Plumb Lines

April 27, 2009

Which Modern Are You Post?

Filed under: Uncategorized — David Schaengold @ 12:59 pm

It is not a carpenter or a joiner that I thus rank with with the greatest masters in other sciences; the manual operator being no more than an instrument to the architect — Alberti

I’ve been challenged to say more completely what I mean by Pomocon Urbanism. In particular, what makes it Postmodern? What I mean by “Postmodern” is what’s meant when contemporary architects like Jean Nouvel or Zaha Hadid are called Postmodern. The modern they are post is the mid-century modern of Le Corbusier, Gropius, and the rest, not the modern of Descartes, Westphalia, cuius regno eius religio, Bacon, Absolutism, the New Monarchs and the New World, which is the modern that some sillies claim “postmodern thinkers” are post. No one is yet post that kind of modernism, so pomocon urbanism can’t be, either.

Just because we’re not post that modern doesn’t mean we can’t practice some kind of resistance to it, however. As regards the built environment, we ought to resist one particular feature of modernism, namely the the auteur theory of building, successfully championed by Alberti, the grand-daddy of modern architectural theory. Neither the materials that constitute a finished building nor the workmen, skilled or unskilled, who fashion it, should be thought of as merely instruments in the hand of the architect-brain. Christopher Alexander has taken a famous first step in this direction, but there’s much more to be done.

David Schaengold

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