They cut the feedback loop.
Nobody has done a better job of explaining the persistence of modern architecture than does Roger Scruton in his review of James Stevens Curl’s new book, Making Dystopia. In his review, Scruton sums up with precision what Stevens Curl describes at length and in stunning detail in his book, subtitled “The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism.”
Here is Sir Roger’s explanation:
When people make mistakes and are distressed at the result, they will as a rule retrace their steps, discover where they went wrong, and try to correct the matter. That is what it means to be rational, and rationality is an evolutionary advantage, enabling our hypotheses to die in our stead, as Karl Popper famously put it. However, when decisions are made for others, by people who do not pay the cost when things go wrong, error has a tendency to become programmed into the system, since nobody has the incentive to rectify it. This is what happened with the rise of totalitarian government in the 20th century. And as James Stevens Curl shows, in this powerfully argued polemic, it is what happened when a handful of egotistical charlatans imposed modernist architecture on the rest of us, accompanying their cold-hearted and alienating forms on the people, whom they despised, with loud fanfares of self-applause.
Although modernist architecture has been hated by the mass of mankind from its first inception in the brains of Le Corbusier, Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and the rest of the gang, nobody has been able to put a stop to it, or to act on the obvious conclusion that we had better retrace our steps. A critical orthodoxy has arisen, animated by the very people who most need to be criticized, according to which the modern movement in architecture was historically necessary, uniquely functional, uniquely honest, and in any case morally correct. With a zealotry equal to that of the 17th century Puritans, the modernists took over the schools of architecture, the architectural press and the channels of critical communications, shouting their messages to the heavens, and condemning as ignorant and reactionary all those who showed the slightest hesitation in accepting it.
Scruton goes on to describe how the founding modernists were in bed with the communists and the Nazis:
What is interesting, and what comes out very clearly from this thoroughly researched account of the history and ideology of the modernist movement, is that the modernist pioneers were involved to a man (there were no women) in the communist and fascist ideologies of the day.
The modernists have tried to keep their totalitarian connection hidden. But it has come out, slowly but surely. Making Dystopia not only does a totally thorough job describing the phenomenon and its history, but has no qualms about calling modern architecture evil. Its founders learned propaganda from the master propagandists of the 20th century. The Bauhaus school was unabashedly communist under its founder, Walter Gropius. Goebbels helped Mies try to get Hitler to accept modernism as the style template for the Third Reich. During WWII, Le Corbusier was a planner for the Nazi collaborators in Vichy France. In its young adulthood, modern architecture’s guru was American architect Philip Johnson, who went to Germany in the 1930s as an acolyte of Hitler. And when he came back he supported Huey Long and Father Coughlin, the main U.S. proponents of authoritarianism. This all occurred after he curated the International Style exhibition at MoMA. The Nazi regime was more a cult than a government: modern architecture is more a cult than a profession. So the resemblance between fascist and modernist propaganda has been relentlessly pooh-poohed by modernism’s acolytes. Move along, please! There’s nothing to see here!
The book’s treatment in Britain is a good example of the intentionally broken feedback loop described in Scruton’s review. The architectural establishment attempted to ignore Making Dystopia at first, but the instant credibility provided by its publisher, Oxford University Press, has made that difficult, so reviewers for the major British newspapers, journals and architectural media have deployed falsehood and fake outrage as their chief critical tools. Anything to avoid addressing the book’s indictment forthrightly.
Stevens Curl has been a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects for six decades, but that has not prevented its leadership circles from trying to erase the author from RIBA’s version of the Kremlin balcony, including an über-petty review in the RIBA Journal. They crib from the text of Nikolaus Pevsner, fabricator of modernism’s false narrative: down the memory hole with any 19th century architect whose work casts doubt on modernism’s fictitious “evolution”! As for any 21st century skeptic, censorship’s the ticket. Whether through evasion or deceit, modern architecture’s leadership has ensured that, as Sir Roger puts it, “error has been programmed into the system.”
That’s why something so widely disliked since its inception a century ago has managed not just to maintain its grip on societies worldwide but to leap from summit to summit in its attempt to degrade life on Earth by killing the idea of beauty in architecture, the queen of arts. Which is why the subhead of James Stevens Curl’s riveting book, “The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism,” may truly be described as hyper-accurate.