New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff signed on to environmental apocalypse in his Thursday review of Rising Currents: Projects for New York's Waterfront, a research program that he said was "conceived to address the potential effects of rising water levels and apocalyptic storms on the city."
But the program's real subject is frustration with the federal government's snail-like response to global warming, the brutal effects of the financial crisis, wasteful infrastructure projects and squandered intellectual resources. Its aim is to prod government to think more creatively about our nation's crumbling and outdated fabric.
The idea began taking shape several years ago, after the prominent New York engineer Guy Nordenson visited New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and was prompted to study the impact that global warming could have on a seemingly safe coastal city like New York. His findings were alarming: for example, according to a recent study by New York City's panel on climate change, even at current rates of global warming water levels will rise as much as two feet by 2080 as the atmosphere gets hotter. If the ice cap melts at a faster rate, Mr. Nordenson added, the figure could double. In that case a storm surge on top of that could put 20 percent of the city under water.
New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff's "Reflections: New Orleans and China" showed that he shared the same affliction as Times foreign affairs columnist Tom Friedman -- gauging the success of the strong central power of Communist China by looking at its shining and efficient surface, without questioning its effect on the nation's unseen citizenry. For good measure, he even held Ronald Reagan responsible for both the devastation from Hurricane Katrina and last year's deadly Minneapolis bridge collapse.
For Americans watching events unfold on television late last month, the arduous evacuation of New Orleans and the grandeur of the Olympic Games couldn't have made for a starker contrast.
However one feels about its other policies, the Chinese government is clearly not afraid to invest in the future of its cities. The array of architecture it created for the Beijing Olympics was only part of a mosaic of roads, bridges, tunnels, canals, subway lines and other projects that have transformed a medieval city of wood and brick into a modern metropolis overnight.
Finding "jingoism" in a journalism museum? Only a hypersensitive New York Times critic could possibly uncover that.
The Newseum (which is precisely what it sounds like) opened in the nation's capital last weekend in a prominent spot along Pennsylvania Avenue. The Times's architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff found the design by turns "muddled" and "slapdash" -- but what he really disapproved of was the political message he managed to discern in a 9-11 exhibit titled "Attack on America," which he found to border "precariously on jingoism."
In another convoluted move, the museum exhibits the front pages of scores of daily newspapers along the street each day. At first it seems to be a salute to the newspaper's traditional function in a democratic society, and pedestrians seem to love it. But the row of newspapers is oddly punctuated by a pedantic display explaining its meaning.