Revivalist architecture stands test of time

Why some buildings age more gracefully than others

There are two ways to build. One is to strive for absolute visual perfection, and then wage a desperate and invariably losing battle to preserve it. The other is to accept that perfection is not just unattainable, but also unnecessary, thereby making time's passage an ally instead of an enemy. Much of modern architecture, and especially the work of International-style architects, was predicated upon the former approach. Worshipping at the altar of the machine, modernist architects strove for flawless surfaces and absolute precision of detail. Alas, in the case of many modernist works -- including some of the most renowned examples -- any state of perfection that may have existed began to decay the moment the buildings were completed. After a few short years of sullying by weather and the ordination wear and tear of human habitation, those sparkling white walls and razor-sharp corners came to look more than a little tatty. It's been the good fortune of many modernist icons --...