Terry Teachout Explains Why We Dislike Modernism


Great personal piece from Terry Teachout in the Wall Street Journal, “Make Mine Midcentury Modern,” which we found by way of Archinect. In it, Teachout chimes in on this destruction of modernist buildings issue we’ve been troubled with lately. But instead of the constant asking, “Why oh why are we tearing everything down?!” he tries and gets to the real reason behind people’s apparent displeasure with this style of architecture. And even though he’s completely for keeping them around for years to come, he does make a good point:

That’s what’s wrong with the more extreme forms of modern architecture: Too often they tell you how to live, instead of helping you live the way you want. But even those modern architects who were sensitive to the needs of their clients often failed to please the public at large. In her brief life of Frank Lloyd Wright, America’s greatest architect, Ada Louise Huxtable, the Journal’s architecture critic, pointed out that his houses “never insisted that their occupants reshape themselves to conform to an abstract architectural ideal.” Yet their distinctive style failed to catch on with ordinary home buyers, and you can drive for hundreds of miles throughout America without seeing a single Wright-like house by the side of the road.

As a distantly related aside, Chicago Magazine has a very nice, very brief slide show showing the results of a poll they took of designers and architects, choosing their favorite local modern buildings. “Modern” as in “recent,” but you can still pinpoint their obvious heritage.