Within architecture, a project of delivering performance, or soliciting a surprising plausibility, suggests moving away from a critical architectural practice — one which is reflective, representational, and narrative — to a projective practice. Setting out this projective program does not necessarily entail a capitulation to market forces, but actually respects or reorganizes multiple economies, ecologies, information systems, and social groups.
— Robert Somol and Sarah Whiting, “Notes Around the Doppler Effect and Other Moods of Modernism”
The conclusion of Somol and Whiting’s essay follows a recapitulation of Dave Hickey’s comparison/contrast of Robert Mitchum and Robert De Niro. “‘De Niro architecture’ is hot, difficult, and indexes the processes of its production: it’s clearly labored, narrative, or representational, or expresses a relationship of the representation to the real,” they write; whereas “‘Mitchum architecture’ is cool, easy, and never looks like work; it’s about mood or the inhabitation of alternative realities.”
In this issue of Texas Architect, we consider three new galleries in the state. One, a drawing center for the Menil, is in the De Niro mode: It tries hard to reflect the story of its institution. The other two, Transart House in Houston and Ruby City in San Antonio, fall more into the Mitchum camp: They remain aloof and self-obsessed, relying on their personal charisma to suspend the visitor’s disbelief.