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Posts tagged as “architecture”

Owen Hatherley’s Militant Modernism

The Modernist[1] design aesthetic is so tightly woven into our Ikea-furnished everyday lives that it is rather easy to forget its origins as an attempted movement toward a Utopian fantasy of the built environment. In visual contrast to many proto-Modern design practices, the Corbusian aesthetics that emerged in the early twentieth century exhibited an at times brutally rigid geometric quality. A stylistically modern organization of space seemed to respond to the contemporaneous disarray of the wartime human condition by making a silent demand for a more controlled way of life. Indeed, as modern architect Berthold Lubetkin stated, “The philosophical aim and orderly character of [Modernist] designs are diametrically opposed to the intellectual climate in which we live . . . my personal interpretation is that these buildings cry out for a world that has never come into being.”[2] In other words, modern architecture seems to have been the defense mechanism of a zeitgeist. It tried—as some would argue, in vain–to represent an environmental solution to a problem that was actually unsolvable.

Comment: Learning from Las Vegas

The following is adapted from a longer presentation by Brett Lazer at the IFA In-House Symposium on January 22, 2010.

Learning from Las Vegas and the Antinomy of the Postmodern Manifesto

Along with Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), Learning from Las Vegas (1972) forms Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s classic articulation of a new path for architecture in the face of late Modernism. The basic assertion of the book is a turn towards the vernacular – not a vernacular of gables and dormers, nor Modernism’s industrial vernacular, but rather the commercial vernacular, with its apotheosis in the neon lights of the Las Vegas strip. Venturi and Scott Brown see the Modernist rejection of history, ornament, and denotative symbolism as irresponsible, empty, boring, and inappropriate. The expressionistic use of space and light that Modernism requires is incommensurate with the scale of American society, reformatted in recent years to the automobile and the highway. As Venturi puts it, “articulated architecture today is like a minuet in a discotheque.”[1] However, taking on Modernism is no easy task, requiring rhetorical contortions that call into question the very foundations of Venturi and Scott Brown’s project.