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An Ode to Mark Lamster

Over the weekend, I delighted in reading Mark Lamster’s review of the expansion at First Baptist Dallas. Peter mentioned it in Leading Off this morning. I can’t help myself. I just went back and reread the piece. It really is something. Read this excerpt slowly:

The new First Baptist butts up against that old building, subsuming it within an anodyne corporate environment of reflective glass and pale concrete paneling. Where old and new actually meet, the architects have abased themselves, putting up a faux facade that substitutes false history for the real thing. Aesthetically, the whole is more befitting of a commercial office building than a center for divine transcendence.

This is characteristic of the Beck Group, one of the nation’s premier construction firms, now also practicing architecture. Tasked with the realization of another architect’s grand vision — Renzo Piano’s Nasher Sculpture Center is a good example — the firm’s work can achieve a rare tectonic eloquence.

Beck’s own architecture does not always approach that level of creativity or sensitivity. The firm’s design for the nearby Stephan Pyles flagship restaurant looks more like a Lexus dealership than a fine dining establishment. More troubling is its Hunt Building, an overgrown mini-stereo system that reaches for every device in the designer’s playbook — cylinders, curves, bands, lighting effects, dancing fountains — to animate its massive bulk, which looms ominously over Klyde Warren Park. It’s the LEED-platinum urbacide of the well-intentioned.

Beck’s work for First Baptist doesn’t fall to that level, but neither does it achieve anything beyond an efficient and conscientious banality.

Put aside, for the moment, the points he’s making. Smart stuff, all of it. But just look at the way he makes those points. His writing is so good that it feels out of place in the Morning News.

  • blue pencil

    All right, so what is “tectonic eloquence”? Or ‘urbacide”? Sorry, even if one agrees with this well-deserved take-down of a witless building, some of this is over-written.

  • Bill Marvel

    I guess the lesson here is to aim for that hallowed seventh-grade reading level.

  • red pen

    This blog post is red meat for the D Magazine faithful. Unnecessary criticism of DMN? Check! Recruiting a writer by gushing about them in Frontburner? Check!

  • Bill

    I’m familiar with what this may be, having gone through a writing “phase” ruled by what, in hindsight, was the affliction of “obsessive verb, adverb & adjective synonym googleing.” It drove me nuts for far too long – completely ruined my writing – completely losing its character, reading like it was machine made, which it was, more like device made. Don’t go there, you might never make it back!

  • Eric Celeste

    @red pen: “gushing over HIM”

  • Tim Rogers

    I cop to jab at the DMN. Couldn’t help myself. Recruiting a writer, though? Not going to happen. We couldn’t come close to competing with what the DMN and UTA are paying him.

    Just look at the example of the dearly departed David Dillon. He was a D Magazine discovery ( http://frontburner.dmagazine.com/2010/06/04/remembering-david-dillon/ ). Then the Morning News hired him away from us.

    The only thing I’m trying to recruit Lamster for is a beer. And you can rest assured that in this endeavor I will be successful.

  • Paul

    “an overgrown mini-stereo system that reaches for every device in the designer’s playbook — cylinders, curves, bands, lighting effects, dancing fountains — to animate its massive bulk, which looms ominously over Klyde Warren Park. It’s the LEED-platinum urbacide of the well-intentioned.”

    Sounds like a description of this overwrought review.

  • red pen

    SHUT UP, OLD MAN.

  • red pen

    Ah, parsing words. There’s recruiting for a FT position, which I know you could not do. And then there is recruiting for freelance opportunities. Of course you use gushing to recruit.

  • WalkableDFW

    The opening paragraph is all I need. I want to hold it and hug it and squeeze it and call it George.

  • Bill Marvel

    Recruiting?? Gawd, yes, I hope so. D could us some good architecture writing.

  • Jack Jett

    Jesus wept and/or Jesus weeps.