Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ouroussoff Loves The New Berkeley Museum. Only Problem: It Doesn't Exist.

No doubt architecture critic Nicholai Ouroussoff is right -- if they ever get around to building the new Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive that Toyo Ito has designed, it'll be freaking amazing.

But there's no getting around the fact that Ouroussoff's review this morning was of a pile of beautifully rendered mockups of a building that doesn't -- and may never -- actually exist.

This tiny caveat doesn't keep the critic from swooning over the building's sublime majesty. Somehow, Ouroussoff has looked at the mockups and convinced himself he's actually been inside the place! He rhapsodizes:

...the three-story structure suggests an intoxicating architectural dance in which the push and pull between solitude and intimacy, stillness and motion, art and viewer never ends. Its contoured galleries, whose honeycomb pattern seems to be straining to contain an untamed world, would make it a magical place to view art.

Is that something a critic can tell from looking at blueprints and photographs, or even three-dimensional mockups? That seems a stretch. Anyway, Ouroussoff tells us only that he has based his review on "renderings."

What's next? Maybe Manohla Dargis will start reviewing movies from their screenplays, and Ben Brantley can begin attending table readings for prospective Broadway shows.

Ouroussoff has an interesting point to make in his piece this morning -- that this new building doesn't deserve to fall prey to the economic downturn that threatens new construction everywhere. But it seems a bit much to measure the true potential of an architect's design before building has begun, before paintings have been hung, and before a single person has walked through its doors.

How will this new structure truly interact with its environment? That can't be known until it's finished. An architect's rendering creates an ideal that isn't always achieved by those who execute the vision. That's a fact Ouroussoff well knows, but this morning has conveniently chosen chose to ignore.

1 comment:

Norman Oder said...

Ouroussoff and (even more so) his predecessor Herbert Muschamp enthused over plans for Forest City Ratner's far-from-being-built Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn. See: