Early in June, we heard the news that New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff would be moving on to the world of book writing. We've spent the weeks since getting used to the idea that there will be fewer Ouroussoff zingers in our lives?and reading back through our old favorites. Here now, a list of our top 10 Ouroussoff lines, all adding up to one useful life lesson: don't make Nicolai angry, people.
10) On One Madison Park: “During its more than 20 years of existence, CetraRuddy had never before produced a building of any architectural significance. If it is known at all in the wider architectural world, it is for the infomercial, repeated endlessly on taxicab video screens, in which one of the firm’s founding partners, John Cetra, hawks apartments in a pair of generic glass-and-steel towers in Jersey City.”
9) On the Chanel Pavilion: "If devoting so much intellectual effort to such a dubious undertaking might have seemed indulgent a year ago, today it looks delusional."
8) On 2 Columbus Circle: "Poorly detailed and lacking in confidence, the project is a victory only for people who favor the safe and inoffensive and have always been squeamish about the frictions that give this city its vitality."
7) On Alice Tully Hall: "The womblike performance space, its surfaces flush with new life, makes it hard to remember the dreariness of the 1969 original...With the precision of surgeons, they cut out ugly tumors and open up clogged arteries. In doing so, they suggest a way forward for a city in which preservation is all too often a form of embalmment."
6) On NY by Gehry: "The flat south facade is comparatively conventional, and some may find perverse enjoyment in the fact that the building presents its backside to Wall Street."
5) On 100 Eleventh: “These same tensions continue to play out inside. There’s a sexiness to the main lobby, with its floors and walls of sleek black granite and painted glass, and its fleeting view of a swimming pool set between the tower and the back of the older brick building behind it."
4) On HL23: “The allusions to a mobile culture suggest a version of the American dream straight out of the Eisenhower era. And even the building’s voyeuristic aspects can be read as a form of nostalgia: a Manhattan version of teenage lovers steaming up car windows parked on a cliff side overlooking the bright lights of the city below.”
3) On the High Line: “I keep picturing Carrie Bradshaw on the High Line, and it terrifies me.”
2) On the new Barclays Center: "A new design by the firm Ellerbe Becket has no such ambitions. A colossal, spiritless box, it would fit more comfortably in a cornfield than at one of the busiest intersections of a vibrant metropolis. Its low-budget, no-frills design embodies the crass, bottom-line mentality that puts personal profit above the public good. If it is ever built, it will create a black hole in the heart of a vital neighborhood."
1) On the Chanel Pavilion: "The wild, delirious ride that architecture has been on for the last decade looks as if it’s finally coming to an end. And after a visit to the Chanel Pavilion that opened Monday in Central Park, you may think it hasn’t come soon enough."
· Nicolai Ouroussoff Archive [NYT]
· Nicolai Ouroussoff coverage [Curbed]