25 November 2008

A City Cannot Be A Work of Art

Like many utopian visions that someone is crazy enough to attempt to realize, modernist architecture has always contained an element of fascism. It wasn’t just that a cuckoo notion like Le Corbusier’s “radiant city,” those celery stalks of lone skyscrapers surrounded by a verdant wasteland, was meant to simplify life, but that it was in some basic sense meant to replace it.
“Modernist architecture began with social aims as strong as its aesthetic orientation, or stronger, but social objectives and interests have fallen away almost entirely, and aesthetic interests and judgment, ever more sophisticated and theory-based, have become predominant.”
...urban planners looked at the variety and busyness of city life and saw chaos and confusion and ugliness. Jacobs argued that alleged chaos was the essence of the mixed use that neighborhoods needed to flourish. It was she who declared, “When we deal with cities we are dealing with life at its most complex and intense. Because this is so, there is a basic esthetic limitation on what can be done with cities. A city cannot be a work of art.”

Review of: From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture’s Encounter with the American City, By Charles Taylor in Dissent Magazine

1 comment:

5chw4r7z said...

Dwell magazine's Contest editorial talks about this in the current issue, can't remember all of it off the top my head, but the city has to be livable and at the end of the day people like trim around the windows. Thats not what they said but I think boils the editorial down. The main thrust of the story was the Bauhaus movement and how it changed once it came to America. As you can imagine, a whole city designed like that would be cold and boring.
The funny thing is the movement evolved into the split level house's we see all over the place. We have the Nazi's to thank for our sprawling xburbs! LOL