While the entire MoT editorial staff remains committed to the most stringent and vigilant judgement of all things tasty, staff members admit to suffering from a bit of mission drift since the Avengers movie happened. Turns out, even the Taste needs a summer break. So, behold: what if the Avengers were architecture?
We all know that the Avengers are really good at beating up on cities, basically laying waste to any building that gets between them and flying fish-ships, meanies from other cosmic realms, and/or whatever will support a spectacular action sequence rife with flowing hair, flapping capes and lite-brite fighting gizmos. But when the dust settles, when the tesseract is contained, when the so-called “villain” has been chained and all the struggling shawarma restaurants across the US given a huge boost in sales from legions of fanboys & fangirls, what would our heroes (and not-heroes, since we will widen this beyond the card-carrying members of the team) like to call home?
So glad you asked! We knew we weren’t the only ones thinking about this.
Let’s start with the original superhero. A snarky nabob or ironic hipster (is there any other kind?) might claim that nothing says ‘Merica like a flashy drive-thru burger joint or big-box retailer full of goods from Chinese sweatshops. But the thing about Captain America is that there’s not a stitch of irony or snark about him. He is earnestness personified: as true blue as his stockings. The Captain is heroism and truth, honesty and aspiration, as straight-shooting and never-say-die as the Doric Order. The Greek Revival was the style of choice for countless small town churches and county courthouses from sea to shining sea: the buildings of faith and law, order and justice, deference and devotion. Heroic stuff of the grandest vision, knit together of homespun brick and timber.
You didn’t think we were going to go with a stave church, did you? To quote the Asgardian, heck nej! Thor cannot be characterized by an ephemeral timber structure raised in obedience to a whole different religious system that came to Midgard long after the Odinclan. Thor is monumental, courageous, towering, classical in a sense, maturing into great depth of emotional impact, but he walks with a certain swagger. If he was a little more serious he’d be 1930s Stripped Classicism, but he’s not. The God of Thunder is brash and powerful, flashy and show-offy. His weapon of choice is forged of magic metal and sends sparks flying like so many twinkling lights over Manhattan. Indeed he even turned the Chrysler Building into some kind of energy conductor to power up Mjölnir. And consider how the ornament in the picture reflects on his helmet. It’s just all too obvious.
Yes he’s large and in charge, shooting down fighter planes carrying nukes, smart-mouthing The Council, withholding secrets from Ironman, turning Loki’s clever phrases back on himself and running the show on a giant floating aircraft carrier in the sky. But under the coat and the eye patch, we can’t help but see Jules facing down Pumpkin with Honeybunny trembling to the side, and so, to us, Fury will always be that funky diner in L.A. It’s Googie, but a freakin’ stern version of it. And it’s not hard to imagine Fury lecturing Loki on the path of the righteous man, is it? And you just know, when Fury yanks out his wallet . . . well, you know what it says.
Small in stature, monumental in butt-kicking; Natasha Romanoff is mid-century Modernism. Cool bordering on cold, crisp edging to sharp, reserved on the way to bored. The fragility of glass set within steel. The quintessence of Less Is More. Completely authoritative, precise, lethal, glamorous. No sentiment, no frivolity, just the stern factual presence–or is it? Deception is so well-tailored, so pristine, as to be the most elegant kind of disguise. Perpetually alert even on the third martini. Armed and dressed to kill. Requires significant maintenance. Should always be photographed by Julius Shulman.
Massive. Tough. Unyielding. The Hulk is Brutalism. Reinforced concrete is perhaps the only material that could have a chance standing up to him and at the same time represent the force and power of the “enormous green rage monster.” As lots of hopeful communities just waiting the swing the wrecking ball know, there is really no getting rid of this stuff. But that’s not all there is to this character of course–we’re also talking about Dr. Bruce Banner, which is the reason we chose this university library that, in spite of its outrageous scale, has a certain elegance and, dare we say, sad heroism, in its lonely plaza setting, removed from all other artifactural context and human interaction. Brutal, but a lonely brute.
Why was this guy in the movie? Hawkeye serves a certain utility that pokes the plot along, and he certainly makes a convenient punching bag for Romanoff. But really, at the end of the day, he is a dude with fancy arrows and great vision. He really can’t compete with legendary heroism, demi-goddery, white-hot intelligence, a flying suit, or even ballerina-assassin skills. Hawkeye is convenient, he makes things a little easier. He’s a parking garage. An above-average-looking parking garage, we grant you, but still.
Holy gizmos, fangirl! Basically Ironman is a high-tech, flying version of a medieval knight, minus the chivalry, right? The wacky brilliance, super ego, towering fortune can only be manifest in some of the nuttiest, most absurd, attention-grabbing and outrageously expensive buildings planned on the planet–like the spinning Dynamic Building that might even be too much for Dubai. (Also, appropriately enough, the ads for this honker are chock full of girls in bikinis and race cars, to boot.) Off the hook and out of control. A really expensive clown.
OK, OK, OK: he’s not an Avenger, but without the Lost Prince of Asgard, there would be no Avengers, would there? Besides, overlooking this tall cool drink of crazy in a post about tastiness would be just daft. Just as his background is mixed up (his home realm of Jötunheimr looks like German Expressionism by-way-of a Caspar David Friedrich snow storm painting, and his adoptive home in Asgard is all techno-Babylon with a few patches of Norse interlace thrown in for good measure), Loki bridges two worlds: one of reason, trust, honor and fealty, the other of suspicion, isolation, mayhem, trickery. His architecture must likewise embrace aesthetic odds: an elegant, stately framework, broken down with unexpected twists and turns; a sense of ease and prettiness that can be suddenly interrupted by the harsh bite of metal. The ornament here is beguilingly beautiful: it draws one in to a garland of roses, only to find salamanders and beetles cavorting among the thorns. Smooth limestone melts away to make room for twisting rods of iron, twitchy in their tight bends, unsettling in their asymmetry: unpredictable, dangerous beauty.