What Is Admired As Whimsy Could Be Awful As Fact
September 29, 2011 8:40 PM   Subscribe

PJ O'Rourke has penned an appreciative essay about architect Antoni Gaudi, designer of buildings such as the bone-like Casa Batlló and the unfinished Gothic cathedral La Sagrada Familia
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (16 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I love PJ O'Rourke as a contestant on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and other such things. As long as he's not waxing long on his political views, he's great. He quickly turns into a right wing Andy Rooney the moment he gets political.

I'll probably enjoy this, but I'll have to read it in the morning. Thanks for posting!
posted by hippybear at 8:45 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just like that cranky old bastard to still write with a pen.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:01 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Basílica de la Sagrada Família is amazing, but OMG Catelona has the .cat domain!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by jeffburdges at 9:26 PM on September 29, 2011

posted by jeffburdges at 9:36 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

To nitpick, La Sagrada isn't exactly unfinished, it is yet to be finished. Gaudi thought that it would take 300 years to build, but the use of modern machinery and computers to cut the stone has knocked at least 150 years off that.
posted by Edwahd at 9:46 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Out of all the architects of the 20th Century, Gaudi's work seems to be wearing the best. I love his designs, and it's too bad that the organic feeling of his work wasn't more of an influence on others.
posted by empath at 10:15 PM on September 29, 2011

Lovely stuff. Gaudí's very simple, very beautiful development of his arches as the inverse of loops of string with weights representing the structural loads is on display in the attic of Casa Milá, where you are surrounded by exactly the kind of catenary arches the exhibit shows you.

The thing I love most about Gaudí is his utter lack of concern about scale. The smallest detail gets just the same attention as the bold big strokes. In development of the benches at Parc Güell, he taught the workmen what he was looking for in the mosaic finish of the sinuous benches that surround the "square", and got what he wanted. The dragon on the gate of the Finca Güell is another good example, but the furniture gets the same treatment in the Güell Palace.
posted by jet_silver at 10:25 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love his writing, but O'Rourke clearly understands little about architecture or how architects as various as Gaudi and Gehry are functionally and aesthetically related. What a middlebrow, reactionary conclusion, and how little am I surprised.
posted by dhartung at 11:59 PM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Gaudi's work is really amazing in person. In photos it always seemed, well, gaudy and overwrought, but in person it is deeply expressive and joyful. His inspiration from and understanding of biological forms still feels a little ahead of our time. And Barcelona really oozes Gaudi, it is inspiring to see how a (relatively) modern artist can almost make a city in his own image.
posted by lubujackson at 12:00 AM on September 30, 2011 [3 favorites]

Sorry if this brings down the tone of the discussion, but part of the article makes him sound almost like a friendly version of HR Geiger, especially the 'Pilot' from the first Alien film.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:27 AM on September 30, 2011

O'Rourke is as appropriate an analyst of Gaudi as Tom Arnold would be on Bach.
posted by sonascope at 3:17 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

I generally like O'Rourke's writing style. However, in the last few years he's really showing wear, just obviously following his formula and making weak jokes for the sake of adding some weak-but-accessible right-wing zingers that I don't think would have passed his own muster when he had more left in the tank. But his older stuff stands up; for example, I don't agree with most of his conclusions in Eat the Rich, but there's a lot of insight, it's very funny and he's a grandmaster of the hilarious analogy.

This piece is really florid. Part of O'Rourke's appeal is that he can tackle a dense subject with superbly delineated prose; he doesn't require you to re-read a paragraph to understand a complex point. He didn't do that here. It's nice to see him deviate from formula, but you could cite this article as evidence that he's not really capable of leaving his template anymore.

This is natural-- I don't know if humorous essayists have a career sweet spot like a pro athlete (but much longer) or if automotive mileage is a better analogy, but they all seem to fade eventually.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:57 AM on September 30, 2011

The hell with O'Rourke, watch Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudi instead. It's beautifully shot, includes the interiors of many of his buildings, and has a score by Toru Takemitsu.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:28 AM on September 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

This piece is really florid.

What's wrong with florid? Without that sort of prose I wouldn't have been interested in looking up the buildings. And the quote I used for the title explains things like the great horror novel Land of Laughs, or Alan Moore's use of Wind in the Willows characters in LoEG.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:36 AM on September 30, 2011

This piece is really florid. Part of O'Rourke's appeal is that he can tackle a dense subject with superbly delineated prose...

I agree O'Rourke's style becomes a little fiddly here & there - but I still think he tackles the subject surprisingly vividly, Mayor Curley. I'm actually impressed.

(Although the pious praise of his final sentence will enrage the atheist aesthete - which is probably exactly as O'Rourke intended! It certainly pissed me off: "Gaudí had inspiration already, and nature showed him God’s engineering.")
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:58 AM on September 30, 2011

I acknowledge being a philistine on this, (and for the record, I have these this stuff live), but I can never get over the sense with Gaudi of being on a stage set for a Lord of the Rings type movie. Diverting for a while, but not really livable on a day to day basis unless one is a hobbit. I feel like I'm being dictated to by the architect, which in domestic architecture at least is a bit much. (Another reason I dislike Frank Lloyd Wright)

I am persuadable, however, and on preview have put Hiroshi Teshigahara's film on the Netflix queue. Anyone else who finds O'Rourke not up to criticism and has suggestions of someone who can show me the error of my thinking re Gaudi, I'd be most grateful. Oddly enough, I very much like Barcelona as a city the few times I have visited.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:01 AM on September 30, 2011

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