‘Modernism’s back!’ said he!

modernismlede.jpg

Here’s a great addition to my collection of articles that damn modernism in its own defense. This one says pretty much the opposite of what the headline says and what the writer, David Hay, wants to believe. “Why Modernism Came Back, and What It Looks Like Now,” in Curbed, is filled with quotes of architects backing away from modernism. But each time, the author insists that modernism’s popularity has grown. I read it all the way through, and could not believe my eyes. Give it a try.

Modernism remains dominant not because it is popular but because the architectural establishment keeps the playing field tilted – except in the market for single-family houses, where people not committees decide. Most architecture journals puff only modern architecture, but look at what’s for sale on the magazine racks of your local bookstore. As citizens in unfree societies are aware, dominance does not always equal popularity.

About David Brussat

For a living, I edit the writing of some of the nation's leading architects, urbanists and design theorists. This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. My freelance writing and editing on that topic and others addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, and a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to invest your prose with even more style and clarity, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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6 Responses to ‘Modernism’s back!’ said he!

  1. Thanks for this post David. What’s even more damning is the fact that he uses the term “traditional modernism” in his piece. Modernists usually physically recoil at the mere mention of the word “tradition”, but here is solid evidence that they see modernism itself as a tradition. A tradition that has about as much depth as the silly tradition of wearing thick rimmed Corbusier glasses

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  2. Anonymous says:

    I would be interested in viewing these icky tracts in SoCal. If you have the time and inclination, I would love a couple links.

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    • It’s difficult, Anon., to find modernist houses photographed in multiples so this will have to do for now. And I can’t get it to go into this reply. Please email me (dbrussat@gmail.com) and I will send it to you. Others who want to see it can google “modern architecture tracts southern calif” and scroll down not far to a set of eight shots of Granada Hills.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Having just returned to New England after many years near San Diego, I can say that “modern design” for residential work can be a relief from what you see in most So Cal tracts where ersatz Tudor, Craftsman, Tuscan and Cape Cod designs sit cheek to jowl.

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    • In all likelihood you are mistaken. The latter is more attractive than the former. Tracts of modernist houses cheek by jowl are really icky, even worse than bad-trad Tudor, etc. Modernists usually criticize well done new Tudor, etc., even more vigorously than if it is poorly done. They feel even more threatened by it.

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