Martin Filler is the author, most recently, of Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume II: From Le Corbusier to Rem Koolhaas, a collection of his writing on architecture in these pages.
 (December 2016)


Building Dreams and Nightmares

Although America long ago had a Virginia architect as president—Thomas Jefferson—never until this year had someone reached its highest office from the considerably less elevated realms of New York real-estate development, Atlantic City casinos, and TV reality shows. Grotesque though the rise of Donald Trump has seemed to many, his political ascendance has struck those of us who love architecture as a particularly personal affront, given our familiarity with his forty-year record as the foremost architectural schlockmeister and urban design vulgarian of his generation.

A Masterpiece at Ground Zero

The National September 11 Memorial, New York City, designed by Michael Arad
I wept, but about what precisely I cannot say. Much to my amazement, after having done everything possible to shut out the ubiquitous maudlin press coverage that engulfed the tenth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, I visited Michael Arad’s National September 11 Memorial in New York City—which was dedicated …

The Bird Man

Santiago Calatrava: Sculpture into Architecture

Santiago Calatrava: Clay and Paint, Ceramics and Watercolors

The flashy contours, flamboyant engineering effects, and mechanical gimmickry of the Calatrava style are futuristic in a way that went out of fashion circa 1965, when the last New York World’s Fair closed. The seemingly advanced (though in fact retrograde) aspects of his architecture disguise its underlying sentimentality, and make it palatable to patrons of a certain sophistication who would reject more pronounced expressions of kitsch.


The Brutal Dreams That Came True

Concrete Concept: Brutalist Buildings Around the World

by Christopher Beanland

Brutalism Resurgent

edited by Julia Gatley and Stuart King
Literature that takes a wistful backward glance at the outmoded manners and mores of the previous forty or fifty years has a direct parallel in architecture. Time and again we have seen reawakened interest in the disdained buildings of two generations earlier, a span still within living memory but not quite yet history.

The Quiet Power of Maya Lin

The Riggio-Lynch Chapel, designed by Maya Lin for the Children’s Defense Fund, Haley Farm, Clinton, Tennessee, 2004; from aya Lin: Topologies

Creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial: The Inside Story

by Robert W. Doubek

Memorials to Shattered Myths: Vietnam to 9/11

by Harriet F. Senie
Lin came of professional age at the conjunction of two immense changes in architectural culture: the increasing acceptance of women in a field that had long restricted them to subsidiary roles, and a renewed sense that what during the modern period had come to be seen primarily as a technical discipline was an art form as well.


A Higher Form of High-Rise

Alexander Gorlin Architects’ Boston Road Supportive Housing (2016), Bronx, New York

The strong social underpinnings of Alexander Gorlin’s new building, Boston Road Supportive Housing, give it a significance beyond mere good looks. A substantial part of his practice is now devoted to pro-bono collaborations with Breaking Ground—a private organization founded (as Common Ground) in 1990 to help alleviate homelessness with housing that reintegrates residents into the community through social service support rather than simply sheltering them.

The Diva of Delusion

Hugh Grant, Lloyd Hutchinson, Meryl Streep, and Simon Helberg in Stephen Frears's Florence Foster Jenkins, 2016

Florence Foster Jenkins offers some marvelous set pieces, including Meryl Streep’s hilariously inept version of “The Laughing Song” from Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus. Regrettably, the film avoids probing the degree to which money can insulate untalented artists from realizing that they are no good at what they do.

A Miracle in New York Harbor

West 8’s Discovery and Outlook Hills, with the Statue of Liberty in the distance, Governors Island, New York, 2016

In symbolic terms, the completion of the brilliant architectural transformation of Governors Island could not have come at a more opportune moment. During a season when mindless hatred against immigrants runs rampant in our land, the vista from Outlook Hill offers an instructive panorama. With the view comes an implication of how the lives of the twelve million women, men, and children who passed through Ellis Island were immeasurably improved by American citizenship, to say nothing of those of their hundreds of millions of descendants.

Tales of Three Cities

Intersection of rue de Seine and rue de l'Échaudé: circa 1924 by Eugène Atget (left), 1997 by Christopher Rauschenberg (right), from the new paperback edition of Christopher Rauschenberg's

The then-and-now approach to urban criticism took root during the nineteenth century, more or less simultaneously with the invention of photography, and has continued up to the present. But a larger question raised by images of Paris, London, and New York architecture across long periods of time is how the cities’ occupants themselves have changed.