But Is It Beautiful?

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Should design be beautiful? Ever since Marcel Duchamp presented a urinal as a found work of art, the topic has been an unmentionable in some art and design circles, as writer Karrie…

Thom Mayne's Cahill Center Caltech Pasadena, photo by Edward Lifson
Thom Mayne's Cahill Center Caltech Pasadena, photo by Edward Lifson

Should design be beautiful? Ever since Marcel Duchamp presented a urinal as a found work of art, the topic has been an unmentionable in some art and design circles, as writer Karrie Jacobs found out when she challenged a class of Otis design to seek out places of beauty in Los Angeles and was told by one graphic design student, “If someone says my work is beautiful, I’m insulted.”

One person who decided to tackle the subject head-on is Yael Reisner, London-based architect and professor. Reisner has just published Architecture and Beauty: Conversations with Architects about a Troubled Relationship, a book of interviews she conducted largely with architects considered to be hostile to beauty, or at least to traditional notions of what constitutes harmony in architecture — including LA’s Frank Gehry, Thom Mayne, Eric Owen Moss, Greg Lynn and Hernan Diaz Alonso, as well as Reisner’s husband, the architect Sir Peter Cook.  

Reisner will discuss the topic, and the discomfort many of her interviewees felt with it, at a symposium at SCI-Arc tonight, with the abovementioned architects. The panel starts at 7.30 and all are welcome to attend (bring warm clothing as it will be held outside.)