Saturday, March 13, 2004
Modernism: Stuck in the 20th Century
I've already said this in the posts about the Olympic villages, but let me say it more concisely: all of the forms of today's Starchitects and Architectural Fashionistas are nostalgic interpretations of the Modernism of the 1920s or 1940 - 1970.
The 1920s brought us German Expressionism and the Russian Constructivists. After Gropius came to Harvard in 1937, American Modernism became corporate and sedate, as seen in the work of its leading practitioners, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM). A more expressionistic version of this was the Googly architecture of Southern California and Southern Florida.
All of the work of the Starchitects and their younger disciples – Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Morphosis, MVRDV – looks back to this work with longing. One of the ironies of this, of course, is that this was all supposed to be the architecture of the future. And more than half a century later this architecture of nostalgia is still supposed to be the architecture of the future.
The other irony is that it is supposed to be unprecedented. The architecture of the future, with no past. It is clearly neither.
This is just one of the things that is new about New Urbanism. New Urbanists, and the growing number of Classical and Traditional architects, look to timeless, universal values to make new places. Sure, some of the Classical and New Urban architects just want to reproduce or reinterpret their favorite places from the past – just like the Fashionistas. But more commonly, they use traditional principles, not traditional models.
This is the difference the Notre Dame architectural historian Bill Westfall refers to when he says that Classicism is the imitation of Nature, and Neo-Classicism the imitation of Classicism.
Modernism correctly claimed that it was the cultural expression of much of the 20th Century, but we're in the 21st Century now. Most of the Fashionistas are Neo-Modernists in wolves' clothing.
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I'm not sure how classicism is an 'imitation of nature' as it begs the question 'what is
Other point who's worried if this is the twenty-
first century instead of the twentieth? Time is
pretty much of a continuum so which century we're in hardly matters.
You're right about the nostalgia in recent
'modern' work, apart from the profusion of acute angles on plan and elevation Zaha Hadid's latest work the housing in Vienna has an uncanny resemblance to work of the nineteen thirties.
Posted by: Louis Billerey at Mar 25, 2006 3:57:58 AM
One of the great problems of modernism is that where traditionalism thrived on architectural history and precedent, modernism thrives solely on architectural speculation.
Posted by: mxthree at Jan 4, 2013 7:10:13 PM