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“Deconstructivist Architecture”

View of “Deconstructivist Architecture,” 1988, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

IN NOVEMBER 1988, an obituary appeared in Texas Architect alongside a birth announcement: “DIED. Fred Postmodernist. BORN. Herman Deconstructivist.” The cause for both: the exhibition “Deconstructivist Architecture,” which had run from June 23 to August 30 that summer at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The show was organized by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley with the assistance of Frederieke Taylor. It featured a selection of the museum’s holdings from the Russian avant-garde and ten architectural projects designed over the preceding decade. The architects were seven stars we know today: Coop Himmelb(l)au, Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, and Bernard Tschumi. But why was the show a matter of life and death?

Johnson, then eighty-one, was renowned as the founding director of MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, as well as for

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