Why modern architecture is so hideous.

Michelangelo. St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome | eternal beauty

Le Corbusier. L’Unite d’habitation, Berlin | modernism

Nobody. Nothing. Everywhere | new world order

At least 90% of all architectural projects nowadays are an absolute crap aesthetically. If we exclude architecture of ultra-ambitious, mega-rich, half-totalitarian regimes such as Emirates or China that number will probably jump to 99%… Think about it! In our wealthy puffed up Western culture only 1 out of 100 buildings worth something in terms of pure beauty and universal harmony.

No one talks about it officially. But everyone knows it. A widely known secret, so to speak.

Modern architecture sucks! Sucks big time. Every barber knows that.

People hate it.

People don’t accept it.

People just don’t dig it, yo…

Wow! Could be a nice refrain for a rap chorus…

Now keep in mind please, I am a professional architect, a modern guy who likes high-tech gadgets, avant-gardе shows and sexy women. I am not some crazy conservative traditionalist, religious zealot or senile old fart hating bold new changes. Yet I fully agree with the “barbers”.

Modern architecture sucks. You know why? Because architects suck. Simple as that. They suck in their central role – role of being Gods presenting world with the original creations. Those creations must follow inviolable Vitruvian Triad* of firmitatis (soundness), utilitatis (utility), and venustatis (delight, beauty). For a long time architects are not in charge of the first two principles anymore. It’s all right, though. It is a logical way of moving ahead with the progress. Engineers deal with soundness, i.e. structural principles of building science. Marketing people are responsible for utility, i.e. business aspects of project’s use.

So what’s left for Architect if not an Ars Venustatis – The Art Of Beauty?

Architecture is a theory. It’s a philosophy. It’s an Art. A wonderful art with classical canons, rich history and brilliant new ideas. It cannot suck. To blame it would be like blaming a genius thinker Fridrich Nietzsche for concentration camps built by Nazi’s or like blaming Prince of Anarchism Peter Kropotkin from XIX century for anti-globalist movement in 2010. It’s ridiculous and quite unwise.

 

Architects to be blamed for ugliness around us. Let’s keep them responsible for not being able to transform a fantastic art of “music in stone” into the real life symphonies. Let’s ask them why regardless to all amazing technological advances they, architects, provide us with mediocre designs and primitive buildings.  Why, as a result of their obvious lack of talent, lack of passion and fundamental dilettantism we must exist in such dull, depressive, dreary Orwellian environment.


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*In his work “Ten Books on Architecture” Roman Architect Vitruvius (25 BCE) established the basic principles of architecture which have remained essentially unchanged. These are referred to as the “Vitruvian Triad”.

Vitruvius – Ten Books on Architecture, Book I, Chapter 3:

 
 
“All these works should be executed so that they exhibit the principles of soundness, utility, & attractiveness. The principle of soundness will be observed if the foundations have been laid firmly, and if, whatever the building materials may be, they have been chosen with care but not with excessive frugality. The principle of utility will be observed if the design allows faultless unimpeded use through the disposition of the spaces and the allocation of each type of space is properly oriented, appropriate, and comfortable. That of attractiveness will be upheld when the appearance of the work is pleasing and elegant, and the proportions of its elements have properly developed principles of symmetry.”
 
 

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48 Responses to “Why modern architecture is so hideous.”
  1. Ilana says:

    Thanks for the honesty and courage to look our modern day inadequacy “in the eye”! As design professionals we must stop and think for a moment as to WHY we are actually willing to spend at least 1/3 of our lives doing what we do! Yes, business is important and yes, we have to pay our bills, but no, do we have to create and support poor aesthetic standard. There is no such a thing as stagnation; as soon as we stop creating, thinking, achieving, we are spiraling downward into disharmony and ugliness. We have the training and technology; lets not lose sight of the bigger picture.

  2. David says:

    Just playing devil’s advocate, but how do you strive for beautiful/artful designs and concepts, if so much in today’s architecture is reduced to numbers, square-footage, commercial space, garage volume, and usability?

  3. Spiros says:

    David, this is not an excuse to create monsters.

    • Nate says:

      It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact of life, just like the elections for prez over in the States. Because the dismantling of any attempt to moderate corporate sponsorship of elections, lawyers and officials who have ignored the growing coats of campaigning in a world with high $$$ media communication (can a governor afford to even mount a campaign without tapping into corporate $s? NO!), and the ignorance of the public to these issues, because of these factors, we cannot have legitimate elections anymore.

      It’s the same with architects, who have increasing been kicked out by the contractors and building parts manufacturers. This means they have to co Pete against the lowest design principles possible, where the bar is set so low you’re more focused on getting non contaminated building materials than anything else because you will get sued, not the amorphous supplier in China which will literally pull insane things like disbanding a company if a pissed customer wants his money back.

      The design that is available is for prisons… The setup is so bad if you survive being an architect with any ethical values left standing it would be miraculous. The journals love to advertise dream projects, but these are upper class people with upper class contacts, not the average uni grad. Seriously I believe architects have high burnout in today’s economy…

  4. Joshua Nimmo says:

    Corbusier didn’t have theories? He didn’t have philosophies?

    Should beauty be segregated from structure and function?

    http://www.nimmoamerican.com/journal/2010/7/1/beauty-as-an-objective.html

    • Albert says:

      Joshua, of course beauty must be integral part of the triad. My point is that since structure & function are no more prerogative of architects, the beauty should become primary point of focus.
      Corbu had ideologies. It is slightly different.
      Having complex theories doesn’t make you a great architect automatically. Quite contrary. I am working on an article about it. Modern architects conceptualize to much but deliver very little…
      Here some heresy comes: IMHO Peter Eisenman is a bright philosopher but his architectural talent is very limited. If he has any. (See it’s like critiques analyzing literature – they are so smart, they know why this book is good or not, but by themselves they would never be able to put together any book…). Again JMHO.

  5. hector says:

    Dear Albert; excellent article.(?)
    “Modern architecture sucks. You know why? Because architects suck.”
    You criticize architects because they do not have strong theories, but here comes you; architect with a strong one.
    Do you pretend us to take you seriously? There is a lot of bad architecture. There used to be a lot of bad architecture, not only nowadays.
    Do you pretend to justify yourself as an open minded person because you like high-tech gadgets, avant-gardе shows and sexy women?. Try a little bit harder…
    Keep your sexy women and your gadgets, leave “modern architecture” to the people who take care about it, and who spend lots of hours everyday trying to make better buildings and cities.

    Let me question something apart from your sexy women and gadgets, do you like modern music, art, film, poetry?… or it also sucks…?

  6. Albert says:

    Hector, of course there are amazing creations of modern art be that architecture, music or cinematography. And I might write about such positive samples in the future. Unfortunately the ratio of “not so amazing” creations or creations “pretending to be amazing” is much higher. It worries me, hence the extremely negative tone…

    I don’t criticize architects for absence of theories. I separate Art of Architecture from modern architects who don’t see it as an Art at all. And most of them actually have too many theories explaining their not so artsy, ugly works.

    As for women, gadgets & avant-garde it was rather a metaphorical figure of speech, slightly provocative though ;)

  7. George says:

    It’s quite funny to see how history repeats itself. People from the past, also looked at their “contemporary” architecture with hate, just see what happened at the begening of the XXth, and not just for architecture, but for painting and sclupture. But now, all those production are considered arts…

    • Albert says:

      I perfectly understand your point, George. Time changes a lot of things. And people hated impressionists 120 yrs ago… I agree that certain aspects of “beauty” and aesthetics are time-dependent. Yet there are some rules of universal harmony regardless to the technological progress and social changes.

      With all due respect do you really think that projects like this one (even backed with starchitect’s brand) http://bit.ly/cAeoFN will ever be as beautiful as Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia?

      • George says:

        I mean , after further reading of your blog, I’m getting your point, but still those rules of “universal harmony” are time dependent. They evolve as our vision of the world evolves. We are in the midst of one big change : scientists, philosophers are describing a whole new world since quite decades : fractals, string theory, things like that.

        Most of the architects are like in the past, ,just buildiers , “maitre d’oeurvre” as we say in french. All architects in the past weren’t artsits or philosphers. The one we remember were, but they still a tons of unknown one who were just builders….

        • Albert says:

          I realize it. My problem is that most of the architects today are truly convinced that being builders and businessmen is the only way to practice architecture. No one even tries to be a Master anymore.

          • Francois Mansart says:

            No one tries to be a master anymore in any profession, Albert. What a sorry society humanity has managed to create.
            But I entirely understand what you say with this article… It is not the modern-style of architecture that is problem, but the modern architects, contractors, masons, engineers, and commissioners. Building is no longer an art as it was when St. Peter’s Basilica was built, it is now nothing but a means to profit. Even if one of those people afore-listed were to decide to create art for once, their aspiration would immediately be quelled by their co-workers. They think in terms of economy, not beauty: Why put corbels and trimmings on a building when it adds to the cost? Why you use marble, travertine, or stone instead of cheap, quick material.
            The profit-motive, something that was a much more subtle incentive in olden times, is ultimately the problem today. Modern architecture can be beautiful, but it is so only when infinite funds are provided.

  8. Niko C says:

    Making architecture has never been as hard and regulated as it is now. Architects have to think about ecological, economical and social aspects early on in the designing process. Here in Finland the authorities are thinking about restricting window surface area in proportion to the whole building surface because of energy efficiency (a stupid idea), which of course limits allot of what an architect can do. I take it as a challenge though, because that’s what architecture is. It’s an art form where the artist have to take in consideration a lot of things and that’s why I love to be an architect (still a student though). I don’t think it’s alone the architects fault if “ugly” buildings get built, but I think that architects these days lack a confidence in there own ideas and thus let the client/builder have the last word in everything. I’ve seen too many architects that have lost there passion for architecture, its sad.

    One thing that I also consider as a reason for a lot of “ugly” buildings getting built is the building industry. It’s way faster than before and because almost everything is prefabricated there’s no chance for the architect to think further on the project and make adjustments on e.g. the building site as it used to be in the old days. The overall designing time is also pretty short. But I take this also as a challenge and don’t think it’s an excuse for an architect to not be inspired and motivated of his own work and give it all he can. Maybe I still have the optimism of an architecture student whit the world still open of possibilities but I’m going to do my best to not design “ugly” buildings.

  9. Andrew S. says:

    You are not exactly being fair there, Albert.
    Even judging from a quick look at the photos you put here for comparison: a world-known cathedral vs. residential programs.
    The majority of build mass – not only nowadays but since always – is represented by houses and dwellings, single-family houses or multiple units organized in tall blocks, low-rise high-density etc. Given the sheer number of such buildings, you can’t possibly expect each of them to come across as ‘art forms’ or ‘eternal beauties’ because that’s not what they are after anyways. Besides, it’s a safe bet to say that no house from the Renaissance, Baroque or any other historical period, none of them looked like St. Peter’s Cathedral in terms of beauty and awe.

    My point is that you are overlooking the different architectural programs and the way they come to form.

    If you look into privileged programs from today- such as museums, opera houses, cathedrals, train stations and so on, then i don’t think your point still stands, because all of those DO consider aesthetics and can have innovative shapes and forms, no matter if they are considered ‘beautiful’ by the observer or not.

    • Albert says:

      There’s a certain true in your critique Andrew, which I agree with.
      But there’s few things though…
      Photos represent a “world-known cathedral” by the most prominent Renaissance architect and a world-known ideological project by the most prominent architect of XX century. Le’Habitat was the central ideology in Le Corbusier’s socio-architectural theories that’s why I have decided to display this particular job but not chapel at Ronchamp.
      (Now, here’s a provocative thought: for some reason I have an impression that Ronchamp agianst St. Peter would look even more pathetic and clumsy.)

      As for privileged programs (what we call today large-scale public projects) – unfortunately innovative technologies and extravagant shapes on vast majority of such projects are interpret by architects not quite in accordance with Ars Venustatis. Thus those modern stations, museums, operas are rarely aesthetically pleasing, be that for “barbers” or even for professionals. You are kinda agree with that on a subconscious level by saying that “no matter if they are considered ‘beautiful’ by the observer or not.”
      In my view it does matter.

      • Andrew S. says:

        Yes, agreed, but it’s just that…..it’s hard to separate those 3 components from one another – firmitas, utilitas, venustas – as if they are just 3 independent parts, without being interconnected with each other. Moreover, it’s wrong to separate all of those from the given context – historical, political, social, cultural.

        Yes, nowadays a building can be thought of as beautiful by some, not so beautiful by others, that’s why i said that, but that’s also due to a lack of an unique architectural style. In my opinion, contemporary architecture can be defined by that – a great variety and diversity, not just 1 architectural style.

        In mid 19th century, the industrial revolution coupled with a demographic explosion and changes in economy meant that a lot of the people coming to towns lived in terrible conditions. At first, during that time, the architects main concern was ‘in what architectural style should we design buildings for these times?’ which was a wrong approach altogether, because they were only concerned with aesthetics, instead of being concerned about minimum living standards, new technology, time of construction, hygiene and so on.

        So as i said, my point is that separating and studying just venustas, or just one component from the 3, or just the building without considering the context, that’s not the way to go when analyzing something.

        In the end, it’s always hard to define beauty, except as a sum of… feelings you experience as an observer. I agree with you that buildings from today may not inspire the same ‘sensibility’ perhaps, as did buildings from centuries ago. But taking everything into account, i would have no problem with declaring them less artistic, but ingenious, interesting, creative, of quality and other such different attributes which can substitute and also equate with the term ‘beautiful’.

  10. Jesse says:

    Gee whiz, does it all suck. We seem to have entered a point in our society when anti intellegence is artistic and the new form of snobbery, because it’s ‘pure’. Pretentous arseholes are running art and culture now. They always have but the old ones had taste and understanding. From where I stand ‘modernists’ are living in the past more than traditionalists. Yes, I think art, music, all of which is bland, lame, and commercial. Oh so shallow. Why do modernist snobs reject anything from the past? Becuase they are lightyears ahead of their time and are absolutely genius, that’s why, chap.

  11. Dennis says:

    You’ve obviously misunderstood Vitruvius’s meaning of “utilitas”… i.e. UTILITY (function)… architects are still very much responsible for the translation of a building’s use into built form. A particular building type and its function will always have a huge impact on the design process; and this has nothing to do with modernist “functionalism” a-la CIAM. “Aesthetic” and utility go hand-in-hand.

    As for the “business aspects of project’s use” (as you put it)… what are you referring to, the financial side? Here, again, architects still play an important role. If a client has a specific budget for his/her house, then we can and do work with that. If a property developer needs a certain return on their investment in a housing scheme, we know that that might require a certain density of units per square kilometre (etc etc..), so we adjust the design accordingly. Yes you will always have “marketing people”, but their roles are completely different.

    And as for “firmitas”, yes engineers have largely taken that weight off our shoulders (I’m not complaining!), but an understanding of basic physics is still essential in all architectural education. (it also depends on the project of course.. the degree to which engineers are involved in a skyscraper versus a private dwelling will differ greatly). So i’m sorry, I don’t agree that “architects suck”, it remains an extremely challenging and rewarding profession.

  12. L, a "surviving" FEMALE Architect says:

    Architects, in my opinion in general and therefore whole, no longer drive the vehicles of traditional Architecture. Very few at all will fund it, very few will look or appreciate. In academia, you are still teaching students who will have no future in their profession. Yet here you are…

  13. J says:

    I think what you might be referring to is the business of architecture, not necessarily the practice. It’s better to blame the business than the practice. Because you have these students who go to school to become invested in their interest in architecture and get some sort of fulfillment out of what they do. Yet when they graduate and go into the business, a lot of them aren’t in charge of their ideas and creativity, their bosses or whoever is in charge of who they work for are. And with that being said, their own ideas get stifled and smother along the process of getting something done and as a result in the end there is little design and creativity. It’s all because the stupid business that runs it. And also because of the client’s/ whoever is in charge’s bad taste. I think you’re being a little too one sided on who is reprehensible about why modern architecture sucks. If you’re going to blame someone, why are you blaming the architect and not everyone else who is involved, like maybe the client, or the boss or someone who discarded the original idea? The architect had to make sacrifices (and that can include scrapping the original design/idea) just to go along with what the client wanted as well as following the building and construction regulations that the state/region has set. Why modern architecture might suck is because of the business and the fact that the architects don’t have the freedom or control as much as they used to in the past.

    • Albert says:

      Thanks for the emotional comment, J.
      A. I wouldn’t separate “business” from “practice”, These are parts of the same process. We live in the real world where business is an integral part of any professional activities.

      B. Sure there are many other factors (people) that should take the blame for the hideous buildings. Clients, contractors, city authorities, marketing teams… But I am an architect so I have decided to start from myself. It’s a bit more noble.

      C. My entire blog is practically dedicated to your last statement: how to change things so architects have that freedom of “Master Builder” back, just as it used to be in the past.

  14. George Rothschild says:

    You hit the nail on the head, so thank you Albert!

    I would love to do architecture, I’ve had a passion for it since I was a child. I spent all my childhood and my current teenage years looking through every single mansion and palace in the world that I can find and drawing my own designs and the blue prints, haha!

    I have such a passion for beaux arts! I can not stop drawing my take on one.

    However, unfortunately to become an architect you need to be clever to even get into the degree, something I’m not meaning the world has lost out on a potentially good architect becuause of qualification boundaries.

    What annoys me the most, is how people are such crowd followers, which is why very few of our current architects have originality. Sure one may make a building look like penis and another make one look like a palm tree, but in reality they are going by the same principles- stupidity and a budget. There’s not the work force nor the money to make anything merely nice.

    There was a time where being rich meant you had a personalised mansion built with the most finest furniture, with a whole history. Now a days, the rich prefer to ‘indulge’ in highly priced apartments.

    Even those with wealth, with a desire to create something amazing, can’t. And Liberalism is to blame. If you want to wanted to say make a mansion like buckingham palace. 1. the council would be involved. 2. there would probably be a legal battle 3. you would need to use eco-friendly materials, (meaning your mansion would probably have to look more on the side of a mud hut) 4. you would need to use solar energy. 5. you would need all these licenses. The list goes on!

    Well with that type of attitude, capitalism would of never come about. I think if people are going to build somethin emaculate and it’s not going to bring more benefits than harm, then I say let them.

    Another thing I wanted to mention, is that all these new houses are useless, over 300k are in the UK. This is just part of the evidence of how pointless modern architecture is.

    Nothing is made as good as it once was and I personally blame liberalism more than I blame capitalism, why? because everytime someone tries to make something decent, all these busy bodies have to get in on the act to give themselves a job, and this only prevents such emaculate architecture.

    There’s no point voicing your opinion to this modern generation of artists, because they’re all too fucking useless and have had a load of crap drilled in to their brains. Things are only going to get worse. All these modern houses are falling down after a few years, and 300k of them in the UK are too small for families… it’s all gotten to a situation where it’s starting to get ridiculous.

    It’s as simple as this, people have less freedom, meaning we’re all opressed to one simple set of principles and that in itself takes away the art of architecture.

  15. George Rothschild says:

    And there’s not just this issue with architecture. Art too, look at tracey emmins, how can someone who buys a tent from asdas and sticks on some labels naming people she has slept with, be given an MBE? and all; these awards?

    Yet someone who can paint a lovely scenery so perfectly, be living on the streets homeless?

    If things went my way, tracey emmins would be the one living on the streets, as far as I’m concerned her art is disgusting and is no display of talent what so ever.

  16. Hope says:

    I completely agree with you, too many modern buildings are just downright ugly. They’re all either boxes, or if it’s “fancy” enough, it has some random curves in the walls or roof. Both are ugly because they lack harmony and consistency. I think that a lot of people don’t realize that the reason we think that many ancient or old structures are beautiful is because the architects of them made use of fractals (whether by accident or purpose, I don’t know), which are everywhere in nature( take a look at a fern, then at a cathedral, you’ll see the similarities). It’s proven that we are innately attracted to nature, so it would make sense that we are attracted to something that mimics nature. Most modern architecture just doesn’t do that. Whether it’s a sign of our disconnection from nature, a lost art, laziness, poor economy, etc, I suppose it could be all of those. The thing is, we have the ABILITY to create things so much faster and easier than they did back then, so shouldn’t we be using that to create beautiful structures instead of ugly ones?

  17. Hope says:

    I also forgot to mention symmetry, also an extremely important element of beauty :)

  18. Tom Becker says:

    Hey i totally agree with, i recommend you to read the texts of Nikos Salingaros and
    “Fractal Geometry in architecture and design” by carl bovill.
    This will give you an explanation of why modern and contemporary architecture sucks.

  19. martin says:

    The best style is from 1700-1930 years! So beautiful architecture, doesn’t metter Europe or another continents…

    I’m 24 yo and I would like to buy an old home/mansion some day.

    Best Wishes!

  20. 84sgl says:

    Very late to the party but great article. Keep in mind at what cost is took to construct the great structure of the past: Tyranny, slaves, unjust social orders, etc. The economy was important in those times as they are today but there were no great democracies in those times. You had rich and poor and if you were poor, you were easily forced into labor of some sort. So do not blame the architects. Blame the times, blame John Locke or whom ever. No one has unlimited resources to fully utilize today’s technology to create a “life’s work.” More importantly, no one really has the direct power and control to create such.

  21. Me says:

    it is hideous because it is the spawn of a decadent capitalist JEWISH SYSTEM that imposes consumerism and destruction of what is noble in the human being , not to mention the enviorement , that’s why , and yeah , rate me minus for my comment but think about it ;)

    • Panos says:

      Rating is depended on mostly on opinional taste more than you presenting false assumptions. Soooo…and here we go again.. You are wrong about the Jewish part. It’s all Jews fault? All capitalists are Jews? Have you ever think of a possibility of all Jews NOT being capitalists and all capitalists NOT being Jews? Have you? Uh? Huhuh? If it’s valid what you said take every single capitalist here and if one of all capitalists isn’t Jew, Mr. Borat Hitlerwhatever then your thesis is invalid. You still didn’t present any legit evidence about the corrupt system being Jewish creation or following Jewish princeples and culture. Most of you guys say ”I have proof.” and then you say ”Go find it yourself.” or ”Google it.”. C’ mon that’s stupid. You going to show the proof or not? That’s why I don’t believe those conspiracy theories. You have to give proof that your proof exists by showing it or otherwise get out. That’s real talk. Don’t dodge the burden of proof. Take the responsibility like a man don’t be a pussy. That’s what Orthodox Christian monks do. They say ”Go and find.” and before they say ”There is proof.”. How to counter those full monk retards without insulting them. It’s like impossible. They are retarded they never learn how to recognise absurdity and stupidity. If somebody out there finds an effective way to encounter those retards without insulting then I am listening. But still their retarded cunning is unlimited. Yeap you heard it right. They are cunning in their retardation making them unique and of special needs.

      Now to the main topic. Modern architecture isn’t an art, it a science. The building were made by materials in very large quantity on the planet and the building were designed to be made as quickly as possible for the architects to gain more money. Time is money. Buildings were also made to be extremely durable at any circumstances and comfortable for everyone. That being said if it’s programmed 120 office rooms to be made they will be made on equal size and on the same stiff manner to save time and money. Also 120 EXACTLY building will be made, so that for example makes you unable to make the whole building with spherical shape or triangle. As I said it’s an example. They are countless other reasons that modern architecture itself and the whole logic behind it makes it difficult to apply some good aesthetics in it. Just saying.

  22. Brendan Riley says:

    hey! You are totally right!! Good new buildings are few and far between. I think some of the universities in the US and Canada have made strikes in that area though. Here is one that was recently built at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada:

  23. Audree' Aliadoris says:

    Modern architecture does not suck, but it looks hideous. It saves lives with it’s somewhat futuristic capabilities, it’s structure that can defy gravity and withstand enormous earthquakes. But, what I hate about it is that it’s so stripped of culture. All I see are white squared walls, and if not a solid wall, it’s a glass wall. Then it happens to be shaped by exposed metal trusses, or complex curves.
    In my opinion, it just lacks what we had years ago.
    I’m sorry, but this is being told by a senile man in taste. I’m in love with the old, and the most beautiful architecture was the 1700’s-1900’s, of course all that architecture was raped away by modern architects. Now buildings, stripped and naked, whore themselves away by being sold to home owners.

  24. bobthechef says:

    I agree 110% with the notion that architecture today is absolute scheisse. It’s bad. It was even worse over the last 50 years (at least today, they use a lot of glass, and glass is better to look at than unearthed concrete bunkers and sewage pipes). However, I’m concerned about your vision of architects (also, don’t throw the word “philosophy” around like that; architecture is not a philosophy, because philosophy is a science, not an art, and philosophies are not credos. A better way to say it is “an architect must have a certain kind of vision”, although even here, we must be careful, because the modern projects are replete with “vision”, such as Brasilia, the vision of a lobotomized idiot who, by rejecting the eternal principles of beauty, is like the logician that rejects the principle of contradiction).

    An architect is an artist that specializes in buildings (we might even call him an engineer as well, although engineers may fall under artists of a kind). As an artist in the first sense, his duty is to produce beautiful buildings for human beings. As an artist of the engineering variety, his duty is to produce buildings that are built for use by human beings. What we have today are imbeciles who design crazy or ugly things just because they can, just because their teachers held to some moronic idea about architecture, just because it was not what was before. All of this has to do with the fact that we have lost the proper understanding of art. We don’t know what art if. When some guy defecating into a coffee can or submerging a crucifix in a jar of piss is considered art, what on earth do you expect building to look like?

    We need to return to seeing architecture as the art of designing beautiful buildings for human use. That’s all there is to it, really, and the whole purpose of architecture. Over and done with should be the days of arrogant pseudo-architects who impose their personal psychological afflictions and lack of purpose in life on everyone else. The tyranny of mediocre spirits and minds should end.

    Oh, and artists should know their place. They are not philosophers. They are artists. Architecture isn’t your place to build a monument to your stupidity. It’s

    And a reproach: one should love beautiful women, not sexy women. That’s another flaw in the modern, cretinous mentality. We have no taste for beauty anymore. Everything must be “sexy” or some other insipid and usually tacky bullshit. If you don’t know the difference, start there.

    So take home message: begin by asking what man’s destiny is. After all, the purpose of life and the purpose of all of man’s activity — the subject of ethics — is what determines all of his actions. It used to be that mean’s fullfillment was in the infinite truth, beauty, and good of God, and all architecture was an expression of that desire for that wonderful infinite, something that paid homage to the glorious end of man. The end of man today is his end, that is, his undoing. There is no sense of proportion in value (churches were the most glorious), just as there is no sense of proportion in geometry. What is man really expressing in his architecture? A lover’s song for Being, or desperation, or perhaps despair, or even death? Architecture, like all art and all activity, is an expression of a person’s and a people’s values. What are we saying through our architecture? We have more monetary wealth and technology than most civilizations in the past, and yet we care so much less for beauty.

    The problem isn’t rooted in architecture. The problem is that our civilization today sucks. We are, as Nietzsche said (since you mention him), closeted nihilists. When one unchains the earth from the sun, the earth has no orientation. Except that we cannot unchain ourselves from the sun. We can only deny and rebel against the sun at our own peril.

  25. Theophania says:

    Well, I think the religious types and traditionalists do have a point. Modernism/humanism/liberalism is a crankish, terrible philosophy that makes virtues out of vices and exalts the pathetic. This, of course, comes straight out of certain elements of Christianity; but when Christendom was being run by aristocrats who at least wanted to present the facade of elitism it was tolerable. Now that the mob has taken over, it’s crap.

    Add to that city zoning and the influence of state education in general (the government does everything wrong – a little bit of socialism is still socialism) one shouldn’t be surprised that absolutely everything built today looks like garbage.

    – A nihilistic post-humanist.

    • Eric says:

      As a devout Catholic (and certified traditionalist/religious type/anti-modern/hater-of-modernist-aesthetics/etc.) I will have to disagree with Theophania’s comment above about this modernist architecture ultimately coming straight out of Christianity. It comes out of the perversion of Christianity which is Protestantism (specifically the Calvinist kind) with its emphasis on utility, and convictions regarding the ultimate depravity of men -if the flesh is completely corrupt and evil, and only the spiritual matters (“why build a popish cathedral when we can worship in a barn and pat ourselves on the back for our humility) then material things, such as buildings, are going to be purely functional, with zero adornment or beauty. The modernists, whose ideology sprang from liberal 19th century Protestantism anyhow, were just taking the original principles of the movement to their ultimate conclusion in terms of aesthetics.

  26. Kyle says:

    Modern “architecture” is so ugly in part because it isn’t really architecture, no more so than just making a bunch of random sounds constitutes music. Most modernists I’ve seen, such as Frank Gehry for example, engage in pure anarchy. To even call them architects is an insult to the profession. This is because the architectural profession threw out all of the accumulated knowledge about architecture in the early 20th century and started over again. Hence why modern architecture has no particular style or canon to follow. It is just pure anarchy. Imagine taking all of the accumulated knowledge of music from over the past thousands of years and throwing it out and starting over again. Now imagine the people claiming that the random sounds created do not constitute music, and the lovers of classical symphonies, being accused of being against “progress.”

    Or of doing this with cooking and baking. Imagine throwing out all the accumulated knowledge to that and starting over, and calling something like lawn-in-a-bowl a great work of culinary art, but rejecting the truly great works.

    Throughout time, classical architecture has been advanced continuously for the time period and location it was in. There is no reason why architects of the 20th century couldn’t have further advanced it, creating a truly gorgeous modern architecture, utilizing modern materials and construction methods, yet one still grounded in classical principles in the way that the incredibly diverse other architectural styles throughout history have been. It is fascinating to think about what phenomenal kinds of architecture we would have if the profession had adhered to the base of knowledge it had, but instead it rejected it, and thus we get anarchy nowadays that is oftentimes costly, difficult to engineer, difficult to construct, and hideously ugly (there is a reason most homes are in classical or semi-classical styles). One argument I have often seen is that, “Well modern buildings must be designed to be cost-efficient and functional, and not necessarily aesthetic…” well quite a few modern designs have been anything but cost-efficient or functional and have made zero sense from a cost, function, or engineering standpoint.

    Too few people seem to recognize that possibility of creating gorgeous new architectural styles based on the classical canon though. Either one must be a contemporary architect and go with anarchy, or one must go with established classical styles and not deviate from them. Do either and both sides go up in arms. The classicists say, “You are violating the rules of classical architecture! That is not how that type of architecture is designed!” They ignore that if architects in the past had never evolved or changed anything, we’d still be building with ancient Greek architecture. Then the modernist architects take a look and dismiss such architecture as “Disney-esque” (because apparently any fantastical-seeming or colorful architecture must be Disney-esque, even though some of the great architectural styles throughout history have been very colorful and fantasy-seeming—Russian architecture for example).

    Another problem with modern architecture is the constant attempts to create something totally unique. This is impossible. The various architectural styles that came about were the result of hundreds of years of evolutionary change occurring in architecture. The Greeks formed their architecture, the Etruscans copied the Greeks, the Romans copied both the Greeks and Etruscans and evolved the architecture further, then after the Western Roman empire collapsed, Roman architecture led to the development of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, while in the Eastern Roman empire which continued on, known as the Byzantine empire, they further advanced architecture, creating a wholly unique architecture, which then went on to influence the development of Slavic and Russian architectural styles and Islamic architecture. Then during the Renaissance, there was a return to Greek and Roman principles and a move away from Gothic architecture (itself derived from Roman architecture), to create a flowering of wholly new architectural styles everywhere from Italy to France to England. Renaissance architects sought to learn from, and to further advance, the classical Greek and Roman architectural designs.

    Note how different all these architectural styles are, yet how they all share roots. Even furniture of the time was influenced by architecture. Mozart and Beethoven, similarly, could never have composed the musical works they did if not for the thousands of years of prior evolutionary development of music before them. If architects in the early 20th century had started further evolving classical architecture, by the year 2000, we’d have what would clearly have likely been a gorgeous, or multiple gorgeous, styles of architecture that, while clearly grounded in the classical canon, also would be uniquely 20th century and thus truly modern. And now on the eve of the 21st century, we’d be further advancing architecture. Instead though, we have anarchy in architecture, just as it would occur in music if all the knowledge was thrown out or cooking and baking if done there.

    One area where this has not happened, BTW, is in ship architecture. Note how ship architecture throughout the ages has oftentimes been, like land architecture, very gorgeous, yet very different. Yet, when modern ships began being developed, this didn’t change. Plenty of modern yachts for example are very gorgeous, yet also very contemporary. You can see clearly that they are of modern times, not something that would have fit hundreds of years ago. But yet they are gorgeous just like the centuries-old yacht designs are. This is because in ship architecture, the accumulated knowledge wasn’t thrown out and disregarded like it was with land architecture, but instead was only further built upon and evolved.

    The same can also be said of automobile design.

  27. Puffa Moose says:

    Having been to and studied modern, post-modern, historic, contemporary, and vernacular architectural work across the world, I must say that nothing has felt as amazing (in my opinion) as being in one of Le Corbusier’s buildings. He was a master of scale. Beauty is so much more than image, just as beautiful music is so much more than a catchy melody, just as a beautiful person is so much more than good looks.

    I support good architecture, not any movement in particular is superior to me. Good architecture.

  28. steven says:

    The first picture is so beuatiful. I like when architectors combine modern and old buildings, thats really impressive. Read my article Expressionism: Modern Architecture of 20th Century

  29. Mason says:

    I’m almost a liberal, I’m EXTREMELY artistic and am a political activist. I HATE modern and most “ultra-modern” architecture. I believe in self-expression and individualism as well, but these modern architects are devoid of human understanding. They feel their work is immune to criticism due to it being their artistic vision. Buildings must be both beautiful and functional. These designers create these outlandish and cold designs that express neither of these qualities. I believe in slightly unconventional beauty, like short hair on girls, but these buildings are devoid of beauty. Deconstructivist, Modern, and Brutalist buildings create the worst atrocities, and Ultra modern is tolerable but WAY over-rated and sub-par when compared to older styles. Architecture should return to it’s roots in beauty from 1300-1930’s. Art has taken a similar decline, people producing works that require minimal skill to produce. Hopefully a resurgence of taste and aesthetic beauty will return before the futurists’ minimalist “vision” of the future comes to light.Their ideas are ugly, boring, oppressive and unhuman. They’re awful. Anyways, those are my two cents.

  30. Billy says:

    I’m not an architect at all, just a regular person who knows what he likes in a building and what he doesn’t like. I found this article because I saw yet another ugly lifeless building on t.v. and Googled “Why is modern architecture so ugly?”. Not that I could design a beautiful building to replace it (or if I did it probably wouldn’t be structurally sound!) but DAMN this modern architecture is horrible.

    For one thing it looks like it takes no imagination at all to design it. It all looks stark, uninviting, boxy and cold. So much of it looks just the same as the next ugly building down the street. And I hate hate HATE the “lopsided” look. You know what I mean? A building that looks totally asymmetrical, usually with some angle jutting up into the sky unevenly but without another angle next to it and even though I know it passed the building inspector it just “looks” like it’s threatening to fall over in a heap. And all the steel and glass. Yuck. It’s almost as if architects nowadays are purposely designing buildings to be as unattractive as possible. Do they think people WANT to work or live in a giant silver box? Really?

  31. Daniel Leal says:

    The most ignorant thing I have ever heard! Everything has a time and purpose. What was once considered beauty is no longer necessarily the case. Modernism is a simplification of the heavily decorated movements of the past (Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic, etc). An argument you may make is that you do not like it or it doesn’t meet your standards, not this idiotic comment. Architecture is amazing; it gives a soul and purpose to a building, it evokes emotion, it tells a story, it shelters a human being, it nourishes them, and above all, it creates a better society in small and large scale.

    Best,

    Grad Student of Architecture.

  32. Zerogravity02 says:

    Architects (and designers in general) need to face the music, they’ve taken a valid idea and turned it into the most disappointing goose chase that now stains the last 4 generations or so. I mean COME ON! “Introducing the new and improved iboxhouse, now with indoor plumbing!” I understand that in the early 1900’s people wanted something new and uninfluenced in the artwork of that time, but haven’t we taken that to heart way too well? The answer is yes, we have and we need to stop trying to chase the idea of uninfluenced art and design, when all we’re creating is visual nirvana. Don’t get me wrong, modernism has given us beautiful works of art, and we’ve all learned from them. But damn it, ever since the 1960’s that’s all it’s been! Traditional design lasts for a reason! humans spent thousand of years perfecting the science, that is until someone decided it wasn’t cool unless it used hideous independent forms. Think about it, do people got to take pictures, oo and aw at a spindly unsafe looking structure built last year? (meant only to impress fellow artists) or a carefully crafted feature that actually took effort to design, is built to be generationally beautiful and is over 100 years old! Personally I am relieved to see post-modernist designs surfacing. I’m praying this means the end of blocky asymmetrical ugliness!

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  1. […] just to look good. Everything has a purpose and a reason for belonging. While this has led some to accuse architecture of losing its soul, it has helped to create a more cost effective attitude towards construction, and buildings that […]



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