Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Virtual Modernism

Perhaps modernism was never supposed to move beyond the utopia of Constant's New Babylon or even Le Corbusier's Plan Voisin. Perhaps modernism should be confined to the imagination where it cannot decay and erode over time.

It struck me when in discussion with two members of staff from the School of Architecture the great discourse between the often over-hyped ideologies of modernism and the application of these ideologies in reality. I'm currently shuffling my way through Gillespie, Kidd & Coia: Architecture 1956 - 1987 and I've got an ever increasing sinking feeling as I read on. The book opens with Nick Barley (2007), Director of The Lighthouse in Glasgow, proudly proclaiming: "This book offers a careful explanation of why MacMillan and Metzstein's - already well-loved by users and occupants - deserve much wider acclaim now."

Hmmm. Now granted, I've not visited all of GK&C's buildings and asked users and occupants: "Do you love this building?", but I have touched base with a parishioner at St Brides, East Kilbride and Everything's not Coming up Roses. As I've previously mentioned, it appears to be a common theme within modernism that things go wrong. For example, take Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, in which the the tenant, Mme Savoye had a written exchange with Le Corbusier about issues of a leaking roof (article link). Buildings have problems, and I'm not suggesting for one moment GK&C's buildings were of a poorer build quality than the status quo but they did have the weight of their modernist ideologies to carry.

When I use the terms "modernism" and "ideologies" in the context of this discussion, I do mean it in the broadest sense possible. The modernist ideologies I refer to are the socialist utopias in which “A house is a machine to live in.” (Le Corbusier, 1923).

Going forward I want to explore the notion of confining the remnants of modernism to the confines of a virtual state. Similar to my work last year working in a fictitious state can preserve those ideologies which are challenged within the context of the real world.

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