Modernist apologists promote a mythology that is based on a very flimsy, false, and supposedly seamless “history”, which attempts to connect the Modern Movement of architecture and planning, with the millennia-old historical developments, that produced the great European Cities of the past. Modernists achieved a total rupture from everything that made cities attractive, in terms of culture and aesthetics, religions, work, commerce, trade, industry, leisure and enjoyable human activities.
They rejected not only the coherent historical architectural language, but also everything that made old urban fabric enjoyable to visit and live in. Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, who wrote under the pseudonym Le Corbusier, made it clear in his rantings, sloganizing, violence, simplistic, humorous, puritanical and ill-educated works (taken together, the built-environment’s equivalent of Meine Kampf) that Europe would lose the city it had known for millennia. He hated the street in its humane, mixed use, untidy variety. He was obsessed with cleanliness and tidiness.
The Modern Movement promised fake “streets”, the destruction of facades, the abolition “style”, land that would be given over to motorways and high-level housing in minimalist boxes. It also promised an environment that was supposedly bright, clean and featureless, devoid of any ornamentation, mixed use, variety or beauty. The goal was to create a new world, one of unimaginable ghastliness, that would permanently numb anyone unfortunate enough to live in it. The modernists wanted to ban everything that contributed to making the historic city. They were determined to do so, even though the new, radical, non-scientific and irrational world they planned to create was ugly, rigidly zoned and ill-thought out.
Many Modernist buildings built from the 1960s forward have been a failure in all aspects, including structurally. They have had to come down. The Modern Movement was, in short, determined to destroy the social order which all old cities represented with their diverse mix of activities and possibilities, their hierarchical structures, their living and working places, their public spaces, their places of education and worship, their concert halls and opera houses, their cafes and restaurants, and their public-houses. The Modern Movement wanted to deny them the chance of spontaneity, enjoyment, and relaxation in an environment that was not clinically stripped of everything diverting.
Modernists resented the idea of a living and breathing city that was a reward for bourgeois citizens, an organism that was able to cater to humanity in all of its complexity. Modernists did not allow this complexity. They were aiming to destroy the hierarchical system.
The absurdity of Nikolaus Pevsner’s and other false claims about the relationship between the Arts-and Crafts movement and Modernism is highlighted by the demands of Modernists for factory-made mass-produced components, the removal of ornament and the elimination or craftsmanship. Modernist claimed to have rational, objective, scientific and logical goals, but what they really wanted was to destroy the social order and tidy up untidy mankind by capturing all of its pleasures, dissipations and storing them in hygienic, tower-blocks.
The clear-eyed viewer can see that this is all a concerted effort to impose an obligatory system of social control. Modernists assumed that solutions had been set in stone. Le Corbusier, as an example, proclaimed that “we must create a spirit of mass-production…the spirit to live in mass-production homes” and, along with commitments towards “progress”
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Modernism’s most powerful apologists like Pevsner were forced to leave their homelands due to totalitarian politics Modernism. But instead of leaving the evil, censorious thinking processes of the regimes they had left behind, they brought them with them. Pevsner acknowledged at one point to having “National Socialist Feelings,” as evidenced by many of his comments about German art. His former teacher Wilhelm Pinder was a noted Hitler fan. Mies van der Rhee declared in 1924, that the individual had lost significance and his destiny no longer mattered. Joseph Goebbels would reiterate these opinions a decade later. There is no doubt that such beliefs were at the core of architectural Modernists’ beliefs. They were, in fact, more ideologically aligned with National Socialism, than their critics.
Pevsner, who fashioned fanciful connections with the great architects of history he called “pioneers of the Modern Movement”, was not the only propagandist working on this project. Sigfried Geiedion, with his Space, Time and Architecture, cleverly subtitled Growth of a New Tradition, also used selective attempts to link accounts of historical architecture and urban planning with Modernist and Corbusian dystopian ideas, which, in no way, were imaginable or compatible with the long and honourable history of European Urbanism. This book, which was the result of his lectures at Harvard University from 1938-1939, has been a hugely influential work, read by many architecture schools. Its “fundamental development axis” from Renaissance times to today seems to have received a rapturous reception. His comparison of Modern Architecture with the past and his analysis of it are manifestly flawed. Giedion’s book is laden with obscene statements about the Zeitgeist and other nonsense.
The specter coercion is not to be avoided. Modernist architects saw themselves as a powerful, all-knowing elite who were above the concerns or desires of the general public. These useful idiots did not seem to understand that Modernism had nothing to do progress or helping the socially-disadvantaged. On the contrary, certain developers, in collaboration with corrupt local officials, used Modernist rhetoric to fool politicians, journalists and a gullible public in order for them to build their hideous and aesthetically unjustifiable megastructures. They also destroyed historic urban fabric, as well as living communities, in the process. Modernist architects helped create the deformed and brutal public face of corporate and private greed. Massive vested architectural interests, which are purely financial in nature, are at stake. Yet, they pretend to work for the public interest.