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June 10, 2003

Free Reads -- Postwar architecture

Friedrich --

Two terrific finds, both of which I ran across thanks to David Sucher's superb new blog, City Comforts, here.

Roger Scruton and Sophie Jeffreys argue that "The Future is Classical," here. Fabulous stuff, clearer and brainier than which it would be hard to be, and well worth a look no matter what your feelings about classicism. Sample passage:

The critical orthodoxy that established modernism in architecture takes its inspiration from impressionist painting, symbolist poetry, and atonal music in other words, from artistic movements addressed to an elite. The modern architect was likened to the modern painter dedicated to re-shaping the language of his art, so as to explore new regions of the human psyche and new possibilities of expression. Aesthetic freedom and experiment were held to be, in architecture as in the other arts, the pre-conditions of authentic utterance.

Classical architecture was therefore seen in the same light as figurative painting and tonal music: the last gasp of a culture from which the life had fled. The fact that the classical tradition is popular, functional, and pleasing to the eye did not deter the modernists: on the contrary, this was simply the final proof that classicism was kitsch.

And one of the best uses of a blog I've ever run across: using Portland as his example, Michael Totten tells -- and shows! -- you almost everything you need to know about American cities and buildings since World War II here. If the permalink doesn't take you directly to the posting, do a search on "modernism."



posted by Michael at June 10, 2003


I guess this answers my own question from Friedrich's blog---I guess "looking pretty" is kitschy.

Posted by: annette on June 11, 2003 3:26 PM

In the section "Permanence vs the eternal present" Jeffreys and Scruton write that classical styles "are adaptable because they are marked by the will to endure, the collective decision to stand above the tide of appetite and history, and to make a permanent claim to space."

Thinking about U.S. history, you have people who left behind problems in their native countries and immigrated to America, then the Western Migration as the eastern U.S. filled up, then Americans leaving their cities in mass for the suburbs. Historically speaking it seems like Americans would rather move away from urban development issues than stick around to find solutions.

Taking off is the American way. Next up, the space shuttle !

Posted by: Matt Leonard on June 12, 2003 6:20 PM

I've been struggling to figure out how Jeffrys/Scruton are using the terms 'modernism' and 'classicism' when it comes to cities and what is the practical lesson. My interpretation posted this morning.

Posted by: David on June 20, 2003 3:43 PM

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