July 20, 2016

UNESCO — with its "World Heritage" site designation — honors Le Corbusier and snubs Frank Lloyd Wright.

The test is “outstanding universal value” to humanity, and as The Washington Post presents it...
Among the nearly two-dozen new sites inscribed on the list are Canada’s Mistaken Point, rough Newfoundland cliffs studded with some of the oldest evidence of complex organisms — fossils of spindly living things that date back 565 million years.

Included as a single “site,” too, are 17 works by renowned Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier.... UNESCO called the structures “works of creative genius” in an announcement on Sunday, which “attest to the internationalization of architectural practice across the planet.”

The announcements came with celebrations concentrated in pockets around the globe. A group gathered in the fishing village of Portugal Cove South, in Newfoundland, to await with baited breath the decision regarding Mistaken Point....

Among those that failed to make the grade in 2016 was the U.S. contribution of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work, including the Fallingwater building in Pennsylvania. Somewhat complicating matters is the fact that the United States no longer has a vote in UNESCO; as...  the United States ceased contributing roughly $80 million a year after Palestine joined in 2011. In 2013, per the organization’s rules, the United States lost voting status. 
There's only one comment over there at WaPo: "Please tell us more about the fishermen with 'baited breath.' Do they lean over the side and attract the little fishes?"

It's very funny to see the old "baited breath" mistake happening in the context of fish. We don't use the word "bated" other than in "bated breath" so "baited breath" is a mistake far too easy to make... unless you follow Orwell's good advice and "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." But the other Englishman, Shakespeare, pulls us in the opposite direction, having left all those fresh phrases in print that have aged into our present-day figures of speech — like "bated breath," which is something Shylock (the Jew!) says in "The Merchant of Venice":
Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
“Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn'd me such a day; another time
You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys”?
By the way, a "bondman" is a slave. Here's the word used in the 1866 poem by William Cullen Bryant, "The Death of Slavery":
O THOU great Wrong, that, through the slow-paced years,
   Didst hold thy millions fettered, and didst wield
   The scourge that drove the laborer to the field,
And look with stony eye on human tears,
          Thy cruel reign is o'er;
          Thy bondmen crouch no more
In terror at the menace of thine eye;
   For He who marks the bounds of guilty power,
Long-suffering, hath heard the captive's cry,
   And touched his shackles at the appointed hour,
And lo! they fall, and he whose limbs they galled
Stands in his native manhood, disenthralled....

27 comments:

rhhardin said...

XKCD covers Frank Lloyd Wright.

Alexander said...

The listed buildings dot the globe from the Unité d’habitation in Marseille — the French housing complex credited with influencing the Brutalist style of architecture...

This tells me everything I need to know about UNESCO.

David Begley said...

Is a bondman's word his bond?

Hagar said...

Falling Water has needed a lot of work to keep it from disintegrating.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

As if UNESCO decides who gets a Grammy award or an Oscar.

Original Mike said...

Wright pissed off everybody else, he probably pissed off the UN too.

Curious George said...

UNESCO encourages international peace and universal respect for human rights by promoting collaboration among nations.

And measure their success by the amount of "effort."

mikee said...

Designation as a World Heritage Site carries with it obligations for preservation by the "host" country of the site, I presume?

Can a country refuse to accept the designation? I mean, other than the way the Taliban refused to accept the Bamiyan Buddha's designation as such?

Are there supposedly limits on use or development that go along with the designation, with some sort of penalty attached?

Do fossil beds as yet undiscovered get any designation for their protection, or are they just potential rock quarries?

When this worldwide zoning authority tells me I have to bring in my garbage can from the street immediately after trash pickup, where must I send the check to pay the fine if I don't do so?

The article raises more questions than it answers, really.

Big Mike said...

What Hagar said -- "Fallingwater" would be "Falling Over" without extensive, and expensive, efforts to shore up the mis-designed cantilevered floors. The laws of physics still apply, even when the architect is both famous and imperious.

Ann Althouse said...

"Is a bondman's word his bond?"

Can a slave make a contract?

(I considered riffing on "word is bond" but decided against it. Slavery jokes... know any good ones?)

Amadeus 48 said...

"bondman"

Also see A.Lincoln's second inaugural address: "all the wealth piled up by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk"

J. D. said...

My high school drafting teacher said Frank Lloyd Wright was "a short man who designed short buildings for short people." I just finished my Masters in urban and regional planning, and the two architects made me think of their urban planning words. Wright's Broadacre City is a physical manifestation of American individualism and enterprise, whereas Le Corbusier's Radiant City is a proposal for a syndicalist reorganization of society. (If I recall correctly, Le Corbusier proposed conspicuous efforts to deemphasize the family unit, in addition to his oppressive architecture.) I'm not surprised UNESCO would favor one over the other.

There's also this from the Wikipedia page about Le Corbusier:
"He exhibited his "Plan Voisin", sponsored by an automobile manufacturer, in 1925. In it, he proposed to bulldoze most of central Paris north of the Seine and replace it with his sixty-story cruciform towers from the Contemporary City, placed within an orthogonal street grid and park-like green space."

traditionalguy said...

Disenthralled is a perfect word for post Politically Correct life where Commissars once ruled over our education and allowed Media speech. It has beenunleashed not by Sherman's Army but by Trump's Army.

The counter revolution is afoot in Milo being permanently banned from Twitter for a movie review that a star in the movie did not like. The LA Times is already hinting that if Trump wins, there will be a coup against the Trump Government. That coup will begin with a takeover of the means of mass communication. And the Murdoch sons are Brits who are already closing down the Pro American fairness in Ailes Fox News. It is just not Globalist enough.

Mrs. X said...

I wonder if the Post will abate the bait problem. There are enough grammar nerds in the world (and even among the Post's "readers") that it's likely been pointed out by now. Errors like this used to bother me, but now, I'm happy for Althouse to be bothered (or at least to notice) on my behalf.

Peter said...


Nothing quite says "housing project" like giant cruciform hi-rises, set within a large area that was supposed to be "green space" (but which inevitably turns into an urban desert and no-mans-land).

Then again, housing projects were intended to be, if not utopian, at least not the urban hellholes most actually become. And perhaps one can't blame Le Corbusier for that, although he surely fits the stereotype of the grandiose, arrogant urban planner better than just about any other 20th century architect.

Ron said...

Whew....good thing I own no bonds....don't want to support slavery! 'Mutual funds' sounds much more cooperative,doesn't it?

Amadeus 48 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

I have read, more than once, in 'reputable' publications that something was 'beyond the pail'. Spellcheck is destroying the printed media.

J. D. said...

@Peter,

You can't blame Le Corbusier for the actions of the people who inhabit structures designed in a style he championed, but you can blame him for championing a style of urban design that was based on a dehumanizing ideology that failed to account for the effects it would have on people who don't ascribe to that philosophy.

YoungHegelian said...

Included as a single “site,” too, are 17 works by renowned Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier...

I guess fascists are in this year.

I tell ya what must have made for some interesting conversations: the Greek architect/later composer Iannis Xenakis worked with Le Corbusier for a while. Le Corbusier's politics were extreme right-wing, practically fascist. Xenakis, on the other hand, was commie who had fought against the British in the post-war communist insurrection in Greece (the scar on his face came from damage done by a British tank shell).

What did those two do? Have it out at the top of their lungs like good opinionated Europeans, or was it all "Yanni, baby, let's go have some wine & not talk politics, mmmmkay?".

James Pawlak said...

Wright may have been a great artist; But, his engineering unknowledge and antiskills would have, in this time, resulted in a revocation of his licence.

Big Mike said...

Regarding the Post, most of their writers went to Ivies. Pity they didn't instead go somewhere where they'd have received an education.

Cacimbo Cacimbo said...

After visiting Taliesin Wes/tFrank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture I came away feeling his following was more of a cult.The tours are given by volunteer acolytes. Major design flaws, such as leaking roofs that require constant attention were presented as charming, simply the price you pay for being fortunate enough to live in a building designed by the deity Wright. Or in the case of Fallingwater, the fact that the entire structure is collapsing is overlooked because it is aesthetically pleasing. Students at the very small school are encouraged to build bizarre structures in the desert to live in without running water/electric during their time at the school.

Amadeus 48 said...

Would LeCorbusier have gotten so far if he had adopted the pseudonym (accent on the pseudo) UnCorbusier? It would have unwittingly harmonized him with the UN, but it is by definition less distinguished. What a difference a definite article makes!

(Spelling corrected)

Char Char Binks said...

@Cacimbo Cacimbo

You have it exactly right! We can admire architecture, and architects, within reason, and insofar as they are actually admirable, but it's mostly a utilitarian concern. We've all been in hundreds of buildings, I'm sure, and we quietly appreciate them when they're safe, comfortable, and serviceable; we really only notice it when they aren't. Beyond that, it's nice if they're beautiful, but not necessary. Who even knows the names of the designers of most of the buildings they occupy most of the time?

The idea of a celebrity architect is ridiculous, and Wright was an insufferable egomaniac, with grand and absurd notions of what great art is, and what a great artist he was, and all of his followers most rabid followers, architects or not, are cultists who idolize the man. He very consciously and openly considered himself a great man, a genius,and encouraged others to do so as well. He used to wear a cape, for godsakes!

mockturtle said...

Most of Sir Christopher Wren's structures are still in good order. I realize that modern living requires a more fluid architectural style but I can't help but admire the quality of the structures of Wren's era.

Jon Ericson said...

Hey! I wear a cape and it looks damned good on me!
Cape hater! Ptui!