Traditional versus modern architecture; Proponents of traditional architecture cite a preference for historical styles. Modernist proponents, myself included, prefer architecture that responds to its larger contemporary context.
Where do you stand on the traditional versus modern debate, and why? Is there a contemporary compromise?
My response, below, was to talk about the architecture of time versus the architecture of place:
My interest here is not about style. I like all sorts of towns, cities and buildings, but what I design are Classical buildings and traditional towns and cities.
“Classical” does not mean “traditional” (or “neo-traditional”), and Classicism is a way of designing rather than a style. Most of the market doesn’t want ideological purity, and when it does, the bias is likely to be towards traditional.
More to the point, I grew up in the suburbs but I live in Manhattan, and what I’m most interested in is the design of walkable places. To talk about that in the context of this discussion, I think it’s better to talk about an architecture of place versus an architecture of time than about style.
The architecture of time is the architecture of the Zeitgeist, the theory that has sustained Modernism for well over 100 years. Frank Lloyd Wright was born just after the Civil War and designed important houses in the 19th century, and Modernism was the dominant cultural expression in America as soon as World War II ended. I think that time has ended.
The architecture of time has produced many great buildings, but it comes with two large caveats. One, its rate of return is terrible: for every Ronchamps or Bilbao there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of very bad buildings. Great Modern design is hard to teach, and the emphasis on experimentation and “unprecedented reality” produces many experimental failures (“Architecture is invention. All the rest is repetition and of no interest,” Oscar Niemeyer said). Moreover, the architecture of time also includes all the Modernist shopping centers, strip malls, spec office buildings and the like.