Return to Yale: Tom Wolfe Hates Modernism


You’ll remember we reported yesterday on Tom Wolfe‘s appearance at the Yale School of Architecture. Unfortunately, the article we’d found before just gave a quick, if not fairly scattered view of his lecture/conversation, not really getting to the meat of the event. Fortunately, we were able to find a full account at the Yale Daily News, which focused squarely on what was only briefly mentioned in the other: Wolfe’s distaste for modernism. He complains about the style destroying beauty, giving way to confusion in order to avoid real criticism by the public at large. It’s a great debate from a side you usually don’t hear a lot from, coming from a very articulate, opinionated source. But should you be a big fan of modernist architecture, keep sheathed your instant comeback, should you feel like you need it: “Oh, yeah, and this coming from a guy who has worn the same white suit for the past thirty years.” Here’s a bit:

“This charming aristocracy of taste began gradually to infiltrate all of the arts and praise things that the masses don’t comprehend or find ugly,” he said.

Wolfe said architects often fall into the trap of trying to please each other more than the general population and that “the compound” sometimes stifles progress by confining creativity within its definition of art.

“They’re different from each other, but they’re different within a monastery,” he said of these mainstream architects.