Art: The Road to Xanadu

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audience was on his feet, clapping and cheering, not for the speech but out of sheer gratitude for the building. Architectural magazines hailed McGregor Center as "delightful" and "refreshing," and the A.I.A. gave Yamasaki another of its First Honor awards. A Bit Slaphappy. As Yamasaki's body of work grew bigger, the autocritical facility of the architectural profession grew harsher — often with Yamasaki leading the pack. Critics declared the soaring interior of the Reynolds Metals Co. Building, which won a third A.I.A. First Honor Award, an impressive success; but they denounced the exterior grille, made of thousands of interlocking aluminum circles, as "costume jewelry." For Detroit's Northwest Y.W.C.A., Yamasaki designed a simple and highly practical building around a charming inner court, but then he slapped on looping butterfly canopies that he now says he would never do again. When Yamasaki discovered the enormous versatility and flexibility of concrete, he went, as he says, "a bit slaphappy." His building for the American Concrete Institute is basically a single passageway whose concrete walls support a roof cantilevered out over the offices on either side. This is ingenious, but Yamasaki turned the roof into a parade of jitterbugging triangles that induce not serenity but instant fatigue. As for the Wayne State University College of Education Building, with its nonstructural facade of 120 faintly Arabian slabs of precast concrete. Yamasaki (who gets carried away by his own jokes) rendered the crudest verdict. When he presented the model to the Wayne board of governors, he pulled out from his pocket a little wedding-cake bride and groom and placed the pair on top. "Twittering Aviary." Because of this obsession with façade effects, Yamasaki has been denounced and defended with increasing vigor. If placed all together, say his critics, his buildings would make a kind of Potemkin village where heaven knows what might be going on behind the lovely surface. What the buildings mainly lack for these men is a sense of force. By splitting the McGregor building down the middle with the glass gallery, says Yale's Art History Professor Vincent Scully Jr., Yamasaki has produced "a twittering aviary." "Just where you want strength," says Philip Johnson, "it isn't there." Snorts Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill: "Yamasaki's as much an architect as I am Napoleon. He was an architect, but now he's nothing but a decorator. Sure, people are getting bored with the glass box — I am too. But now there's this clique that says, 'Let's build a beautiful building,' and there is not even a thought to the architecture." Of the famous Seattle Pavilion, one top Manhattan architect says : "The Pavilion's structure looks as if you could buy it by the section and glue it together." Adds an other Manhattanite, Architect I. M. Pei: "The water in the courtyard is fine, very successful, but the building is not. Yama mass-produced a façade in the Gothic idiom

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