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Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Life of an Architecture Critic in New York

Colony Club
January 20th, 2010

Good evening. You know, Sir Henry Wotton used to say that critics are like brushers of noblemen’s clothes, according to Francis Bacon.

Not to be outdone, Lord Byron wrote that one might

As soon seek roses in December, ice in June,
Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff
Believe a woman or an epitaph
Or any other thing that’s false
Before you trust in critics.

I would like to think that they were really talking about literary critics – but Sir Henry Wotton was a frequent commentator on architecture, and Byron, while surely not directing his observations toward architecture, does not seem to have limited them to literary criticism, either. So there you have it – be forewarned.

The somewhat far-reaching title of this talk comes, as you have heard, from one of the two books I’ve recently published: Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture. But that title, in turn, came from a talk I gave not too long ago that was intended to be something of a memoir, looking back on what is now more than thirty years as an architecture critic in New York, writing about the best and the worst of architecture both here and elsewhere. I liked that title—when you come up with a good title, I always say stick to it—and so when the time came last year to assemble many of my pieces and essays into a book, I decided to use it again for the book. Over the next few minutes, what I’d like to do is both to look back at some of the things I have written and why, and talk in a general way about the business of being an architecture critic today, and then say a bit more specifically about this book and about the other book that has been published recently, Why Architecture Matters.

In any case, I have to admit that I find the very notion of reviewing one’s professional life somewhat disconcerting, not because I doubt the value of reflection and retrospection, but because I would like to think of myself as still on the near side of the career arc. But not long ago I happened to be attending a meeting in an office on a high floor of a relatively new midtown skyscraper – a very dull meeting, I should say – and I spent more time than I should looking out the window. Of course whenever I am in a place like that I spend more time than I should looking out the window; that is my professional prerogative, and I can say that I am not daydreaming but working. There are definitely some compensations to being an architecture critic. In any case, since we are among friends here I will admit that at that particular moment that what I was doing was probably closer to daydreaming than research, but I was struck by the chilling realization that more than half – indeed, something like two-thirds – of the tall buildings I could see out this window had been constructed since I came to New York City in 1972. That is not all that long ago, or at least I am not accustomed to thinking it is long ago. But it is. In 1972, Lever House was not yet twenty. The Seagram Building was a mere adolescent of fourteen. The Landmarks Preservation Commission was six years old, and had barely begun its work. The buildings of Rockefeller Center were about thirty-five years old, and the Empire State Building was only a little more than forty – almost a decade younger than Avery Fisher Hall is today.

I say all of this not to shift the subject of this talk to aging, although I have to admit it is tempting to do so – not too long ago when my youngest son enrolled at Yale, he told me he did not want to live in Eero Saarinen’s Ezra Stiles College, where I lived when I was a student, in the late 1960’s when these 1962 buildings were almost brand-new. My son explained to me that these buildings are no longer considered the new, fresh places; in fact, they were considered to be about the oldest and most tired buildings on the campus by students then. Since then, in fact just last year, they were renovated and restored like so many other buildings on the Yale campus, but I realized that my son was entirely right: Saarinen’s buildings, which symbolized newness to me and my generation, were then older than most of James Gamble Rogers’s great Gothic buildings of Yale were when I was a student. After all, in 1968 many of the Gothic colleges were only forty years old, give or take a few years. Now the modern buildings of Yale are a lot older than that.

What does all of this prove, beyond the not-very-profound facts that time goes on and that we go on with it? I mention all of this because we inevitably view architecture not only in a physical context, but also in a context of time: our own evolution and the larger evolution of culture over time. I said a moment ago that I was stunned to realize how much of the New York I looked at out the window had been created since I came here to live thirty-seven years ago, and I want to ponder the implications of that for a moment, or at least think about what implications it may have beyond the fact that I have no choice but to admit that I have been around for a while.

The New York I came to in 1972 was conceptually a smaller city. It wasn’t physically smaller, of course, and its population wasn’t smaller – in fact, until relatively recently, when things began to turn upwards again, it was even slightly larger in terms of numbers of residents. But if you were an upper middle class white person who lived what a few years later would come to be called the life of a yuppie, your city was relatively confined – Manhattan south of 96th Street, and not all of that, either. You might journey to the Lower East Side as a historical curiosity, but not to live there, or to visit anyone who lived there. You were unlikely to go to Chelsea beyond looking at the General Theological Seminary or a couple of brownstone blocks; the world west of Tenth Avenue was not worth exploring, save maybe to see the great Starrett-Lehigh Building, which in those days was nearly derelict. So, too, with so much of the waterfront – not the active and for the most part appealing park that we have now along the Hudson, where I can today ride my bicycle all the way from the Upper West Side to the Battery, but mostly a rotten elevated highway beside abandoned and often rather scary piers. You might cross the great divide of 96th Street to check out Striver’s Row, the extraordinary blocks of great townhouses on West 137th and West 138th Streets, or Harlem River Houses, the remarkable public housing project, or Graham Court, the precursor to the Apthorp Apartments at 116th Street – but again, probably not to live there, or to visit someone who did. And many streets that you did pass through as you went about your day-to-day business, like Second Avenue on the Upper East Side, or Broadway on the Upper West Side, or Times Square, or West 42nd Street, were very different from the way they are now – the blocks of Second Avenue more lined with tenements, just beginning to disappear, block by block, for high-rise apartments; upper Broadway more the world of Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet than the cleaned-up boulevard of Coach and L’Occitaine and Barney’s that we see today; and of course everyone knows the saga of Times Square. I remember in my first years at The New York Times never seeing anyone else wearing a suit and tie walking around on the streets of that neighborhood, because no one else worked there. Sometimes you barely saw anyone on the sidewalks. Now, of course, half the time there isn’t room to walk, period.

This is not an ode to gentrification – my purpose is not to say how awful it once was, and how good it is now, because we know it is hardly so simple as that. Much has been lost at Times Square, tragically and utterly lost, even as we have the gain of cleaner, safer streets. I was amazed to hear a friend who lives in one of the grandest buildings on Fifth Avenue tell me the other day that his daughter had just rented an apartment on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side, probably around the corner from where her great-grandmother in all likelihood lived when she emigrated to this country, my friend said, ruefully observing that this marked some kind of coming full circle, although precisely how, and what it meant, he was not sure. We do know that a certain kind of Lower East Side has been lost, even as we partake of the benefits of the new prosperity there, we pay a price, too.

But I talk about all of this right now to make a different point. It is to say that we tend, I think, to view change in the city as something that happens on a very long arc, to think of how the city has changed from our parents’ day, or our grandparents’ – or, in the case of this family that went from the Lower East Side to Fifth Avenue and back to the Lower East Side, our great-great grandparents’ day. We are accustomed to thinking about how the New York of our time is different from the New York of a century ago, which of course is so. But what I am trying to say is that the New York of our time is also not the same as the New York we ourselves started in—in other words, change has happened at a much more rapid pace than we often like to admit, and the city changes out from under us, dramatically and powerfully, even as we are experiencing it. We think we are on a firm and solid foundation, in a fixed environment that evolves slowly, but we are in fact on a foundation of shifting sands, changing beneath us even as we stand upon it. Every one of us in this room, if we’ve been here for more than a couple of years, has experienced several different New Yorks – maybe that is the clearest way to put it.

And this is so even with the strong hand of the Landmarks Preservation Commission exerting itself upon city form – a commission that was not quite seven years old when I came to New York, and is now getting close to forty-five. I shudder to think what New York would be like had the law creating the landmarks commission not been passed in 1965. It has actually turned out to be our most important piece of land-use legislation since the 1916 legislation that created the first zoning laws. Even though the purpose of our landmarks legislation was technically the relatively narrow one of designating certain places of historic value, the effect it has had on our overall city form has been profound.
I am not complaining about the pace of change, by the way, or lamenting it – a living city is an organic thing and must change to live, and our challenge is to manage that change to the greatest extent possible, not to deny it or flail about in some futile attempt to stop it. Our success or failure as a city will not be measured by the extent of change, or by the pace of it, but by the quality of it, and by how well we have managed it, and by how fair the tradeoffs are, by the measure of what we gain versus what we lose.

My real point is to say that Old New York isn’t only that ancient city that we think of as disconnected from us – the city of Edith Wharton, if that is the image that speaks most vividly to you, or the city of Stanford White or the city of Jimmy Walker or even the city of John Lennon. Never mind thinking of historic New York as being the land of Peter Stuyvesant. The city all of us lived in, a very short time ago – that is Old New York. There are hedge-fund traders buying condominium apartments in New York today who weren’t born when John Lennon was alive and living in the Dakota. At least until a year ago, when things of course began to change, those hedge-fund traders were no doubt buying their real estate in Williamsburg, where just a short time ago the very notion of condominiums was an oxymoron. The city of our own memories is actually the city of the past.

I was reminded of this not long ago when I came across an article I wrote in The Wall Street Journal, where I spent one of my college summers as an intern. The subject of the story was the fact that middle-class people were buying and fixing up brownstones in this odd, little-known place called Park Slope. The year was 1971, and all of this was a very new notion at that moment. The bankers weren’t being very cooperative, because they thought this crazy Park Slope was too risky, and didn’t understand why these nice, middle-class people wouldn’t go to Larchmont, where they would be happy to offer them a mortgage. Looking back at it, I suppose that marked my beginnings not so much as an architecture critic – since it was not a piece of architecture criticism – as it did my interest in chronicling the evolution of the urban fabric, and my recognition that architecture could not be seen in isolation from that constantly changing fabric.

When I went to The New York Times in 1972, I was lucky enough to have the chance to do all kinds of writing about buildings – first, on a freelance basis, since my first job was as a very, very junior, very, very assistant editor at The New York Times Magazine. I wrote about architecture to keep my mind engaged, since I found that I wasn’t terribly interested in editing articles about the political currents of eastern Europe, or, more often still in doing what I had to do as the low man on the totem pole, reading through the slush pile of unsolicited manuscripts. So I wrote about Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who were relatively unknown to general readers at the time, and John Portman, who did the first Hyatt Regency Hotel with a central atrium, and about the idea that there was real architecture to be found at Walt Disney World – I was nothing if not catholic in my interests.

I then had the good luck of being tapped to become the daily architecture critic of The Times – an offer that I suspect owed less to my talent than to my eagerness and enthusiasm, and the fact that I was already there, and the fact that I was young, and was not going to pose much of a threat to Ada Louise Huxtable, who had been the architecture critic for a decade at that point, and was about to move up to the editorial board. She was remaining as the senior architecture voice on the paper, and a junior one was needed. And there I was.

I then proceeded to have the time of my life, for the next seventeen years. I started out just by covering the buildings that most interested me – some were new, like the new police headquarters downtown behind City Hall, the first review I wrote; others were old, like the McGraw-Hill building on West 42nd Street, which was about to be abandoned for McGraw-Hill’s new headquarters on Sixth Avenue. Nobody in those days understood what an essential piece of American architectural history this building was. So I wrote an ode to it, which the paper headlined “Green Building Is a White Elephant.”
The thrill of that time – and what I am about to say underscores as much as anything I said earlier how much the world has changed – the excitement was simply in the discovery of design and architecture and how much they were a part of life. You could write about anything connected to design and architecture and it seemed fresh. Today everybody knows the old McGraw-Hill Building, but then to write about it was novel. And so I wrote about awful spec-built apartment buildings and preservation issues and about the design of objects from paper clips to cookies, and I wrote about light and about why people cared about architecture and about why they didn’t, and about how much architecture could actually mean. I didn’t think I was doing anything except write about what interested me. As I look back, I think there was a kind of innocence, not to say earnestness, to the things I did in my first decade at The Times – I didn’t have a particular ideological stance other than loving the experience of wonderful buildings and wanting to communicate that, and of being disappointed when things weren’t better, and being willing to write that, too.

I would hope that I have gotten a bit beyond this innocence by now, although I hope that thirty-plus years in the combined battlegrounds of New York real estate and New York journalism haven’t robbed me of all earnestness. I still do feel—and this is the subject of the other current book, Why Architecture Matters—that the essential thing about architecture is experience, and not theory. To that point, I think that too much criticism is ideologically based. The challenge, I felt at the beginning and still believe, is not to promote any narrow theory, but to articulate standards and maintain them without using an ideological yardstick. If it didn’t sound hopelessly pompous, I would say that the purpose of criticism in the general media is to create a better educated, more critically aware, more visually literate constituency for architecture, and thus, presumably, increase society’s demand for good design. Now, since I don’t want to sound hopelessly pompous, I won’t say that. I am not here to advocate for architecture critics who parade around as missionaries, believing that they are saving the world, or rescuing it from the sins of ignorance.

Still, at the end of the day, this whole notion isn’t so far from the truth. It isn’t the only reason people like me do what we do, but it is a big part of it, and while it is important not to get carried away with your importance, and to believe that you are there to provide enlightenment for the unenlightened masses, it is equally important not to forget that a substantial part of what a critic does is to educate. If you believe in education, and you believe in what we can call visual literacy, and you believe that there is some way in which design can make the quality of life and the quality of community better, then you have to believe that this is at least part of why design criticism exists, and why it is essential that the profession not talk only to itself.

If a large part of our jobs is to provide a kind of bridge, you might call it, between the profession and the public, I think it is worth talking about what goes across that bridge, and what role a critic should have in policing it. Maybe a bridge is actually the worst possible analogy, because the last thing a critic should be providing is unfettered passage in both directions. A critic isn’t just the bridge itself; he or she is also the traffic cop in front of the bridge, selecting and limiting what gets across, or there is no point to his or her existence. While it is important for a critic to demonstrate enthusiasm and convey his or her enthusiasm to readers – I do not think we have ever done better than Matthew Arnold’s definition of criticism as “a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world” – we all know that everything is not worthy of advocacy, of propagation, and that the critic has to be a filter of ideas. He or she has to determine what goes across that bridge and how, since the most important quality a critic provides, in the end, is judgment. In a wise critic that judgment is tempered by enthusiasm, although surely many critics could be described more in terms of having enthusiasm tempered by judgment – and I think the difference between those two speaks more to the personality of individual critics rather than to any critical or journalistic imperative – anyway, whether it is judgment tempered by enthusiasm or enthusiasm tempered by judgment, a critic needs both of these qualities to be of any value.
Both judgment and enthusiasm are ways of expressing love, and a critic who does not love his field cannot last long in it. To love the thing – whether we call it architecture, design, planning or whatever – and also to love what it means in other people’s lives, and not only your own is, I think it is fair to say, a further prerequisite to functioning well as a journalistic critic. I don’t mean to be drifting toward the missionary’s identity here; maybe what I am really trying to say is that a critic’s role, among other things, is to be a kind of interpreter, to communicate his love of things and in so doing, instill love in others.

Now, I realize that all of this sounds a little touchy-feely, or maybe a little soft in the head. It definitely feels distant from the notion that the point of this realm of journalism is to be tough, and judgmental, and to expose the wretchedness of ninety-nine percent of what gets built in this country, not to mention to expose the rampant inequities in redevelopment schemes, and the horrendous lack of a housing policy in this country, or the failure of planners to create a viable public realm in cities today. Well, yes, and the critic who is only an enthusiast risks being seen, like Browning’s duchess, as “too soon made glad, too easily impressed.” To go back to our title for a moment, tearing down is as much a part of this job as building up. As I look back at what I have done in The New Yorker in the last couple of years, I think several of the negative pieces – whether on the Westin Hotel at Times Square by Arquitectonica, or the Astor Place condominium by Gwathmey Siegel, or the Atlantic Yards project by Frank Gehry, or the Prada store in Soho by Rem Koolhaas, which I compared unfavorably to the Toys ‘r Us store in Times Square – all of these have had at least as much impact as the positive pieces I’ve written. I could not face myself if I hadn’t written them, and others like them. Now, because The New Yorker does not as a matter of policy try to cover everything – because we are selective, both for reasons of limited space and editorial judgment – the decision to write a negative piece has a special weight. We need to believe that there is something important enough to say in a negative piece to justify giving a building one of the few precious slots in the magazine for an essay on architecture. After all, we can always simply ignore a building, since we are going to end up ignoring most of them anyway.

But it is important that criticism never appear to be guided by what we might call the Kindly Grandmother’s Rule – in other words, if you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. At The New Yorker, because we are so selective in what we write about, I am always a little worried that people may think we are operating on the Kindly Grandmother’s Rule of criticism, skipping things to avoid being negative. In reality, we pass on subjects because they do not present any significant issues that can inspire an interesting and provocative short essay, not because I don’t like them. Where there is a meaningful essay, we are more than happy to dive right in. I wrote about the Astor Place building not to be critical of Charlie Gwathmey, an architect who I generally admired, but to make a point about the glib and superficial modernist work now being done by developers in the condo market, and about the way in which architecture has been conscripted into the process of marketing. In some ways the Westin hotel piece – which had as its subhead, under the headline, “Is this the ugliest building in New York?” – was written to inquire into what constitutes vulgarity today, and also to make a similar point to the Gwathmey piece, about the way in which architects with serious design intentions can become compromised by the commercial development process. By the way, I know that the announcement for this talk promised my three favorite buildings and two least favorite—I suppose you’ve just gotten the two least favorite, at least among recent ones here in New York.

The compromising of more serious design intentions by other concerns—commercial and political ones—was, of course, the issue with the long and painful process of rebuilding Ground Zero, which ultimately became the basis for my earlier book, Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture and the Rebuilding of New York. Here it all came together – social issues, political, architectural, and cultural. How much could architecture do to heal society’s wounds? How much should it do? Did architecture expect too much of itself, or did society expect too much of architecture? This is not the time to talk about this subject in the depth it deserves, or to answer these questions; suffice it to say that when I wrote the book, in 2004, I ended it on a note of ambiguity, since despite all the problems it seemed as if things could go either way, and I had a sense of cautious optimism that we might, in fact, be able to produce a plausible, if flawed, architectural response to the conflicting demands of commemorating horrendous tragedy and loss of life, and renewing and revitalizing the city. When I wrote a new chapter to bring the second edition up to date in 2005, the tone was far more negative, since the process had grown only more political and less promising in its results. And now, more than four years after that, I look at that Afterword added to the second edition and I think, why was I so positive? Things have only gotten worse still, by far. Now we are farther away than ever from anything other than an embarrassing compromise in which the ambitions of architecture have been pretty much hijacked for political and commercial purposes.

I will never know – none of us will ever know – how much effect criticism can have in such situations. But I remain certain that, as I said earlier, that the answer is not in criticism that exists solely to promote a single theory or ideology of architecture. I think a key difference between an architect and a critic – or a theoretician and a critic – is that the former has a right, even an obligation, to proceed from a theoretical viewpoint, and no such obligation exists for a critic. Indeed, the opposite is true – a critic should not believe that there is only one right way to do things. That belief – that there is only one correct solution to a problem – strengthens the work of the architect. You do not want an architect who sees too many ways to go, and does not feel a passionate drive toward one of them. But that kind of worldview weakens the work of the critic, who needs to proceed from a pluralist position, at least nominally, or he forfeits his ability to interpret, explain and judge the wide range of work that is there to be seen, and to be talked about.

But a critic has to stand for something, obviously. He cannot proceed from the view that anything is acceptable so long as it is well done. So how do you combine an absence of rigid ideology with some guiding principles that are necessary for criticism? The answer, I think, lies in the difference between what we might call social or moral or ethical issues, and aesthetic ones, from the recognition of the difference between issues of social and political responsibility and issues of aesthetic choice. A critic can and should establish a set of social and political principles that define his judgment, and act as a foundation for his criticism. The challenge is to hold onto these principles and at the same time to remain open to a broader range of aesthetic responses to these principles than any one architect might have, and then to be able to judge these different aesthetic responses on their own terms. I believe architecture exists in a social and political context, and almost always needs to be judged within that context. I think the pieces in Building Up and Tearing Down bear this out.
For a long time, critics yearned for an age when people paid attention to architecture, when society cared about it. Beware of what you wish for, as they say, for we have now gotten that wish; it is not by accident that the subtitle of Building Up and Tearing Down is Reflections on the Age of Architecture—“The” age of architecture, not “an” age of architecture. We have gotten our wish; we have been wallowing in architecture, or at least we were until the economy crashed, but even before the music stopped, we were beginning to learn the painful truth, which is that lots of wonderful buildings by talented architects do not, in and of themselves, bring us to the Promised Land. If we once expected too little of architecture, I fear that today, we may expect too much of it. It is worth remembering, if I can slip now into some of the ideas in Why Architecture Matters, that architecture does not cure cancer, and it does not put bread on the table. It is not justice in the courtroom, or peace on the battlefield. If there is anything that architecture critics and journalists need to be mindful of today, it is that architecture does not solve all of our problems. It does not sustain life. But like all art—and architecture is art, even as it is also not art, since the paradox of its having a functional purpose and an aesthetic purpose at the same time, and of having to balance these contradictory things, is at the very heart of its being, at the very core of its meaning—anyway, like all art, architecture can make the already sustained life much more meaningful, much more pleasurable, and it is the critic’s job, in a way, to observe and encourage and support that process.

Paradoxically, where I am most certain of criticism’s impact is in the positive pieces, the celebrations of masterpieces, where one is not affecting policy, or changing the direction of design, so much as one is going back to the roots of educating readers. Again, I don’t want to be a missionary – but there is a special joy to being able to write about, say, the Hearst Building by Norman Foster, the new skyscraper at 57th Street and Eighth Avenue, which turns adventuresome modern structure into an object of great beauty and urbanity; or Renzo Piano’s superb new Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago, not to mention his Morgan Library here in New York, and know that you are helping people understand and appreciate something that they see every day, and that is on some level a part of their lives even if they never go through its doors. So, too, with another building I have been very enthusiastic about—I know you were promised three buildings that were my favorites, and I’ve passed that number but I’m happy to keep going—the re-do of Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center by Diller, Scofidio and Renfro, which turned an awkward, almost hostile nineteen-sixties building into a welcoming, light, comfortable new public building without fully changing or compromising the better aspect of its original qualities. And while I’m on a positive roll, I think I should keep going and cite the High Line, also designed by Diller, Scofidio and Renfro along with the landscape designer James Corner of Field Operations, which has turned an abandoned industrial remnant into the most inviting and exciting new public space in New York in years. It is based very loosely on the Promenade Plantee in Paris, an earlier park built on an abandoned elevated rail line, and this may be the only time in architectural history when we in New York have followed a model from Paris, and done it better.

Let me end with a word about a place I just re-visited so it is fresh in my mind, Disney Hall in Los Angeles, which I genuinely believe is one of the great buildings of our time, and one that surpasses even the Guggenheim at Bilbao. When I did a piece in The New Yorker about Disney Hall a few years ago, just before its opening, my response to it was overwhelmingly positive, although I found myself there doing a couple of things that surprised me a bit. As I wrote I began to answer some of the criticisms that you hear around about Frank Gehry – that the buildings are too much the same, that they are all of a type, that it doesn’t do enough to connect to the surroundings, that it is elitist, etc. etc. In the case of this building these arguments could not be more wrong, and my first instinct was to ignore them, but then I realized that some people actually believe this nonsense, and that perhaps I could perform a service if I crafted a response.

That would also, I might add, give me a chance to say something a bit different, since even when I wrote that piece, five weeks before Disney Hall even opened, the chorus of ecstatic praise was beginning to seem a little much. I didn’t want to contradict it just for the sake of being different, which would have been ridiculous; it would have involved denying how good the building truly is. But neither did I want to disappear into the din of adoration. I also wanted to think about the building as a part of the public realm, to think about what it means as public space – after all, we live in an age of private experience, especially so far as music is concerned, which most people consume via electronic means. The concert hall is basically an old building form, left over from the age when it was the only way in which orchestral music could be delivered. How do you reinvent this building type so that the public experience that it represents will have meaning for an age in which private experiences of music – private experiences of almost every kind, I should say – predominate? My wife and I were at Disney Hall this past weekend, taking our grandchildren, who live in Los Angeles, to an L.A. Philharmonic children’s concert, and I have to say it is every bit as strong a building as it was six years ago.

And it is great to see it through the eyes of a seven year old and a three-year old, to whom space is inherently exciting, and a perpetual process of discovery. It made me realize that the truly remarkable thing about this building is its ability to embrace a kind of childlike freshness and sense of wonder, to instill those things in far more jaded adult eyes, while not at any point indulging in simple, obvious, or sentimental gestures. Disney Hall is not Disneyland, by any stretch of the imagination—it represents something far more profound, and far more hopeful.

Architecture, that particular visit last Saturday reminded me, is about the making of place, and the making of memory. Architecture gives us joy if we are lucky, and it gives us satisfaction and comfort, but it also connects us to our neighbors, since the architecture of a town or a city is the physical expression of common ground. In an age when so many of our contacts are virtual, when we often live in the virtual world of computers, architecture is a constant reminder of the urgency, of the meaning, and of the value of the real—for every generation, but particularly for those who grow up in a digital world. Buildings are not just inanimate objects; they are occasions for human contact, and shapers of human contact, which makes them a living part of our world. It is for this more than anything that architecture matters.

Thank you very much.

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