Long Live Shadows

Mar. 6, 2008
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What in Mies' name can explain our obsession with glass? Ever since the God of Detail himself began wrapping his buldings with the stuff it seems to have retained a vice-grip on the designer's imagination. At best its proliferation in new buildings exhibits a most unhealthy sort of exhibitionism; at worst it represents the self-imposted exile of the imagination. Take that new Amtrak Building. It's one of countless examples of how transparency is regarded as the natural antidote to an grave and oppressive enviroment. Sure it lets a lot of light but at what cost? At the cost of any sort of dynamic architectural personality.


And to me that captures in one sharp and brittle nutshell the problem with glass: The way it's often used as a kind of botoxed skin stretched tight across a structure allows nowhere for the imagination to take root, no corners undisturbed by equal and unvarying light where our fancy can play. Talking to Gil Snyder (associate professor at SARUP) lent my grumpy diatribe against glass a contemporary cultural perspective. "It's a Facebook world we live in" he said (or something to that context); that obsession with transparency, of exhibiting every aspect of our existence as though we've an entralled audience always at our beck and call, is almost becoming a cultural ideal. Long live the shadows! Without them the edges  of our existence become lamentably blurred...


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