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  #101  
Old Posted Jan 20, 2012, 4:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Jasoncw View Post
Demolishing historic buildings didn't start in the mid-century, it's been going on for as long as there have been historic buildings.

In the 1920s and 1930s, all of those late 1800s richardsonian romanesque and victorian buildings were out of vogue. They were at the end of their life cycles, they had bad floor plans, they were firehazards, they were gaudy, etc. Those buildings were demolished and replaced with new ones. You know a lot of cities originally had richardsonian romanesque civic buildings (like Milwaukee's or Toronto's city hall), but they were demolished for bigger, more modern revival or art deco buildings.


Then during the midcentury, the preservation movement started. But like it's been said, it wasn't started by "common" people to fight against the "snobby minority out of touch cultural elites" (this is what you're getting at about dwell), it was started by those people to fight against popular opinion.

And it's the same thing for modernism today. Preservation groups are starting campaigns for spreading awareness about modernism. And while the group is small right now, there is a market for modernism and brutalism, which is why the higher profile buildings are getting renovated, and why people are buying t-shirts with Trellick Tower on them, or buying albums with Marina City as the album art, or why most of the locations in the most recent James Bond movie are modern, with the posters featuring a dramatic shot of Bond at the Barbican in London. More and more new books are being published about modern and brutalist architects.

Although by the time modernism and brutalism are appreciated again, postmodernism will be on the chopping block. It's already becoming increasingly unpopular, and it will be our responsibility to advocate for it, even when no one, even ourselves, thinks it has value.
Great post!

I think the reason why stuff goes in and out of fashion - apart from the practical reasons that you listed - is that building in a new style requires courage, imagination, engeering skill and a genuine belief that things can be done better. Even if people don't like what gets built, they can't deny the determination and thought that goes into trying to create a better kind of building.

Then, people start to imitate the style and it starts to be lazy - buiding in that style stops being creative and becomes the easy way out. Gradually people pick up on this laziness and lose respect for the style.

Then, after a while, when most of the examples have been knocked down, people start to ask, what is it that made the remaining buildings survive all these years? And then they start to remember the creativity and courage that went into building the original examples.
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  #102  
Old Posted Jan 20, 2012, 6:46 PM
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Many architects (the "fashion forward" ones) want to prove themselves. And they have an intellectual distaste, related to ego, for buildings that are "derivative," i.e. borrow from the past. It's the same as not liking certain jeans because they came out last year.

Meanwhile, the rest of us mostly want buildings to be comfortable and fit well with their surroundings, not caring at all about the architect's feeling of self-worth... Levis are just as good as always. (Not the best analogy...I'm not suggesting uniformity.)
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  #103  
Old Posted Jan 20, 2012, 9:28 PM
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Originally Posted by mhays View Post
Many architects (the "fashion forward" ones) want to prove themselves. And they have an intellectual distaste, related to ego, for buildings that are "derivative," i.e. borrow from the past. It's the same as not liking certain jeans because they came out last year.

Meanwhile, the rest of us mostly want buildings to be comfortable and fit well with their surroundings, not caring at all about the architect's feeling of self-worth... Levis are just as good as always. (Not the best analogy...I'm not suggesting uniformity.)
That's not why architects don't "borrow from the past" (I would like to point out though that all respectable architects have a knowledge of buildings from throughout history. Buildings of today are informed by buildings from the past, even though they're not being directly copied. Instead what made those buildings good (light, proportion, space, materials, etc.) are understood in a more essential way).

Architects don't copy buildings from the past because the past is a different time. The buildings in the past were a culmination of all of the cultural and technological and economic forces from their day. Those forces are different today so it's natural that buildings will also be different. At least that's one reason. Different people might have different reasons. But whatever the reason, that kind of blind copying has been considered bad for over 100 years.


The fashion analogy is probably better suited for non-architects, because their opinions about architecture are shallow (only about "styles" architecture is so much more than that) and volatile. In less than 10 years (imagine from now to 2002) the public went from liking art deco + the revivals, to wanting to demolish all that and build modern buildings. Those were intense years, so it's understandable. But among the "architectural elite" modernism had been evolving organically since the 1800s.


But what's more important than "who and why" is that we learn from history and protect buildings, because they will certainly be treasured by everyone in the future.
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  #104  
Old Posted Jan 20, 2012, 10:52 PM
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There are going to be Brutalist buildings that are going to be saved and there are some that are going to be lost. It's the cycle of things.

The key is definitely going to be figuring out what are examples of good Brutalism, i.e. what's worth being saved. Dallas City Hall is a pretty good example. In some cases, particularly business buildings in the urban core, it may be that its retention comes with anew ground-level urbanization.

Just the same as with Midcentury Modern. One major Midcentury building here in Philadelphia is being preserved in large part because its plaza is being eliminated.
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  #105  
Old Posted Jan 21, 2012, 5:44 AM
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^^ Which building is that? Sounds interesting.
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  #106  
Old Posted Jan 21, 2012, 6:49 AM
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drive two hours north to vancouver and see some of arthur erickson's works.
those buildings are a good example of what I have always liked about that style.

What makes me fond of some brutalist buildings is that they often seem to have "playful" layouts. Sounds strange because the materials and bulk of them are often oppressive and serious, but all the spaces are fun to wander around assuming there is a feeling of security.

Also there's the issue of natural light and fresh air, which also sounds odd because yes inside they are big concrete boxes with no windows, and sure cutting-edge stuff now that is all glass will be bright and airy. But nothing like having actual breezeways where parts of the building are truly outside

Perhaps that's also brutalism's flaw. In a realistic urban environment sunken plazas or elevated walkways or limited sightlines means crime and vagrancy and less foot traffic being directed towards active uses like sidewalk-fronting retail. Nobody ever really experiences or appreciates the flow of these buildings unless its a familiar place you are comfortable in.

Last edited by llamaorama; Jan 21, 2012 at 7:13 AM.
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  #107  
Old Posted Jan 21, 2012, 1:00 PM
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^ which gets to the even deeper problem with that style. they hated cities. those structures are a cheap, defensive reaction against city living. throw in a token plaza because we have to, but otherwise close off the world.
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  #108  
Old Posted Jan 21, 2012, 7:49 PM
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Often they were specifically a reaction to the mass protests in the 60s etc.... race riots, antiwar, etc. A lot of developers, government clients, and even retailers were fearful of windows. (This was certainly one of the factors in the mall trend too.) Even a lot of downtown condo residents wanted to be in fortresses. (Another of those factors that aren't "like" but were important to clients.)

I'm trying to remember the last brutalist building that works as a retail center or plaza...

Actually I like some brutalist public space, like Seattle's Freeway Park (if that counts), including its central waterfall which is a jumble of board-formed concrete boxes with a great stair path through it. But largely the plaza surrounded by bunker is a brutal failure time and again. Trees can offset that somewhat, but even then. In particular, a blank plaza next to yesterday's fad architecture is a terrible recipe for attracting people.
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  #109  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2012, 6:30 PM
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Atrocities Should Be Eliminated


April 9, 2012

By Anthony M. Daniels

Read More: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate...-be-eliminated

Quote:
Buildings should be preserved for one of two reasons: they were the site of events of great historic importance, or they are of aesthetic merit. Buildings in the Brutalist style — which uses raw concrete or other materials to make art galleries look like fallout shelters — are certainly aesthetically outstanding: unfortunately, in an entirely negative sense. A single such building can ruin an entire townscape, and it is often difficult to believe that such ruination was not the intention of the architect. There is, I suppose, a third possible reason to preserve a building: to ensure that at least one example of its genre should survive. Thus it would be worth preserving one of Le Corbusier’s concrete monstrosities just to remind everyone of his astonishing and arrogant incompetence.

- Of course, architects and architectural academics will try to say that the fault lies not in the buildings but in the "uneducated" eye of those who decry them — though they themselves usually prefer to live in 18th century buildings if they can. Rossini once said of Wagner’s music that it is better than it sounds; the architectural panjandrums try to persuade us that Brutalism is better than it looks. But buildings cannot be better than they look, for architecture is a public art that imposes itself on its surroundings. It fell to the Brutalists to devise a style that cannot age but only deteriorate further. It is condescending of them to imply that, with their level of sophistication, we could learn to love concrete cladding that is starting to go black and is covered with graffiti. The reason they want to preserve such buildings is that they want to deny their past crimes against humanity, beauty and the townscape, which would completely destroy their current claims to "expertise." Preserve one and pull the rest down.

.....
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  #110  
Old Posted Apr 9, 2012, 10:20 PM
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There are so many classical buildings with shitty proportions and poorly thought out details, or details that are completely oblivious to the location and context of the building, and yet they get a pass. Maybe the problem isn't ugly buildings, but uneducated citizens?

Part of the reason we designate buildings as historic or protected is to teach people about the importance of the buildings. This is exactly why good examples of Brutalism must be preserved: To teach people about an architectural style that they know so little about.
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  #111  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2012, 3:31 AM
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So far, they've taught people that some buildings are just ugly, and always were ugly.
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  #112  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2012, 12:47 PM
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The problem with fugly buildings is that the cancer spreads to the immediate environs, detracting from what otherwise might be a decent urban fabric. Many Brutalist buildings simply do not have any human scale or consideration for fitting into the cityscape. I disagree with the notion of a false dichotomy that all building styles are somehow equally good/bad, ugly/pretty. Same goes for clothing styles, music, etc. There are better styles and better periods.
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  #113  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2012, 2:39 PM
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^^^ There most certainly are not. If there really are "ugly periods" of architecture then name one period that is generally considered ugly that came before Modernism. You can't because there isn't one. There is only one period that is universally considered ugly and that is whatever period society deems to be out of fashion at that time. Right now it is Brutalism, 15 years ago it was Modernism, and 50 years ago it was anything pre-war.

If there were really styles that were intrinsically unattractive then there would be a multitude of examples you could call upon throughout history. But there aren't. Our aesthetic values as human beings are anything but concrete and this can be seen from shifting popularity of styles to our radically varied views of what makes an "attractive" human being. You are basically claiming that being overweight is objectively ugly when many societies throughout history have viewed obesity as beautiful or attractive. Hell, the Chinese still praise you for having a belly. If you go to China and have a fat belly they'll be impressed and sometimes even pat you on the belly and complement you.

There is no object aesthetic. Period.
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  #114  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2012, 3:40 PM
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A lot of brutalism (the vast majority?) has never been loved by the general public. It was a design concept based upon "defense against the city," and since people are the city, they've responded in kind.
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  #115  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2012, 3:48 PM
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And they sure picked a good name for it.
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  #116  
Old Posted Apr 10, 2012, 3:59 PM
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Saw this Article in NYtimes the other day, made me think of this thread

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/07/ar...utalism&st=cse

Architecture’s Ugly Ducklings May Not Get Time to Be Swans
By ROBIN POGREBIN
Published: April 7, 2012

Quote:
GOSHEN, N.Y. — As Modernist buildings reach middle age, many of the stark structures that once represented the architectural vanguard are showing signs of wear, setting off debates around the country between preservationists, who see them as historic landmarks, and the many people who just see them as eyesores.

The conflict has come in recent months to this quaint village 60 miles north of New York City — with its historic harness-racing track, picturesque Main Street and Greek Revival, Federal and Victorian houses — where the blocky concrete county government center designed by the celebrated Modernist architect Paul Rudolph has always been something of a misfit.


For the record, I absolutely believe buildings like these must be saved. In 100 years, we will miss them for their undeniable uniqueness if nothing else. More importantly, they are an important piece of the history of structures and architecture. I love when a city serves as a living museum of the history of the built environment. For a city to really function in that role, important buildings must be saved - and the whims of an ill-informed generation should have no say in the matter.

My favorite quote from the article:

Quote:
“It’s like saying, ‘I don’t like Pollock because he splattered paint,’ ” said Nina Rappaport, chairwoman of Docomomo-New York/Tri-State, an organization that promotes the preservation of Modernist architecture. “Does that mean we shouldn’t put it in a museum? No, it means we teach people about these things.”
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