Monday, March 31, 2008

Failings of Modernism

And to think, the Modernist movement was touted and intended to raise the standard of living for everyone - albeit through the virtues of industry. In my education there was a certain nostalgia and notion that the general public just didn’t get Modernism because of its abstract qualities and essential forms. Though a little radical this begins to make a lot of sense as you walk through desolate Boston City Hall Plaza.

“The messes we’ve made of places where we live and work is not solely the result of bad buildings, though there are plenty of them. But that hardly lets architects off the hook. Rather, with the hubris of religious zealots, they set out on a great purifying mission that damaged the whole physical setting for civilization of our time. The dogmas that guided them went by the name of modernism. Heretics and skeptics were anathematized as systematically as the opponents of the fifteenth–century Vatican.
Modernism did its immense damage in these ways: by divorcing the practice of building from the history and traditional meaning of building; by promoting a species of urbanism that destroyed age-old social arrangements and, with them, urban life as a general proposition; and by creating a physical setting for man that failed to respect the limits of scale, growth, and the consumption of natural resources, or to respect the lives of other things. The result of Modernism, especially in America, is a crisis of the human habitat: cities ruined by corporate gigantism and abstract renewal schemes, public buildings and public spaces unworthy of human affection, vast sprawling suburbs that lack any sense of community, housing that the un-rich cannot afford to live in, a slavish obeisance to the needs of automobiles and their dependent industries at the expense of human needs, and a gathering ecological calamity that we have only begun to measure.”

The Geography of Nowhere
James Howard Kunstler

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