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Kate Wagner on The Vessel

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TIQM

I sent this to the Ed here at Archinect a few days ago.  Since they haven't posted it up as a News item yet, I'll share it with you here.

Kare Wagner's nuanced opinion on the Vessel at the Hudson Yards in NYC


 
Mar 27, 19 12:42 pm

1 Featured Comment

All 19 Comments

citizen

So, she's a fan, then?


Mar 27, 19 1:06 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

"The Vessel has already been likened to a giant shawarma, a beehive, a pine cone, a wastebasket."

Yes, indeed it does resemble a tasty shawarma.  

btw, we need more eye of Sauron gifs.

Mar 27, 19 1:16 pm  · 
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That gif is excellent but when I first saw it I totally thought vessel, then vessica, then vagina. Which also works, IMO.

Mar 27, 19 3:35 pm  · 
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AlinaF

Half of Heathewick's projects are scrapped mid way. I am surprised this one made it through. 

Mar 28, 19 10:13 pm  · 
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Koww

who is kate wagner

Mar 29, 19 7:27 pm  · 
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citizen

Apparently, she's the Kim Kardashian of architectural criticism.

Mar 29, 19 8:05 pm  · 
 ·  1

The author of McMansion Hell can hardly be compared to Kim Kartrashian.

Mar 29, 19 8:10 pm  · 
2  · 
citizen

Fair enough, bad comparison. I'm reacting mainly to the rather cartoonish aren't-these-things-just-so-evil tone of her blog. So, who then? Ann Coulter? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Someone else?

Mar 29, 19 9:42 pm  · 
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I think she's right on target, and can't think of any critic that rises to her level since maybe Clemens.

Mar 30, 19 12:23 am  · 
1  · 
SneakyPete

See? ADORABLE.

Mar 30, 19 1:06 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

she's a snob? What an elitist and patriarchal thing to write. 

Mar 31, 19 10:00 am  · 
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Wood Guy

Is there a professional critic of any medium who is not a snob? I thought that was the whole point of professional critics, to tell the plebes what's acceptable and what isn't.

Apr 1, 19 12:34 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

I can't think of a more wrong conclusion than "She's a snob" Wagner, more than anyone else in recent memory, has found a way to bring the ideas / ideals of academic theory + criticism to a mainstream audience, using meme jargon and internet humor. She has the credentials to back up what she's saying, but doesn't insist on a self- serious tone that would turn off non-Architects. That, to me, is the opposite of snobbery.

Apr 1, 19 12:41 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

People of Walmart punches down. McMansion Hell punches up. There's a diffference.

Apr 1, 19 12:42 pm  · 
1  · 
Wood Guy

I'm not saying I disagree with her conclusions, but what is the difference between telling people of a higher social class that they have poor taste vs. telling people of a lower social class that they have poor taste?

One dictionary definition of snob: "a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people."

Apr 1, 19 1:12 pm  · 
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tduds

I'd argue that McMansions are not a product of taste but a product of mass commodification + advertising-driven status obsession. Her base thesis is not "lol poor taste" but rather "Housing overconsumption is driving all sorts of problems." She uses humor to sneak in the larger message.

Apr 1, 19 1:23 pm  · 
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tduds

McMansion hell pokes fun at the drivers of capitalism. People of WalMart pokes fun at the victims of capitalism.

Apr 1, 19 1:24 pm  · 
1  · 
Steeplechase

I gave up on the blog because it was mostly just mocking interior design. It wasn’t actually focused on the issues of the houses, just laughing at a real estate listing. There were
a few, mostly early, posts on actual theory, but they’re the minority. Most of her mocking is also based on the out-dated style of these interiors, completely contradicting the notion of a critique of overconsumption.

Apr 1, 19 1:28 pm  · 
1  · 

Criticism of aesthetic choices is subjective and irrelevant except when those choices are a product of and influence upon society.

Criticizing the critic without making a cognitive argument is the former, not the latter - in other words, irrelevant.

Apr 1, 19 1:57 pm  · 
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tduds

"Punching up and down is a bs concept."

 "Also: new rule." 

lol

Apr 1, 19 2:42 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

SJW is a BS concept.

Apr 1, 19 2:44 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

again, jlaxative, your diminished capacity for critical thinking, strikes again. "Low brow deep pockets vs high brow deep pockets" - udder nosense

Apr 1, 19 2:54 pm  · 
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tduds

The concept of punching up and down has been a cornerstone of comedy since the days of court jesters.

Apr 1, 19 3:15 pm  · 
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tduds

The reason you're so exasperating is because every thread you enter quickly devolves into one side attempting in vein to articulate the premise in increasingly narrow and specific ways and you intentionally (or otherwise) mis-stating the wrong premise back to them in order to easily dismiss it. I've yet to get past first principles in one of these, so I'm done trying.

Apr 1, 19 3:16 pm  · 
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tduds

Kate Wagner is a brilliant historian and brings exactly the kind of ego-deflating wit and youthfully exuberant energy that architectural theory + criticism so desperately needs. 

& with that I'm out.

Apr 1, 19 3:17 pm  · 
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curtkram

sometimes it's fun to feed the troll, but usually it's better to scroll down or close the browser tab

Apr 1, 19 7:13 pm  · 
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I'm about to follow in Miles' path and just put jla-x on mute because, as you said tduds, it's the same misplaced argument over and over and over and over and... It reminds me of the time, decades ago, when someone posted here "I'm bold enough to state that I believe art is craft, not ideas" and Steven basically responded "Feel as bold as you want to about having that opinion but the art world is already far beyond that discussion being relevant."

Apr 1, 19 8:38 pm  · 
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tduds

"as if I’m supposed to assume that you are thinking of medieval court jesters rather than the present use of the term..." 

McMansion Hell and People of Walmart are both comedy. Why would you assume I was speaking about anything but comedy?

Apr 2, 19 11:45 am  · 
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SneakyPete

Are you really qualified to judge people who judge people (assuming they're judging people)?

Apr 2, 19 1:51 pm  · 
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tduds

Social critique has been a has been a cornerstone of comedy since the days of court jesters.

Apr 2, 19 3:03 pm  · 
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tduds

You're so transparently bad at this, please just stop. I clearly lack the self control to stop calling you out so perhaps you could find the self control to stop embarrassing yourself.

Apr 2, 19 3:04 pm  · 
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tduds

It's very easy to understand. I just disagree. It is comedy, and the idea that social critique and comedy aren't largely overlapping (much less mutually exclusive) is just so flatly incorrect that it's hard to entertain a serious suggestion based on it.

Apr 2, 19 3:35 pm  · 
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tduds

McMansion Hell is a comedic website. People of WalMart is also a comedic website. This was your opening comparison. My point was / is that McMansion hell punches up, and People of WalMart punches down, and because of this the comparison wasn't accurate.

Apr 2, 19 3:43 pm  · 
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tduds

You're again incorrectly assuming the target is the homeowner, not the homebuilder (/ consumerist market forces in general)

Apr 2, 19 4:06 pm  · 
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Steeplechase

tduds, how is the builder responsible for the furniture?

Apr 2, 19 5:10 pm  · 
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Bench

"It’s one thing to make fun of a house style in general, but another to make fun of a specific home."


Do you interpret her making fun of one single home each time, IE is she personally making fun of that exact person's aesthetic choices? Or is she poking fun at the ridiculous ubiquity of the house style and those poor decisions across many contexts as an indictment of throwing out any kind of good design for maximizing square footage?

I think most would say the latter ... its clearly not personal criticism of individuals.

Apr 1, 19 1:31 pm  · 
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Steeplechase

When I stopped ready a few months ago, her new content was all “House of the Week” where she focused far more on furniture and finishes. How is that not mocking an individual?

Apr 1, 19 3:22 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

literally not true.

Apr 3, 19 6:47 am  · 
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tduds

The 'snob' criticism also starts to fold when one takes into account her recent move into more serious writing in actual publications.

Apr 1, 19 2:42 pm  · 
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JLC-1

Hey! "ignore user" just shrank this thread 90%!

Apr 2, 19 1:52 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

Thanks for the reminder. In an effort to lower the argument quotient, I've also clicked the button.

Apr 2, 19 2:09 pm  · 
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Volunteer

Kate Wagner has an eye for what is hideous about the McMansions but doesn't critique the really nice houses and landscapes and illustrate what makes them exceptional. Maybe with time she will get there. 

Apr 2, 19 3:10 pm  · 
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tduds

She does give some examples of "good" houses / Mansions on her website - particularly in the "McMansions 101" section (http://mcmansionhell.com/post/149284377161/mansionvsmcmansion, for example). I do agree, though, more counterpoint would be nice.

Apr 2, 19 3:14 pm  · 
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JonathanLivingston

I agree with her assessment of the vessel, and quite frankly architecture like that is trying to make public comment. I too find her Mcmansion Hell critic distasteful though.  It seems akin to a fine art critic at the middle school art show. Mcmansion architecture is not intended for a wide public audience. Half of it is in a gated community. The conversation it engages is within an isolated insular community.  What's next critique of the quilting made by people in nursing homes? What's with all the use of fringe? and who in their right mind would make a quilt out of old T-shirts? Would that be OK if there were also posts about what makes a good quilt? 

Apr 3, 19 11:49 am  · 
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SneakyPete

McMansions use up resources, waste energy, and are generally not "in a gated community".

Apr 3, 19 12:10 pm  · 
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JonathanLivingston

So does grandma's quilt. Wasting all that yarn and time. If she learned to code she could contribute to society. Gated community or not the purpose is not for conversation with the architecture world at large. It is within a like minded peer group. Perhaps even what makes a single family comfortable and happy. Commodity architecture is more a craft than Art. There are a lot of shit craft projects out there that don't deserve this kind of critic. If these Mcmansions were held out as fine Art or submitted for Architecture awards then fine go ahead, but this is not the case. This is the major difference between a structure like the Vessle (where the critic is justified) and a Mcmansion (where it is not)   

Apr 3, 19 12:36 pm  · 
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tduds

"There are a lot of shit craft projects out there that don't deserve this kind of critic." Why not?

Apr 3, 19 3:24 pm  · 
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senjohnblutarsky

Personally, I view her critiques as of society and what has been established as a symbol of moderate wealth. It's hard for me to consider her site an Architectural critique as it offers little to no architectural value. Over time, I've noticed some of her comments on images that implied she had no clue about how the assembly actually went together. Most of her posts read as someone who went through architecture school, but never worked in a production environment.

Apr 3, 19 3:36 pm  · 
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JonathanLivingston

I agree. The critic she does provides is of society and it is mighty shallow. We all agree the examples she mocks are really bad examples of Architecture. I would be willing to bet that even the inhabitants would often admit there is better Architecture out there. They are not out there submitting them for awards or public critique.

Apr 3, 19 3:57 pm  · 
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JonathanLivingston

Most people just don't care. They care about location, fit and finances. Comfort. Not Architecture. Her audience is not lay people. It's you. And you eat it up just like faux news because it reinforces your perspective. It's a fun folly for us Archi nerds but we are quite full of ourselves aren't we?

Apr 3, 19 4:07 pm  · 
 · 
Featured Comment

Parody is a legitimate form of criticism. It's not shallow, it's hyperbole. It is criticism of both architecture (which has been widely discussed with great amusement here on Archinect) and the [ignorant] society that aspires to such crap.

That being said, Wagner's criticism of The Vessel reaches a new level. It devastatingly accurate in every respect and directly cites critical societal issues of public space, corporatism, liability, privacy, income inequality, etc., which - assuming that you haven't been asleep for the past decade - are some of the more critical issues we face.

Apr 3, 19 4:40 pm  · 
2  · 
JonathanLivingston

I whole heatedly agree on her critique of the vessel. But the McMansion Hell critique is shallow and distasteful even if it is just hyperbole.

Apr 3, 19 5:01 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

I hope you eschew most TV comedy if you're so hell-bent on things needing to have the depth you're seeming to suggest (yet also seem to have trouble explaining without bad metaphor). Just because you don't LIKE something doesn't mean it SHOULDN'T EXIST.

Apr 3, 19 5:44 pm  · 
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JonathanLivingston

I hope you ..... is a great way to have a conversation. Saying something is distasteful is very different the conclusions you are jumping to.  

Apr 3, 19 6:45 pm  · 
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McMansion Hell is distasteful? Did she profile one of your projects?

Apr 3, 19 6:48 pm  · 
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tduds

"Most people just don't care." The goal, perhaps, is to get them to care.

 "Her audience is not lay people." It is, though. Since the site has become popular I've had *so* many more conversations about style / consumption / "What makes a McMansion a McMansion?" with my non-designer friends than before. I'm talking orders of magnitude more. The success of the site has brought the word "McMansion" into normal everyday use.

Apr 3, 19 6:53 pm  · 
1  · 
JonathanLivingston

Fair enough, but I still find it off putting. I disagree that her audience is primarily lay people too. I think the love for it that I have seen has mainly been from architects like yourselves who elevate it as high critique because it reinforces your world view. I feel like that is fairly clear based on the number of people here who jump to personally attacking people who disagree.

Apr 3, 19 7:04 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

Lotta "I think" "I find", and "I feel" connected to those massive assumptions. Which has a distinct ring of irony after the accusation you levied at me...

Apr 3, 19 8:06 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

I'm also having trouble finding where anyone attacked you personally. Your beliefs, statements, and arguments, (all of which you chose to share) yes. You personally? Not so much. Would you perhaps like me to be nicer?

Apr 3, 19 8:08 pm  · 
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JonathanLivingston

Well I just said it's distasteful, but you jumped to what o considered a personal attack when you retorted "hope you eschew most TV comedy if you're so hell-bent on things needing to have the depth you're seeming to suggest" or miles "Did she profile one of your projects?”

Apr 3, 19 8:33 pm  · 
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JonathanLivingston

But I understand why everyone has such strong reaction and feels like they have to defend the blog. It really validates you right? Helps you feel like an important architect? Maybe the society will finally understand you if someone just points out their flaws.

Apr 3, 19 8:50 pm  · 
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Funny, you're offended by blog AND the idea that it could be your work.

Apr 3, 19 9:14 pm  · 
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.

Apr 3, 19 9:14 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

Most of her critique is literally about capitalism and the destruction of the working class trades-person .

Apr 3, 19 9:20 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

.

Apr 4, 19 12:02 pm  · 
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tduds

Why are you so obsessed with reducing everything to a binary choice between capitalism and socialism?

Apr 4, 19 5:31 pm  · 
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tduds

The idea that saying “find ways to embrace the zeitgeist and offer better choices” is more controversial then “turn the us into a socialist state and force better choices”

...is anyone even saying either of these things? Much less saying either one of them is controversial?

Apr 4, 19 5:32 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

What YOU consider a personal attack. Might I suggest a thicker skin and a willingness to admit not everything is about you?


And I don't need Kate to validate my work. My work validates itself every time someone enjoys it. 

Apr 4, 19 9:25 am  · 
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JonathanLivingston

So yeah YOU need validation through others. Which makes sense. YOU think the blog will help all those ignorant people finally appreciate what you do.

Apr 4, 19 10:53 am  · 
 ·  1
tduds

There's the personal attack I was looking for.

Apr 4, 19 12:06 pm  · 
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SneakyPete

Kind of annoying how Archinect doesn't let you reply in-line if the last reply is from someone on one's ignore list. 

Jonathan, reread what I wrote. My work validates itself every time someone enjoys it. I did not say that I receive (or need) validation through others. That's you editorializing in an attempt to twist what I said. I don't need a blog to help anyone appreciate what I do. People appreciate what I do. I know this. It's not why I am an architect. It's also not why I appreciate the blog.


Apr 5, 19 5:30 pm  · 
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b3tadine[sutures]

Well, another person jumped.

Jul 29, 21 8:35 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

It was a 14yo kid and it was in front of family... and that's enough internet for me today. eugh, tragic.

Jul 30, 21 11:31 am  · 
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z1111

Shut it down.

Jul 29, 21 8:56 pm  · 
1  · 

Tear it down.

Jul 29, 21 9:13 pm  · 
5  · 

I’m totally on board the “Dismantle it!” train. It was a bad idea to begin with and now it’s growing even more tragic by the day. Just tear it down, get rid of it.

Jul 30, 21 7:39 am  · 
6  · 
square.

what makes this even more tragic is to imagine all the way that money used to build this giant garbage can could have gone to supportive services, etc. instead it's just another example of a free pass in new york for billionaires to make play things, in this case one that has turned deadly.

Jul 30, 21 9:16 am  · 
3  · 

Discussions about how to preserve the vessel by increasing barrier height continues without any recognition of the metaphor that 'high barriers' is for the majority of society.

Jul 30, 21 10:56 am  · 
5  · 
z1111

Infuriating. Tear it down.

Jul 30, 21 12:31 pm  · 
2  · 
tduds

oh fuck off already

Jul 30, 21 5:43 pm  · 
1  · 
Non Sequitur

Crime? How can there be crime if everyone has guns? I thought that’s how m’erican logic works.

Jul 30, 21 6:07 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

When I call out your ridiculous "why" and you hide behind the existence of the "what" it only reinforces the conclusion among most of us that you're trolling, and poorly.

Jul 30, 21 6:10 pm  · 
 · 

I'm not seeing 2/3 of this but I am enjoying the responses.

Jul 30, 21 6:10 pm  · 
2  · 
tduds

Strong "You can't fire me, I quit!" energy

Jul 30, 21 6:14 pm  · 
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tduds

It's weird that you think the only part of your hypothetical that you changed is the word "Trump"

Jul 30, 21 6:20 pm  · 
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tduds

Anyway I did this one last week and there's nothing more to add...

Jul 30, 21 6:21 pm  · 
2  · 
randomised

people didn’t kill themselves because of the vessel, they just used the vessel, could’ve jumped in front of train, hanged themselves or shot themselves etc...going after the vessel is not going to stop people from killing themselves, having proper (mental) healthcare is going to have a much greater effect than shutting down this eyesore.

Jul 30, 21 6:15 pm  · 
1  · 
tduds

It is, in no subtle terms, a product of and a somewhat garish symbol for the conditions that drive people to such extremes. So to your comment I say: por que no los dos?

Jul 30, 21 6:16 pm  · 
1  · 
b3tadine[sutures]

I must disagree, well over 1700 people jump from The Golden Gate Bridge, some travel across the country, and other bridges to do it. This thing is quickly becoming a magnet for death, and a romantic one at that. Bridges, trains, and buildings serve a larger purpose, this is a symbol to the hubris of wealth and the architect as creator. The public should take a cue from Howard Roark, and blow the thing up.

Jul 30, 21 6:49 pm  · 
3  · 
Volunteer

Tear it down and build something nice for the kids and families living and visiting in the space. The" Vessel" is only a 1/4 mile from the Hudson River which seems very poorly developed. and the river frontage could be made into a park for kids. Possibly add a marina with a kids museum about the Hudson River - or something. Keeping the Vessel will only start a battle of wits between those who want to kill themselves and the management who doesn't want the publicity and so will try to stop it. People who visit the space will never know when someone if going to be successful in front of their family.

Jul 30, 21 8:50 pm  · 
1  · 
z1111

Imo it was a contributing factor. However, a formal spatial analysis is moot at this point. Enough tragedy surrounds this building. It is imo irresponsible for it to remain open. It should be torn down otherwise it might be reopened at a later date only to have the same thing happen again.

Jul 30, 21 8:59 pm  · 
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z1111

Unfortunately, this is not the only terrible building out there and not the only one that I fear has this particular problem.

Jul 30, 21 9:44 pm  · 
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randomised

Only people that want to kill themselves jump from this thing...having experienced suicide in my family I know there is not a lot one can do to stop a person from killing themselves once they made up their minds, unfortunately. One can focus all desperation and frustration on the vessel but that’s not going to bring anyone back or stop any determined person to end it, one way or the other...if they can’t go out with a bang jumping from an iconic architectural feature they will find another way, that’s how severe depression and suicide work.

Jul 31, 21 6:25 am  · 
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z1111

I am sorry for your loss.

Jul 31, 21 6:53 am  · 
1  · 
z1111

There can be many factors that can contribute to someone to either commit or attempt suicide. Many who attempt it are ambivalent about it. Imo these are the individuals that can have their decision influenced by environmental factors like a design such as this.

Jul 31, 21 7:26 am  · 
1  · 

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