The Death of (Modern?) #Architecture

Architect Octavian Ungureanu / Architect’s Blog / The Death of (Modern?) #Architecture
The Death Of (Modern?) Architecture
Justin Shubow
Justin Shubow:” Architecture Continues To Implode: More Insiders Admit The Profession Is Failing”

Justin Shubow wrote in Forbes,” Architecture Continues To Implode: More Insiders Admit The Profession Is Failing.” This gentleman thinks that architects lost their contact with common people, and this happens mostly with modernist architects.

Starchitecture Is Not Modern Architecture

The contemporary architecture that bothers Mr. Shubow is not Modernism. Moreover, it is rather something similar to what Mannerism was to Classicism. It uses some of its words but has different topics, and different ideas.

What Modern Architecture Is

A few hundred years ago, architects rediscovered antiquity (Roman) architecture. They learned once again the classical lessons of beauty and started some kind of rational architecture. In decades, the forms emerged into Baroque. Using the same classical orders, the same columns, and the same arches, they focused on forms playing with them.

Mannerism just uses the manner of the old. No reason is set behind the pure pleasure of forms and decoration.

Centuries later, the architecture evolved into an academic dead end. When buildings were designed, the style was just a simple choice. Academic recipes were accessed to design it classical, baroque, and whatever sub-style the client would like.

The columns, the cornices, the strips, the caryatids, well, all decorations were prefabricated by artisans on demand. Even though it might sound like a tough word, it was a kitsch industry supporting architecture.

Passing nearby the attempts to reinvent decorations (as Art Nouveau, Neo-Gothic, or Neo-Romanian), the modernists just reinvented the game.

Photo: ‘Picture by Hay Kranen / CC-BY‘ There is nothing ugly in Schroder Vila by Gerrit Rietveld. This is modern architecture. Well, this is the building I like most of all!

They denied the decoration.

Modern architecture tried to emphasize the functionality of buildings. The architects realized that an aesthetic principle such as symmetry could be an enemy of proper functionality.

Ironically, they discovered new aesthetics in the decoration denial.

The Contemporary Architecture And The Starchitects

What Mr. Shubow perceives as Modernists (Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, MRDV, and so on) are not modernists. They disjointed the forms that Modernism created to play with them as with melted Lego pieces.

We can not even say if their design is avant-garde because the Garde might not follow them.

It is questionable if their architecture is ugly, as the Forbes article said. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.

The real point that this author has is that starchitecture (not architecture) is somehow indifferent to people and the environment (mostly built environment), and it is meant to shock. Their architecture is more focused on forms and architectural sculpting that sometimes, again, as academic architecture used to do it, harms the functionality.

Another point is that starchitects and starchitecture need a special kind of commitment. They need a special kind of client with special purposes.

They are this way, indifferent to the large public, their purpose being to satisfy their clients. It is an advertising architecture where there is no place for ordinary architecture.

They are not focused on designing middle-class homes or social housing. On the other side, they are not craving this particular market segment acceptance, most likely because they do not even live in the same world.

Where Mr. Shubow Is Right

The starchitects lost touch with the real world. Their focus is solely on pushing boundaries. They have little concern about whether their work will lead or not to the future.

As I saw the” Make It Right” images, I have to admit that at least some of these houses are just different, just to be different. There is no sense of “right” over there, as in right equals correct.

The MVRDV proposal for New Orleans could be a memorial of the past sinister, not a real helping hand.

When the request is to provide house design for distressed families who lost a lot, the answer should be just one: a design for affordable, durable, and friendly homes. The purpose is to heal, not to parade the design virtuosity.

Where Mr. Shubow Is Wrong

The author seems to believe there is another way besides Modern/Contemporary Architecture.

If the Contemporary Neo-Classical, Neo-Victorian, Neo-whatever-classical-copy-style-they-might-be homes that are most of the newly built homes in America might look like an alternative, almost all over the world, this is false.

The arts and crafts that old buildings were decorated with are now almost extinct. In Europe, such craftsmen are used solely to provide repairs to historic buildings. There are only too few marble sculpting shops to provide classical capitals as designed.

The architecture will be more and more limited to building materials that are industrially produced. It is more and more difficult to provide auxiliary artsy elements to decorate such homes.

So this future will be a future of Greek classical elements, maybe 3d printed in plastic or mass-produced elements, as the Beethoven sculpture bust was made in cheap marble imitation.

100 Years Ago

Architects and Engineers developed the reinforced concrete 100 years ago. We use steel structures for more time. We have now had high-tech insulations, steel, and glass for decades.

If building materials are new and better, the new technologies also produce new forms, shapes, and aesthetics. It is as simple as that!

People embraced cellular communications and smart devices because their lives are better this way, much better. To send paper mail when you can instantly text someone is just insane. Of course, something is lost, but much more is won this way.

The death of modern architecture?What Architects Need

We, the architects, have lost contact. We do need critical thinking coming from both ourselves and the public. We do need realistic criticism.

We do need to focus on efficiency in both design and aesthetics and more on efficient thinking and critical thinking.

I must admit that someone accepting that Mrs. Zaha Hadid’s new stadium just looks like a giant vagina is the fool little boy watching the clothes of the emperor.

In the” academic” architecture education and critics, it is somehow taboo to say you do not like a starchitect work. But nowadays, more and more people admit they do not really like Gehry or Zaha, or…

The starchitects went so far away because they just were encouraged to go there. It is a reality show of architecture. They enjoy this show, and they just make good cash doing so.