Douglas Haskell was once a leading voice in design journalism, always ready to promote unfashionable ideas. Yet he is now largely forgotten.
Intro by Gabrielle Esperdy. Archival Text by Douglas Haskell., May 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 second 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.
When Peter Blake (1920-2006), respected architectural critic and editor, wrote in his memoirs about Douglas Putnam Haskell (1899-1979), respected architectural critic and editor, his Eurocentrism was almost laughable: “He was born the son of an American missionary family while his father, who had been from Ohio, was stationed in some obscure Balkan backwater; and Doug made up for his foreign birth by becoming exaggeratedly American — speaking in a searing Midwestern whine and vehemently defending all things American, irrespective of merits.” At various points the “American things” which Haskell defended included tourist cabins, auto junkyards, Times Square, Disneyland, Rockefeller Center, and Grand Central Terminal, but it’s not clear which offended the German-born Blake more: Haskell’s accent, his Ohio roots, or his immoderate embrace of U.S. culture in an era — the postwar decades — when many intellectuals regarded this as a suspect position. Blake condescendingly described Haskell as “an amiable nut”; but still, there was grudging respect, and a measure of truth, in his characterization of his colleague, with whom he worked on the staff of Architectural Forum, as “an old-fashioned American radical.”.
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Gabrielle Esperdy has been an SAH member since 1992, and serves on Editorial Advisory Committees for SAH-Archipedia and Buildings of the United States.