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View Poll Results: Has architectural modernism failed?
Yes 190 45.13%
No 231 54.87%
Voters: 421. You may not vote on this poll

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Old August 18th, 2014, 02:54 PM   #541
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Yes, socially and economically modernism was a huge success. However, it was shortsighted, often utopian and killed our inner cities. In the west we seem to be going back towards classical planning ideals, i.e. dense mixed use city blocks, with emphasis on the street, on public transport and urban lifestyles. Many cities in the east though seem to follow a rather modernist approach to city planning: car parks, urban highways and tower blocks as far as the eye can see.
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Old August 19th, 2014, 06:48 PM   #542
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Much of the criticism of the "tower in the park" model has nothing to do with the forms and dimensions of that paradigm, with with specific issues related to demographics and quality of construction execution (different than quality of conceptual design).

There was a boom on high-rise residential building after WW2, and prefab/slab towers became a way-of-choice to house millions of displaced people in war-ravaged countries, and also as a way to accommodate populations going up fast in the 1950 and 1960s. Throw in the mix internal migration from farms and villages to bigger cities, and in some countries mass returns of settlers or expelled people during decolonization.

So a lot of housing was need in short term, and to some extent churning tower after tower achieved some relief in ways that carefully planned customized neighborhoods with expensive finishing would not.

Many of these buildings were poorly constructed and finished, asbestos and other hazardous chemicals were used without restraint at a time when their effects were not fully understood yet, and other social services needed to cater to the demographics mostly housed in these buildings were not deployed.

There were some design problems, such as lack of attention to sunlight incidence, which was an afterthought in many residential projects molded after commercial enclosed spaces.

However, I don't think the design of high-rise towers on itself was responsible for major social problems that plagued many complexes like gang activity, crime, unemployment, restive ethnic minorities, drug and alcohol abuse etc. Too much emphasis has been put on the building design to the point that it becomes easier to ignore other neglect factors that produced such crises. It also arguable that the design of towers can make some already existing problems worse (as the concentration of many people in one single place with common problems usually do, but on a higher intensity).

It is important to remember that many areas full of traditional buildings that never saw major urban renewal programs of the 1950-1960s also suffered from the same problems (gangs, crime, decay).

As it is common in many fields, sometimes architects put way too much weight on design of buildings as a determinant of social and economic outcomes of their residents.

It is also important to point out that residential single-detached house suburbs were not a modernist creation at all, at least not in the sense of the architectural movement. They emerged as an evolution of the "Garden City" movement of early 20th Century. At that time, inner ares of many big metros were filthy places for most part, with poor sanitation, buildings lacking proper electrical outfitting (a novelty at the time) and just too many people living close to each other without space or breathable air not filled with soot of factories. By the 1940s, in North America - and a bit later in Europe -, cars had become much more affordable and the Garden City paradigm was revamped to be thought around a car-centric mobility model (instead of a tram or local reigonal train model). This was not seen with enthusiasm by many hardcore modernists, who saw on big towers a much more efficient way to house people and spatially organize activities of a city.
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Old January 18th, 2015, 10:08 AM   #543
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Pruitt Igoe: Blowing up this St Louis housing project was easier than demolishing the myth it created
http://www.theguardian.com/cities/20...sing-modernism

This article suggests that it may not have been modernist architecture after all that led to the failure of many mid-century housing blocks, but instead the political, economic and social issues that would have come with relocating and managing thousands of poor and uneducated families at once.

--

It think it is very much possible that the myth that modernist architecture leads to failure started because of:

- Poor quality materials, construction, and landscaping
Not the fault of modernist architecture, as there are highly successful modernist residentials, such as Unite d'Habitation in Marseille, or the Barbican in London, which were built very well. It is the fault of budget cuts that materials aged badly and leaked. Also landscaping is an important part of any living space, and most often there was simply no money to maintain it. Usually it turned into an overgrown muddy wasteland.

- The housing of the poor, the uneducated, and criminals
This is the very essence of social housing. Of course this would make these places undesireable to live, and people would move out, buildings would become derelict and ugly as no more money is put into maintenance, and the whole area would create a dead zone in the city. This is one of the reasons the Park Hill flats in Sheffield were applauded in the 1960s, then became a derelict mess in the 80s, and only started selling and functioning again once they were restored and were no longer used only for social housing. These issues existed far before the modernist era, for example the Georgian workers' terraces in the UK which were slum-like before they were destroyed, or restored to high quality standards.

- Mismanagement
For the same reason Marxism failed, social housing failed. It was too utopian to run. Those in charge could not manage the system properly. Too much of the taxpayers' money was used in the wrong way (or in better ways outside the complexes), and not used to keep the places fit for habitation. And of course there was no money to be made from these socialist complexes, thus no more money was put into them. People also associate them with the Soviet Union's authoritarianism, as they had also built rows of apartment blocks kept in dystopian condition, which also make them seem unlikeable.

---Also another possibility is that there is a stigma against most imposing Brutalist and minimalist International Style pieces of architecture for the "general public" because most people are used to the constant anti-modernist rhetoric that has been going on since the 70s (a time of economic crisis that led to the people seeing the post-war optimism and forward thinking as laughable) along with the glorification of the pre-war era that inspired the postmodern movement. They aren't taught to see beauty in clean lines, strong forms and open spaces.
Most people also tend to hate anything built in the lifetimes of their parents, they are not "cool" enough, which is why many people in the 1920s-50s hated Victorian architecture, saying it was tacky, overdone and pastiche.
Now the late 20th century and early 21st century generation hates mid-century modernism. The idea that buildings of this era are historically and architecturally valuable has now just started to gain momentum in the past few years. Even 80s and 90s postmodern architecture is often hated nowadays, but conservation movements for that style are also developing.

This other article suggests bad photography also might be to blame for a negative view of modernism to the general public:
http://structurehub.com/blog/2010/02...ation-battles/
For example: compare this:

It's captured in in shade, is skewed, has a mesh fence in the foreground, a distracting IKEA in the background, and has unfitting lamp-posts blocking it.

with this...

It's captured straight on, emphasizing its geometric forms and architectural unity, has few distractions, and the angle of the sun creates a pleasing atmosphere and brings out the angular patterns on the facade using light and shade.
Unfortunately the bad photos often end up in circulation.


In short, I believe modernism is nothing more than a mere aesthetic that creates beauty though clean lines, open spaces, light, pattern and material rather than sculptural and flowery detailing. There is nothing wrong with that. The failed political ideologies and lack of proper funding plagued many modernist projects, and the inevitable misappreciation of architecture of the recent past only adds insult to injury.

Last edited by ThatOneGuy; January 18th, 2015 at 11:43 AM.
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Old January 23rd, 2015, 12:41 PM   #544
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The biggest and unforgivable mistake of modernists was the 1943 CIAM/Le Corbusier Athens Charter and the separation of urban functions.

It creates vast dead spaces, boring quarters, long ways, it wastes infrastructure and energy like nothing else. The mixed use concept of the classical city is rejuvenated for years now and that's a good thing, architecture is of priority 2 in this regard, structure comes first.
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Old January 23rd, 2015, 06:32 PM   #545
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That doesn't have anything to do with modernist architecture however, just urban planning. Which has some successes, like Brasilia which is a stunning city. The open spaces create nice vantage points for one to view the surrounding architecture, lets trees grow and lets air flow freely to clear up stuffy dust.
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Old January 23rd, 2015, 08:12 PM   #546
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If Brasilia is a success, then my morning poop was one too.
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Old January 23rd, 2015, 11:27 PM   #547
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Brasilia never asked to be a cute and cozy classical city. It wanted to try an entirely new concept of cityscape and it is by far the most successful example. It's like a city mixed with an art gallery where the art pieces are Niemeyer's buildings. It's a good looking and well maintained area. And no historic buildings were demolished for it.

It's also in a warm and sunny area so you don't have to worry about it being cold and windswept. Maybe you might need an umbrella but that's about it. Great attention was put into the area. 60 years ago was a time of great change and that city reflects it.

[img]http://cache4.asset-cache.net/gc/497440931-summit-chamber-of-deputies-brasilia-brazil-***********.jpg?v=1&c=IWSAsset&k=2&d=lZMD9oeAXDNdz7pDArxi0kzajB39wwG5IJ2SO%2BWoRKI%3D[/img]



On the outskirts there's lots of greenery


An example I don't think worked would be Ceausescu's reconstruction of Bucharest because the replacements of nice old buildings were built cheaply and poorly, and have pretty much zero maintenance done to them, even the Ceausist neoclassical ones. There's still street life, but the buildings look bad.

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Old January 24th, 2015, 04:11 AM   #548
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Brasília works wonderfully within what it was meant to be.

First of all, let's separate things: the architecture of Brasília is a huge success, being perhaps the only good example of democracy represented through modernist architecture principles. The Alvorada palace is as elegant and classical, and connected to Brazilian traditional architecture as you can get:



Regarding the urban planing, I once more insist that it must be judged not to today's standards, but to its time's: in the 60's, the Athens chart was the way to go. Lucio Costa's, through Brasília, managed to show how to create a classic interpretation of the radiant city while humanizing it in terms... Notice how warm the buildings and the neighbourhoods are compared to what is usually associated with modernism:


Do you know why building must be 6 floors max? Because that's the maximum height a mother can call their children up for dinner! Each unit is surrounded by two rows of large trees, ad you get all the elementary school and small markets on walking distance.

They are green and very lively - the monumental axis is not, as it was never intended to be! The city works fine, even with car dependency - life quality is way above average in Brazil. People who live there love it, and they say that who has ever lived in a Superquadra wish they never have to leave.
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Old January 24th, 2015, 08:06 AM   #549
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Looking up close, a lot of those buildings are on piloti stilts, similar to Mies' and Corbusier's buildings. I think that really helps to emphasize the 'open space' part of modernism.


Really nice. And there are so many trees in those open areas which in my opinion is more imporant than lively bases.
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Old January 24th, 2015, 08:51 AM   #550
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Modernist design can be really nice if well maintained, which often isn't the case since it was used so often for public housing! Their planning is a disaster because their idea to place the buildings so far apart and place retail either in a separate building (shopping mall) which caused horrific traffic problems (they wanted to) and forced everyone to one a car, even if they could not afford one. Those who can't afford a car in a modernist planned development are screwed, because the pedestrian realm was often lacking. Just look at the massive scale of Basilia and all of the wasted space between the buildings and then compare it with European or even American downtown areas. The grand parks between the buildings were almost always value-engineered down to sidewalks through grass lawns or even seas of asphalt.

The other key failure with Modernism is the skip-stop elevator. Corbusier's Unite de Habitation has duplex apartments in a ying-yang formation around one corridor every three floors. Thousands of complexes copied that but had single-level units, which still require corridors every floor to access them, yet they still had the elevators stop on every third floor to save money. If you lived on an elevator floor, you were lucky. If not, you had to use the stairwells every day which were often notoriously poorly lit, poorly secured, and poorly ventilated. This meant that robberies, muggings, and vandalism were even more common there than in that creepy dark alleyway. That is one of the biggest causes for the failure of modernism!
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Old January 24th, 2015, 09:35 AM   #551
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The mid century was the age of the car, so you have to look at it though the context of the time.
Fewer and fewer young people own cars these days when back then lots of them did, at least in the West.

I never knew about the elevator thing but I guess that's an engineering issue.

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Old January 24th, 2015, 10:49 AM   #552
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Even in the West, people have more cars than ever. Which still doesn't change a thing, the car-centered urban development is a massive failure.

And btw, as you attempted to separate urban planning and architecture, that far too often just isn't possible. See Brasilia, or Le Havre (one of the better examples imho). Or most of the destroyed areas after WW2. Urban planning and architecture were going hand in hand, many buildings were designed as "passing by structures", that didn't need much attention to detail or material, but only to shape and massiveness, to impress car drivers passing by. In some modernist heads, these times aren't really gone by (see Suburbanist), which is frightening to say the least.
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Old January 24th, 2015, 11:06 AM   #553
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erbse, you are obsessed with external details on structures. It is your right to hold such opinion, but bear in mind this is not an universal value or an universally important factor for all people.

"Massive" places planned to be totally out of "human scale" have been around since Roman times.

The National Mall in Washington, for instance, was designed well before cars. It is pretty massive and "out of scale" for anyone. It is beautiful nonetheless. It also predates modernism by several decades and inspired many other similar structures in other countries.

I think it is a mistake to judge modernist architecture regarding their livability based on spaces that are meant, from their inception, to be of "monumental" or "gregarian" scale to being with.

For instance, the major axis in Brasilia was never planned, thought or considered to be a place for residences or casual shopping or for families to take their kids to a playground. It was conceived as an overwhelmingly large space to accommodate unique structures full of symbolism. So why judge as in "it wouldn't be a comfortable place to live", since it wasn't planned as an ordinary living space anyway (the "Eixo Monumental" in Brasilia has exact zero residences abutting it).

Actually, Brasilia's planned "superblocks" are among the most walkable middle and middle-upper classes areas in Brazil, they all have local commerce, trails for pedestrians to walk and permeability for the pedestrian. They are better than any other major urban development in Brazil in that aspect.
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Old January 24th, 2015, 11:14 AM   #554
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I'm not worried about major representative areas or solitary landmark buildings like for governmental districts, I'm worried about the whole concept of functional separation everywhere, about massive car infrastructures and about stacking people in block after block like supermarket food.

And Brasilia is well known for its well functioning center and the few residential areas within it, but also for the horrid situation in its suburbs due to the lack of living space in the actual center (which isn't much more than vast open spaces and some solitary buildings, as you've shown).

I'm not obsessed with architectural detail either, I'm very fond of good early modernist style buildings like some Bauhaus, Stijl and Sachlichkeit ones. But I clearly prefer the wealth of shapes and ideas and the creativity of other modern movements, such as Art Déco, Expressionism and Art Nouveau/Jugendstil. As these are almost universally loved they can be a great inspiration for contemporary architecture, and more and more developers, planners and architects realise that.
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Old January 24th, 2015, 11:40 AM   #555
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As we've been talking about living quality recently... Guess what?
Vienna is rated as the most livable city on the planet year after year in various independent studies.

That's how most of Vienna looks like:



http://static.panoramio.com/photos/large/21503476.jpg


http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/w...werteste-Stadt


Dense, urban, packed with detailed buildings in quarter blocks and lively but intimate courtyards, instead of useless vast open spaces.
It's the ultimate incarnation of the European city, embodied in today's European Urban Renaissance movement.

That's what we call the best practice method in urban planning.
That goes to modernist planners: Don't try "new" for the sake of new - try good.
It's about our cities, not about your private living room's artworks.
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Old January 24th, 2015, 11:58 AM   #556
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In this one it says Melbourne is the most livable city, and 8 out of the top 10 of them have lots of modernist architecture.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/top-...onto-1.2740493
Then it's followed by Vancouver which is very modernist.
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Old January 24th, 2015, 12:57 PM   #557
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The Economist's ranking is barely cited.

But even then, I wasn't talking about architecture but structure. Vancouver and Melbourne have quite dense urban living quarters, and even skyscrapers are usually mixed-used. No dreadful Athens Charter feeling at all. They also avoided many of the mistakes US American cities made in the post war period. As I said, structure comes first when it's about the success of a development, architecture is second (as even Suburbanist agreed).
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Old January 24th, 2015, 03:49 PM   #558
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erbse View Post
Even in the West, people have more cars than ever. Which still doesn't change a thing, the car-centered urban development is a massive failure.

And btw, as you attempted to separate urban planning and architecture, that far too often just isn't possible. See Brasilia, or Le Havre (one of the better examples imho). Or most of the destroyed areas after WW2. Urban planning and architecture were going hand in hand, many buildings were designed as "passing by structures", that didn't need much attention to detail or material, but only to shape and massiveness, to impress car drivers passing by. In some modernist heads, these times aren't really gone by (see Suburbanist), which is frightening to say the least.
As you mention, the Athens charter is widely criticized, but then again, it was the way to go in the sixties. What I meant is that even with this 'drawback', the monumental architecture of the city is wonderful - it's not because city layout is functionalist that the individual buildings will be bad...

Or do you deny that urbanism and architecture are exquisetly linked in the Congress Palace:





The articulation between the esplanade and the lowered square, solemn and monumental is beautiful. And that's what they designed for. So you can criticize the city as much as you want of course - dependence on cars, long distances etc. All I ask is to take into consideration the goal of the design - the living quarters have everything you need in walking distance, only the monumental areas are - well - monumental! People shouldn't compare the square of three powers to cozy citys, but to there monumental open spaces - Venice's San Marco, Vatican's Saint Peter's etc.

Again, the Lunar Module would never fly in the atmosphere, but it did a great job landing on the moon!
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Old January 24th, 2015, 03:55 PM   #559
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Now, regarding the thread title, of course modernism has not failed. Even if the urbanism is something not to be copied, it at least thought us to go back to pedestrian life...

In architecture, it has most certainly not failed. Before modernism, architects were façade composers. Since then, they design for a myriad of factors, using latest technology to obtain practical and aesthetic results... In this way, modernism changed forever they way buildings are conceived.
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Old January 24th, 2015, 08:33 PM   #560
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Quote:
Originally Posted by erbse View Post
The Economist's ranking is barely cited.

But even then, I wasn't talking about architecture but structure. Vancouver and Melbourne have quite dense urban living quarters, and even skyscrapers are usually mixed-used. No dreadful Athens Charter feeling at all.
In the end, people will go where the shops are, no matter the architecture. My old victorian neighbourhood in Toronto has just as much street life as the modernist office towers downtown, but nowhere near as much as the shopping district.
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