Thursday, March 15, 2007

Huxtable - the last word on Moses

Leave it to the Wall Street Journal's venerable architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable to cut through the crap on the three major New York exhibitions seeking to rehabilitate the reputation of superbuilder Robert Moses.

Unlike most of those pining for the rise of a new generation of Moses to solve all our urban problems, Huxtable actually lived through much of Moses' reign. She was among those "who manned the ramparts against his most damaging interventions and were submitted to his most creative vilifications . . . " Interventions such as a Lower Manhattan Expressway that would have wiped out SoHo and maimed Chinatown, Little Italy and West Village. For Moses, it was his way and the highway. When Huxtable writes about Moses sending bulldozers to Central Park at midnight to tear up a playground in order to create parking for Tavern on the Green, you can't help but be reminded of Mayor Daley and Frank Kreusi's similar illegal dead-of-the-night blitzkreig at Meigs Field. Yeah, right, that's something we just don't have enough of today.

Huxtable looks askance at the exhibition narratives' "safely worded labels that neutralize outrage. The presentation achieves its purpose of comprehensive objectivity, but its very evenhandedness is disturbing. It is almost too cool; there was nothing evenhanded about Moses."

"With all due credit to Moses' achievements," she concludes, "he is not the man to emulate . . . he was the force majeure responsible for much of the beauty and efficiency of the city we know now. Fortunately, he was stopped before he tore it apart."

I despair that I'll ever write as well, or as cogently, as Huxtable, but I'm consoled by the fact that I'm in good company - pretty much everyone else scribbling about architecture today. Check out this must-read here.

No comments: