Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Beyond Modernism: A question and a challenge?

An article by Theodore Prudon, FAIA

in view of the upcoming  fourth Docomomo US National Symposium entitled
Beyond Modernism, Theodor Prudon tells the history of Modern architecture and its preservation in the US

... For those of us closer to that first generation of modernists and the early attempts to advocating for preservation of their work, we can see how things began to change by simply looking at some of these individuals and their work. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius both die in the same year, 1969. Frank Lloyd Wright had died some years earlier, 1959, so had Le Corbusier in 1965 but Marcel Breuer survived the others until 1981. Similarly, to name only a few, such artists and Bauhaus teachers as Lazlo Moholy Nagy and Josef Albers had died respectively in 1946 and 1976. At the same time there is a more or less parallel rise of the next generations first with Edward Durell Stone(1902-1978), Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986) and Paul Rudolph (1918-1997) to be followed by such architects as Charles Moore (1925-1993),Robert Venturi (1925- ) and Michael Graves (1934-2015) and by simply looking at those dates the generational transitions are readily apparent. The work Philip Johnson (1906-2005) represents a different case altogether.


The fate of DOCOMOMO is also an important question, as follows:
Docomomo International found its original impetus and inspiration in saving interwar modernism not just because of its stylistic appearance but also because of its more progressive and social mission. The tuberculosis sanatorium Zonnestraal in the Netherlands built at the end of the 1920s became one of the focal points. The history and architecture of the sanatorium represented that progressive spirit having been funded and built by the members of the diamond workers union in Amsterdam for the betterment of its membership. In the beginning, reflecting that interwar spirit, the chapters were called “working parties”. However, in the US that early modernist focus quickly moved from the interwar period to the immediate postwar decades because few modernist examples existed for the period between the world wars.

The Docomomo US was officially found by 1995.
Since then up to the present the ideas about Modern architecture preservation have changed. 

our current question: is there a role for Docomomo beyond what has traditionally been defined as modernism? It is there that for two reasons we may be in the midst of another generational transition. First of all the world of preservation in general is changing. As is to be expected, the discipline has matured and is exploring different venues of design, interpretation and acceptance. Secondly, and maybe related to that development, for those of us who started advocating with Docomomo early on, we often experience the subsequent stylistic and cultural developments as deviating from the original tenets, while those who have arrived to the cause more recently tend to see the issue as a continuing and constantly re-emerging manifestation of modernist influenced principles and concepts. 

Theodore Prudon is the President of  DOCOMOMO US.

http://www.docomomo-us.org/ ; info@docomomo–us.org
Theodore Prudon, FAIA, FAPT, FoIFI, BNADr is an internationally renowned architect, preservation expert, architectural engineer, author, and educator with a career spanning 40 years. 

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