SAH News

Places Journal: Future Archive: “An architecture which is whole”, Keith Eggener & Vincent Scully

by Keith Eggener | Jun 26, 2015
Left behind in the Internet era is a rich store of material in print which has limited cultural presence because it has limited digital presence. Here we present the third installment of the series Future Archive, consisting of the online republication of significant 20th-century writings on design, with each text selected and introduced by a prominent scholar. The series is funded by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Introduction by Keith Eggener, Archival text by Vincent Scully 

“Preacher, magician, and conjurer” “The main entrance stair on York Street … lifts grandly … It is open to the sky between the towering, overhanging cliffs that rise on both sides of it: the body of the building to the left, the major stair and elevator tower to the right. … An exhilarating wind whistles through it and up as well. … This is the most dramatic entrance in the United States of America, bar none.” 1

So wrote Vincent Scully in the Architectural Review in the spring of 1964, in a critique of Paul Rudolph’s then new Art and Architecture Building at Yale University. Academic architectural historians don’t write like this anymore, not even when acting as critics. It’s not so much the descriptive immediacy or metaphorical aptitude that strike the modern reader, though these too are rare enough. Rather, it’s the author’s confidence, his presumption of irrefutability: the superlative “most,” the full national moniker, the conclusive “bar none.” To doubt him would be foolish or rude, possibly treasonous.

Vincent Scully often and unabashedly used such terms: the most, the best, the worst. But in recent decades we architectural historians have become a more cautious tribe, at least when it comes to separating personal opinion from universal truth. So the audacity of his pronouncements both repels and fascinates. Read more here

Read full series of articles here

Keith Eggener has been an SAH member since 1987;  Vincent Scully was made an SAH Fellow in 2009.

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