Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'm not a professional architecture scholar, but...

Imagine my surprise this morning to check and discover that Akron was at the top of the main page. Apparently, their story on the re-opening of the Akron Art museum with its daring new modern architecture was interesting enough to warrant space there.

I've seen the building coming together in chunks in my random visits back home over the few years, but have yet to see the interior (I hope to do so in September for my first quick trip back to the states in over a year). However, having seen the slideshow attached, I have to respectfully disagree with critic Nicolai Ourousoff. Absolutely, the modern design on the outside and the lobby look wonderful. And, as brutal as his portrayal of downtown Akron as part of "the dark side of the America recalled by Robert Venturi: a haunted Main Street U.S.A. of decrepit brick buildings, vacant windows and empty storefronts" is for the most part accurate. Akron was devastated in the 1970s and 1980s as the economy was in recession and the tire companies (save for Goodyear) all relocated their corporate headquarters and major production units (although, to be fair to Akron, if Ourousoff thinks its awful now, he should have seen it in the early- to mid-1990s, before the downtown revitalization projects.)

But having seen the slideshow attached, I'm not so sure the interior is as miserable as he makes it out to be. Is it daring and exciting? Certainly not. It's just a standard art gallery, meant to have blank walls and not-offensive spaces to display art, trying to put the emphasis on the art and not the room. Is this a bad thing? Maybe it is to an architectural scholar/critic/whatever, but to me, honestly, it looks not any different in terms of interior, display space than the galleries of MoMA in New York, the National Galleries in DC, or even the amazing (and underrated) Cleveland Art Museum (at least before it began its 6-year total renovation project in 2005). I am curious to go see the building, and I respect that Ourousoff knows a lot more about these kinds of things than I do, but if the general public likes it, I don't see the harm. I guess that's the difference between me and art critics, though - function over form.