Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Crimes in Concrete

From Theodore Dalrymple at First Things:
Making Dystopia is not just a cri de coeur, however. It is a detailed account of the origins, rise, effect, and hegemony of architectural modernism and its successors, and of how architecture became (to a large extent) a hermetic cult that seals itself off from the criticism of hoi polloiamong whom is included Prince Charles—and established its dominance by a mixture of ­bureaucratic intrigue, intellectual terrorism, and appeal to raw ­political and financial interest. If success is measured by power and hold over a profession rather than by intrinsic worth, then the modernist movement in architecture has been an almost unparalleled success. Only relatively recently has resistance begun to form, and often all too late:
Many ingenious lovely things are gone
That seemed sheer miracle to the multitude.
Professor Curl’s book is ­particularly strong on the historiographical lies peddled by the apologists for modernism, and on the intellectual weakness of the arguments for the necessity of modernism. For example, architectural historians and theoreticians such as Sigfried Giedion, Arthur Korn, and Nikolaus Pevsner claimed to see in modernism the logical continuation of the European architectural tradition, and Pevsner even recruited such figures as William Morris and C. F. A. Voysey as progenitors of the movement. Pevsner was so enamored of Gropius and the Modernists that he wanted to claim a noble descent for them, as humble but ambitious people were once inclined to find a distant aristocratic forebear. Yet Voysey could hardly have been more hostile to the movement that co-opted him. (Read more.)

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