Martin Filler’s Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III: 
From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin, a collection of his writing on ­architecture in these pages, is out in September.
 (October 2018)


Paris, Texas

Dominique de Menil with artwork by Magritte and others, at the Menil Collection, Houston, 1990

Double Vision: The Unerring Eye of Art World Avatars Dominique and John de Menil

by William Middleton
When I interviewed Dominique Schlumberger de Menil in Houston in 1987 for an article on her recently completed private gallery there by Renzo Piano—the Menil Collection, now universally esteemed as a pinnacle of modern museum architecture*—I found the seventy-nine-year-old collector and philanthropist, who was four decades my senior, to …

Architectural Tragedies

Minoru Yamasaki and his assistant reviewing his model for the World Trade Center, circa 1970

Minoru Yamasaki: Humanist Architecture for a Modernist World

by Dale Allen Gyure
Now that I’m about to turn seventy I finally feel able to reveal a shameful secret: I was a teenage Yamasaki addict. I have no good excuse for why I got hooked, but Minoru Yamasaki was the first contemporary architect who entranced me. I had already begun my architectural self-education …

Between Nouveau and Deco

Wiener Werkstätte, 1903–1932: The Luxury of Beauty

an exhibition at the Neue Galerie, New York City, October 26, 2017–January 29, 2018
The imaginative fervor that gripped avant-garde master builders and artisans around 1900 in Vienna, the capital of the vast and culturally diverse Austro-Hungarian Empire, paralleled equally radical innovation in other creative realms, including the music of Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg, the painting of Gustav Klimt and Oskar Kokoschka, and the writings of Arthur Schnitzler and Sigmund Freud. Yet the singular contributions to the visual arts that the Viennese made during this epoch have never loomed large enough in general chronicles of modernism.

Twelve Ways of Looking at Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive

an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, June 12–October 1, 2017

The Formation of the Japanese Print Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School

an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, April 22–July 23, 2017
Few things are more satisfying in the arts than unjustly forgotten figures at last accorded a rightful place in the canon. Then there are the perennially celebrated artists who are so important that they must be presented anew to each successive generation, a daunting task for museums, especially encyclopedic ones that are expected to revisit the major masters over and over again while finding fresh reasons for their relevance. Yet the Museum of Modern Art’s exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive” was a more hazardous proposition than its universally beloved subject might indicate.


Wagner’s Wonder Woman

Birgit Nilsson as Brünnhilde in the Metropolitan Opera's production of Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung, March 1974

So vivid are my memories of the incomparable Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson (1918–2005)—by general consent the foremost female Wagner exponent in the second half of the twentieth century and my favorite of all the artists I’ve ever seen in live performance—that it came as a shock to realize that this year is her centennial. I was lucky to attend many unforgettable Nilsson evenings during her peak decades, among them an overwhelming 1974 concert version of Richard Strauss’s Salome with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Georg Solti, which, with her in the incendiary title part, nearly blew the roof off Carnegie Hall.

Whirling Mechanical Precisionism

The material on view in “Cult of the Machine” is, to be sure, perennially popular with the general public, which can easily discern simple visual congruities among diverse mediums that all partake in the same visual vocabulary—cocktail shakers that look like skyscrapers, skyscrapers that look like cocktail shakers, paintings that resemble photographs, cars reminiscent of zeppelins. But to a great extent, it all comes down to stylization, and even mere styling, the manipulation of form in the service of image rather than meaning.

The Cutting-Edge Art of Matta-Clark

Gordon Matta-Clark and Gerry Hovagimyan working on Conical Intersect, 1975

Within a very few years, he single-handedly established a new genre of environmental art, in which he used abandoned buildings as raw material and radically transformed them into stunning found sculptures. A prime example was Splitting: Four Corners (1974), in which he took an unoccupied wood-frame house in Englewood, New Jersey, and made a two-story-high vertical incision from the roof to its raised masonry foundation, which caused the rear half to lean back slightly, although the whole did not collapse. 

Times Square Reborn

In today’s America of drastically reduced civic expectations, Snøhetta’s quietly brilliant reconfiguration of Times Square is an exemplar of how much can be achieved in city planning without the gigantic financial outlays and dire social displacements that typified American postwar urban renewal projects. An evident understanding of how people interact in public spaces—above all their desire to be seen as much as to see—made Snøhetta an obvious choice.