After attending the 100th ACSA Anniversary Meeting held in Boston, I traveled to New York to give a lecture at the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU). I delivered my lecture -Pride in Modesty: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy - in a lofty salon of the James B. Duke House. A lively mix of students, faculty and laypeople attended the lecture and asked intelligent questions.
In Boston and in New York, I revisited a number of buildings that were designed for historically charged sites. Philip Johnson’s muscular addition (1972) to the McKim Boston Public Library (1895) follows the existing roofline of the historic building. Even though he respects the roofline, his “blank” facade is more concerned with Roman antiquity (perhaps following Kahn’s trajectory?) than with rethinking the Renaissance ornament that gives much of the civic (“billboard”) quality to McKim’s building. In New York, and on Columbia’s McKim Mead & White campus, I visited Rafael Moneo’s new Science Building (2011) and Bernard Tschumi’s Alfred Lerner Hall (1999). Both buildings contribute in different ways to the sense of compactness and enclosure that defines (in good and in bad) the perimeter of this campus.