Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Modernist Ideology

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it,  the following theses will be put forth for public discussion:

Thesis I

Architectural form does not "follow", it is not a "result"; rather, for good or ill, form is the physical manifestation of desire, thought and emotion proceeding from the human mind.

Thesis II

The art of building must be primarily a locational phenomenon, not a
temporal one. Architecture should strive to be first and foremost "of its
place", utilizing locally available materials, considerate of local customs,
in harmony with the local climate and ecology.

Thesis III

It is clear evidence of a lost, amoral society in utter cultural decay that
designs and constructs homes to last for a single generation only.

Thesis IV

The minimalist mantra of "less is more" together with a reductionist,
"efficient" machine aesthetic has resulted in a sterile, cold, unfeeling
built environment. Intelligible it may be, yet devoid of sense it is only
capable of producing stillborn, lifeless work.

Thesis V

There is a misconception that modern industry and technology are the
"avant-garde", progressive future of architecture. Yet industry and
technology are responsible for our present urban environment, having
achieved dominance in the Western world well over a century ago.

Thesis VI

The contemporary architectural community leads the conversation in energy
efficiency whilst continuing to promote materials and systems that require
anywhere from dozens to thousands of times more energy than the traditional
solutions they supplant.

Thesis VII

Modernist ideology lacks a true philosophical understanding of "radical", as in "having roots" i.e. "radish" or a return to origins as used mathematically.

Likewise it misinterprets the fundamental meaning of "revolution", the concept of "rolling back". Therefor Modernism is neither radical nor revolutionary. The idea of continuous upheaval as a positive vehicle for progressive change is a failed product of Modernist thought.

Thesis VIII

Our Modern, industrialized society is wholly dependent on hundreds of millions of years of accumulated energy that are being squandered in a matter of decades. As these precious, potentially enduring resources confront scarcity and approach exhaustion, traditional solutions will reemerge.

Thesis IX

Clean is code for a sparse, minimalist design bereft of craft, cleansed of
ornament, devoid of the polluting evidence of the human touch. A product of
industry, possible only with the precision of the machine.

Thesis X

Contemporary architectural education is heavily reliant on computer assisted
calculation leaving practitioners largely innumerate, with little practical
understanding of number in space (geometry), number in time (harmony) or
point, line, plane and 3D symmetries.
Thesis XI
Craft, the decorative and applied arts are condescended as strictly technique driven, practical, functional works. By contrast, the so-called fine arts are distinguished by creativity, uselessness and a conceptual nature. This is an entirely arbitrary distinction out of context with thousands of years of precedent and common sense.
Thesis XII
Machined art is an oxymoron. More than lifeless it is pointless. What beauty we can extract from art is the interpretation of life by the human mind passed through the human hand. There is no sympathetic conversational narrative with a computer or a machine.
Thesis XIII
Traditional architecture holds man as subject, the center of design realized according to objective principles, a communally shared understanding. Modern architecture has reversed the balance of the subject/object relationship. The modern architect designs according to his individual, subjective whim. The occupant is reduced to just another object populating the structure among canned lighting, punched openings and toilets.
Thesis XIV
An inherent challenge in the practice of building is the time lag between design actions and negative consequences such as structural failure, redundancy and urban decay. Modernism rejects the traditional approach of addressing this difficulty: deliberate, empirical, generational improvement. Rather it promotes the perpetually new and highly conceptual widespread implementation of experimental designs using proprietary technologies, systems and materials.
Thesis XV
The modern imperative to waterproof the building envelope with polymer, cement and other impermeable materials is ineffective and deleterious to indoor air quality. Water is both generated from occupants within and inevitably finds a way inside from the exterior making modern buildings entirely dependent on mechanical systems for air exchange.
Thesis XVI
Man is not separate from nature. Man is of nature. Therefore nature is the only universal basis of design of which we can be assured everyone can understand. 
Thesis XVII
The International Style of early Modernism promoted an aesthetic stripped of all narrative symbolism and cultural reference. Its lingering legacy is an increasingly global, indistinct Utopia of no place in particular.
Thesis XVIII
Urbanism is a 20th century theoretical ideology of imposing an highly engineered, eutopic master plan from a centralized authority. The rapid developments of Urbanism bear scant resemblance to traditional town planning developed generationally by members of a local community.
Thesis XIX
The imperative to automate seeks with religious fervour to establish a technological nirvana, a misguided determination to liberate mankind from the pain and pleasure of physical, intellectual and creative toil.
Thesis XX
Modernism dismisses Beauty, Truth and Goodness as unknowable or relegates them to relative, subjective viewpoints. This results from a hyper-rational imperative which rejects sense and transcendence in our understanding of the world. Concepts that cannot be completely understood or explained through pure reason alone are rejected.
Thesis XXI

The cult of freedom. Freedom from your fathers. Freedom from your children. Freedom from gravity. Freedom from responsibility. The imposing, obnoxious, unlimited freedom of expression, consequences to culture, community and society be damned.

Thesis XXII
The cult of reason. The attempted materialization of an imagined, simplified, rational world of pure order. A rejection of the infinite variety clearly evident at the subatomic level, among ourselves as human beings, extending to the scale of galaxies and the universe itself.

Thesis XXIII
The cult of separation. Endless contrast. The failure to distinguish harmony from monotony. Unending rejection. The inability to recognize any measure of continuity as anything but repetition.

Thesis XXIV
The cult of genius. The deification of the individual. Unique expression of personal vision is held as the unassailable ideal even in the face of detriment to the civic good.

Thesis XXV
The cult of the future. Perpetual novelty. The obsession with striving for tomorrow. A future where human interests, desires and needs of living will be nothing like they are today.

Thesis XXVI
The cult of reflection. The obsession with mirroring what is perceived as the spirit of our times: fear, displacement, lust, shock and uncertainty. An abandonment of exercising the moral responsibility to encourage, comfort and uplift.

Thesis XXVII
The cult of technology. An unfounded yet intractable belief that widespread implementation of technology will continue to improve human lives. Faith in technology extends to the belief  that the present social, ecological and health crises directly attributable to technology will be solved with future technologies.

The cult of ugliness. The wholesale rejection of beauty as an universal ideal. Individual taste is all that remains, subjective and relative, abdication from any aesthetic accountability whatsoever.

Thesis XXIX
The cult of patricide. No generation has ever portrayed their forefathers so ignorant, unenlightened, and unevolved as our modern one. Not only is it acclaimed that there is nothing of value to be learned from them, any such attempt would only taint, contaminate and distract from the current enlightened viewpoint.

Thesis XXX
The cult of intellect. The private universe of the Modernist mind creates its own rules, structure and narrative. Anyone who does not understand and appreciate the results is condescended as uninitiated, ignorant or mentally deficient.

Contributed by Patrick Webb

No comments:

Post a Comment