Friday, March 27


The Cruelty of Corbu

I've finally gotten a chance to muse once again a bit on architectural theory over at the NLM, on the occasion of a recent, rather concrete-dismal biography of one of my least favorite people in the world, Le Corbusier, the Swiss genius who gave us minimalist modernistic design, faux-factory efficiency, and public housing, and had all the charm and subtlety of a sledgehammer. I see nothing wrong with being 'modern' if that means adapting old designs to new realities and bringing forth new beauty, but I don't see why that means knocking off all the interesting bits off a building and leaving it a inhuman cube. Humans cannot stand that much "reality." Like nudity, it is more often a sin against charity than chastity, more disappointing than attractive, once the initial novelty wears off.
It is often wondered aloud why we cannot create a new "modern" Catholic style, a true expression of our own era. Partially it is because of this intellectual, positivistic bankruptcy at the root of the modernistic style. Continuity must be re-established first before any progress or development may be made.

Though I'd also say that the classical experiments of the last forty or so years are just as "modern," if not more so, than whatever bizarro koolade Rem Koolhouse is peddling. Perhaps something new and different, yet traditional, will spring from its roots, like Goodhue's Gothic sprung from the earlier work of Pugin, Scot and Bodley, or how Comper's unified eclecticism came from everything he saw, but we have to start somewhere, and there is still so much to learn, in terms of design and craftsmanship. The architects working today have the hardest job--which is bringing, effectively, a whole world back to life. And as this culture was brought down not by obsolescence but by willful cruelty, this is hardly archaeologism.

Perhaps the modernistic style might be baptized, but much that made it distinctive, would be washed away in the progress. One problem is its fixation, almost Gnostic, with disembodied ideas and concepts. A painting cannot be simply about paint, pace Rothko; and while a building must stand up, it need not solely be about standing up. Certainly the classical and Gothic traditions have that aspect, as far back as Vitruvius and as recently as Viollet-le-Duc, though at its best, such mechanics were stepping-stones to something better and wilder. [...]
More here, along with excerpts from a great review of an apparently and appropriately tedious book, Nicholas Fox Weber's Le Corbusier: A Life.

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