Monday, September 26, 2005

Are you reading Lynn Becker? He's on fire.

Is there a better architectural and cultural critic writing in Chicago today than Lynn Becker? Probably not.

The problem is the guy is on a manic, prolific binge. I can't keep up with all the good stuff exhausting out of his keyboard. I still have this essay to read on how planning works in the city, and a piece on the disappearance of Marshall Field's to reflect on. Then, today he posts this article on the beauty that only excellent acoustics can rouse and its relevance in our fast-food society.

His site, called Repeat because it frequently houses stories that originally appeared in The Reader, is more Times Square than Mies van der Rohe in its design, but the payoff's there in content. (He also writes an accompanying blog, but a lot of the stuff is cross-posted on the website.)

With the Tribune's Blair Kamin forced to write his architectural reviews with a national audience in mind so they'll play in Baltimore and beyond, we are left to wonder why one of our city's main newspapers allowed its architectural critic to water himself down and out of our city, our place.

Kevin Nance over at the Sun-Times brings a local, man-on-the-street perspective which I like and think we need. (See his memo to Anish Kapoor about the Bean, for a fun instance.) But, we are the architectural city in this country. Chicagoans talk about architecture like we do sports which is to say a lot. We also need a high-brow critic like Becker who has both feet firmly planted on the sidewalks -- our sidewalks.

Here's an excerpt from Becker's post today on last night's concert at the Pritzker Pavillion, which closed with Ravel's Bolero:

From the quiet beginnings with a snare drum, the relentlessly recurring theme moved in a slow, continuous crescendo from section to section, to the strings, to the woodwinds, each having their own solo turn to shine, before climaxing in blaring brass and full tutti that collapses into a brief, precipitous coda like a lover after climax. The audience leapt to their feet in one of those rare, unforced standing ovations that comes from the giddy delight only great music-making can provide.

We live in the rabid stages of a market economy that seeks to bring every activity to its cheapest, most "efficient", lowest common denominator, whether it be Walmart driving out all local competition and the variety it provided, or Federated destroying the department store as a local institution as it rushes to smear every last one with the Macy's name. To hear the CSO firing on all cylinders is a bracing reminder just what this chronic leveling robs us of.
If you read the entire article, you'll see why I so appreciate his expertise and his service to a better built environment. He makes the leap for the reader from the structures to their relevance in our everyday lives. He recognizes that architecture can be transcendent when it makes the leap . Becker gets it. Chicago deserves that.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Just so you know, the post that was removed was a spam advertisement and not at all relative to my post or blog or anything other than their product.