I should have seen it coming.
The biggest story of 2008, in architecture, media, or design, had to be the economy. I don’t know how it could be otherwise, and even the historic election of our 44th president will be forever attached to the economy. As a service profession, architecture is obviously tied to the economy, as evidenced by this article by The New York Times‘ architecture critic Nicolai Ourousoff (I’m still not sure what to make of it.).
Now, I’m not somebody who usually likes making a lot of hoopla about new years, or in particular new year’s eves, but I thought it would be a good time to partake in something else I don’t usually like doing–looking backwards. Not too long ago, it seemed like this economic crisis/downturn/recession/depression/whatever was almost inconceivable. For one of the most poignant examples of this, I like New York Magazine‘s article on outdated investment advice.
But I happened to see something on archinect written by Bryan Boyer, who has his own blog here. Along with other articles written by some of my friends, including Enrique (Enrique’s blog here) and Fred (Fred’s blog here), Bryan talked about the unusual promise of 2009. I have heard other people mention that with the massive layoffs that have been occuring recently, particularly in the finance industry, there is the potentiality for a renewed emphasis on cultural pursuits: a new renaissance of sorts, 1930′s WPA-style. That would go along with this article here, about young finance industry employees who are now pursuing other, more creative things (here’s another).
Now, I don’t mean to be a grinch, but I can’t help but feel like this economic situation may prove to be extremely fruitful–if only it would stay like this for a while. In this way, it was sort of the relief I felt when gas prices spiked a couple of months ago. Certainly, I don’t like paying more for gas than the next person, but it seemed to be the only real and meaningful motivation for non-fossil-fuel energy technology investment. Imagine the next generation involved in technological and entrepreneurial pursuit of new energy sources. It was looking like the night before a brand new day.
Although that brand new day might have been a bit dark. Earlier, in some film notes, I talked about how the turn of this century might match the turn of the previous century, and in turn, both matched the narrative arc of the Classical Greek period. Now, I don’t want to draw attention to my shoddy grasp of history–instead, I’ll talk about where I gleaned some of those ideas–from Vincent Scully.
I got to serve as Vincent Scully’s teaching assistant one semester at Yale, and like so many other people who have been involved with this master, will remain forever touched by his once-in-many-generations inspirational lectures. There are some great stories I could tell you about Professor Scully and other great cultural figures of days past–one in particular about him and James Stirling stands out (such interactions was a part of what was so great about being at Yale).
One of the things Professor Scully spoke about with such passion and eloquence was the shift from Classical Greek art and architecture to Hellenistic. In particular, the physical changes wrought in marble by the political and philosophical events that occured at the height of the Classical period. In my mind, there is no more compelling argument for the existence of ideas in things.
So for 2009, I’m going to tip my metaphorical hat to culture:
To ideas in things.