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Old June 19th, 2013, 10:52 AM   #1
Historico!
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Neoclasicism, neohistoricism...?

Hello everyone! I joined this forum only because of my great interest in historical architecture. What interests me particulary is building new buildings in historical styles. So I enjoyed discovering the topic "New Building Build in Traditional Style" here on this forum.
However some questions still baffles me: Why are architects and art historians generally not in favour of this kind of projects? I read a little about Quinlan Terry from UK (whose building I adore) and saw how he's generally considered unwanted, particulary when it comes to designing public buildings.

Also, many people criticize this building generally as kitsch. I agree that some of that are decorative exaggerated, but not all. So that exactly is kitsch in architecture and where are the boundaries?

So my general question is, why is that? Why are there no more buldings and projects like that and why are most architects so in favour of interpolation?

P.S. Sorry for my mistakes in English, it's my second language
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Old June 19th, 2013, 11:29 AM   #2
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I hate the word "kitsch" and never use it. This word, with strong negative meaning, still has no strict definition. If you look in any dictionary, in description of this term you will for sure find the words "tasteless" or "bad, low taste". But the "taste", bad or good, is only subjective matter...

For me most modernist buildings are "tasteless" comparing to old, historical architectural styles. Modernists feel the opposite - "less is more" is their motto, and everything having even slight signs of ornamentation will be declared by them as "kitsch".

Modernists architects in general are not ready yet to accept - their understanding of "tasteful" and "tasteless" is not universal for everyone and every time. Even more - their age is ending: total domination of pure functional and international architecture for many decades everywhere in the world already made many people bored with it. No architectural style last forever, modernism will end too.
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Old June 19th, 2013, 02:47 PM   #3
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Yes, I absolutely agree. I consider "kitsch" to be an illegitimate term. It's completely and utterly meaningless. It's a blanket term that has no more substance than saying, "I don't like it."

I think it's a cheap ploy by modernists, frankly, to avoid getting pinned down, to avoid specifying exactly what they are trying to criticize in a building, because they know that as soon as they do specify as aspect of a building they dislike -- like ornament -- others might say, "Hey, wait a minute, that's rubbish, the ornament is the most beautiful part of that building."
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Old June 19th, 2013, 03:00 PM   #4
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Any architecture can be criticized for concrete reasons, but when the criticism boils down to name-calling, it's simply an attempt at a more "official" sounding or elevated way of expressing a subjective aesthetic opinion. You'll often see that the criticisms against traditional architecture are basically childish name-calling: "kitsch, Disney, fake, etc." It's basically groundless snobbery by people who have been inculcated with the idea that the only architecture that indicates sophistication, progressivism, and good taste is modern architecture, which is why developing countries rush to build starchitect skyscrapers as a short path to increased standing.

Several factors increasingly undermine these beliefs: the materials, design, and construction of traditional buildings are generally more costly than modern equivalents; there is a higher demand for traditional buildings, and therefore they command a higher premium; modern architecture decreasingly satisfies the need by builders and buyers for "unique" structures; modern architecture itself is becoming a historical architecture; people increasingly view traditional architecture as an authentic expression of regional identity, as opposed to viewing it as an ersatz reflection of the past.
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Old June 19th, 2013, 03:03 PM   #5
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The reason most are critisized for being kitsch is because they are. If a building was designed in keeping with the principles of classic arts then maybe they wont be taken so badly. Otherwise, you end up with something like this
image hosted on flickr

New parliament building, Skopje by thechiefendoflife, on Flickr

Disgusting.
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Old June 19th, 2013, 03:37 PM   #6
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That's another reason, why historical styles are not widely popular nowadays. To build in these styles, you should really understand what you are doing - proportions, measure, balance and so on. You need to study classical buildings; you need to be not only good engineer, but an artist.

But if you build in modernist (or post-modernist) manner and someone tells you: "Look, what happened with proportions of your buildings? Why so weird mix of colors and materials, without any symmetry and style? Your building doesn't fit the surroundings at all!" you always can answer - "But it was exactly my conception! You just don't understand, it's my vision of the world” and you successfully go away with it
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Old June 19th, 2013, 05:01 PM   #7
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Thanks for your comments I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who likes neohistorical architecture. The problem of kitsch I generally understand.
What interests me more is why architects and art historians are some much in favour of interpolation instead of respecting historical suroundings. For example, I live in Croatia. In our capital city Zagreb, in the centre you can see beautiful historical building mostly from the 19th and early 20th century. And now they are doing terribal interpolations!!! I'll put some pictures later so you can see...

And also, what exactly is the problem with Skopje 2014? I know that this project is heavily critisized. Is the general problem the fact they are building in neohistorical style or because they are not respecting the rules of classical architecture in those buildings?
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Old June 19th, 2013, 05:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hateman View Post
Any architecture can be criticized for concrete reasons, but when the criticism boils down to name-calling, it's simply an attempt at a more "official" sounding or elevated way of expressing a subjective aesthetic opinion. You'll often see that the criticisms against traditional architecture are basically childish name-calling: "kitsch, Disney, fake, etc." It's basically groundless snobbery by people who have been inculcated with the idea that the only architecture that indicates sophistication, progressivism, and good taste is modern architecture, which is why developing countries rush to build starchitect skyscrapers as a short path to increased standing.
.
The funny thing is that modernists have nothing against producing fake and cheap copies of buildings from the past, their only requirement is that it have to be modernistic.

Just take a look at this shameless 2001 copy of Le Corbusiers '20s Villa Savoy - it looks considerable cheaper, there have been a change in color and it have one angled wall, but otherwise it is identical:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In...berra_2007.JPG

Neo-Bauhaus, neo-international and neo-brutalistic designs are popping up everywhere. Yet there does not seem to be any outrage from modernistic about the fakeness, kitschness or pasticheness of this development. Funny that. You could almost get the impression that they use these words simply to force their preferred style over classic ones.
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Old June 19th, 2013, 05:19 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historico! View Post

And also, what exactly is the problem with Skopje 2014? I know that this project is heavily critisized. Is the general problem the fact they are building in neohistorical style or because they are not respecting the rules of classical architecture in those buildings?
They are built in cheap materials by architects with no eye nor knowledge for proportions. It looks like strip mall architecture and leaves a lot to be desired. Many of the buildings in the New Buildings Built in Traditional Architecture Style-tread shows you how well it can be done, but Skopje 2014 is sadly going to be used by many to further their agenda against classical architecture when it should have been used against poor architects and equally poor craftsmanship.
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Old June 19th, 2013, 07:11 PM   #10
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This post illustrates the typical arguments:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Giorgio View Post
The reason most are critisized for being kitsch is because they are.
Circular reasoning

Quote:
Originally Posted by Giorgio View Post
If a building was designed in keeping with the principles of classic arts then maybe they wont be taken so badly.
Strict orthodoxy, i.e. a traditional-styled building is no good because it isn't "traditional enough." But what is traditional enough? And why do traditional buildings have to adhere to strict rules when modern buildings that reject such things as proportion are seen as progressive? Could it be that architects are still developing new styles of traditional architecture, which evolve from more traditional sources?

When criticizing any building you have to be specific and concrete.
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Old June 19th, 2013, 07:34 PM   #11
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Is this just another anti-modernist thread?

This, I'd say, is kitsch:



This isn't. (And I'm a strong modernist architecture supporter)



To start, I'd define kitsch as a mix of 'ugly' and 'cheezy'


The reason neo-brutalist buildings aren't complained about is because they're usually of a higher quality than the ones built 40 years ago. They share the same traits, but due to better materials and building techniques, they turn out nicer. The advatage that modernism has over traditionalism is that only form can be changed to the architect's freedom, not the superficial detail.
I dislike the so-called "copy" of Le Corbusier's building above only because of the colour and the rippled metal cylinder on top. But it's not cheezy, therefore it's not kitsch. It's just unattractive.

Unfortunately there are not enough architects willing to put real effort into designing proper traditionalist buildings. Instead, they just put whatever details/shapes they like, matching or not, and stick it on there in order to not be "boring". They put detail just of the sake of it, not caring about how the building interacts with itself.

Why do we call some attempts at historicism kitsch? Because they aren't built to the standards of the historic buildings an as a result become tacky. The forms do not interact with each other well.
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Old June 19th, 2013, 10:25 PM   #12
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I don't think that the problem with historism is that it is kitsch. The problem is, that it shows nothing new and unseen before. Historism is nothing more than decoration but definitely not art. It doesn't bring us new ideas, how we could design our houses in future. Historism is copying great ideas of the past, who turned the world into a totally new look.

Also most of modernist architecture of today is nothing more than historism: Neo-Bauhaus. Those architects don't show an answer to the demand of people for more beauty in architecture. They are copying what their professors have taught them in university. As long as contemporary architecture doesn't show a new style people love to live and work in, I think it is absolutely acceptable to build in old ornamental styles. At least those architects show respect of the desire of people for beauty. Sad that they don't have a completely new answer.
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Old June 20th, 2013, 01:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ThatOneGuy View Post
The reason neo-brutalist buildings aren't complained about is because they're usually of a higher quality than the ones built 40 years ago. They share the same traits, but due to better materials and building techniques, they turn out nicer. The advatage that modernism has over traditionalism is that only form can be changed to the architect's freedom, not the superficial detail.
I dislike the so-called "copy" of Le Corbusier's building above only because of the colour and the rippled metal cylinder on top. But it's not cheezy, therefore it's not kitsch. It's just unattractive.
I'm not talking about your personal opinion - which is fine enough - but rather the arguments used by modernistic (admittedly not all) against traditional designs. A very common argument, at least here in Norway, is that we should not copy the past, be so conservative and similar arguments. Yet parallely I would estimate that around 75%+ of all buildings Norwegian modernists designs are cheap rehash of past modernistic styles. Just take a look at this buildings which have just been revealed in Haugesund, Norway for example:


Compared to this 1931 building in Oslo:

At stretview: https://maps.google.com/maps?q=Oslo,...6.79,,0,-14.83

Similar buildings are popping up everywhere here. Yet the same architects are completely against buildings something inspired by buildings only 20 years older as that would be to copy the past. That simply does not make sense to me.
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Old June 20th, 2013, 02:29 AM   #14
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I agree, that is pretty hypocritical, but honestly, for me, the newer one looks better. The windows and wall forms seem to capture light better than the latter brick building.

I have no problems with similar looking buildings, as long as they look nice and are not fully identical to each-other. Many classical buildings look similar, too.

Last edited by ThatOneGuy; June 20th, 2013 at 02:42 AM.
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Old June 20th, 2013, 07:54 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GhostOfDorian View Post
I don't think that the problem with historism is that it is kitsch. The problem is, that it shows nothing new and unseen before. Historism is nothing more than decoration but definitely not art. It doesn't bring us new ideas, how we could design our houses in future. Historism is copying great ideas of the past, who turned the world into a totally new look.

Also most of modernist architecture of today is nothing more than historism: Neo-Bauhaus. Those architects don't show an answer to the demand of people for more beauty in architecture. They are copying what their professors have taught them in university. As long as contemporary architecture doesn't show a new style people love to live and work in, I think it is absolutely acceptable to build in old ornamental styles. At least those architects show respect of the desire of people for beauty. Sad that they don't have a completely new answer.
For the past 50 years architects have been indoctrinated to believe that the designs that they are suppose to produce must be a never-seen-before, cutting-edge original, and are therefore discouraged from designing in a traditional manner. Before the modernist movement, architects were free to design traditional buildings, using lessons from the past and applying it to their present conditions. Take a look at the thread on Jugenstil Art Nouveau architecture. These projects are unlike anything that has ever come before them, but still utilize traditional compositions, details, components, etc.

Architects practicing today need to get over their aversion to traditions. Somehow we have no problem with traditions when it comes to holidays, weddings, church services, graduation ceremonies, etc., but then think that it is somehow taboo to use traditions when it pertains to our building culture.

What is now unfortunate is that many attempts to design traditional buildings result in kitsch because architects are no longer trained in traditional design in school. The bad results are because all the architecture schools decided to purge their curriculum of traditional design and teach modernism instead, resulting in a generational gap in the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the other.

Today's traditional architects are all mostly self taught, and haven't had the benefit of a traditionally trained architect to properly tutor them and help them avoid the common mistakes that result in kitsch architecture.
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Old June 20th, 2013, 09:44 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MRouchell View Post
For the past 50 years architects have been indoctrinated to believe that the designs that they are suppose to produce must be a never-seen-before, cutting-edge original, and are therefore discouraged from designing in a traditional manner. Before the modernist movement, architects were free to design traditional buildings, using lessons from the past and applying it to their present conditions. Take a look at the thread on Jugenstil Art Nouveau architecture. These projects are unlike anything that has ever come before them, but still utilize traditional compositions, details, components, etc.

Architects practicing today need to get over their aversion to traditions. Somehow we have no problem with traditions when it comes to holidays, weddings, church services, graduation ceremonies, etc., but then think that it is somehow taboo to use traditions when it pertains to our building culture.

What is now unfortunate is that many attempts to design traditional buildings result in kitsch because architects are no longer trained in traditional design in school. The bad results are because all the architecture schools decided to purge their curriculum of traditional design and teach modernism instead, resulting in a generational gap in the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the other.

Today's traditional architects are all mostly self taught, and haven't had the benefit of a traditionally trained architect to properly tutor them and help them avoid the common mistakes that result in kitsch architecture.
Jugendstil or Art Nouveau and Art Deco never copied former styles. They took designs out of former periods and transformed them into a new look. You can get something new, if you make a revolution or if you develop an old thing in an evolutionary process into something new.

And of course at all time most of architects were copying the designs of the stars of their time. The problem with todays style is, that it needs much more knowledge about beauty to build a beautyful modernist building. If you build in historic style, you can build a traditional building and use ornamentation to decorate.

Probably we should develop a modern decoration for our buildings. Then our cities would look a lot better than they do.
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Old June 20th, 2013, 10:17 AM   #17
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Nice to see all those responds
Let me show you one case that particulary interested me in this topic. This was the project of building "The Church of Croatian Martyrs" in Udbina. Basically the Catholic church first accepted the idea of one croatian architect who wanted to design this modernist thing:
http://old.d-a-z.hr/img/novosti-Crkv...1224694210.jpg
http://old.d-a-z.hr/img/novosti-Crkv...1224694323.jpg

However later Chuch changed it's mind. They said this is not the kind of church that people would want to come in and pray, the architecture does not allow the spiritual filling that it should.
So they decided for another design which is how they finally built it:
http://www.mup.hr/UserDocsImages/gal...h_mucenika.jpg
http://www.kastav-crkva.org/arhiva2008/mucenic08.jpg
http://www.udruga-gavran.hr//plugins...d_borovcak.jpg

This design is actually some kind of copy of one early-christianity church:
http://www.ezadar.hr/repository/image_raw/44647/xxl/

The Church's explanation was that this is the appropriate sacral style for such an important religious building of national importance. Of course, croatian art historians and architect called this project the "national disgrace".

So the question is... is this the case of appropriate traditional architecture or is this simply a kitsch?
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Old June 20th, 2013, 06:55 PM   #18
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What is the purpose of the fixation with the "new and unseen" in modern architecture? It's more talking out of both sides of the mouth. On one hand modern architecture must be new, different, and transgressive, and on the other, other buildings must adhere to strict rules on ornamentation, proportion, and harmony.

Such attitudes indicate that aesthetics have been excessively polluted with ideology.
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Old June 20th, 2013, 07:57 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GhostOfDorian View Post
Jugendstil or Art Nouveau and Art Deco never copied former styles. They took designs out of former periods and transformed them into a new look. You can get something new, if you make a revolution or if you develop an old thing in an evolutionary process into something new.

And of course at all time most of architects were copying the designs of the stars of their time. The problem with todays style is, that it needs much more knowledge about beauty to build a beautyful modernist building. If you build in historic style, you can build a traditional building and use ornamentation to decorate.

Probably we should develop a modern decoration for our buildings. Then our cities would look a lot better than they do.
When referring to Art Nouveau and Jugendstil architecture, I never used the word "copied." Art Nouveau, Jugenstil, and as well Art Deco architects worked within the established building traditions but were innovative in their approach to ornamentation. Modernism, abandoned tradition to start off with something completely new.

Put another way, I can look at an Art Nouveau and Jugendstil buildings and see all the sinuous curves and forms, ornamentation that is more arts and crafts based or geometric and abstract, and that is unlike anything before it, but on the other hand, the buildings will still have a cornice on top, a rusticated ground floor, the windows will have some kind of window surround or pediment above, the facade will be divided into bays that are articulated with pilasters, etc. All this is part of a traditional building language, and it is why a Jugenstil building doesn't look offensive next to, say a classical or Baroque building that was built 100 or 200 years before.
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Old June 20th, 2013, 09:30 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Historico! View Post
The Church's explanation was that this is the appropriate sacral style for such an important religious building of national importance. Of course, croatian art historians and architect called this project the "national disgrace".

So the question is... is this the case of appropriate traditional architecture or is this simply a kitsch?
Honestly, I can't say I like this building that much - but of course it's not "kitsch" - whatever this world should mean. And nothing so bad about it to call it "disgrace" - imho. And I agree - it much more suite the sacral purpose than modernist design.
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