Modernism vs Neo-Traditionalism: A debate on the merits and failures of two major competing paradigms in architecture and urban planning.
Beyond the term modernism underlies one of the greatest ideas in architectural development. Modernism was meant to provide more green areas, cheaper housing and more efficient use of space. This was to be accomplished by creating vertically dense spaces with the use of the new inventions of the nineteenth century, such as steel, glass, electricity and elevators. By decreasing costs of building, modernists hoped to provide cheaper housing, affordable to almost anybody. The modernist movement was also promising to meet the growing demand for office spaces, hence the motto “form follows function” . Today, the inhabitants of every large city are able to see products of modernist influence. Its opposite, neo-traditionalism, is admired for its beauty and variety. “Small City U.S.A.” is an extremely popular concept among today’s citizens, looking to escape the ordinary, colorless office buildings. Boring and redundant, is modernism today what it was conceptualized to be? Its ideas shape today’s housing, from housing projects to single homes that have neo-traditional skin. Modernist concepts are of incredible importance and necessity; however, they were misunderstood in application.
“Modernism was a response to the rise of industrial manufacturing as man’s chief economic activity.” Modernism fulfilled the growing demand for office space. It made use of such inventions as steel, glass, concrete and elevators. Steel and concrete allowed building to go to whole new heights. Glass and electricity provided lighting, thus making the workday longer. Elevators made the office buildings possible by carrying its inhabitants to any floor in the building. These materials also solved the problem of fireproofing and were definitely less costly than the materials used for traditional buildings. At the same time, modernist buildings became uniform: built from the same materials, modular, colorless with the same components, flat roofs and lack of ornamentation. Kunstler argued that such buildings have seized to have any meaning that they destroy social arrangements and do not consider natural resources. He blamed modernism for ruining the cities with corporate gigantism, failing to create public spaces and sending people off to suburbs, where they have no sense of community.
So what kept such a “destructive” and redundant architectural trend? “Form follows function”, said Sullivan, one of the founding fathers of modernism. As a response to mechanization and industrialization, modernism was extremely beneficial to companies that needed office space. To have a skyscraper built was a great investment on the company’s side, not only did it provide the necessary office space, it also allowed to lease the remaining offices to other companies, thus...