After the World War, in order to utilize efficiently the available resources and limited finances, the world realized that it could no longer function as before, and thus, adopted a new approach. The idea was to move away from anything unnecessary or excessive and embrace a more essentially functional approach. This ideology formed an architectural movement called Modernism. The fathers of modern architecture devised strategies where buildings would use least amount of construction costs, materials, time and energy – in other words, mass production. Now, the only problem with mass production is that the end result is a product with impersonal features.
This is exactly what happened to buildings. Architecture became so impersonal and rigid that there was no sense of place and no room for human sentiment or memory. Strictly speaking, the movement dehumanized spaces in pursuit of extreme efficiency. Due to this reason, many philosophers and architects argue on why the movement was a failure. However, my intention is not to bash on the movement. Personally, I believe that it was the only way at the time as both resources and skilled labor was limited. What I want to talk about is today, and how even though the modern movement had been allegedly abolished by 1980s, we are still living in the mindset of the modernist era.
Some of the main features of modern architecture were repetition, symmetry and order. Everything was micromanaged and nothing went outside the order. Strict rules dictated design. As you can imagine, in such circumstances, any form of rebellious or an out of place design element would stand out so clearly that it would seem alien to the surrounding context. It would seem strange and therefore, be shunned by the surrounding majority.
Today, we proudly claim that we’re living in an age of freedom, where individualism is celebrated. However, if we pause for a minute and think, we would then know that we are in fact still living in an age of modernist mindset. We are so enslaved to the designated system that we don’t even realize it. For example, fifty years ago, a gay person was shunned by society just because the concept was alien and the majority didn’t approve. Today, a homophobic is shunned by the society because he or she does not agree with the majority. When seemingly free choices become a trend, up to a point where disagreeing or having a different opinion becomes a liability to the person on the other side, we are basically stating that you’re either with us or against us. There is no more the concept of ‘agree to disagree’.
This is exactly what had happened during the age of modernism and it’s exactly what is happening today. The definition of ‘freedom of thought’ has been contaminated and transformed to ‘follow the trend’. We end up thinking we’re original but actually we’re following the trend without fully understanding why, but only because it’s so much easier to be accepted when doing so. This social issue has been affecting architecture since a long time and it still is. One such example is ‘Green Architecture’. I’m not talking about simple passive strategies that aim to use natural energy sources, but going above and beyond to force artificial ‘sustainable’ strategies that do not even affect the overall construction feasibility or energy usage positively, but simply give an ‘image’ of sustainability – again, a trend.
If you ask me, I’m not experienced enough to know how to fix this situation, but I can see a problem in today’s architecture and I am hoping that others do not remain ignorant of what is happening either.