April 27, 2023

Woodgrain and chrome: primitive-futurist materials for America's defining design style

Some recent posts have explored how the American Empire's distinctive culture is different from those of the Early Modern Euro empires that perished in WWI, and indeed how the culture of the only one to survive -- the Russian Empire (under the USSR) -- was highly similar to that of America in the aftermath of the World Wars. Scandinavia also resembles these two empires, so it is more about being excluded from the Early Modern Euro empires club, and therefore taking a wholly different approach to cultural creation.

First was a review of realism in drama for the literary arts. Then ornateness vs. Block Symphony in architecture, followed up by a cross-sectional comparison of state capitol buildings around America, and a review (the first I'm aware of) tying together America's contribution to world religions (Mormonism) and architecture (Block Symphony).

Now we turn to "design" in a broader sense, having already looked a bit at architecture. Furniture, consumer household products, interior decoration, and a little industrial design too, like cars. I'll save the images for a gallery / appendix at the end, rather than comment on each one in detail or use specific images to prove a specific point.

* * *

This all started when I kept hearing the audience of several streamers haranguing the poor girls to "buy the Herman Miller chair already!" as though it were obligatory to sit in an Aeron chair for an online-related job. Aside from being over-hyped and overpriced since their explosion in the Dot-Com Bubble Nineties, they just don't look American -- or Japanese, or Swiss, or name some other member of the recent / ongoing cultural elite. They're all-black, made mostly or entirely of synthetics, are too curvilinear in outline, and are too light / airy / meshy.

So I started looking for examples of chairs to suggest to the girls (perhaps I can do that in detail in the comments section). And then it really hit me how different the aesthetic has become since the Early Modern Euro empires, other than Russia, bit the dust in WWI, ushering in a mostly American-led zeitgeist, although strikingly similar to Soviet aesthetics, and joined by the neutral Scandinavians.

This began with the American strains of Art Deco in the '20s, crucially being independent of and in many ways contradictory toward European modernisms such as Bauhaus in design or cubism in painting and sculpture. Bauhaus only had the modern / progressive / futuristic tone, not the juxtaposition of that tone with the trad / reactionary / primitivist tone, which has always defined American aesthetics (since they began, in the late 19th C.). Cubism's blockiness was destructive, evoking the shards of a shattered mirror, whereas American blockiness was constructive, building various scales of blocks into a pleasing -- not dissonant -- rhythmic gestalt.

The American movement peaked creatively during the so-called Midcentury Modern era, after WWII but before the neoliberal era of the '80s and beyond. Midcentury Modern has rarely gone totally out of fashion, so there have been influences, copies, and revivals at various points since -- like crazy from 2005 to 2019, epitomized by the set designs for Mad Men on the sincere side and Austin Powers on the campy side (the original core James Bond movies being prime examples of Midcentury Modern design).

Perhaps the single best expression of the new era, in which America more or less dominated, is its choice of materials. The materials not only convey something about their origin and production -- making finished things from raw ingredients -- but also influence the color and texture and other purely visual aesthetic properties.

By far the prevailing theme for materials was "primitive meets futuristic" -- so it had to include a very old, pre-historic kind of natural material. Something right out of the Stone Age -- wood, stone, even a whole animal skin for a rug or blanket (in lieu of a more civilized item woven from threads of wool).

But it also had to have something very new, industrial, something that only precise machines could manufacture -- not just metal, which is thousands of years old, and may look rough and crude to begin with or patinated with age. Metal that is bright, gleaming, smooth, mirror-like in its reflection of light -- therefore, chrome, or as close to that ideal as a silver-toned metal can get.

Depending on the functional needs of the object, it could have included some plastic as well, in a nod to modern chemical production processes, as long as it too had a glistening, smooth, reflective, uniform surface. And although any color dye could have been added during the production, the main choice was black, followed by white, perhaps imitating the neutral colors of stone materials. Vivid blues, reds, or greens would have looked too unlike raw stone, and ruined the "somewhat trad, somewhat mod" feel.

And of course, all of these choices in materials would still be subject to the constraints of blockiness rather than ornateness.

* * *

For historical context, what did the American-led style *not* look like? Not like the Bauhaus '20s zeitgeist. For example, Breuer's Wassily chair, which does have tubular steel with a reflective finish, but no wood, and whose black leather straps also look too modern rather than trad (smooth, uniform in color, no grain, etc.). It's also deconstructed or analyzed into components or broken down, rather than being a harmonious unanalyzed holistic gestalt. It's also too light and airy, owing to its deconstructed nature -- you can see right "through" it in many places.

Likewise the Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe.

Le Corbusier's furniture is somewhat more in the American vein, probably because he was Swiss and not part of the Early Modern Euro empires club by upbringing. (Breuer was from the collapsing Austrian Empire, and Mies van der Rohe from the collapsing German Empire). There's no single work he made that combines all the key elements, but his club chairs are hefty and blocky, he used highly figured cowhide for upholstery alongside tubular steel (but in a deconstructed and airy "sling" chair), although he never used much wood.

Nor did the American style resemble the various national incarnations of Art Nouveau (Modernisme in Spain, Jugendstil in Germany, etc.). Those were all rooted in Early Modern Euro imperial styles, going back to Baroque and Rococo -- no futuristic / industrial / machine-age suggestions, curvilinear rather than rectilinear, light wispy forms, highly ornate.

Let alone did the American style resemble earlier stages of the Euro imperial cultures. Back East in America, there is more Olde Worlde Euro-LARP-ing, but that's not America's own style, which was born in Chicago and spread toward the western frontier. Even in its revival of European styles, America is far more comfortable resurrecting styles that were not made by America's imperial rivals during its rise. Romanesque (i.e., Frankish and pre-modern French), Byzantine, Roman, Ancient Greek, Egyptian, maybe Gothic at the tenuous latest. And generally those have more massive volumes, more straight lines, and less ornate ornamentation compared to Rococo.

* * *

What's the first major example of the American style in design? As far as I can tell, it's one of the most iconic -- the Eames lounge chair and ottoman, released in 1956. The cushions are wrapped in sleek black leather, and the metal supports have a chrome finish, much like earlier Euro modernist approaches. However, what sets the Eames chair apart is the wooden shell behind and underneath the cushions. Originally, and for decades after, made of Brazilian rosewood, this highly figured wooden component gave the whole piece a wild and primitive tone that none of the progressive / futurist Europeans could have ever dreamed up.

Figured woodgrains had been staples of European furniture for centuries -- but the Eames' veneered it over bent plywood, giving it an industrial-age feel instead of a strictly hand-worked process. And none of those earlier European uses of figured woods paired them with futuristic chrome or sleek black leather. It was a uniquely American combination of materials, for a novel effect. And true to the American blocky volume approach, it was not light or airy or deconstructed, but solid and blocky -- with a few gently rounded corners.

Even simpatico European designers, like the Dane Arne Jacobsen, couldn't quite make this leap in the immediate wake of the Eames revolution. His Egg and Swan chairs, from the late '50s, don't have woodgrain anywhere. And if Danish Modern used wood and/or leather, it didn't also include chrome or other bright silver-toned metal, as prominently as the American style did. It took until the '60s and '70s for European designers to adapt the American approach, especially through the Swiss firm Stoll Giroflex, whose lounge chair and ottoman pair is a slightly curvier Euro refinement of an earlier American invention.

The most prolific, influential, and iconic designer in the American style is Milo Baughman, who used the woodgrain + chrome combination for chairs, sofas, tables, credenzas -- anything. And his lines were more rectilinear and in tune with American Block Symphony from architecture, compared to the Eames' somewhat more playful and curvier lines. Baughman was also more quintessentially American in not only being based in California (as the Eames' also were) but converting to Mormonism.

From the large and expensive design objects -- furniture -- the style emanated out to the smaller and less expensive objects. By the '70s, it was hard *not* to find this mixture of materials -- or their simulation -- in a receiver, television, telephone, lamp, desk sculpture, electric guitar, alarm clock radio, car dashboard, car outer body, tobacco pipe, and any other kind of consumer product.

We used to look back on that era as "the woodgrain era", but that's only half of the picture. Wood, even highly figured wood, has been popular forever. What distinguished that zeitgeist, and set the standard for American design ever after, is its mixture of trad, primitive woodgrain right alongside futuristic industrial chrome (and/or smooth gleaming plastic). That look and feel, and that impression, represents a unique American contribution to global cultural history.

* * *

As the American Empire reached saturation / stagnation during the neoliberal era, Bauhaus and other Euro approaches have come back from the dead, as America can no longer rule the whole world, politically or culturally. Sleek black leather and chrome -- but no woodgrain -- has become popular again, as has "blobitecture" in place of blockitecture, especially in Europe itself. Buildings made of only new-age metal and glass, with no stone or wood to reveal their wild primitive alter ego, make us long for even the least aesthetic strain of Block Symphony -- Brutalism. And all-black, meshy, totally synthetic chairs, rounded all over, are the go-to seat for the so-called creative class.

Even the attempts to adapt Midcentury Modern to today miss the mark because they don't have a good intuition for what the originals were doing. For example, during the 2010s it became popular to make tables and desks out of heavy slabs of wood, perhaps "live edges" revealing all the grain, resting on minimalist metal legs -- which are black and usually matte. This attempt fails because "metal" isn't futuristic -- it's been around for thousands of years! And yes, you can use hand tools alone to give it a minimalist shape and surface appearance.

Those metal legs have to specifically have a shiny, mirror-like silver tone to them, since that's what came out of the industrial age for building materials. Otherwise it looks like iron that's been painted black, like there has been for hundreds of years and did not look futuristic even back then. Their conception of "metal" or "industrial" is something coarse, ugly, and dark, as though industry is supposed to plunge us back into the dark ages.

The Midcentury Modern conception was of industry as producing smooth, gleaming, bright things, in a way that no previous manufacturing technique could have done. That was the forward-looking part of the combination. But the manufacturing of wooden components was also done in a futuristic way, like bending the plywood, or keeping it rectilinear -- anything but plonking down a "live edge" with almost no woodwork performed on it at all, as though it were a freshly felled whole tree.

Today's "live edge table with metal legs" leans too far in the primitive direction, in a sign that we are losing our advanced industrial capacity -- and along with those off-shored factories, our imagination relating to them. It's similar to the steampunk aesthetic in fashion, another product of the neoliberal era and our new cultural dark age. Steampunk is just Victorian LARP-ing, plus a few industrial embellishments -- it's not futuristic at all. Midcentury Modern was first and foremost a futuristic movement, even when using primitive materials. It wasn't a Gothic LARP, with some industrial embellishments.

* * *

Appendix / Gallery

I'm just posting the interior decoration examples now, will update with other consumer products later (as I think most people are familiar with those). Note in the Mad Men set, the wooden panels on the wall, along with the silver-toned metal. In today's neoliberal desecration of modernism, there would never be that much wood, let alone with a visible figure and rich stain. Probably would just be glass panes between the metal skeleton.


  1. You may be interested in the origins of "glass and steel" architecture:


  2. Is that the same guy who was confused about Santa being an amalgam / palimpsest of various "ancient" European traditions, rather than a mostly American creation during and after the Civil War?

    Guy with a statue avi -- very likely to misinterpret things.

    Mies van der Rohe was a freak anomaly during the Midcentury zeitgeist, in America at any rate, and anywhere influenced by us. Sure enough, he was raised and did most of his training and work in a collapsed Euro empire -- *not* the medieval Frankish Empire, as the clueless twitter guy suggests, but the Prussian / German Empire of the Early Modern era.

    There's basically only the Seagram Building to point to as the "steel and glass box" example, pre-neoliberal '80s.

    And although I hate qualifying how ugly and soulless such buildings are, I will say in its defense that it is unlike the later neolib examples, when the form actually did catch on, in several key ways.

    First, the glass is not very transparent -- looks tinted or smoked. And it's not very reflective or mirror-like either. So it avoids the "open fish bowl" and the "mirror of the midday sun / blue sky" look that the later ones do. The fish bowl and sky-mirror look make it seem like it's not a hefty solid enclosed structure -- like it's just airy open fresh space.

    The Seagram Buidling's dark / smoky glass, and surrounding dark metal frame, at least make it fit in with the hefty solid blocky theme of American architecture.

    The first real big example of glass & steel is the Liberty Place complex in Philadelphia, naturally back East, completed during the neolib yuppie revolution of the late '80s and early '90s. Its outline and volume are way better than the Seagram's -- basically copying / reviving Art Deco, though, not inventing anything. But better to do that than make it look crappy.

    However, its super-reflective glass makes it look almost like it's not there, a mirage. Skyscrapers, especially Deco ones, are supposed to be big hefty massive voluminous solid hunks of material. And Deco would've lightened that with lots of smaller-scale fine-grained blocks as well. Liberty Place looks more like Romanesque in that way -- a few big hunks, not much of a symphony in scales of the elements. But then Romanesque was always more popular back East (Richardson) than out West (Sullivan and Wright).

    The trend only got worse over time, as imperial stagnation set in even further.

    Liberty Place's architect, Helmut Jahn, was also born & raised in the collapsed German Empire. He belonged to the Chicago Seven, founded in the late '70s when neoliberalism was in its revolutionary stage. And he's a Silent, not a Greatest Gen or earlier. Prime yuppie material.

    1. I love you identification of glass and steel as the symbol of neoliberal globalism. Quite true, in my opinion.

  3. Outside of America, the first major glass & metal structure, which was bitterly hated when it was announced, let alone completed -- was I.M. Pei's glass & steel pyramid right outside the Louvre, of all places. It still looks like total shit and fucks up the impression you should have.

    It was announced by Mitterand -- the Ronald Reagan of France -- in the early '80s, completed by 1988.

    Unlike the Segram Building, the glass is very transparent, giving it a wispy almost not there "presence". But the scale is so huge that it comes off as a big blurry out-of-focus spot in the middle of your view of the real museum.

    Pei did something similar, in embryonic form, with the East Building of the National Gallery of Art, during the '70s. But those glass & metal pyramids are literally only just beginning to rear their ugly little heads from the ground at that point.

    The National Gallery is naturally back East, and Pei was naturally born & raised in a collapsed empire that has nothing to do with American culture -- Qing China.

    1. In any case, neoliberalism began in New York City in 1975.


  4. Seagram Building also has those wonderfully warm amber lights to soften its harshness, and create a chiaroscuro effect against the tinted / smoky glass and dark metal frame.

    Unlike the standard bright white-blue fluorescent office lighting of the actually-popular glass & steel box towers.

  5. Maybe Philip Johnson, an actual American, being co-architect of the Seagram Building helped to rein in Mies van der Rohe's decadent collapsed Euro imperial tendencies.

    Johnson himself later made an early glass & steel tower -- the Crystal Cathedral of 1980. Similar to Liberty Place, it revived Art Deco in its lines and volumes, but unlike Liberty Place, had lots of variety in the scales of the shapes, like Deco did. It's out West (SoCal), an anomaly for the location, but perhaps why the Deco influence is stronger there than back East at Liberty Place -- imagine trying to desecrate the American style in southern California, where everything is Art Deco!

  6. Back to the furniture discussion, remember that interior decoration is a holistic impression from everything inside of a building -- it's not necessarily summed up in a single piece. I tried to find images of single pieces that do have all key elements of primitive futurism. But they would have been elements in a larger collection of items. (Best to see the style in a total set, like the Mad Men image.)

    So perhaps you would've had a Milo Baughman couch that was mainly a huge wood case plus whatever the upholstery was, with little visible chrome (or no chrome -- some look like they sit flat on the ground). But that would've been paired with his chairs that did have thick chunky chrome frames, or his coffee table or other tables that had tons of visible chrome in the frame, and maybe underneath the table was a sheepskin rug to add more primitive-ness back into the mixture.

    Also remember that these are 3D objects that I'm trying to represent with a single 2D image -- I'm not going to post a dozen images of the same thing so you can see every angle. But the chrome on the Eames chair is hard to see at the same time as the wood and leather. It has two vertical metal pieces connecting the lower and upper back support, and they're chrome. The vertical columns in the support are chrome. And the horizontal legs / feet at the base are chrome on top, but matte black on their sides.

    The Giroflex adaptation of the Eames chair, from a bit later in the development of the trend, dialed up the chrome even more, and the effect is more intense. It's all chrome, including the sides of the legs, and the legs sit on decent-sized ball caster that are also chrome. I'll put up some images when I can.

  7. The big natural edge wood tables might be related to the broader trend in “luxury” interiors recently of focusing on expensive materials entirely for their own sake with much less thought placed towards design period. Case in point are a lot of the recent remodels or built high end apartments in NYC, London, Moscow, etc. Bathrooms floor to ceiling coated in the same color of marble, gold fixtures, real wood paneling that’s perfectly smooth and unadorned with no accents, etc. it’s more about the display of the materials cost then the tastefulness of the design.

  8. Added image of the Giroflex adaptation of Eames lounge chair & ottoman. I think they used walnut rather than Brazilian rosewood in some of the Euro adaptations, but the heavily figured & warm rich stain maintains the original effect. I do appreciate their greater use of chrome, but it was just a matter of it being later in the trend and the "woodgrain + chrome" look was so cemented by then, they had to. Credit still goes to us Americans and Eames specifically for this aesthetic.

  9. Mumei really is multi-tangentic, taking us through one topic after another and another and another again!

    So much pent-up babbling desire, she just flings her controller to the floor -- gameplay be damned! -- and runs over to grab chat by the shoulders, with that devilish look in her eye.

    Strap in, boys, it's going to be a moomathon tonight! Hundreds, thousands, millions of words about who-even-knows-what flowing into your ears, tickling your brain, until you suddenly need to lie down.

    But without missing a beat, she hunches over your dazed body, now whispering random facts, no less excitedly, to make sure your brain stays engaged, fixating on her, only her, as you drift away into sublime unconsciousness.

    The last thing your mind is aware of, in that perky superchat reading voice: "Thankkk you!" followed by her gremlin giggling...

  10. In Civ V, Moom could name a new city after her fans -- Hooman-something. Basically the same sounds as Moomin-something. A nice little tip of the fedora to her moominviking army, hehe.

    I'm partial to Hoomanwald (sounds more manly), but Hoomanhaven is nice too (for a more comic tone).

  11. Maybe I should do a follow-up post about the American Art Deco / Streamline Moderne roots of this style. It's far more extensive than I thought. But briefly, you can image search Gilbert Rohde and see this aesthetic as of the early 1930s, when he took over creatively at Herman Miller (later the place that the Eames' would release their furniture through). Clocks, furniture, all sorts of things.

    It also showed up in radio cabinets, also from the early '30s onward, across a variety of manufacturers.

    Not so much in the Waterfall style of furniture -- the forms are American Block Symphony, the use of figured woods fits this trend, and it does have a streamline / geometric / modern look overall. But there's no industrial-age, machine-age, aspect to it. The pulls are mainly brass, in familiar designs, maybe a bit streamlined. Maybe some orange bakelite in a nod to modern chemical production. But nothing like the stark chrome ones from Rohde's creations of the same decade.

    The Waterfall style was standard in the radio cabinets, though. And just being an electric device, transmitting sounds across vast distances -- very modern, industrial, futuristic, wowie-zowie.

    Electric clocks unfortunately didn't have this aesthetic. Some were more trad-looking, some more purely futuristic and Art Deco (bakelite and/or chrome, step-pyramid zig-zag forms, etc.). But few or none really paired them together. Also they tended to use brass rather than chrome, not quite as new-age. Sad, because being electric is futuristic in itself -- no winding mechanism, pendulum, etc. -- just a reading of the current flow through the electric outlet.

    Like telephone, television, radio, computer, and the internet, electric clocks were invented in America (Telechron). So much for those Olde Worlde winding mechanisms -- just plug it right into the wall outlet!

    I really wish they looked more primitive-futurist, cuz they're abundant. I picked up an Art Deco Telechron at the thrift store for about $5 (brass and white marble). If there's a named designer associated with them -- like the Gilbert Rohde ones from the '30s -- then they'll cost 10 to 100 times as much. Damn!

    Hopefully no one knows his name, and just sees that it says "Herman Miller", thinking it's just another American company and nothing special.

  12. I mean inventing "the radio," from Fessenden and Armstrong and others, not the earlier radio work by Marconi and others. The usable medium we simply call "radio" today.

    1. Speaking of 30s American design, you might also look at the period bathroom and kitchens of homes as examples of modernism. Even more so then radios, which had to fit in with the general aethetic of a living room, bathrooms and kitchens were free to be as modern and fresh as possible since there was little in the way of “tradition” as to how the modern appliances inside should look. You will find tiled high art deco bathrooms even inside a Tudor revival or colonial house many times.

  13. Agnostic, what outgroup threatened the Byzantines/Eastern Romans along their ethnogenetic frontier and caused them to cohere and form their own empire centered around Byzantium/Constantinople?

  14. Byzantines' meta-ethnic nemesis were various migrating peoples who came southward down the eastern part of the Balkan peninsula, through historical Thrace (more flat and open, compared to the mountains further to the west in the peninsula).

    Germanic groups like the Goths (specifically Ostrogoths or "eastern Goths"), the Huns, and whoever was around there who were smaller in scale, but also part of that swirling chaotic region in Late Antiquity.

    They were nomadic or semi-nomadic, whereas the Greeks were sedentary. They spoke non-Hellenic languages (Germanic, non-Indo-Euro ones like Hunnic, etc.). They were either not Christian (probably some kind of Tengrism among the Huns, Germanic paganism or heretical forms of Christianity, lately adopted rather than early adopted).

    Christianity's evolution is really due to the Byzantines, not the Romans (let alone the small circle of Jews in Jerusalem who kept following Jesus long after his death). That's who sponsored and hosted the Seven Ecumenical Councils that defined Christianity, casting out those who were hostile to the Byzantine Empire. Cuius regio, eius religio.

    And the nomads had no historical roots in that area, whereas the Greeks had been there for over a thousand years. Byzantines had a Roman-ish heritage, Germanics and Huns had zero -- barbarians vs. civilization.

    And from the east, the Sasanian Empire of Persia, who like the Parthians and Achaemenids before them, wanted as much of Armenia, Anatolia, Greece, and the Levant as they could grab.

    Both threats relate to the stagnation and then collapse of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century. There's very little action back in Italy -- Gauls are gone, Carthagenians are gone. Power shifts to the Illyrian Emperors in the Balkans, on a more active frontier, since Rome never got far into eastern Europe, especially north of the Danube.

    And when the Parthians collapse, also in the 3rd C., that opens the way for a resurgent Persia under a new empire.

    Collapse of the Han Empire in China, *also* in the 3rd C., allows for the Steppe nomads (including the Huns) to rampage more than usual during a power vacuum -- and some of them will knock into each other, sending them further westward, ultimately into eastern Europe, where they can head south into Thrace and be right at the doorstep of Byzantium.

    1. Here's a video on other "remnants" of the Roman Empire.


  15. And Catholicism developed in the Frankish Empire, and the Great Schism occurred to distinguish the Frankish Empire from the Byzantine Empire in religion.

  16. 200 Clarendon Street in Boston is another 70s example glass and steel.

  17. Also in Boston Pei designed the West Wing of the Museum of Fina Arts.

  18. Visited in my dreams by Kiara again the other night! Just a friendly, flirtatious dream, not a yabai one. Like the first, involved navigating streets -- she was driving me somewhere, over a very up-and-down landscape, where the other direction was standing still with traffic, and we're just cruising along without a care in the world. (It was her IRL voice actress again, not her model-come-to-life.)

    Getting a car ride from an idol -- jealous?

    Still no dream-visits from Irys or Mumei. One day... I'll be waiting for it. ^_^

  19. Good point on the Hancock in Boston, I'd forgotten that one. That's from '76, East Building of the Natl Gallery is from '78 -- so we can say that those are the early forms of neoliberalism in the culture, right as the political and economic spheres are turning neoliberal.

    That's Jimmy Carter's term, who was elected to undo the New Deal, but failed as a disjunctive figure (end of the line for the dominant party). It took the Reagan Revolution to take off like a rocket, both the pol-econ side and the social-cultural side.

    More evidence for "Nixon was the last great American president" -- no glass & steel architecture, and the triumph & mass spreading of the woodgrain & chrome aesthetic.

    1. The "caretaker president" Gerald Ford brought Rumsfeld and Cheney into the White House for the first time and Rumsfeld was a huge fan of Milton Friedman.


      Plus, NYC was cut off under Ford.

      It probably would have been the same if Spiro Agnew succeeded Nixon (the deep state elements that helped expose Watergate wanted Agnew to finish Vietnam along with other stuff).

  20. So Trump or DeSantis is going to be the neoliberal disjunctive figure from the Republicans in the upcoming election in 2024, and then whoever from the Democrats gets elected in 2028 will usher in a new era away from neoliberalism?

  21. I finally read that Trump executive order on govt architecture. First, it came way too late to even serve as culture war fodder -- Dec 21, 2020, well after the Democrats shut down the ballot counting in a dozen battleground states on election night, with gazillions of ballots dumped each week after the election was already over, skewing 100% Dem.

    Second, it's naturally focused on Greco-Roman LARP-ing because DC is back East, where American culture never really took root.

    Third, it hates on Brutalism for its characteristic "massive and block-like appearance with a rigid geometric style and large-scale use of exposed poured concrete." Well, hate on the monochrome concrete all you want, but if you prefer airy over massive volumes, sinuous rather than rectilinear lines, and bio-organic rather than "rigid" geometry, you're literally anti-American. That's the style we pioneered way back in the 1890s and has defined our unique national / imperial style ever since.

    Are they going to hate on Mission style furniture, or Arts & Crafts bungalows, too?

    No, they're not that retarded in their LARP-ing -- they make carve-outs for every non-LARP-ing, truly American style, aside from Brutalism and Deconstructivism. Specifically giving a pass to Art Deco, Pueblo Revival, and Spanish Colonial (something Californians made up in the late 1800s, not what the architecture looks like in Mexico or Peru, the old hearts of the Spanish Empire in the New World).

    But that's cuz Trump's admin was disjunctive, trying to resolve the problems created by its own party's dominant era -- the Reagan era. But LARP-ing as Greco-Romans is so central to that neolib movement that they can't possibly champion actual American styles -- which were born during the Progressive Era, and came to full fruition during the New Deal.

    One of those eras was also controlled by the GOP (Prog), so it's not even a partisan matter. It's that the neolib project is to destroy, melt down, and sell off America writ large, to benefit a small number of elite strivers. Exactly the opposite project of the Prog and New Deal eras.

    So, in order to not totally erase American identity, they have to draw a line of continuity from ancient Greece and Rome -- which already look nothing like each other (no arches, domes, vaults, or rounded perimeters in Ancient Greece) -- right through Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect of America, and Art Deco.

    A true realignment will emphasize America's own national style, and de-partisanize it, and de-culture-war it. For example, championing the American Block Symphony style in both red states -- the Nebraska and Louisiana state capitols -- and conservative religions like Mormon temples, as well as the city halls of L.A. and Beverly Hills, and non-religious non-civic structures like the Eastern Building in L.A. (Everyone can agree that San Franscisco sucks, though -- the most Olde Worlde Euro-LARP-ers West of the Mississippi.)

  22. Another irony is that Democrats can't champion Frank Lloyd Wright, Art Deco, or Midcentury Modern either -- they're just as trapped in the neoliberal era as the GOP, and they either obey its rules or get shut out of office.

    That's why, when they do try to distinguish themselves from the dominant GOP, like moving away from classical or trad styles, they still have to LARP as European empires, rather than love and preserve American culture.

    They like the big ugly glass & steel lost-in-the-sky boxes. They like blobitecture. They like the sleek and futuristic without the grounding in the primitive organic past. That's where the decadent Europeans were headed, if they had never been absorbed into our imperial orbit and received our national style.

    None of that was present in the Prog and New Deal eras, and would have been actively stamped out -- Bauhaus never took root here, but the first Chicago School, Prairie homes, Mission furniture, Arts & Crafts bungalows, and Art Deco did -- way before Bauhaus -- and continued on through the Streamline Moderne and Midcentury Modern eras.

    True, some Democrat voters like the good ol' American style -- but then, so do a handful of Republican voters. Who didn't love the styles on Mad Men? Anti-American scum, that's who. But not Democrats, or Republicans, as a party.

    However, this minority of the Dem party can't sway their elites anymore than the Republicans who liked Mad Men could sway their elites into championing that instead of more anti-American Euro-LARP-ing.

    If you prefer "Greece and Rome" (not a coherent grouping, under architecture) over the Prairie School, Mormon Temples, Art Deco, and Midcentury Modern -- you're simply ashamed of being an American, and you hate American culture, being born in le wrong generation in le wrong country. Have some national pride, and worship American Block Symphony!

  23. Put simply, do you think pride in American excellence means "excelling at Americanism" or "excelling at directly copying other cultures, whether ancient or modern"? If you answer the second choice, you think America is no better than the Netherlands, just copying whatever was popular or superior among its neighbors, or ancient predecessors, or exotic ones across the world, or whatever.

    But we're not the Dutch -- we've undergone intense ethnogenesis and rose to imperial status, we did our own thing. You can either be proud of that, or ashamed of it, but there's no such thing as being pride of America directly copying Roman architecture. You're proud of Rome, despite not being a Roman, and you're merely glad or relieved that your own culture has chosen Rome to copy rather than some other style.

  24. These Olde Worlde LARP-ers can't even do ancient & foreign LARP-ing in the proper American style! European empires have been reviving "Greece and Rome" since the Renaissance, including our British parent empire right when we were declaring independence.

    Every American knows that if you want to LARP as being born in le wrong century in le wrong country, you LARP as an Egyptian! Europeans were halfway sympathetic to Egyptian influences, but they always went with "Greece and Rome" instead. America took Egyptian revival to the nth degree, where our most distinctive national civic monument is a giant obelisk!

    Why do conservatives, GOP-ers, neolibs in general always leave out the Washington Monument when heralding the classical, ancient, traditional, Olde Worlde, etc. influences on American culture, looong before the big bad 1960s came along and fucked everything up (in their retarded narrative)? It's because it's a distinctly American form of ancient LARP, and these faggots are all embarrassed of being American, desperate to beg the collapsed Euro empires for honorary Euro / Continental status.

    Pick your flabby anti-American ballsack off the ground, and salute the Egyptian tower, not the Roman dome!

    1. In your view, the 1990s were when things really started declining (with increased cocooning and the Boomers no longer being young, creative, and fun-loving).

  25. No way, the Washington Monument has an aluminum apex! Talk about futuristic gleaming shiny silver-toned metal, paired with ancient stone! You can't get more American than that!

    The aluminum pyramid is about 9 inches tall, the largest piece of cast aluminum at the time, worth as much as silver. But oh so industrial-and-machine age, unlike silver or gold, or copper / bronze, etc. It was shown off at Tiffany's in NYC before being place at the top.

    Primitive futurism!

    Contrast with the contemporaneous Eiffel Tower -- made of wrought iron (Medieval, not industrial or futuristic), light and airy skeleton / lattice (not solid hunks), curvilinear mostly and only rectilinear in its cross-section (not rectilinear everywhere). Although it is very tall, and a tower rather than other category of building -- but being Europeans, they had to put arches around the lower perimeter, unlike Egyptian or other Saharo-Arabian towers. Makes it look more Roman-friendly, not as ziggurat-y as American buildings.

    Just put some glass in open spaces, and it looks exactly like today's preferred styles! "What would have happened to architecture if the American Empire had not survived longer than the Western Euro empires, and spread its style to them when they collapsed?" It would be where things are going now, after America is well past its peak -- all that's missing is the glass to fill the gaps!

    Everyone hated the Eiffel Tower at the time, too. Compared to the rest of Paris, it still looks like an eyesore.

    Based Art Deco restored "tallest building" to Americanism -- the Chrysler Building, also exemplifying the "industrial futuristic chrome plus ancient material" aesthetic (the ancient materials being stone on the exterior, and highly figured woods on the interior).

    How can anyone look at the outside (especially the upper details) and the rich interiors of the Chrysler Building, and complain about America being uncultured and boring and soulless, unlike le epic "Greece and Rome"?

    The Chrysler Building is something to be awed by and proud of, unlike the national Capitol Building -- not sorry! -- but similar to the Washington Monument.

  26. Imagine seeing this, and still thinking American design owes anything to Bauhaus, rather than native trends going back to the late 1890s.




    Those flaccid Euros from collapsing empires would've had a heart attack if they got so much visual stimulation, especially from all those highly figured natural materials, and not just "cool, calm, sleek" ones! And Greco-Roman LARP-ers would've puked from all the chrome!

    For that matter, I don't think American Art Deco owes much to the 1925 Paris Exposition which gave the style its name. But that's a different story. We were doing Art Deco architecture before then, and in the interior / decorative / industrial arts, it's really the 1930s when that style takes off. And that began, not in Paris, but in -- where else? -- Chicago, at the 1933 World's Fair ("Century of Progress", hammering home the industrial-futuristic theme, not just Olde Worlde LARP-ing).

    I have a cool tie clip from that fair, which I picked up at a thrift store for a few dollars. One of a few Art Deco things I have. This one:


  27. Is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall also neoliberal?

  28. Still putting together the compilation of images for the consumer products that epitomized the "woodgrain and chrome" aesthetic. Will make a whole new post for it, since this one's getting stale for updating the gallery.

    If you want to know why it takes so long, it's cuz everyone's pictures on the internet SUCK.

    Mainly the internet has been degraded into "greedily trying to sell stuff to you at overinflated prices" -- which means the image of any consumer product is going to be from an e-commerce site. But they're all taken -- and never improved through editing -- by the greedy seller themselves, not a pro or even amateur photographer.

    So trying to find the shot from a good angle, with the key features shown off, with no distracting background, with no figure that blends into the background by color, with minimal glare or blown-out highlights from their 10,000 lumen fluorescent ceiling lights... good luck.

    I just had to wade through 25 pages of google image results to find a good pic of a certain phone. There are tons of photos before page 25, but half or more are irrelevant (despite putting search terms in quotes -- google search is broken), and most of the relevant ones have terrible pictures. Why do people take pictures in the dark, for something you're selling on ebay -- and asking a lot of money for? Lazy, greedy Boomers.

  29. Vietnam Vets Memorial doesn't really have much of a style to it, having been designed by a girl in her early 20s. It's more of a meme that has to be explained rather than understood.

    But specifically neoliberal? I dunno, it's still pretty blocky and hefty / massive, the two sections are straight lines that meet at an angle, no curves.

    No metal or glass, no airiness or openness. No wacky "subversion of expectations" or random collage of styles, or fragmentation of forms.

    The stone is black, which I don't think neolibs are fond of when they do use stone.

    It's pretty American, albeit a very boring form of it.

    I don't think it was meant to be about the structure itself, though, but as a way for Boomers to get emo about the war, whichever way they felt about it. They've always been like that. A distinctive and commanding structure would make it about the building itself, not the emotions.

  30. Another Euro designer that adapted the Eames' wood + chrome aesthetic during the '70s, aside from Giroflex in Switzerland. Here's G Plan from Britain:


    That's one hell of a wooden wrap-around! And with huge chrome fasteners, too, natch (as well as the casters). They even did this to a 3-seat sofa in the same line.

    I think the "postwar" era must have felt even more magical for the Euros -- they were rescued from collapsing imperial hangover syndrome, and absorbed into America's. So they wouldn't be doing much of their own anymore, but at least they could join the party being hosted by the Americans, where all the energy was at.

    From the brink of mutual total annihilation, to lounging around in your primitive futurist Eames-inspired chair, something unfamiliar from your recent history but all the more intriguing and stimulating and a tad exotic because of that. All protected by the Pentagon.

    Our empire wasn't in its declining and collapsing phase in the first half of the 20th C., so we had no awful experience to contrast against the upbeatness and optimism of the '50s and '60s. For Americans, that's just how life is supposed to be, taken for granted.

    Unfortunately for us, as our empire collapses, there is no other for us to be absorbed into. Russia hung around for awhile, but began collapsing in the 1990s. And that's it -- there will surely be another empire to emerge, sometime, somewhere, but there are no ascendant ones for the foreseeable future.

    No political, economic, or cultural bailouts coming to us, as there are no more suzerains out there. It's gonna feel lonely and unsettling on the way down, knowing there's no cushion or lifeline for anyone to extend to us...


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