Science, Pseudo-Science, and Architecture
By Catesby Leigh
Of course, there are good modernist buildings -- that is, there have
been modernist designers gifted enough to produce admirable work despite
the questionable theories to which they subscribed. I would rank Louis
I. Kahn and Frank Lloyd Wright among them. The problem is not that all
modernist architecture is bad. The problem is that so little of it is good.
But the classical threat to the ongoing modernist hegemony in
institutional architecture goes deeper than esthetics. For modernism is
itself based on a mythology, or a series of mythologies that have as
their common denominator the notion that man is the malleable byproduct
of his historical circumstances. Classicism rejects these mythologies.
The great tradition's secular persistence is predicated precisely on the
assumption that what is constant in human nature is of far greater
import than what is not. Modernists are deeply aware of this ideological
clash, and it fuels their visceral hostility to classicism. Tradition
threatens the starchitect's "world," with the autonomous self -- the
godlike creative "genius" -- at the center of an eminently subjective
universe in which it is beholden to no higher reality than the self. No
doubt plenty of classical architects are peacocks, but tradition has a
way of getting their egos on a leash where artistic endeavors are concerned.