Thursday, December 17, 2009

Modernism on the March

MODERNIST CITY PLANNING, and Modernist buildings within such city plans, were conceived by their makers as exercises in social engineering, not simply reorganising such functions as housing, work, recreation and traffic but systematically redefining the social basis for each. Their revolutionary building types and urban structures were meant to change existing forms of collective association and indeed personal habits, predicated on an absolute break with the past - the instrument of which would be the deliberate decontextualisation of the new environment.

By quite consciously obliterating what was familiar in an environment, and the employment of shock effects, a considerable repertoire of which was available through avant-garde art, the Modernists proposed to make the city strange, all with a view to creating a new type of urban public. Maximalising the corporate domain of the State, minimising the familial domain through changing the environmental conditions of residence and domestic organisation, health care and education, the aim was to impose a master-plan, comprehensive, State-sponsored, in which many features of the traditional city would become, quite simply, architecturally invisible and thus (it was hoped) socially irrelevant.

The comparison with the ecclesial realm is plain. The designing of Modernist churches for liturgies, in a spirit of hostility to the inherited liturgical and devotional practices of the Latin clergy and faithful is the ecclesiastical equivalent of the blueprint utopias of the secular city. (Emphases added)
- Aidan Nichols, O.P.

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