Monthly Archives: January 2019

A world without a past

The architect Léon Krier with a thought experiment in the introduction of his polemic, ‘Architecture: Choice or Fate’:

If, one day, for some mysterious reason, all the buildings, settlements, suburbs and structures built after 1945 – especially those commonly called ‘modern’- vanished from the face of the earth, would we mourn their loss? Would the disappearance of prefabricated tower blocks, mass housing estates, commercial strips, business parks, motorway junctions, modular university campusses, schools, and new towns, damage the identity of our favorite cities and landscapes?

If, on the other hand, some parallel phenomenon destroyed in one fell swoop the whole of our pre – World War II architectural heritage, namely all ‘historic’ buildings, hamlets, villages, and cities, what would be the significance of such an event?

In terms of real estate volume, both heritages are approximately equal; comparing them globally as alternatives allows us to appreciate the fundamental differences in their nature: their specific symbolic, aesthetic, civilising and emotional qualities, their power of attraction, identification and repulsion. Has so-called ‘modern’ architecture, with its insatiable drive for autonomy, its cultivation of the ‘tabula rasa’ approach and celebration of change and revolution, really liberated us from our ‘historic’ past? Or has it made us more dependent?