“Building Blocs: An exhibit at the intersection of politics, art, and urban design”

My review of a MoMA show, in the Weekly Standard:

The phrase “political architecture” evokes the idea of architecture for and by politicians: a blank-faced Ministry of Truth; a giant Mussolini head on a wedding cake; or just the sullen civic compromises which remove anything distinctive because it might be offensive. And “architecture for the people” has mostly meant architecture imposed on the people, with the government as landlord. You’ll live in my future and you’ll like it!

This show at the Museum of Modern Art is an attempt to acknowledge, but get beyond, these criticisms. It opens with a critique: Gunter Rambow’s poster “Utopie Dynamit.” A giant blockbuster building blows open, and the shards form a border of tiny portraits, presumably showing the former inhabitants of the project. They hold chalkboards with their names and short messages. As the museum’s caption states:

What had begun as a utopian vision ended in architecture—large-scale housing projects, for instance—often perceived as impersonal, formulaic, and insensitive to the needs of everyday people.

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