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Why people hate contemporary architecture (2017) (currentaffairs.org)
199 points by metafunctor on June 20, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 151 comments



Industrialization and Baumol's cost disease are the reasons why.

For the same reasons that you need to go to an artisinal bakery to get handmade bread today, you cannot get anything with significant ornament in it without paying enormously. Industrial bakeries are far more efficient so only a select few can afford to pay for good bread, and so there are far fewer individual bakers, and they're more expensive because there's less demand - they can't make it up on volume. It's the same with artisans.

My father was a plasterer in his 20s, and worked with old men who did the ceiling decorations in the British Embassy in Dublin. But they were the last of their kind, because nobody wanted that any more. And now they're all dead.

Richly decorated edifices could be risen today, but they're far more expensive, and thus we can't afford to roll the dice and end up with a bunch of good buildings by process of survival. Instead, everything is mediocre and designed to amortise to zero value within a few decades, to be torn down and built again, not better, merely different.


Actually, the opposite is true. The ornamentation of the past was painfully and time consumingly created manually. It is trivial today to mass-produce ornamentation - a simple form insert into a concrete form can create any desired ornamentation. Frank Lloyd Wright is a key example of using ornamentation within the context of modern construction techniques and materials, his concrete block houses a classic example of both with the Hotel Biltmore in Arizona a masterpiece example of it. The key issue is not cost, it is philosophy. The architect striving to present their view of the world. For Wright, his work focuses around the human experience, around human scale, all ornament reinforcing that his buildings are to be measured by our experience of and relation to them. Many of the more grotesque examples of modern architecture are by architects who believe the world is chaos, in flux, that humans have no place in the world, etc.

[Footnote on Wright] If you happen to be taller than 5'8 when visiting a Wright building (like myself), bend your knees until you are at that eye-level to appreciate the full experience. https://wrightchat.savewright.org/viewtopic.php?t=8915


> a simple form insert into a concrete form can create any desired ornamentation

I usually find that extremely ugly. It is simple to do, and there are heaps of examples around, but it is usually done into a flat rectilinear surface so doesn’t add much beauty. Forms are often repetitive, but even when the pattern varies over the complete surface it usually lacks any real style IMHO.


For sure, it can be done in an ugly way, as can most things. It can also be done incredibly well - I know of a great sculptor who is focused on using forms to create sculpture with concrete - but this would be on the extremely good side of the scale.


>It is trivial today to mass-produce ornamentation

Which is about when ornamentation started to become undesirable. The arts and craft movement was itself a kick-back against mass production of ornamentation as it cheapened buildings. Not everyone could afford hand crafted buildings. They sought to create a distinction between 'rich' handcrafted building and 'poor' mass produced.

Notice that word.. cheapened. Even the very words we have themselves underlie the reasons why we find these things desirable. Once everyone could have ornamentation, it was no longer valued.. just like potatoes.

Other things that cemented the shift away from the ornamentation and spacial characteristics of pre-arts and craft architecture were, in some order (and lets ignore cathedrals and such because a. they are still handmade, and at about the same rate as in previous eras b. they are not typical of any building in any sense and they never have been c. we only love the ones that we never knocked down):

1. plumbing (you can greatly increase the size of buildings if it take less than ten minutes to find a tap or a toilet, and you can stop them buring down easier)

2. artifical lighting and heating (most buildings were configured entirely to capture and distribute light and heat)

3. the spanish flu (the dramatic and sudden push for modernist buildings came directly out of the tail end of the flu, and after a few decades of other rampant illnesses related to buildings.. typhoid, tuberculosis, etc and as the wealthy were exposed to modern hospitals - devoid of fireplaces, dust catching ornament, and with clean white ceramic finishes - and their brethren mountain spa wellness retreats)

4. cost (turns out that non-ornamental mass production is even cheaper than ornamental mass production)

5. speed of deisgn and construction (it doesn't matter how lovely your handcrafted building is, if I can build twenty others in the same time frame)

Now that with modern fabrication we can produce effortless modernist buildings, they are no longer valued. So people inevitably push back against devaluation, and that which cannot be devalued is taht which cannot be remade. Like the hipsters of the same era, they look to the past with its stories and promises of cultural supremacy. And they forget all the small steps that led us to this point. Preferring instead to dream of an era that never existed, but in its historical survival.

Everyone hates Eisenman's buildings. But we only know this because they existed.


He’s talking about real artistry, by people. Sure machines can make things that look ‘right’ but that bread isnt gonna taste great, and the ornamental formwork won’t look right either. Their point about industrial scales vs manual artistry are spot on - very few can now afford high quality. But most of us can afford medium quality, which to me is a trade off we as a society have taken over time.


The former Eastern Block has factory bread that tastes better than most artisanal bread in the West. Same for all other foods.

The problem is not that there is some magical loss of essence when something is made by a machine, it is that mass market products in the West prioritize looks over function: strawberries that are the size of eggs and taste like cardboard, bread that is white and puffy but mostly air and mush, milk that is pure white and tastes like chalk water.

And in our industry, UI that look amazing on video and images but reduce your productivity to that of a brain damaged chimp.

The problem isn't that things are machine made, it is that we are making the wrong things because the wrong things look better in ads.


I think you are missing the point. Asking an architect friend, it's a lot about the ratio of material to labor costs. Sure it was time consuming, but everything was time consuming. And materials were expensive.

Classical music went through a similar phase, but now the repertory is conservative as ever. Why? In part because atonal music on traditional instruments is just as labor intensive!!


Mass produced ornamentation! That's not what I'm talking about.

You can produce simple forms with moldings, but worse, you produce generic forms.


Yeah, but aren't FLW houses/buildings notorious for being crap quality construction? Leaking, cracking, sinking, and molding?


I do not know about all FLW buildings but can talk about the ones in SW Pennsylvania - Kentuck Knob and famous Fallingwater. FLW paid a lot of attention to the construction and durability but a lot of bad rep comes from two factors: one, those building in particular were built in the challenging environments: one on the top of the hill, one - built into the side of the hill, over the creeks. Another factor is that a lot of FLW ideas required quality craftsmanship. As an example, Kentuck Knob has a row of sunlights on one side of the building. As far as I remember they were not made properly at first and caused problems with water leaking in.

But to me, none of this matters. Kentuck Knob is just such a lovely building, and Fallingwater... Fallingwater is a breathtaking masterpiece, there are no words to describe this feeling. During my first visit, I turned around to give it one last look and literally wept.


Yes, Wright focused most of his attention on expressing his world view with his work, rather than careful systems engineering and detailing of that work for long-term exposure to the elements. The classic story about this is when one of his clients called Wright angrily that water was leaking on his desk, Wright's response was "well then, move your desk"

Wright achieved great mastery in terms of his structural engineering - two great examples are his Johnson Wax building with the "mushroom" columns that were radically stronger than any were willing to believe (a destruction test was used to prove it at the time - concrete construction being very new (post Romans that is) [1] and his Falling Water house where he used the mass of the house to provide a counter balance to the great cantilevering terraces and novel new reinforced construction techniques. The contractor for Falling water had no real experience with this new reinforced concrete construction, and apparently did not build according to the detailed plan as they assumed it would simply fall down once forms were removed. Wright had to personally go to the site and knock down the last supporting column of the great cantilevered terrace as no one was willing to be the one to destroy the house. Although it did not collapse, it did sag over the decades because of the construction flaws, and has been recently repaired to have full intended strength [2]

In the context of this discussion on ornamentation and philosophy in architecture, that Wright's execution was lacking is somewhat irrelevant.

[1] https://www.dezeen.com/2017/06/14/frank-lloyd-wright-johnson... [2] https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/later-...


No, just the opposite.

His schools have had issues, because the schools were meant to be sandboxes for the students to get real world experience, and try things which may or may not work. The fact that the schools have become landmarks after his death has nothing to do with Wright's design philosophies.

If you look at Wright's own house, it incorporates lots of clever ideas in terms of engineering more rugged forms which will hold up over time (like molding profiles that are designed to be coped from multiple directions to keep joints in place, and stained glass patterns that lend themselves to 'hiding' extra reinforcement on one side where the structure will be invisible to the beholder, for example).

Here are my pics of his house when I went through it last time I was in Chicago. I tried to get as many such above examples as possible...

https://imgur.com/a/ontIR


I've always heard that his designs and concepts are great (that's my opinion too), but the actual construction quality was lacking.


He's correct and not correct.

First, 'Industrialisation' also implies a fairly capitalist attitude towards everything and ornamentation may be costly in that context.

Second, labour used to be 'cheap and plentiful', or rather, power was so concentrated, that the people who built such buildings could 'afford' the ornamentation (or maybe compel their serf-like workers to do it). And they cared about it because 'class' was a different thing altogether way back when.

Third, ornamentation in many areas is still very expensive. To ornament, a building of any size would require designers, workers, and a lot of time and many. 'Some' products could be ornamentalized, but others, far less so. Suppose you built an office building with nice domed interior, and you wanted to have it 'ornamented' like a Cathedral. I wager it would be expensive.


I would like to add/adjust your point a bit. In many Midwestern cities many buildings of all income levels had ornamentation since the brick layers and other masons built or worked on their own homes. St. Louis in particular was well known for this although I was unable to find the original article speaking about it.

The masons that utilized these ornamental techniques no longer seem to exist in even moderate quantities.

http://dynamic.stlouis-mo.gov/history/wabmobricksinstl.cfm


That's relevant but it's definitely not the whole problem.

As the article shows, lots of architectural ugliness isn't cost-saving at all. It costs extra and makes the buildings less usable http://news.mit.edu/2008/sponge-book-1007

Sometimes it costs a lot extra and is much less usable. https://thetech.com/2010/03/19/statasuit-v130-n14


It's a well-documented cultural revolution which praised, awarded, and celebrated departure from traditional aesthetics, so we can't reduce the phenomenon to just economy of cheap concrete.


And maintenance. For every 1 of those pretty chapels there are 10 that are falling apart.

Ironically, look at Rosslyn Chapel--it was basically falling apart until The DaVinci Code caused enough tourism that they had enough revenue to repair it.


Everything eventually falls apart. Rosslyn Chapel is 600 years old.


See: Notre Dame being practically abandoned for a century or so.


“The contributions of sound money to human flourishing are not restricted to scientific and technological advance; they can also be seen in the art world. It is no coincidence that Florentine and Venetian artists were the leaders of the Renaissance, as these were the two cities which led Europe’s adoption of sound money. The Baroque, Neoclassical, Romantic, Realistic and Post-impressionistic schools were all financed by wealthy patrons holding sound money, with a very low time preference and the patience to wait for years, or even decades for the completion of masterpieces meant to survive centuries.”

https://books.google.com/books?id=Sw5TDwAAQBAJ&printsec=fron...


This and cultural foundations which provide a context for the architecture.

Especially in the 'new world' it'd be hard for a culturally aware 'rich man' to even know what to build because often the context doesn't exist.

If you want to build something traditional in downtown Stockholm, you have a few choices.

If design is a 'language' - many areas literally don't have a language other than the functional. So the creative aspects end up being ... 'whatever'.

I'm pretty sure that, for example, most places in Switzerland has some pretty strict rules for what you can build.


for some reason, i feel like software has followed a similar tragectory...

or maybe it is just my bias, working in consumer apps...


This is false. I regularly buy artisan bread for the same or lower price of the bread in the supermarket.


Cheap buildings are cheap, but when they have money I think architects just try to be unique, which just ends up being uniquely ugly in most cases.

I don't think this is entirely true. A lot of the most hideous (in my opinion) modern buildings look like they actually spent money looking horrible. They have contorted structures that seem to be screaming out "I could fall over at any moment" which must rely heavily on load-bearing frames. Their "brutally honest" concrete often looks like it does nothing more than providing an ugly facade, and creating more work for a hidden steel skeleton.

I think there's two separate complaints - first that cheap modern buildings are cheap, functional (as long as they hold up), and ugly. Think Stalinist city blocks. Second, the modern showpieces are even worse, actively going out of their way to look horrible, like some Stalinist government buildings.

It's not the fault of architects if private companies want to build cheap square feet for cubicles or cheap apartments. Maybe the public could regulate against it, but that's only going to happen if they trust architects to do a better job with more money.

But when architects do have a bit of money to waste on making a building look good, I think they're often pressured to make something original. Previous designs had evolved over maybe thousands of years, of course they are much better, just try drawing a totally original concept for a car that other people won't think is cringey. There's also more time pressure - presumably older designers had far more time for planning (a king can wait a little before a new cathedral is built, a mayor can't wait till the next election). And while new materials and techniques can make new things possible, those things are not always attractive to people who spent their early childhood stacking bricks (so anything relying too heavily on tension just instinctively feels like a disaster waiting to happen).


>For the same reasons that you need to go to an artisinal bakery to get handmade bread today, you cannot get anything with significant ornament in it without paying enormously.

The 'bread' you get in the Anglosphere is a crime against humanity. Not because it is machine made, but because it comes with a philosophy: looks matter more than taste.

Meanwhile Eastern Europe still uses the old soviet factory bread and the thing tastes like manna when you get it fresh.


It's a shame this is a polemic when it discusses important issues.

It's not as if these issues aren't discussed in architecture. And there are definitely weird pathologies and pomposities in architecture (as in any field), which manifest themselves in a variety of unpleasant ways. But this doesn't mean all we have is ugly buildings; we also have new, playful, and enjoyable buildings as well.

Another HN comment this morning (on a different post) brought up Postel's law and how it is usually both misunderstood and overused. The same applies to "a house is a machine for living" or "form follows function": they can be taken as an excuse to ignore the person, or as a call for: make sure the person's needs are at the centre of the design.

A case of both skill and pathology: One of my homes was designed by an architect and one simply built by a developer. The developer house is adequate. The architect-designed house was a lot more expensive but is also a lot more pleasant to live in. But speaking to those pathologies: it needed a lot of interaction with the architect to make sure it didn't get our of control on design (I'm sure we've all seen this in software too). I think this is why so many corporate buildings end up so sucky: many cooks, complex constraints, and in the end the architect has too much control.


I think the "a house is a machine for living" and "form follows function" are actually very good ways to explain these complex topics, but they are very open to a wide array of different interpretations, and it seems to me that the most jarring, abrasive, and otherwise ugly buildings are spawned from face-value interpretations of these mantras.

A house is a machine for living, not merely existing.

Form follows function, and that function is to get out of the way of the occupants and allow them to be happy and productive in the places they live and work.


Polemics are about all there is room left for.

Ultimately, it is a failure of education. Architects will give each other awards and design contracts according to what they were taught, and they are taught crap. It is self perpetuating, as they teach the next class the kind of crap they were inculcated in.

Probably your architect was obliged to make snide remarks over drinks about what he had to put up with doing your house (which I haven't seen, only heard described). I liked the barn.


A recent conundrum that occurred to me.

Post WWI we see architecture completely incapable of producing stuff ordinary people like. In fact it would appear the opposite, architects secretly revel in designing stuff ordinary people hate.

Yet there was an explosion of high quality popular music. Probably the most productive 100 years in history.


> Post WWI we see architecture completely incapable of producing stuff ordinary people like. In fact it would appear the opposite, architects secretly revel in designing stuff ordinary people hate. Yet there was an explosion of high quality popular music.

These are two sides of the same coin! Both are the result of radical reinvention caused by new and strange circumstances.

Brutalist architects did not set out to make things people would hate. They set out to make habitable spaces that put people first - that residents would love - that prioritised the resident over the casual viewer. They sought novel and sometimes dramatic ways to achieve this in a context of rapidly improving technology but limited funding.

They failed a lot of the time, but I think it's quite unfair to say that they revelled in designing stuff people would hate - they were trying to do an honest job of hard things, the importance of which hadn't always been widely acknowledged before.

In my interpretation of this history, the architect is definitely on the same side as your musician.

The curious part is why the public took against the architect, but (eventually at least - it took much of a generation) accepted the musician. Obviously the architectural idea failed, at least to some extent. I don't know whether it failed in practice (producing buildings that were no use) or in communication (producing buildings that were an improvement, but that other people found unusual and offputting to look at). Perhaps both, but from what I've heard the 60s Brutalist flat is generally no worse to live in than its 1980s postmodernist or 1860s Peabody counterparts.


The public has a short memory and also has authoritarian tendencies of its own. Which is why huge country estates and other trophy homes are considered the ultimate architectural ideal, even though they're insanely inefficient and you have to be a multi-millionaire to afford one.

Popular architecture is about land and status, not sculpted living space, and the populist solution is to give people an experience of land ownership - even if it's vicarious. The Garden City movement attempted this with some success, but the political problem is that land is an expensive commodity, and there was no way that kind of low density housing was ever going to be available on a mass scale.

And consider that before modernism, most housing was appalling. No one loves the flats built in the UK during the 60s, but they replaced slums which were cold, damp, smoky, and very cheaply built, and often lacked even the most basic plumbing.

There's a lot to hate about modernism (and its descendants) - not least that bare concrete looks absolutely fucking awful in a rainy and cloudy climate. But it makes no sense to compare hyper-expensive hand-crafted Victorian homes of rich elites and high-status civic projects with modern worker housing or utilitarian office spaces.

The fact that high-status civic projects - libraries, transport hubs, town halls - are (mostly) not being built any more, but trophy skyscrapers are, is a political issue, not an architectural one.


It doesn't seem very secret. Being forbidden to use arches or fluting ought to grate on avowedly iconoclastic architects, but they toe the line almost enthusiastically.

There is a fashion for unpleasant music in certain quarters, but people's access to music has never been as "gatekept" as are decisions about public architecture.


You are probably right. I vaguely remember mid century there were people mostly academics creating scientific post modern music. But of course there was no way to force people to listen to it so it died out.

One other thought. I think for a long time buildings were built to order by the people and business that used them. Now most stuff is built to rent out. Or as public works.

Just remember friend who works for a wealthy person who had a new office built. It's rather nice. But he went through three architects and had to fight with the last one over a bunch of stuff. My friend thinks the architect intentionally made the alcove that holds his file cabinets slightly too small to retaliate against him.


One of the keys is cost control. That aspect, in addition to municipal building codes, constrains s lot.

If you want to see utilitarian built by the dweller, visit locations where there is no oversight for building: favelas. Purely utilitarian built with tight budgets.


Because it's obviously and arrogantly aesthetically terrible. Architects, like the elites who commission and support their work, have a fundamentally adversarial relationship with the rest of us.

Even the relatively good stuff stands alone and is, at best, aggressively indifferent towards its surroundings.

Kunstler wrote a good book on it:

https://www.amazon.com/Geography-Nowhere-Americas-Man-Made-L...

(and several less-good follow up books)


Kunstler is one of those people who has one good point that he makes with a great deal of wit. His point is valid but his critique is not that deep, and outside this one point the rest of his views are reactionary trash. He's a one hit wonder.

This is a common feature of notable critics, probably because it is far easier to criticize than to solve problems. It's far easier to point out why the suburbs suck than to design and advocate effectively for alternatives that address the same needs that the suburbs try to address.

BTW I think your critique is actually deeper than Kunstler's in that it gets to the totalitarian underpinnings of this type of high modernism. People seem to mistakenly associate high modernism with the enlightenment when it's more of a return to pre-enlightenment authoritarianism.

High modernism is a secular materialist version of divine right of kings, with baroque religious theories replaced with opulent displays of indifferent wealth and with sterility replacing aesthetic grandeur as a display of power. The latter may be because aesthetic indifference serves today as a more effective display of power than baroque over-done aesthetics with gold leaf and curlicues.


A thought of mine a core part of totalitarianism, pick a flavor they are all the same in this. Is that they seek to callously use humanity as material to manufacture some ego driven utopia. That is at the heart of modernist architecture. People are expected to conform to the vision not the other way around.


He is always an interesting read but is usually all to eager to jump off the deep end.

I recall him in 2012 saying that the aviation industry would be history by 2018... that clearly didnt pan out. The theory was reasonable but the time frame was wildly out of whack.


On the whole I agree but I stopped reading after this:

“ It should be obvious to anyone that skyscrapers should be abolished. After all, they embody nearly every bad tendency in contemporary architecture: they are not part of nature, they are monolithic, they are boring, they have no intricacy, and they have no democracy. Besides, there is plenty of space left on earth to spread out horizontally; the only reasons to spread vertically are phallic and Freudian.”


Rarely I see a paragraph where I either disagree with the statements in or find the conclusion to each flat up unsatisfactory. The paragraph you quoted is one such.

Freudian is bad. Somehow, phallic is also bad, despite a good portion of the populace toting one around and a non-trivial portion of the rest enjoying the company of one every so often. And of course there is space to spread out horizontally, which we call urban sprawl; people complain about that as well. I ... do not understand how buildings may or may not be democratic, or of a republic, or anything else.

And I go backward through the paragraph just wondering what it is I am missing.


I don't think this statement is inherently wrong, but perhaps misguided. Skyscrapers in there current state should be abolished, but I don't disagree with vertical expansion. The article makes what I think to be a very good case for garden space, and if we are to continue to build vertically we need to think about how we incorporate some nature and greenery into our high rise structures.


Singapore tries this and, in my opinion, does it better than most at least in examples (the oasia hotel being a prime one). Unfortunately, looking out across the CBD right now is still a glass & concrete smear that could be any city in the world. A few good examples do not a skyline make


Skyscrapers can be done well, like the art deco ones in New York, and the Smith Tower in Seattle.


What is the problem with the quoted statement?


There are two kinds of cities.

One of these cities is ideal for the automobile. It is spread out, to avoid creating traffic bottlenecks. This sprawl is further exaggerated to make room for parking. Unfortunately, personal cars are exclusionary because of cost and necessary license restrictions.

What's worse, sprawled, car-friendly cities are unfriendly to pedestrians and public transit. You get bus stops that are simultaneously too few and too many (a bunch of stops with only one passenger). A city full of skyscrapers is terrible for cars, because your roads clog up whenever the drivers try to enter or leave (welcome to LA!) but it's great to pedestrians, because you get so much available in a short walking distance.


The point about spreading out horizontally is factually incorrect. Much like the natural limit to building height is floor plate dedicated to elevator shafts, the natural limit to sprawl is roads and traffic. In general we have a lot of unused vertical space, but not a whole lot of spare roadway.


The word “only”. The article argues well that efficiency should not be absolutely important - but the remark about Freud missteps by treating efficiency (in this instance, of vertical building) as absolutely unimportant, as opposed to merely unabsolutely important - a factor to be balanced against others.

A particularly egregious example of overhorizontalization would be Robert Moses’ drive to have people commute into NYC by car from Long Island. While, yes, there tends to be more greenery out there, I would contend this clashes with the author’s “harmony with nature” principle by driving an extreme increase in the reliance on fossil fuels, as well as the “make people happy” principle by lengthening commutes as compared to the higher population density permitted with vertical building.


Spreading horizontally doesn't scale. What our society needs is more density, not less.


High density is bad for the soul. What we actually need is fewer people, but each doing more meaningful work.


That’s the statement that sold me on the article, actually.


Old buildings have gone through a filter. The ugly ones were destroyed with no one caring. The beautiful ones have armies of people fighting to maintain them.

There are beautiful and ugly new buildings. In 1000 years time only the beautiful buildings from this era will have survived and we'll be talking about why the buildings of today are nowhere near as nice.


The filter thing seems obviously true, but it doesn't rule out whole styles being better than others, even if the mediocre and pedestrian efforts from those styles were eventually winnowed out. Besides, each day people, somewhere, are making decisions about the next awful building. It doesn't seem enough to loftily let our descendents decide whether to pull down a building after we're all dead, before a single stone has been laid.

Consider this view as a thought experiment: say every Norman cathedral was beautiful. Maybe some were inspired and some were pedestrian, some were less beautiful because of the locally-available stone, some had long delays in construction and ended up with a mishmash of styles. Or whatever. You could filter them by appeal, or randomly, or any other method, and still end up with a bunch of beautiful buildings. Whereas it's not clear that any brutalist concrete cube will withstand the test of time. GIGO.


Habitat 67 in Montreal is a Brutalist concrete building (many cubes) that is generally well-liked and has been a desirable place to live for 50 years.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Habitat_67#/media/File:Habitat...


It does look fairly discordant and messy, and I'm not sure if I'd like to try navigating the structure, but there is a symmetry and level of detail that goes above and beyond the typical vision of a concrete cube that the word "brutalism" conjurs. From the top it looks really nice with the floor detail and the incorporated plantlife and greenery.

Its perhaps too large of a building for my liking, and it feels a little bit "minecraft" with seemingly unsupported cubic shapes, but it also has a nice focus on human scale details that make it actually interesting to be in and around.


I love brutalism when it includes plantlife. Another example is the Barbican Estate in London. Without plant life though, I agree with the article, brutalism looks too bleak.


The guided tour is excellent. This architect had a real vision around usage and bought one apartment to stop it being refurbished.


> Whereas it's not clear that any brutalist concrete cube will withstand the test of time.

Some brutalist buildings must be left standing as a warning for future generations.


This place is not a place of honor... no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here... nothing valued is here.

What is here was dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

The danger is in a particular location... it increases towards a center... the center of danger is here... of a particular size and shape, and below us.

The danger is still present, in your time, as it was in ours.


Maybe a few blocks of brutalist buildings would work better than the spikes.


Just fill their insides up with solid concrete, to prevent people from entering them and having their souls sucked out.


I don't want to live in a building that looks like a bunker. At least put some arrow slits in and add a portcullis if you're going to do that.


I adore concrete cubes, and they often look so similar, what luck!


There is an element of survivorship bias, but the rate of building beautiful buildings is not constant. There’s far fewer beautiful buildings built in the last 75 years than in the years preceding it (try walking into a church built after 1960 for example).

The article points to several casual ideologies in architecture which contribute to this.


There are some noteable exceptions - growing up in Germany, it was very easy to distinguish former industrial centers (bombed to pieces, rebuilt quickly using concrete prefab monstrosities during the 50s) from the cities spared due to their tactical irrelevance (either kept in their original style or plastered over in the 60s).


This is evidently untrue. The principles of architectural schools and trends can be objectively evaluated. We also have some historical evidence of lost buildings that show they were not all the ugly ones. And we have many buildings that were not preserved intentionally that are nonetheless beautiful.

Perhaps you meant that inferior or cheaper schools of architecture co-existed with the prestigious architecture of their time. That is less controversial (and is also true today, mercifully.)


The winnowing theory only makes sense to people today, because we have such a massive demolition industry. But when things were built with old construction techniques, taking a lot more time and effort, using stone and brick - you built once and it remained long term. The rate of demolition was probably much lower in the past.


How was it? For every rule, there is an exception: http://www.sosbrutalism.org/


Good to see Dunelm House in Durham listed there - one of my favourite buildings in any style, that has been threatened with demolition for a few years now.


The bridge across the river Wear right next to Dunelm house is an example of building with concrete done right. Use the properties of the material to make a structure that is light and airy, pleasing yet practical.

The soviet bunker that is Dunelm House itself though. Bring on the day of its demolition. Please let me push the plunger and set off the explosives.


This take is naturalizing and ignorant of history, for example, urban renewal.


This article reminds me strongly of how the design community, seemingly in unison, decided that UI accordances were mere frippery and ushered in our current, flat UI landscape of indistinguishable hamburger buttons and oceans of white space.


I agree with you that flat design is bad design, but not that whitespace is bad. Done right it can enhance the understanding of the content and add beauty to a page.


And thank god for these people. I do not miss <blink> tags and all of the things that were used in to fill up the lovely, underappreciated white-space.


Funny, that the author shows two hospitals in Barcelona. To answer the question, you definitely want to be in the "ugly" one.

For starters, the nice modernist building is not a hospital anymore. And partly due to the reason of architecture. While nice to look at, it was not terribly practical. Staircases between different wings meant that they had to transfer sometimes people with ambulance within the hospital. And sometimes even seconds matter.


But wasn't the question about where to convalesce, that is, recover after having been treated?


Hospitals are terrifically dangerous places for sick people. That and the cost of bed occupancy are the primary reasons that convalescence mostly happens at home.


The answer to that is they send you home. They tend to kick you out of the hospital unless you are actively dying. At least here in America.


Barcelona is in America?


It applies everywhere. People recover much faster at home than any hospital, even a pretty one.


My architect asked me to tell her stories from the future when my family lives in the house she was designing. She asked me to not speak about details of what the house was, but to tell stories of things I dreamed would happen in the house. I told her of multitasking cooking and monitoring homework, of children laughing while chasing around walls in a circuit, of seeing children and pets from the window while doing dishes.

I love my house and all those stories came true.

But: My architect considers herself to be in Le Corbusier's school of thought. She understands that sleek lines and honest materials can serve human stories.


pictures?


"Airports are ugly. Some are very ugly" They aren't all ugly,just functionality wrong: instead of being places for people to travel,they are parking lots for planes with the rest attached to them. No matter how beautiful the airport if I have to walk half a mile to the gate just to reach the stairs with no lift, it's a failed building already.

It used to be relatively cheap to build extremely beautiful buildings because labour was cheap.

Also,some cities have some sort of planning panel,where people can and do try to steer architecture certain way,so there wouldn't be pink windowless office buildings in an old town built 400 years ago and etc.But that's not in every city.

And the last bit is we just need to admit that the king is naked sometimes: there are shit architects and shit designers who, by some magic stroke of luck, ended up in positions that allowed them to create those awful things no questions asked.They wouldn't be allowed anywhere near anything creative related in an alternative world.


That half a mile is needed for non-negotiable constraints, like the scale of airplanes (e.g. gaps between landing strips or fingers), the capacity targets (walking to board a plane is better than not flying at all) or the available space to add terminals (Heathrow is a good example).

There are also practical needs, functions that follow the form, that are no less important than minimizing walking, like the convenience and cost reduction of putting a lot of travellers in the same huge terminal and if possible in the same huge hall, with one subway station, one customs funnel, and so on.


Okay I’ll bite: “Which hospital would I rather convalesce in?”, the one with the best doctors. I find the old fashioned architecture he uses beautiful but even the cherry picked examples of bad architecture some of them I still like; let us look around London today, the Southbank and the Barbican are brutalist masterpieces, the Shard is incredible, especially when the clouds touch the top, together with the rebuilding of Kings Cross or even Terminal 5 modern architecture is everywhere and when it’s good I absolutely love it.

I find it really hard to believe people dislike modern architecture; the problem with building something with fine adornments today is they end up looking extremely cheap and fake, we are capable of building clean crisp forms in ways not possible before and providing spaces that function much better at their purposes today than we were in the past. The article is sentimental about the old buildings and we can be inspired by them, but modern architecture like Taipei 101 or the Burj Khalifa just blows me away as spectacles of what science and engineering have accomplished.

Creating something that looks like the Taj Mahal today would just look hokey and seem extremely dysfunctional for its intended use. Each to their own but I’m a big fan.


Exactly right. This article seems biased and uninformed.


I like Brutalism, and I speculate that one reason is that I grew up in a rural area where things are big, surfaces are rough, and there aren't decorative brickwork patterns everywhere. I live in London now, and the brutalist Barbican estate feels a lot more like "the way the world is" to me than much of "traditional" residential London does. I think that arguments like the one in this article are born from overfamiliarity with pretty little patterns - I find the focus on decoration, "universal" aesthetics, and tradition quite suspicious.

(In particular I'm surprised that the article picks on Alexandra Road estate in London - it's lovely in real life, and it answers a difficult problem as well, namely how to use a road just behind a railway track. Also, while the old Penn Station which the article praises looks kind of amazing in the pics, it's not exactly human scale is it? It'd surely have been just as shivery and daunting in real life as any Soviet edifice)

I had been hoping that the answer to "Why you hate contemporary architecture" would be something about your age. Brutalism has become popular with many people of my age (I'm almost 50) but I don't think it was a widely popular style when it was new. The test for me is going to be postmodernism. I don't really like it, because it's about frivolous decoration, but it's going to be venerated by a younger generation just as Brutalism is by mine. Will I be able to understand that?


I agree to an extent. Brutalism can look very good, but I personally think it only works on small scales like houses.

A brutalist skyscraper would look oppressive and imposing, towering above you like a Vogon ship about to demolish your planet to build a hyperspace lane. A brutalist house, however - while maybe not the most inviting place ever - looks simple and easy to maintain, a space you don't have to look after so that you can spend more time looking after yourself.

I agree with the article where it says that some brutalist buildings would be entirely livable if there was some greenery, however. A place that allows you to look after yourself means nothing it it doesn't also provide the tools to help you achieve that goal, and access to nature has time and time again proven to benefit mental health for worldweary citydwellers, and as someone who suffers with clinical depression, I can very much vouch for the benefits of getting out of the four walls.


> A brutalist skyscraper would look oppressive and imposing, towering above you like a Vogon ship about to demolish your planet to build a hyperspace lane.

This is kind of my point though - Nature is like that. A daunting slab of concrete has a lot in common with a cliff face. An empty, open expanse of concrete is like the rocky hillside. Both are more like "the world" than a regular repetition of patterns in brick rising to two storeys high set off with a tiled roof.

(Perhaps that's why they're offputting to people - too much like the unfiltered natural world, not enough comfortable regularisation.)

There's no equivalent of the forest (the default natural covering for most of the world) in any of these forms of architecture, but it's not like it's any worse in the Brutalist model.


You make a valid point, but I still would disagree. The closest cliffs I can think of that are just as stark and imposing would be Dover. They are dramatic, iconic, and even beautiful, but would you want to live there all year round? The winter sea crashing against the shore and gale force winds battering you would make you grateful of any shelter, but that's only because the forces of nature have made you feel helpless, pinning you against this bare rock face, far from the safety that other aspects of nature would willingly provide.

I'd like to reiterate that I like brutalism, I'm just trying to convey that I think its very easy to overdo when you only consider the macro scale of a project.


> A brutalist skyscraper would look oppressive and imposing, towering above you like a Vogon ship about to demolish your planet to build a hyperspace lane.

But thats the part of it that makes so freaking cool! I love it, the cold, the quietness of it, makes me feel like I can breathe


I love barbican, but it also has lots of green and a vision of community. Same for Montreal's expo habitat 67.

Some of the buildings in that article were revolting. That big white one with chunks for windows looks so childish and uninspiring.


The article does mention about some integration with nature, and from some Google pictures it seems that Barbican State has at least some greenery.

> Brutalism has become popular with many people of my age.

Has it really? Have you lived in any of the places you mentioned and consider nice? That has always been a better test than going by people's expressed opinions.

In Brazil it is quite easy to find people that praise Oscar Niemeyer's work, but none of them actually live in Brasilia - and I am yet to see a catholic that has any good thing to say about Rio de Janeiro's Cathedral.


> > Brutalism has become popular with many people of my age.

> Has it really? Have you lived in any of the places you mentioned and consider nice?

I can't afford to. I do know people who live in the Barbican estate, at least, and who love it.

But it's a good question and I think quite right. My remark does sort of exhibit the same mistake that Brutalism was supposed to avoid - using public appreciation of aesthetic quality as a proxy for lived quality. And I also see that I'm praising the expensive, ambitious, now-unaffordable projects, not the ones that were "problematic" and then blown up, like Red Roads (in Glasgow) or Heygate (in London).


1. 99% of everything is crap.

2. Crap buildings get torn down before beautiful buildings.

This article brings up many examples of modern crap, but ignores the fact that most of that crap will not be painstakingly conserved for centuries to come, as many of the good examples shown have been. There do exist examples of beautiful modern architecture.

The article also makes some valid points, such as how modern architects seem to be highly reluctant to use ornate details. The reason may be simple economics. The modern international bidding process heavily favours architects who can deliver a beautiful building for less money. Ornate details may please the eye, but they are undeniably expensive.

Some cities have started mandating a certain percentage of any public project be spent on art, but that art is often an afterthought. They'll build a utilitarian overpass and then regulations will force them to put up a hideous and overpriced sculpture in the middle of a pedestrians nightmare. The only people who will ever see it are whizzing past at 80 kph.

We have the will to make the places we live in more beautiful, but how can we better quantify beauty and find ways to fit it into city budgets? I feel that a system flexible enough to say, "Yes, scrap the sculpture and do the funky masonry." is a system in which ornateness could return.


Yes, this article actually makes the absolutely incredible claim that “For about 2,000 years, everything human beings built was beautiful, or at least unobjectionable.”

Really? Everything?


I think this is reasoning does not work on this case.

Take Le Corbusier, the "Cité Radieuse" in Marseille is actively maintained and considered with an almost sacred status by the partisans of this kind of design.

This is a fucking ugly building that should have been destroyed decades ago, in my opinion, but I have a very strong bias against anything related to this style of design.


Alexandra Road or Barbican Estate are pretty brutal in their brutalism, but Cité radieuse is just a very nice apartment building. Pretty upscale too.


> Ornate details may please the eye, but they are undeniably expensive.

I wish gargoyles would return.

I was in Munich some years back, and noticed a stone dragon climbing up the side of a building. Now that was cool!


I don't know much about architecture, but I found the essay very biased and unnecessarily biasing - I didn't actually think that most of the buildings they presented as monstrosities were actually unattractive. Many of them looked quite elegant from the outside. I also found some of the examples they presented as positive too complex for my tastes. It feels like the authors overextended themselves in the assumption that their readers would feel the same revulsion to post-modern or brutal architecture that they do.

The article did bring up some good points about how the sentiments of people using the buildings should be taken into account during the design process.

I really enjoyed their take on how democracy should be treated in architecture. It feels profound beyond the scope of architecture itself, and something that society has been playing with in recent decades - e.g. panchayat government in India [0] and decentralized governance and decision making as embodied by various blockchains.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panchayati_raj_in_India


> ...in the assumption that their readers would feel the same revulsion...

I'm not sure they were actually so revulsed as much as whipping up indignation to sell an article. I don't think aesthetics was really what it was about at all.

Also if you want large amounts of detail, expect to pay for that either directly in lots of money, or in considerable unjust exploitation of a craftsman underclass.

(I also detest articles that say what YOU want or what YOU feel).


Skilled crafstmen are not in the underclass. They ones I've met are very well paid, and take pride in their work, and know a lot. The stone decorations of mediaeval cathedrals were very expensive. Modern architecture avoids decoration partly to avoid expense.


> Skilled crafstmen are not in the underclass

Not now but they were. Now they would cost a lot more than than, so ...

> The stone decorations of mediaeval cathedrals were very expensive. Modern architecture avoids decoration partly to avoid expense.

... was exactly my point. It costs money.

https://thehistoryofengland.co.uk/resource/medieval-prices-a...


I agree with him. Every example of a bad modern building, I agreed, they are repulsive.


> brutal architecture

Brutalist architecture. The word actually has little to do with adjective "brutal". It's derived from French "brut", meaning "raw", as in "raw concrete".


I am buying a house and I spent months to find this perfect, simple, contemporary design. This article made me think a lot about my choice of architecture for my home. In my mind, living in ‘boring’, modern, blank, mostly empty spaces gives me a taste of how in my mind the future, 300y from now will look. Less colors and sharp edges bring to my mind less chaos, gives a sense of minimalism and simplicity. I do not want my physical space taking my attention, too many colors and shapes do not help me to think. I make my living from thinking and living my digital life, contemporary design aligns with it.


Easy solution: live in a gray box. Preferably underground so the rest of us don't have to look at it. I'm only half serious.

Personally, I like details, but I don't like clutter. If it's complexity I have to maintain myself, I don't want it.


I'm thinking about building a house in the future. It should be made from bricks (as I love this material) and I don't really want to make any interior finish. Just huge gray box of pure bricks with exposed electric wires, stone floor, etc. I think it's called loft or industrial style and people trying to mimic it. But I hate mimicking, things must be natural.

Not sure if it's practical and I definitely did not see anyone implementing it. But that would definitely reflect my personality in some way.


A blank/empty building or space is only as right or wrong as why it was made and what is done with it.

A grey box is ugly, and even disfunctional if the function of housing humans is any different from the function of storing items.

But a grey box may also be a canvas, which ends up being the very opposite of ugly and dead and inhumane.

One of the great appeals of the loft/industrial thing is the space is reconfigurable at will. You can have very inventive and artistic weird beds hanginging from chains at novel elevations and producing interesting spaces underneath, curtains for divisions that move around and can be opened to make a big open space one day and cozy spaces the next.

There is no single form that is really the one true best form. The ability to change is more soul-filling than anything.

It's not practical and most people can't afford to have 3 homes where one is all cozy spaces that feel like a claustrophobic rat warren after a while, and another that is all clean sterile Ikea which is a refreshing break from the rat warren for a while and then feels sterile and un-fulfilling after a while... one perfectly valid approach is an empty space, but empty for the sake of it's configurability, not for the sake of the emptiness itself.


What would the energy efficiency of such a building be?


Well, I simplified that a little bit. Walls are supposed to contain space filled with insulation, so it would have pretty standard energy efficiency.


So something like https://japanese-school-asahi.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01... ?

No clutter, simple, minimal. Time-tested and completely unlike contemporary architecture.


Not the OP but looking at your example I can only think that the place lacks chairs/something to sit on.


The panels above the doors are wonderful.


Easy solution: live in a gray box. Preferably underground so the rest of us don't have to look at it. I'm only half serious.


I almost got married in Boston City Hall, until my now-spouse and I actually went there in person, whereupon we immediately cancelled our date there and rescheduled in Cambridge.

To me, the message of that building is vividly clear: all the concrete enclosed windows are perfect places to put machine guns to mow down protestors in the plaza when america finally goes dictator.


Architects often get mad when non-architects conflate the terms “modernism,” “postmodernism,” “Brutalism,” etc. They love telling people that, say, “Frank Gehry is actually REACTING to postmodernism.” These terminological disputes can obscure the fact that everything under discussion is actually just a minor variation on the same garbage.


The thing about Frank Gehry is not the architecture, it’s the engineering. He designs crap that couldn’t possibly be built, and then somehow his engineering team figures out how to make the impossible not only possible, but to actually realize it.

The result still looks like shit, but the engineering is amazing.


You know what? I love space ships. I want to live on a space ship and flow effortlessly from my bed to the kitchen, rehydrate some food and put it in a crumb-free wrap for breakfast, flow to my office and work on my experiments, take a break in the observation deck and take in the vastness of the planet below, and at the end of the day flow back to bed, wrapping myself up in my tethered sleeping bag so that I can doze off peacefully and not float away.

Do you know what would be really depressing? If that spaceship never left the ground.

I live on Earth, please don't build spaceships for me to live and work in while I'm down here.


That Peter Eisenman building looks like it'd be a killer skate park. Say what you will about James Howard Kunstler, his TED talk on Architecture seems to be in the right direction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1ZeXnmDZMQ


Well geez. Unlike people, I happen to love contemporary architecture. I suppose that Christopher Alexander must feel sorry for me too. Maybe he could explain more clearly to my aesthetic sensibilities why his prosaic pattern language shouldn't leave me cold and empty.

In defense of the Montparnasse building, it has a good view from the top, because you see everything except for the Montparnasse building.


A metaphor: Architects, like devs, are always looking for the next “shiny new thing“. Architects, like devs, could stick to their C or even JS but, you know, there is Rust and Crystal and Elm...

Architect here.


I sympathize with the author's disdain for brutalist and some deconstructivist work. But to suggest that all contemporary architecture is a movement towards creating deliberately alienating and impractical buildings, seems to me very wrong. I think Zaha Hadid's work (which the author critiques) is aesthetically pleasing to most people, not alienating, for example https://assets.newatlas.com/dims4/default/e09670a/2147483647... . The author expresses a uniform disdain for skyscrapers, but many skyscrapers are popular with the general public, for example, the Gherkin in London https://i.pinimg.com/474x/b5/78/c0/b578c0732b532b91b5e8455de... or say, The Empire State Building. Personally I do not find the shiny glass and sleek curves of many of these buildings unsettling or alienating nor, I think, do most people. In short, if we accept a basic premise of the author's: that what is good architecture is what is pleasing to most of the people who view and interact with it, then the author's critique is (I believe) too broad because many of the architects and buildings the author implicitly or explicitly criticizes are in fact popular.

Furthermore, something that the author does not address is the movement in contemporary architecture to carefully consider the practical effect of building design on the people within it. For example, how the flow of people is directed by the building, how the layout can help its occupants interact with each other, how interior walls can support privacy or erode it, and how to cater the response to these concerns to the function of the building. This is the opposite of the approach in Eisenman's house design mentioned in the article.


I always felt that the contemporary architecture is cheap first and easy to clean/maintain second. All those nice ornaments are expensive, not easy to clean and their replacement in any case is even more expensive. Is there a way around this.

I prefer this older aesthetic, but I think I couldn't afford it. My one idea is to build with CLT and keep wood exposed both in and outside (with proper thermal insulation in the middle). That way it's cheap, but with this warm feeling of wood.


This is giving modern architecture entirely too much credit. For example, one of the many crimes of the UWaterloo Davis Center[1] was that the roof (curved and made of panes of glass) leaked every time it rained causing a mess on the floors below. These designs are often neither attractive nor practical. The weird shapes and angles used often waste usable space, are hard to clean, and introduce additional joints between sections where water or air can get in.

[1] https://uwaterloohistory.wordpress.com/davis-centre-dc/


Ah, yes, I used to work in a building which had (at great expense, apparently) many curved walls, with "exciting" shiny metal cladding along much of the walls. The roof leaked constantly (frequently into our machine room) and the metal clad walls meant cell phones were useless inside, but I bet that architect got an award.


Modern atchitecture is the expression of an artist pushing the limit of building as an art. If, like me, you are not educated to it this can be difficult to enjoy. Take the someone not specially versed into art to the museum, it's likely they will enjoy and value more Vermeer than let's say Pollock.

Should we design buildings, that people use and see everyday, only for an elite to appreciate it ? I don't have the answer.


I think it should depend on the context. One of the problems seems to be that there is no public space for 'monuments' in the modern world, so we get user-hostile bourgeois 'form over function' in buildings where people actually need to live and work etc. I would rather a division between 'temples' of aesthetic value, where the architects can play aesthetic games, and 'secular' spaces of more utilitarian value.


See http://www.patternlanguage.com and "Building Living Neighborhoods" https://www.livingneighborhoods.org/ht-0/bln-exp.htm (and especially http://www.patternlanguage.com/archive/cityisnotatree.html )

> Our goal is to help everyone make our neighborhoods places of belonging, places of health and well-being, and places where people will want to live and work. This has become possible through the use of Generative Codes, Christopher Alexander's latest work in the effort to make possible conception and construction of living, beautiful communities that have real guts -- not the sugary sweetness of pseudo-traditional architecture.

> The tools offered are intended for the use of ordinary people, families, communities, developers, planners, architects, designers and builders; public officials, local representatives, and neighbors; business owners and people who have commercial interests. The processes here are expressed in the belief that the common-sense, plain truth about laying out a neighborhood, or repairing one, is equally valid for all comers, amateurs and professionals. They help people build or rebuild neighborhoods in ways that contribute something to their lives. Many of the tools have their origin in 30 years of work published in Alexander's The Nature of Order.

His whole idea was that people should design and build their own buildings and towns. He kind of repudiates the whole process of modern architecture and construction.


I absolutely love the all-glass skyscraper aesthetic. I consider it breathtaking. Calming and magnificent. I never understand why so many people say they love the look of old buildings.

I know it's not "cool", but I'll take Toronto's glass over New York's filthy gargoyles, any day. I don't even understand how people can have such opposite taste.


Unless an architect is a genius like Wright, and they have a coherent design philosophy, like Wright, decorative architectural features way too often degenerate into middlebrow sentimentality.

The same goes for cars: Bangle-butt was not the response to jellybeaned cars we were looking for.


"Mr. Wright, I love the house you designed, but the roof leaks so badly we might as well not have a roof. Could you fix it?"

"No. That's how you know it's a roof!"


I highly recommend Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House. In it he tears apart modem architectural pretentiousness the same way he went after the radical chic. It’s hilarious and devastating.


> The Tour Montparnasse. Who can possibly defend this? And if there’s something clearly wrong with it

The arrogance on display is profoundly human.

We've added 1.8 billion humans to the world in the last 20 years. That statistic is too large for our tiny brains to grapple but it cannot be ignored. We need buildings for those people to live and work in. Continuing to maintain cities a density appropriate to the 1800s/1900s is irresponsible.

No city is a zoo to preserve what life looked like 100 years ago. They are places for people to live today.


I'm not sure I follow the population and density argument.

City densities were higher in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Paris itself has lost about 700,000 people since its 1921 population peak.

If housing people is your goal, you should build lots of low- to mid-rise buildings, say between 5 and 10 floors. This size of building is able to achieve the highest densities per cost using current construction techniques.

Build lower and you over-allocate and waste land. Build higher and the marginal cost of another floor rises quickly. There's a reason commercial buildings are the tallest: workers need less space working than they do living at home. High-rise residences are not economical unless people have very small apartments, which brings along its own problems.


> No city is a zoo to preserve what life looked like 100 years ago. They are places for people to live today.

And why did we stop building new cities? It's cheaper than destroying and rebuilding old cities.


Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language is not only a great book on architecture, but one of the best books on any subject I've ever read. Highly recommended.

That said, once you've read it, you will forever find the flaming garbage dump that is contemporary architecture severely wanting. These days, and architect could almost be summarized as someone who designs buildings and hates people.


I very much like it, it feels a lot quieter and cleaner; looking at the often more ornate and colorful older projects makes me feel claustrophobic.


Before modern materials and construction techniques enabled the decoupling of how a building looks from its fundamental construction I think it was at lot more difficult to make a building look bad.

You are at least more limited in the ways a traditional stone/brick/wood construction can be bad.


Just Gramscian damage:

http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=260

Prophecy: 3D printing rescues architecture, allowing a Renaissance of aesthetically pleasing buildings to retire the swath of overgrown Legos besetting us.


Reminds me of this [1] old TED talk about horrible architecture that I still find relevant as ever.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1ZeXnmDZMQ


I was walking around a Dutch city a few years ago, that was about half pre-war buildings and half new ones. The new ones just looked like abominations compared to the lovely old ones. All pipes and glass and strange angles.


I think most of these buildings are great. What I can’t stand are the contemporary “modern” mixed-use buildings sweeping cities such as Seattle. You know the ones: multi-colored, multi-setback, multi-material. Awful.


Adolf Loos "Ornament is crime" Even more valid today.

Only very few people hate modernism, and they can have all the warts they want. Even C++ or perl.


I like Denver’s airport. Boston’s City Hall was originally designed to have trees and landscaping around it, which was replaced by pavement.


Less is more. Intricate details where they aren’t necessary don’t make better architecture. Or better anything, for that matter.


oof, it's painful to read this article and this thread as someone who enjoys contemporary architecture. Sure there are bad apples but in general every piece is doing something new. If you take a trip in europe you'll really get bored of classical architecture in few days. There isn't much innovation and while it's great for mom-and-pops culture of homogeneous towns, it's quite boring, tiring and uninspiring.

Might as well advocate for soviet's Stalinkas, just plaster some ornaments and plants on them!

The whole point of contemporary culture is that we finally have the technological, creative and cultural freedom to experiment and create new things. I'm sure for X amount of people that dislike this there are same amount of people who love it.


Excellent article.


Yeah, well, I'm not in a patient mood today, so I'll just say this is a load of idiotic horseshit not worth anyone's time or serious consideration, and leave it there.


I would say exactly the same thing, about this comment.




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