"Loathsome, inhuman edifices"

Or what we generally refer to as "Stalinist architecture."  The Daily Caller puts the spotlight on "U. Gly" -- the university campuses whose design makes them "flawed slices of hell."  They remind me of the stuff my church's architecture firm churns out. 

I'm surprised they didn't include the University of Houston, full of truly hideous examples:

Rice University is another matter entirely.  I still have such fond memories of the old loggias there that they figure prominently in my dreams:


Grim said...

Thank goodness the University of Georgia is a university of the old fashion. But what would you expect? It was founded in 1785.

Texan99 said...

Rice was founded very recently, in 1912, but self-consciously modeled after Princeton (mid-18th century).

As far as I can tell, UH was modeled after a cross between WalMart and the Kremlin.

Grim said...

Actually, they probably paid their architects a lot of money: those look like classic examples of Bauhaus architecture to me. There was a time, between the world wars, when that school was in the highest demand.

Texan99 said...

There is beautiful Bauhaus architecture in the world. This is crap by hacks.

Grim said...

I'm hard to impress with Bauhaus stuff. It all looks like crap by hacks to me.

On the other hand, it's worth noting that they had what they took to be an ethical goal motivating the horrid stuff. The claim was that steel and concrete were vastly cheaper than traditional building materials (e.g., thatched roofs), allowing the poor to move from ramshackle and tiny homes into wide, clean spaces, more secure from the weather. The idea was to build cheaply so as to improve the condition of many people, giving everyone access to a modern home with its safety and convenience.

So there's that, to set against the soullessness of what they wrought. They meant well, and didn't realize their concrete would likewise nicely pave a bit of the road to Hell.

douglas said...

I think that loggia is so powerful to you because it's designed in the classical way with proportions and rhythms that echo organic structures. The familiarity of that is comforting, as well as perhaps the styling, but I'd argue that is less important.

The UH examples, as well as much of the stuff in that link aren't Bauhaus, they're brutalist (so they could be considered Stalinist). This comes from a socialist utopian ideology, so it's the perfect example of when you do something one size fits all, it has to come down to the lowest common denominator- it has to look like it by and for poor workers, or it's too bourgeoius. Instead of being protective and 'integrating', it's ponderous and off-putting.

I'm not sure that what is commonly referred to as 'bauhaus' is. The original bauhaus idea was a transposition of the Arts and Crafts ideas of people like William Morris into the new industrial materials and techniques of production of the 20th century.
Where in the Arts and Crafts a house made of brick should have the brick left exposed instead of stuccoed, as this reveals the structure and character of the house, the bauhaus was interested in composition that revealed the method of making and the function ('form follows function' comes from bauhaus). There's probably a good deal you could like in bauhaus ideas if not the designs themselves, and perhaps some of the designs too. There was a tremendous influence on the designs of housewares from the bauhaus. I think Eva Zeisel's ceramics housewares are quite beautiful, and are almost an icon of the bauhaus. I also find Marcel Breuer's lounge chair quite attractive.

Eventually, people discern a 'style' from it and produce lots of junk that isn't necessarily 'bauhaus' but get tagged that way regardless. The 'style' stuff misses the mark, but there is good bauhaus work.

Texan99 said...

The detailed decorative style of the loggias is charming to me, too, but what stuck in my consciousness enough to show up in my dreams was more the proportions, as you said, and the organization of outdoor spaces or transitional shady-but-open spaces between the outdoor quads and the buildings. Anyway, for whatever reason, I've always been a sucker for colonnades and galleries and all kinds of walkways attached to buildings. They make me feel at home. Rivendell instead of Mordor.

There's not a single building on the UH campus that's inviting to walk up to. The whole place is just a soul-sucking ordeal.

Anonymous said...

Bluemont Hall, Kansas State University, the only building that makes me think the Borg have arrived. It is a solid (almost no windows) gray cube that has the misfortune to face the neo-Romanesque Hale Library complex. Bluemont makes the quasi-Bauhaus Eisenhower Hall look warm and personable. And neither match the collegiate Gothic of the rest of that part of campus. The southern third of KSU really is an open air museum or architecture.


Assistant Village Idiot said...

You would think William and Mary, of all places, would have some graceful styling when they went to build dormitories on the modern part of campus.

Nope. Dupont and Yates are especially ugly. Even PBK Hall, which houses theatre and art, aint that impressive. In the last two decades the school has done better, however.

RonF said...

Well, the Institute certainly does have some ugly buildings. It also has some quite classical ones, especially the main building complex (Buildings 1 through 10) that take up the northeast corner between Mass. Ave. and the Charles. My daughter took a pass after applying there (to my great dissapointment) because "It's too industrial" - which is a fair description of a good chunk of it.

It also has a new dorm that is very metallic and shiny and that apparently didn't have anyone from Course VI (Elec. Eng.) involved. Seems all that metal made it a perfect Faraday cage - nobody's cell phone worked inside until they installed some repeaters.

douglas said...

That dorm (Simmons hall, designed by 'intellectual' architect Steven Holl) is really bad. I can't imagine it succeeded in it's goal of facilitating social interaction among the students. The Russian Constructivists called them 'social condensers'. I don't know how it's so difficult to understand that making spaces personable and comfortable (but not too much) is all you need for that. Trying to hard just screws it all up.

Adding to my earlier thoughts about the Bauhaus, I was taught by the wise shopmaster at my school of architecture, that the shakers were the prototype modernists. Works whose design was truly 'form follows function' and who actually lived in a way close to the ideal of utopian socialism (without the political baggage). Simple, honest, beautifully crafted works for regular people to use everyday. I still say they're a great model for good design.