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Global Good Taste: An Empty Glass Box

The New York Times style magazine ran an interesting blog post about global architecture trends on Sunday. We agreed with the premise, "The fetish for destroying historic houses to feed the hunger for infinite white space has led to a global style of architectural homogeneity," but we disagree on a couple of points. First, the statement, "For the first time in history, the more money you've got, the emptier your home is." Nope. The beginning of modernism in the 20s and 30s led to much less cluttered rooms for the wealthy, a process that started with the Arts and Crafts Movement. Think of the sleek rooms furnished with the "chromium tube" furniture of Eileen Gray or Le Corbusier.

Next, the article uses Calvin Klein's new house on Meadow Lane in Southampton to introduce the idea that the wealthy are knocking down historic structures to replace them with empty glass boxes. But that would be true only if the house had remained as it was during Henry du Pont's day, an elegant Georgian mansion, not the 1980s horrorshow renovation perpetrated by Barry Trupin. It's Trupin who destroyed the house, not Calvin Klein. Klein tried to remodel the monstrosity before eventually giving up and knocking it down. Blame Trupin for the loss of the du Pont house, not Calvin Klein.

Generally, though, we agree with statements like, "there's something unsettling about the way this empty glass box pops up everywhere and anywhere, even in the most unlikely places." We guess that a rapidly shrinking world means that local vernacular styles are fading, to be replaced by something instantly recognizable the world over as good taste, but we wish architects would be more sympathetic to the setting of their buildings.
· When Renovation Means Erasing the Past [NYT]