Paul Greenberg

Heavy                                            Light

Hermetic                                      Meshing

Inward views                              Views to landscape

Bounded                                     Unbounded

Directed                                       Open circulation

Single mass                               Transparent lenses

Only one obvious comparison is missing. Original building: Character. New addition: None.

The handout from the architect waxes prosaic. Its 21st century artspeak is a typical specimen of the ersatz language one finds engraved on museum walls these days like so much verbal mold. The statement makes up for what it lacks in precision by its sheer, free-flowing volume, much like the wormy architecture of the new addition itself. Consider this sample: (Braceyourself.)

"As visitors move through the new addition, they will experience a flow between light, art, architecture and landscape, with views from one level to another, from inside to outside. The threaded movement between the light-gathering lenses of the new addition weaves the new building with the landscape in a fluid dynamism based on a sensitive relationship to its context. Rather than an addition of a mass, the new elements exist incomplementary contrast with the original 1933 classical 'Temple of Art.' "

All of which sounds like just a bunch of fluid dynamism to me. The final touch is those superfluous quotation marks around Temple of Art. This kind of wordwurst would be incomplete without them, like a greasy salami without those whitish specks of pure fat embedded in the indistinguishable ingredients.

To translate the press release into plain English, which is a rare commodity these days in the art world or anywhere else, the new addition augments the neo-classical with the nondescript.

The effect from the outside is equally appalling, even obscene - as if along stretch of bowel had been flung off the operating table and missed thepail, winding up instead in what once had been a lovely garden.

The great thing about the new addition is supposed to be its translucence, the way it admits the outdoor light. The wistful glow of a fall afternoon fading into evening is indeed beautiful. But why would anyone want to filter it through this huge, milky intestine?

There's a reason for continuity in architecture - for why new additions to the old should be in the same style, or at least not clash with it. There's a reason for restraint in art. But we may not remember it till restraint is gone. Then the reason for it becomes all too apparent. Even translucent.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


 


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