Cars and buildings have a very similar Gestalt to me.
Both are designs that are used and lived in, following changing styles and trends. Buildings and cars both have a sense of the everyday, the functional, and the artistic to them. I really couldn’t do the comparisons and contrasts between cars and architecture justice, but I did find one recognizable representation of the relationship on the corner of 7th and Bowery – a 1983 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible parked across from the St. George Ukrainian Church and 41 Cooper Square (Cooper Union’s brand new eco-minded contemporary construction).
The 1983 Cadillac was a downsized car, much smaller than the Cadillac of the mind’s eye. The ‘small’ Eldorado Biarritz Convertible we see here is by no means a small car, but it was an attempt at being cutting edge and paying mind to the increased need for fuel efficiency. America had been through two Oil Crises in the last decade, and this Cadillac reflects the contemporary spirit of keeping cars small, even the top of the line Cadillac, like this one.
In that sense, the Cadillac is very similar to the new Cooper Union building, designed to look arrestingly new, as well as reflect today’s desire to produce ‘sustainable’ things. Not that anyone can really say what sustainable means, but this is a building that’s been winning awards for its environmental friendliness. not that it is an especially friendly looking building – I am far from an architecture critic, but the least that I can say about its look is that there seems to me to be a kind of similarity of intentions between the Cadillac’s sharp, slab sides from 1983 and the swooping metallic facades of 41 Cooper Square.
What I really loved to see, however, was the contrast between the Cadillac and the Ukrainian Church across the street. For all of the Cadillac’s visual attempts to catch onto the lean, sparse style of stylish European designs of the time, it still has some signs of the Cadillac baroque that the world knows it so well for. The fins of 1959 are still represented on this Biarritz convertible and the flash gold of the Cadillac crest looks right at home with the gold reliefs of eastern Christianity.
While I am not only unqualified to, but not ready to draw any conclusions about how cars and buildings relate to each other, it was great seeing these three designs all right next to each other. I will let your mind draw any links between the upright stance of the Cadillac, the style of the church and the architecturalism of the Cooper Union building.
It is important not to get mixed up by keeping like terminology when comparing this Cadillac to the two buildings – an upright, painted front with a large metal grating means something very different for the front of a building as it does for the front of a car
For the Cadillac, all this upright metal is conservative and flashy, but an identical looking grating on the storefront in the background would only be used for keeping the closed shop safe. Seemingly identical terms do not imply identical meanings in different contexts.
The real parallel between the Cadillac and the church isn’t in the metal grating they both have in common, but the sense of opulence in glossy colors and bright metalwork – the comparison is best held to the gold relief.
Likewise, while both 41 Cooper Square and this Biarritz Convertible share some curving bright metalwork, the Cooper building seeks to express a sense of challengingly cutting-edge scientific development, while the Cadillac uses it to make the Cadillac look expensive and refined. They both pursue an imposing character, but for different reasons.
Architecture and cars reflect each other, with similar design terms and thoughts, but I have seen no clear relationship between the two, nor heard a unifying theory between automobiles and buildings – two great points of modernity and habitation