Thomas de Monchaux

All articles by this author

Precise and Prescient

Precise and Prescient

On Michael Sorkin, 1948–2020

Sorkin died needlessly, at the hands of a monstrous President he diagnosed better than most back in the summer of 2016, when too many of us dismissed analogy as overstatement. Sorkin began writing for the Village Voice in the late ’70s, his office was up the street from Trump SoHo, and his beat was architecture, money, power, fascism. Of course he understood.

Vernacular Modernism

Vernacular Modernism

Good buildings are adaptable

Buildings like these are everywhere in America. More particularly, they’re the pre-1990s inner sprawl around the multi-lane peripheries of older Eastern cities; the outer downtowns of St. Louis, Indianapolis, and other cities of the lower Midwest; the inner downtowns of the Sun Belt; and pretty much all of Oakland, California. In New York City these buildings tend to be the dull-seeming libraries, schools, police stations, and fire stations built in the ’60s and ’70s, as well as a lot of storefront offices and some of the old white-brick apartment buildings you see throughout Manhattan.

In-Between Locations

In-Between Locations

On the pasts and places of Game of Thrones

What gives Game of Thrones its strange credibility and its seeming complexity, its gravity and its sense of place, its sensation of depicting a lived-in world uncannily like our own, are those cities and buildings. They’re somehow sufficiently unfamiliar-yet-familiar to seem like real old places.

Have You Ever Had an Intense Experience of Mystical Communion with the Universe, Life, God, etc?

Louis Kahn’s work is accessible, minimal, simple, solid, systematic, and self-evident. It is also the exact opposite.

Buildings that call attention only to themselves generally fail at everything else. So the sustained direct attention offered by a critic or writer about a building is always already a great distortion.

The Other Modernism

The Other Modernism

“Atomic-age” and “Jet-age” have become swingin’ signals for ring-a-ding-ding consumer goods made in swoopy and sexy plastic and chrome. And yet there is another side to this story, one in which the Smithsons are a kind of Yin to the Eames’ Yang, an eternally rainy Britain to their perpetually sunny California.