Friday, April 1, 2011

Part One: Instead of Architecture

 From some distance of time one can look back at twentieth century architecture and with somewhat rough division separate two major trends. Both were bringing innovation but their styles were as antithetic as if occupying opposite corners of what is possible within three dimensions.
Modern formal austerity proposed buildings inspired by simple geometry and had its origin in Bauhaus designs. What they accomplished was bringing gulag closer to the European industrial workers by building dwellings stripped of any softening, warm or natural elements.
Look at the hopelessness staring from the rows of these penitentiary windows behind bars: they were copied and copied again all across the world!
 Their immense success was not with workers, which did not want to live there but with other architects who developed the Bauhaus style into International style .Perhaps the essence of it is best encapsulated by the famous motto of Mies van der Rohe “less is more”. And so, it was less, much less.
This is Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s  practical design of place of mass execution by firing squad that can also serve temporarily as storage for inflatable people.

Less is more! The wisdom of this saying is as good as “less truth is more truth” or “less freedom is more freedom”. However  transparent is idiocy of this maxim it  was not obvious to people with great deal of money and the world got those oversized refrigerators masquerading as architecture.

In all fairness I should add that Germans were not the sole perpetrators of those architectural crimes.Take a look at the achievements of the venerated Le Corbusier:
How nice it must be to wake up in this tackle box and feel like a disposable cipher.
And another of his gifts to humanity:

An architect in the reverent comment under this picture called it “elegant”. Indeed, indeed.
Notice the outer shell made of massive ferro-concrete protecting against atomic attack from the local villagers.
There is no need to add any more examples of Modern Movement. We live surrounded by them. Even that they look so obtuse, they speak. Their message is loud, impersonal jeer emanating from the corporate maw.
In the Second Part I will look at another trend in XX century architecture and it will be far less depressing.


  1. Great! Looking forward to reading Part 2.

  2. First of all Mies never said "less is more" !!!
    This was only a mistranslation years later, from german to english, and far from the original thought.

    Modern architecture was a response to overdecorated construction and outdated building techniques of baroque. This was functionality and these architects could create high vaule aesthetics without the use of hundreds of decorative elements, which is quite respectful.

    Nature is warm and soft, that is why modern architecture opened our homes with huge glass openings towards it. You don't need to copy natural elemnts of stone and wood into your home when you can enjoy the real thing.

  3. Thank you for your reaction,Anonymous.Everywhere I looked the "Famous for his dictum 'Less is More'' is ascribed to him and it seems very hard to imagine how "less is more" could be mistranslated even from swahili to english.Moreover- his nasty boxes are exemplifying it louder than any possibility of "mistranslation" could explain it away.Baroque happened in the first part of seventeen century and modern architecture was a reaction, or over-reaction to aesthetics much closer at hand than distant baroque.Nobody was erecting baroque architecture in the beginning decades of XX century.In fact at that time decorative elements were used judiciously,sparingly and there are many examples of it still standing. Rohe's "clarity and simplicity" was resulting in scary aquariums.Even the argument that praises "opening to Nature" seems suspect,however much we all want Nature and want to be open,rather than shut out from something good.Want to mingle with Nature -roll on the meadow, take a hike in the woods. Buildings are not best places to be in Nature.My objection can be explain by this analogy: you say "when you can enjoy the real thing"[meaning nature] and it is like loving women and what better way to express it than actually, directly cavort with them, rather than peek at them from behind a bullet-proof glass at twenty story distance

  4. Exactly. It would also be wonderful, my dear, to live in the forests as cavemen, and not under any sort of shelter at all. Right? Then we shall truly enjoy nature. :) I would really love to know if the author of this most wonderous writing actually does like anything. If yes, what do you appreciate, and why. Maybe "moderation" is what you like, in art and architecture.

  5. Dear Anonymous, In Part II of my posting on modern architecture I wrote of an example of architecture I admire.In fact it would have to be a long list of what I admire in architecture within XX century,but the statue of Gaudi and his uniqueness is looming above all.
    And- I dislike "moderation":good taste-yes, but moderation-no.