NO PLACE LIKE UTOPIA by Peter Blake

NO PLACE LIKE UTOPIA

Modern Architecture and the Company We Kept
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 In a personal tour of modern architecture and the colorful, eccentric, clannish men (all men)--mostly displaced Europeans- -responsible for it, Blake (Curator for Architecture and Industrial Design/Museum of Modern Art; Form Follows Fiasco, 1977, etc.--not reviewed) recovers the energy, vision, and dedication that he says characterized the profession in the decades following WW II. Born in Germany, educated in England, Blake acquired his credentials in the conservative tradition of the University of Pennsylvania, under the tutelage of the puckish Louis Kahn. Sent on tour by Architectural Forum after WW II, he met the century's most influential architectural and design talents: Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, Buckminster Fuller, Philip Johnson, et al. Living in Manhattan, Blake also met artists and photographers, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, Piet Mondrian, and Alexey Brodovitch, art director for Harper's Bazaar. The author conveys the creative heat, high temperament, and inevitable politics that prevailed at luncheons with these artists and in their experimental houses on Long Island and in Connecticut, where the best and brightest argued that architects could offer social solutions to poverty, overpopulation, and fascism, and that architecture was responsible for the quality of the environment, even the future of mankind. But in 1963, laments Blake, idealism turned to careerism when, in order to satisfy a client, the redesigned Pan Am building was allowed to deface the Manhattan skyline. Gradually, says the author, more and more good people began to do bad work for the people who would pay the bills, and--in place of the silent, unassuming purity of the past--there arose a generation of ``postmodern poseurs'' and ``massive outpourings of gobbledygook.'' Blake's writing, like the architecture he admires, is simple, functional, humane, and profound, restoring with clarity and conviction the ``First Principles'' of modernism--which he celebrates in the conclusion of this powerful and outspoken book. (Ninety illustrations)

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1993
ISBN: 0-394-54896-5
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1993