… only without any substance whatsoever, regrettably.

    A few weeks ago, the New York Times turned its attention briefly to the question of “modern” versus “traditional” architecture. It seems to have begun with this review by Nicolai Ouroussoff of an exhibit of work by Claude Parent (see St Bernadette, Banlay).

    This article sparked the (unfortunately all-to-predictable) responses, including this opinion piece in the Times written by Ross Douthat. Mr. Douthat makes no attempt to back up this claims that what he personally finds ugly are therefore inherently secular and perilous. There seems to be the suggestion that the Oakland Cathedral is bad because brutalism is bad. And Jedis are bad, or at least Jedi fortresses are bad (do Jedis have fortresses?) But he does at least offer as counterpoint the work of Duncan Stroik, featured in a review in the Wall Street Journal on 18 March.

    Here the LA/Oakland hating continues, but Catesby Leigh has found that there is an alternative to either the modernism destroying the church or “ersatz-traditional schlock.” I am not convinced that Mr Stroik’s work is not ersatz, even if it is certainly not schlock. But taste goes only so far, and the question of ersatz is ultimately the one we need to address.

    Articles like Mr. Douthat do nothing to further the discussion, and I can only echo the response of one of his readers, that if he will not consider the living history of the church or the living history of architecture beyond his self-proclaimed reactionary tastes, “he should do us all a favor and not write about architecture at all.”