The disengagement of architecture from the real world

26Jul13

A political book written by a traditional architect denounces the disengagement of architecture from the real world as a sheer phenomenon of our era.

In From Bauhaus to Our House, Tom Wolfe bemoaned the fact that early European Modernism had stifled the development of an American architectural expression, at the very time that America was emerging as a global superpower. What kind of confident economic powerhouse, he mused, would allow itself to be subjugated to an alien ideological import?

Wolfe’s intent was to demonise the imposition of non-indigenous belief systems and to defend the unimpeded logic of the US market. Architecture was simply the mechanism that he chose to express this point. Effectively, his was a diatribe against the aloofness of ideas, and for an architecture grounded in real social conditions (preferably those social conditions that he favoured).

‘IN FACT, THERE IS A REMARKABLE PASSIVITY IN ARCHITECTURAL DISCOURSE, DESIGN AND DELIVERY: ‘NO SEISMIC CHANGE (IN ARCHITECTURE AND URBANISM) TO EQUAL THE MOMENTOUS ECONOMIC SHIFTS THAT THE PRESS REVEALS DAILY’

In this new book, architect Robert Adam similarly offers the reader a social criticism in which he seeks to understand how changes in the ‘real world’ impact on architecture and urbanism. Whereas Wolfe was reacting to what he considered to be the postwar victor not getting their deserved stylistic spoils, Adam notes that even though there are equally momentous shifts in world events today, there is no equivalent power struggle among styles, theories nor movements.

In fact, there is a remarkable passivity in architectural discourse, design and delivery: ‘no seismic change (in architecture and urbanism) to equal the momentous economic shifts that the press reveals daily’. Like the conservative Wolfe, for Adam the Classicist, the problem is that ‘High Modernism still dominates’.

Read the full article here

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