Tag Archives: midcentury

The Road to Hell is Also Loud

The trend of architectural minimalism as luxury means that many public establishments exceed a healthy decibel limit. Think restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, and stores. After decades of investing in high-maintenance soft surfaces, proprietor preferences have now put efficiency and disposability over acoustic integrity, and favor metal furniture, exposed ceilings, and open spaces.

To fool us, the claim they are recapturing mid-century modern styles: the last era when American exceptionalism went mostly unquestioned. Yet despite the advertisement, high ceilings and no cloth are actually NOT midcentury style:

According to this article,

“Trends that today’s diners associate with luxury, such as hard surfaces and open kitchens, were, in mid-century, mainly relegated to lowbrow spaces such as cafes, cafeterias, and diners. The finest eateries…were the most highly ornamented and plush. Even high-modernist interiors made extensive use of soft goods, including cloth tablecloths, heavy drapes, carpeted floors, and upholstered seating. Across the board, mid-century restaurants had low ceilings, often with acoustic ceiling tiles.”

Not only are loud restaurants cheaper to build and maintain, but they also encourage diners to spend more.

So, what is trendy is also noisy. So what? So, this admiration of din contributes to the erosion of civil society.  Noise pollution desensitizes us to coarseness in the other senses as well. There may or may not be any studies to back this claim up, but I believe that the more obnoxious the public space, the more likely violence is to follow. This is why people in bars and nightclubs feel free to get drunk, break bottles, punch faces, and grind on the dance floor: the loud DJ!

What’s next? Streakers at Chipotle?  

If you are or plan to be a business owner, I implore you to invest in noise reduction strategies. Or at the very least, use music that will subdue the masses.

Many thanks,


Book Review: The Way We Never Were

The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, is a 1992 sociology book by Stephanie Coontz.  In it, Ms. Coontz dismantles the idyllic conception many people have of American marriages and families in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Very real sexism, violence, and poverty were more commonplace, but they have since been glossed over to fit a narrative of midcentury supremacy that “should” be looked at as a model for contemporary society.  This model is used to reached desired outcomes today, regardless of clear cause and effect.  For example, violence was not much less prevalent back then–it just went unreported more often, especially domestic violence.  So this is not a good excuse for, say, making legal divorces harder to obtain, as it was in the 1950s, even though many conservatives would like to do so and it sounds plausible that a society that makes divorce so easy has more violence.

Conservatives are especially guilty of over-romanticizing the post WWII era.  Conveniently, most of the middle-aged people now in charge of our country were either not born or were children at that time–protected from the harsh realities.  The truth is, many of that era’s policies are unfit for today’s demands, and while we were without some of today’s problems, there was a whole other set to take their place, because we live on an imperfect Earth.

LIR recommends this book if you want to challenge your perceptions.