Före och efter lådmodernism

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The two photos above and below show Stockholm decades ago and today. (Arkitekturupproret)

Stockholm före och efter lådmodernism” – “Stockholm before and after modernism” – displays the deadly effect on the urban fabric of the Klara district of Sweden’s capital city after decades of urban renewal and modern architecture. Except for the lonely church, buildings that lined the finely grained quarter’s streets in the photo above have been ripped out and replaced by clunky architecture out of scale with the humanity that was naturally born and once typical of every city and town.

Now the lower picture characterizes all too much of nearly every city and town throughout the world. Neighborhoods that have avoided this fate are called historic districts. These are just normal parts of cities erected before World War II. They have been given special protection from the bulldozers of modernity, but the protections came too late to spare huge swaths of many cities, not to mention their suburbs, which never had a chance.

By now we’ve become all too accustomed to the suffering that has been inflicted. Most people barely notice it any more, just as a prisoner eventually gets used to his chains. But he knows he is bound, not free, and more often than not it shrinks his spirit. A lot of humanity’s ills can be attributed in some degree to modernist architecture and planning – not just the ugliness and sterility that replaced beauty and charm in our surroundings, but our very humanity itself – our ability, our will, to address the problems, big and small, of life and of society.

The photos, from the Facebook page of the website Arkitekturupproret, were sent to me by Audun Engh, of the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism. INTBAU is a global version of the ICAA, the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art.

The before-and-after posting was the good work, speculates Engh, of Albert Mehr Persson, who is a key player in an “extremely successful” architectural rebellion against modernism under way in Sweden. Better late than never.

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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7 Responses to Före och efter lådmodernism

  1. Pingback: Krier on designer hypocrisy | Architecture Here and There

  2. Thank you for the timely post David 0 as someone who spends regular time in Stockholm, I find the work of Arkitekturupproret very timely and hopeful. Speaking of INTBAU, though, it’s not just a European organization in the mould of ICA&A, but has chapters all over the world – including the US! Many people have been active in both organizations for many years, including Christine Franck, Duncan McRoberts and many others. And there are INTBAU chapters in India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Australia, Russia, and many more diverse places. See e.g. http://www.intbau.org. Cheers, m

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sad, sad. Leon, speaking of hypocrisy, someone should tally how many modernists actually live in the kinds of buildings they inflict on others.

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  4. Steven Semes says:

    David, with your permission, I am certainly going to use that marvelous phrase of yours: Historic districts are simply “the normal parts of cities.” That is exactly right, and they are now so rare that we must place legal restrictions around them to prevent their succumbing to the same fate that has destroyed so many others. Thank you!

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    • There, Steve, I am channeling Duany of maybe a decade ago, at least, in his writings about “gentrification.” My phrase, his characterization. Specifically, I think he said that historic districts are simply districts built before WWII.

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  5. LEON KRIER says:

    This kind of lament has been published for most cities and villages in the world. Arkitekturupproret
    demonstrates the growing upheaval of the inborn aesthetic sense and judgment of humans against its desensitisation through modernist brainwashing, spread via education. Hypocrisy in matters of ethics is fundamental in maintaining good manners and peace in the routine relations and economy between individuals, families, nations, societies in general. Hypocrisy in matters of aesthetics instead has lead to the worldwide destruction of aesthetic culture in architecture, urbanism and the fine arts since WW II. This novel form hypocrisy does in fact not alter personal judgment but the individual’s expression of it. That is why you hear educated people say…”I don’t like that “prize winning building” or that ” contemporary art object” but then I am no expert”. As if you had to be an expert to know what woman to love and what landscape to like. The peak of perversion in the field was reached when Lydie Polver, the Mayor of Luxembourg introduced the 4 volumes lamento on the destruction of my once beautiful hometown, stating that the before/after illustrations demonstrated that Luxembourg had gained in beauty by its modern(ist) redevelopments.

    Liked by 2 people

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