Quote of Note | Martin Filler

“High among the unpredictable variables that endanger the survival of worthy buildings are the vagaries of taste. For example, by the late 1950s, Victorian architecture was held in such low esteem that Frank Furness’s splendidly oddball University of Pennsylvania Library of 1889–1891 in Philadelphia (pictured)–akin to a Venetian-Gothic armadillo–faced impending demolition. Although several commercial buildings by Furness fell to the wrecker’s ball around that time in order to satisfy narrow-minded city planners’ Georgian-only vision of the newly created Independence National Historical Park nearby in downtown Philadelphia, a parallel catastrophe on the Penn campus was averted thanks to the special pleading of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi, among others including [Frank Lloyd] Wright, who after a 1957 walk-through of the Furness library proclaimed, ‘It is the work of an artist.’

The following year saw the founding in London of the Victorian Society, the pioneering group dedicated to preserving that long-derided style, and in 1966 a sister organization, the Victorian Society in America, followed suit even as urban homesteaders from Brooklyn to San Francisco were rediscovering the quirky charms of the diverse range of fanciful design subsumed under the portmanteau term ‘Victorian.’ By the 1980s there was widespread disbelief among a younger generation that there could ever have been such contempt for this delightfully imaginative mode.”

Martin Filler on architectural preservation in the New York Review of Books