Highbrow Skyscraper, Lowbrow Plaza

By: Matthew Battles
April 10, 2009

seagsontagSusan Sontag pays a visit to the Seagram Building (“gleaming like a switchblade”) to interview architect Philip Johnson. Embedded here with thanks to Joanne McNeil, who posted this at her terrific blog Tomorrow Museum.

Sontag’s visit to the Seagram Building reminded us of another video that captures the way people tame the alienating majesty of its plaza. (Note on nomenclature: “to tame” is hilobrow; “to domesticate” is middlebrow. Taming is something done with a whip and a chair, pistol on hip.) This excerpt comes from the film The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, adapted from a book of the same name by William H. Whyte (author of The Organization Man). Thanks for this clip goes to Jason Kottke for finding and posting.