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, will be published in September.
 (January 2018)


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.

A Mystic Monumentality

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, designed by Louis Kahn and completed in 1965

You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn

by Wendy Lesser

Kahn at Penn: Transformative Teacher of Architecture

by James F. Williamson
In recent years Louis Kahn’s messy personal history has threatened to overshadow his immense professional accomplishments, yet his aura has grown steadily, not just for what he achieved but also because of what has taken place in the built environment since his death. After he almost single-handedly restored architecture’s age-old status as an art form, his legacy was quickly squandered by younger coprofessionals. From the mid-1970s onward they have careened from one extreme, short-lived stylistic fad to the next—Postmodernism, Deconstructivism, Blobitecture—and lost sight of the profound values Kahn wanted to convey: timelessness, solidity, nobility, and repose.

New York’s Vast Flop

Power at Ground Zero: Politics, Money, and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan

by Lynne B. Sagalyn

One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building

by Judith Dupré
The transformation of the World Trade Center site was hampered to a shameful degree by the intransigent self-interest of both individuals and institutions. Although all major construction schemes face tremendous problems, the rebuilding encapsulates everything that is wrong with urban development in a period when, as in so many other aspects of our public life, the good of the many is sacrificed to the gain of the few.


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.

The Puzzle of Irving Penn

Irving Penn: Woman in Chicken Hat (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), 1949

“I’m a surprisingly limited photographer,” Penn insisted to me, “and I’ve learned not to go beyond my capacity. I’ve tried a few times to depart from what I know I can do, and I’ve failed.” Yet it is difficult to deny that Penn was the supreme studio photographer of the twentieth century. His artistry both emerged from and depended on his very specific, highly aestheticized commercial work.

The Best Kind of Princess

Allan Ramsay: Queen Charlotte with her Two Eldest Sons, 1764-1769

The three German Georgian graces who are the focus of the exhibition “Enlightened Princesses: Caroline, Augusta, Charlotte and the Shaping of the Modern World” brought far more to their adopted country than just political stability. They were all exceptionally well educated, intellectually curious, and aesthetically attuned, even by the standards of the day usually reserved for men. This was true especially when it came to the Enlightenment ideas and principles being advanced at the time.