clear, between mass evacuation and mass destruction.

Yet the debate about the future of the city's heavily flooded areas is real, prompted in part by the remarks of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), who generated a brief controversy when he seemed to question whether they should be rebuilt. Hastert quickly said his remarks had been twisted, a wise move.

You don't simply discard cities that are plagued with deadly infrastructure problems. You solve those problems, as Chicago did in 1900 when it reversed the flow of the Chicago River and prevented a recurrence of the typhoid and cholera epidemics that had plagued the city.

It is already a cliché to say that the flood gives New Orleans a chance to turn disaster into opportunity and to transform itself into a truly 21st-century city. But the most progressive rebuilding plan of all may be based on a new interpretation of an old idea: building with respect for nature rather than arrogantly dismissing it.

LAYERS OF HISTORY

To venture into the emptied city is to experience the strange sensation of enjoying its extraordinary collection of everyday buildings while the people who once lived and worked there are gone. It is a stage set without actors, shrouded in an eerie blanket of quiet that is interrupted only by the chop-chop of military helicopters, the roar of Humvees, and the pitiful barking of abandoned dogs swimming through germ-filled waters.

At Pete Fountain's Club in the French Quarter, there is no Dixieland clarinet music wafting out onto Bourbon Street. But the two-story redbrick building and its lacy black-iron railings appear to be in good condition. The same is true throughout the Quarter, which is simply the most prominent example of New Orleans' polyglot architecture. The French, who founded New Orleans in 1718, laid out the district. Then it was rebuilt by the Spanish, who took over in 1763 and put up all that fancy ironwork.

To walk the Quarter is to freshly appreciate how New Orleans prizes oldness in a way that Chicago values newness, and how its architecture is as sensual and playful as Chicago's is beautifully austere. Like San Francisco, New Orleans is not a city of great individual buildings, but a place that derives its charm from harmonious groups of buildings—le tout ensemble, as the French call it. And the buildings are real. The city is no theme park.

New Orleans has a higher percentage of its neighborhoods honored by inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places than any other major city in America. Some of these historic districts clearly have fared better than others, with those on the relatively high ground near the Mississippi River typically enduring far less flood damage than those in the middle of the bowl-shaped city.

Take the Garden District, which begins southwest of downtown and is as distinctly American as the French Quarter is European. Here, in the 19th century, hustling entrepreneurs built monuments to their success, with the mansions ranging in style from understated Greek revival to over-the-top Victorian.

Today the Garden District looks disheveled but not devastated. Katrina walloped some big trees, which are piled up in the boulevard where the streetcar runs. But the buildings along the street—houses, churches, synagogues, and businesses—seem to have suffered no major damage.

In other historic neighborhoods, such as Gentilly Terrace, home to early 20th-century craftsman bungalows and colonial revival homes, the picture is the one you've seen on TV: Homes remain trapped in floodwaters that reek of sewage. A slick of oil runs atop the water's surface. It's hard to imagine these homes escaping a date with the bulldozer.

"Once they've been in water a few days, it's impossible to save a house," acknowledged Patricia Gay, executive director of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, a citywide nonprofit preservation advocacy group.

DIFFERENT METHODS, DIFFERENT OUTCOMES

About 80 percent of New Orleans was flooded, so it would be easy to conclude that 80 percent of the city will have to be razed. In reality, the floodwaters rose to different heights in different areas, and some houses were far better equipped to defend themselves than others.

In the post–World War II subdivision of Gentilly Woods, where the one-story tract homes on concrete slabs look like something out of northwest suburban Cook County, the floodwaters could race right in. But in the Carrollton area near the Garden District, where homes were built the old-fashioned way, with raised living areas and crawl spaces beneath, the houses were able to ride above floodwaters that reached three to four feet high, judging by the water lines on some buildings.

The contrast between the prewar and postwar neighborhoods is revealing: time moved forward, but building practices went backward. Postwar builders of subdivisions such as Gentilly Woods undoubtedly advertised their homes as the latest in modern conveniences. But Katrina revealed just how primitive they really are.

How should New Orleans be rebuilt, then? Job one should be to give priority to substance over show. It would be folly for the city's leaders to concentrate their efforts on flashy symbolic events, like holding a scaled-down Mardi Gras, rather than nuts-and-bolts matters such as building better neighborhoods and infrastructure.

New Orleans should strictly enforce its building codes, ensuring that new homes sit higher above the street than the ones they replace. The federal government should bankroll the rebuilding of the eroded coastal marshes and barrier islands that would act as shock absorbers against the jolt of future hurricanes. Without such defenses—and the construction of massive floodgates that would provide another line of defense against hurricane-spawned storm surges—New Orleans will be defenseless.

Looking at the side-by-side pictures of New Orleans—extraordinary devastation paired with miraculous survival—and considering the special place that New Orleans holds among America's cities, it is hard to take seriously the arguments of those who say that spending billions of federal dollars to rebuild the city would be throwing good money after bad. To do so would be the ultimate anti-urban snub—a loss for New Orleans but, more importantly, a loss for the nation.

This is not the time to tell New Orleans to drop dead.

POSTSCRIPT

On September 15, 2005, President George W. Bush called for rebuilding the Gulf Coast region, an area that also encompassed the hurricane-devastated Mississippi coastline. "There is no way to imagine America without New Orleans, and this great city will rise again," the president said, speaking before the brightly lit backdrop of St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter. By 2009, the U.S. Census Bureau reported, New Orleans' population had rebounded to 312,000, or 65 percent of its pre-storm total of 484,674. Among those returning to the city were Lower Ninth Ward residents living in single-family homes commissioned by actor Brad Pitt and designed by internationally renowned architects. Pitt optimistically called his post-Katrina rebuilding project "Make It Right."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from TERROR AND WONDER by BLAIR KAMIN Copyright © 2010 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

1 The Urban Drama 1

Disaster 3

Raising Up A Fallen Sky

The Best Way to Fill the Chilling Void in the Lower Manhattan Skyline Is with a Great New Urban Center, Not a Reproduction of the Destroyed Twin Towers 3

Don't Abandon New Orleans

The Big Easy, an American Masterpiece, Deserves to Be Saved; Its Rebuilding Should Stress Substance over Show 7

Security 12

Land Of The Sort-Of Free

In a Nervous City, Places Like the Federal Plaza Run Scared, While the Daley Plaza Hangs Tough 12

Fort Washington

From the Heartland to the Capital, Federal Buildings Put on the Armor of a Nation under Siege 18

Hubs Of Frustration

Airports a Symbol of Our Freedom of Movement Have Become Dehumanizing 25

The Promise And Perils Of Rebuilding 32

A Brilliant Tightrope Walk At Ground Zero

One Plan for the World Trade Center Site Rises above the Rest 32

Tower Of Banal

Latest Freedom Tower Design Erases Original Vision of Remembrance and Renewal 38

Reclaiming The Public Realm 43

A People's Park For The Future

Why Millennium Park Has Instantly and Interactively Established Itself as Chicago's New Town Square 43

The Millennium Park Effect

It Has Emerged as a Sparkling Example of How Big Cities Can Get Big Things Done 49

2 The Building Boom 55

Wretched Excess 57

Monuments To Mediocrity

The Demands of Business Trump the Art of Architecture in a Surge of High-Rise Residential Construction 57

Once Grand, Now Bland

The Boom in Branch Banks Is Shortchanging the Character of Neighborhoods 66

A Mickey D's On Steroids

When Supersize Isn't Necessarily Better 71

A Gallery Of Rogues

For Every Gem Produced by the Long-Running Building Boom, There Are Even More Clunkers 74

Gems Amid The Rough 81

A Sparkling New High-Rise

The Contemporaine, by Ralph Johnson, Heralds the Revival of Modernism 81

Pleasant Dreams

Lighter-Than-Air Serta Headquarters Elevates the Ordinary 85

Waves Of Creativity

The Aqua Tower, by Rising Star Jeanne Gang, Is One of Chicago's Boldest and Best New Skyscrapers 89

Does Supertall Mean Superb? 95

The Donald's Dud

Trump's Skyscraper, Shortened by the Post-9/I I Fear of Heights, Reaches Only for Mediocrity 96

Scaling Aesthetic Heights

The Fordham Spire Adapts to Our World in a Stunning New Way 101

Let's Twist Again

Third Time's the Charm for the Chicago Spire or Is It? 106

How To Build Today's Supertalls

Elegance, Not Machismo, Is Behind Chicago's Unprecedented Reach for the Sky 109

A Skyscraper Of Many Faces

In Trump's Context-Driven Chicago Skyscraper, Beauty Is in the Eye and the Vantage Point of the Beholder 116

Over The Top

The Burj Dubai, the New World's Tallest Building, Shows That Nothing Succeeds Like Excess 122

3 The Age of Icons 129

Cathedrals Of Culture 131

Winged Victory

Santiago Calatrava Marries Sculpture and Structure, and Molds a New Identity for the Milwaukee Art Museum 131

A Musical Ark For Los Angeles

Frank Gehry's Spectacular Disney Hall Draws Energy from the City's Chaos and Steers It toward a New Vision of Community 137

Rocky Mountain Highs And Lows

Daniel Libeskind's Denver Art Museum Addition Is a Striking Urban Presence but Doesn't Soar as a Showcase 142

Blades Of Glass

The New Spertus Institute and Its Gemlike Wall Form a Welcome Counterpoint to Chicago's Michigan Avenue Historic District 146

From Spectacular To Subtle 153

A Brighter Idea

Steven Holl's Bloch Building at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City Redefines the Museum Addition 153

Temple Of Light

Much More Than a Container for Art, Renzo Piano's Refined Modern Wing Opens to Nature and the City 159

A Sidewalk Through The Sky

With Nautical Flourish, the Nichols Bridgeway Connects the Modern Wing of the Art Institute to Millennium Park 164

Big Stars On Campus 168

The New School Of College Design

Can Sexy, Signature Buildings Successfully Fuse Form and Function? 168

Triumphant Homecoming

Helmut Jahn Designs an Illinois Institute of Technology Dorm That Looks Elegantly at Home 173

Standing Out While Fitting In

Thom Mayne's Campus Recreation Center at the University of Cincinnati Is the Latest Piece of an Exemplary Puzzle 177

4 The Changing Faces of Preservation and Conservation 183

New Challenges For Historic Preservation 185

The Danger Of Becoming Skin-Deep

Chicago Historic Buildings Become Shells as New Rules of Preservation Are Letting the City's History Slip Away 185

Healing Process

It's Unclear Whether Cook County Hospital Can or Should Be Saved, but There Hasn't Been a Full Airing of the Question 190

Why Losing Soldier Field's Landmark Status Matters

Uncle Sam Draws a Line, Saving Avant-Garde Architecture from Its Worst Excesses 195

Love It? Hate It? Or Both?

An Architecture Critic Revisits the Building He Despised as a Student and Has a Revelation 200

This Mies Building At IIT Can Go

Squat Brick Structure Isn't the Architect's Best Work, and the Metra Expansion Merits Its Razing 206

Historic Preservation And Green Architecture

Friends or Foes? 209

The Blooming Of Green Architecture 216

Chicago, My Kind Of Green

The Windy City Presents a Snapshot of the Sustainability Movement's Strengths and Shortcomings 216

Starting From "Net Zero"

First-of-Its-Kind Home in Chicago Will Produce as Much Energy as It Uses 221

Temple Of Green

In the Grand Rapids Art Museum, a Measured Approach to Design Reveals That Elegance and Environmentalism Are Not Incompatible 225

5 A New Era and New Challenges 229

Reimagining Regions And Housing 231

Going Forward

Planning for Chicago's Future Requires Burnham-Style Vision and a Big Pair of Green-Tinted Glasses 231

Shortsighted Polemics

The Ideological Catfights over Housing Threaten to Marginalize All of Architecture 240

Cha Polishes Its Rough Edges

Architect Dresses up the Dearborn Homes, Georgian Style, and Upgrades Living Spaces Inside 244

Brick By Brick

Born as a Horse Stable, the Brick Weave House Provides the Perfect Home for a Pair of Urbanite Gearheads 248

The Blessings And Burdens Of Infrastructure 252

A Grander Canyon

The Rebuilt Wacker Drive Has Emerged Not Only Fixed, but Finer 252

Chicago's Second Waterfront

A New Stretch of River Walk Furthers the Dream of Turning a Once-Harsh Industrial Zone into a Prime Public Space 257

New Randolph Street Station Works Within Its Limits

Renovated Transit Hub a Bright Spot in Daily Commute 261

The Way We Move-And Live

America's Infrastructure Crisis Arrives on Chicago's Doorstep 264

High Hopes And Sobering Realities 268

Good-Bye, Icons; Hello, Infrastructure

Obama Inaugurates a New Era of Architecture 268

Back To Basics

Obama's Infrastructure Plan Won't Match the Great New Deal Public Works, but It Moves America in the Right Direction 271

Acknowledgments 275

Illustration Credits 277

Index 281

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