What is called “Modernism” in architecture was simply a response, primarily Marxist in its call to eradicate Western symbolism and meaning, to the rise of industrial manufacturing as man’s chief economic activity. The factory workers were deracinated country folk and their descendants bound to a new kind of slavery; their homes an industrial slum. But Marxist ideology would lift this new industrial man, who would attain control of “the means of production” with all class distinction abolished as life is reorganized by the Politburo.
Modernist Architecture’s Immense Damage
“When speaking of the faults of our surroundings we are naturally inclined to blame “bad architecture,” because buildings are easy to see in the landscape. Architects, just as naturally, inclined to dismiss this point of view as boobery. It is true that the mess we’ve made of places where we live and work is not solely the result of bad buildings, though there are plenty of them.
But that hardly lets architects off the hook. Rather, with the hubris of religious zealots, they set out on a great purifying mission that damaged the whole physical setting for civilization in our time. The dogmas that guided them went by the name of Modernism. Heretics and skeptics were anathematized as systematically as the opponents of the fifteenth-century Vatican.
Modernism did its immense damage in these ways: by divorcing the practice of building from the history and traditional meanings of building; by promoting a species of urbanism that destroyed the age-old social arrangements and, with them, urban life as a general proposition; and by creating a physical setting for man that failed to respect the limits of scale, growth, and the consumption of natural resources, or to respect the lives of other living things.
The result of Modernism, especially in America, is a crisis of the human habitat: cities ruined by corporate gigantism and abstract renewal schemes. Public buildings and public spaces unworthy of human affection, vast sprawling suburbs that lack any sense of community, housing that the un-rich cannot afford to live in, a slavish obeisance to the needs of automobiles and their dependent industries at the expense of human needs, and the gathering ecological calamity that we have only begun to measure.
(The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape, James Howard Kunstler, Simon & Schuster, 1993, excerpts pp. 59-60)