The ugliness of Modernism
One of the signs of our cultural debasement is the quality of our environment, that is, our homes, our shops, cities, streets, bridges etc…
It is not that I’m opposed to any architectural innovation at all, that would be pointless, there are always buildings that need to be cleared away for some reason or another, and to replace them with an exact replica every time would not be rational or desired.
The thing that strikes me is how ugly our environments are, there are the tower blocks, the great concrete, glass and metal lumps that are called libraries or city halls or ‘community centres’ or police stations and hospitals. There are the modern days slums, the almost unnaturally ugly estates on the edge of most European cities.
When one looks at pictures of European cities from pre 1914 days, one is struck by the sheer beauty of the surroundings, even the slums are better then the modern soulless pits build for the betterment of the slum dwellers, by the disciples of Le Corbusier who believed zealously in themselves. The modernists were the architectural equivalent of the Frankfurt School in the political and social spheres and had as much of an influence as the Frankfurt School, undermining decency and goodness, whilst the modernists undermined any notion of a natural or human environment.
I grew up in the country on a lane that was about two miles long, there were a few farms off the road and my house was the only one on that lane. At the far end of this lane there was a farmyard, and facing onto the lane was a whitewashed stone outhouse, on my travels I would pass this stone barn and would appreciate, even at such a young age, the ancient pedigree of this stone barn, there was something about it which spoke of permanence, but with out the insensitive arrogance that concrete projects, the stone was natural and comfortable in a way concrete could never be. A few years ago I went for a walk with the dogs and passed this farmyard, and something seemed odd about that stone barn, I had to stop and have a look, to my shock and disgust I realised that the reason there was something odd, was because the stone barn was no more, I was looking at a concrete lump that had been whitewashed!
So, that farmer has a perfectly good, solid, stone barn. For some idiot reason, he decided to pull the stone barn down, and in the very same place build a concrete barn, the same shape, the same size, if you were a county council planner, you would probably not notice the difference, which is probably the reason it was built to look exactly the same as before, but why? Why pull down a perfectly good building and replace it with something exactly the same? Why waste the money? This is the insanity of modern architecture and the ideology behind it, tare down the old, no matter how useful it is, no matter how beautiful and replace it with the new, no matter how ugly, no matter how much it costs!
Whole cities have been reduced to large open air concrete slums, Birmingham comes to mind, it used to be a beautiful city, full of handsome buildings, fruit of it’s industrial wealth, even now there are still remnants of this, Bournville, where the Cadbury’s factory is, is still impressive, the Botanical Gardens, Colmore Row, Victoria Square, but you must not take too wide a view when looking at these places, because horrific, monumental ugliness usually looms not far away, which is a great pity. The Prince of Wales has remarked something along the lines of ‘At least the Luftwaffe only left rubble’, referring to the trendy lefty modernists who were so zealous in removing old, interesting and beautiful buildings from the map.
Coventry is another formerly beautiful city that now resembles a large open air toilet, the ancient cathedral which was bombed out in the Second World War is still beautiful, and next door, is a hideous, immensely ugly lump of concrete. The modern cathedral seems to mock God by it’s very existence, all hip and trendy, all ugly and meaningless! The sad thing about Coventry, is that you see the odd ancient building and see the shadow of what Coventry once was, the stone gateway here, the old pub there, the town hall, the ruined cathedral, but everywhere else, concrete, concrete, glass and steel, all big and monumentally ugly.
Even cities that have not been disfigured, or disfigured as much as others, such as London or Venice or Rome or Paris, still have their hideous suburbs, when taking the train into Venice, you pass through the Mestre, which is almost hellishly ugly, with the oil refineries and steel plants belching out steam and smoke all day long, with motorways and concrete pillars everywhere one looks, with factories and storage facilities and ugly tower blocks, ugly estates and ugly houses.
The Parisian Banlieue are worse then the Mestre, not only are they hideously ugly, they are filled with hateful unemployed Muslims who spend their time rioting and siring offspring. The suburbs of Rome are less ugly then Paris or Venice, but they are still not as beautiful as they could have been.
Instead of uglifying our cities, we should be attempting to beautify them, but I suppose that this is the point I’m trying to make. The increasing ugliness in our cities is a sign of how ugly we are becoming as people, the ugliness in our souls is mirrored in our homes and offices, in our shops and schools, everything we use and do is being consumed by ugliness. We have entered the age of ugliness and the only thing that will cure that, is a moral regeneration, a Renaissance of our souls, only then will we see great and beautiful structures built once more.