Not long ago, during an online conversation about whether traditional architects can steal back the world “modern” from modernist architects, Rhode Island architect David Andreozzi, who is president of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, linked to a house he’d designed in Westerly from 2003, and called it “modern.”
I objected. It was a traditional Shingle style house, of, yes, a wild and crazy design, but a dazzling example of how creative tradition can be. That’s different from being “modern,” unless Andreozzi was using the word, as he wishes to do, in its normal meaning: of today; using the latest methods – which could equally apply to a new traditional house. The discussion about the word and its usage went on and on. It was laudable and fascinating.
In my opinion, however, the modernists successfully kidnapped the word a hundred years ago, and the trads are unlikely to be able to free it and limit its use to its proper meaning as long as modernists control the architectural discourse. Ending that control is more likely to occur if traditional architects concentrate on designing great traditional buildings that teach the public that beauty is an equally valid design strategy for today, not just an artifact of the historical past. And they can also repeat, as I like to do, the argument that modern architecture is ugly and stupid – using, of course, as others are more likely to do, sophisticated versions of that argument. This house is obviously not ugly or stupid so it cannot be modern architecture.
But that’s neither here nor there. Readers should look at the photographs of Andreozzi’s Fertig residence and decide for themselves whether it qualifies as “modern” architecture.