“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.