Friday, July 18, 2008

Looking Back Over the Horizon

In 1951 the Pruitt-Igoe housing project was designed by Minoru Yamasaki. At the time it was built it epitomized American postwar confidence in urban planning, technology and forward-thinking ideas, in short, modernism. By 1972, it was being demolished, having become a symbol of the failure of government intervention into housing problems, the utopian intentions of ideologically driven architects and as some more astute observers would have it, the end of modernism.

On Septermber 11, 2001, the twin towers known collectively as the World Trade Center, designed by the same man who created Pruitt-Igoe, are taken down by human will and ingenuity. This day represents the actual symbolic end of the modernist project as the aftermath of this action would collectively cause many otherwise easily duped folks to seriously reconsider the ideals which they had otherwise taken for granted. Granted much of this massive paradigm shift would take the form of a militarized, over emotional defense of such ideals, but this quite dogmatic and illiberal form of expression simply proves that the legitimacy of such ideas are on the fritz, so to speak.

Sometime last month, I came into the possesion of a number of copies, dated from the early 1960s to the mid 1970s, of the hardcover magazine 'Horizon: A Review of Literature and Art.' Just flipping through them and seeing the articles featured and pictures printed made me realize how much better things were culturally and aesthetically in the era of the 20th century known as high modernist. Of course, there is a direct line of progression from the 'shoot for the stars' (literally) optimism and the sexy but reserved chic styles of the Anglo-American jet set in the 1950s to mid 70s to the perpetual purgatory of hyperreality, multiculturalism and architectural abomination of the 1980s to present, but in the spirit of cut'n'paste I've decided to showcase the good, show where it went wrong and how it can be revived.

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