Architecture succumbs to ‘safe’ design

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(This is Part 2 of a three-part series. See Part 1.) "The fallacy of contextualism," wrote former New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable, "the masquerade of matched materials, the cosmetic cover-up of architectural maquillage meant to make a building 'fit' surroundings that frequently change, are a trap into which many architects jump or fall." Or, I might add, are pushed. Last time we talked about how the design review process has entrenched itself in the bureaucracy, so that it's now all but accepted that your city government has the right to define "correct" architectural taste for you. Today we'll examine how contextualism, the sacred cow of design review boards everywhere, has come to be used to throttle architects and homeowners alike. In architecture, "context" refers to the greater physical and social surroundings in which a building will exist. Architect and gadfly Robert Venturi was among the first to plant this notion in the minds of architects and planners....