Monthly Archives: September 2018

Did Modernist Architecture Fail? No Way

Modernist architecture and its adherence to functionality have forever changed how we view buildings.  The US’s history rivals that of Europe, especially in the Midwest.  According to this article, “(Michigan is) home to perhaps the most diverse and best-preserved collection of early Modernist experiments in the world,” thanks to the number of architects who experimented there.

Some consider the Modernist movement a failure because it did not bring people geographically and emotionally closer, as hoped. However, this minimizes the benefits we do see. The variety of materials, the safety, and the increased natural light are all parts of the legacy.

In the 2011 documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, about the ambitious and infamous housing project in St. Louis, the demolished buildings are commemorated as symbols of urban crime. In a cruel twist of fate, the architect Minoru Yamasaki’s other most famous building was also demolished: The World Trade Center in NYC.

Pruitt-Igoe’s construction was paid for by the federal government, but maintenance came from rent. The same 1949 law that built public housing also encouraged suburban homeownership, and suburban flight quickly took away the tax base for all city services.

As for the vandalism and violence, those left behind were allegedly angry at society and lashing out.

None of this is the result of the modernist architecture built to foster a community. So, modernism’s failure is the ultimate “urban myth.”

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