Sanctioning Modernism

Sanctioning Modernism: Architecture and the Making of Postwar Identities

Vladimir Kulić
Timothy Parker
Monica Penick
FOREWORD BY Frederick Steiner
Copyright Date: 2014
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/757257
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  • Book Info
    Sanctioning Modernism
    Book Description:

    In the decades following World War II, modern architecture spread around the globe alongside increased modernization, urbanization, and postwar reconstruction—and it eventually won widespread acceptance. But as the limitations of conventional conceptions of modernism became apparent, modern architecture has come under increasing criticism. In this collection of essays, experienced and emerging scholars take a fresh look at postwar modern architecture by asking what it meant to be "modern," what role modern architecture played in constructing modern identities, and who sanctioned (or was sanctioned by) modernism in architecture.This volume presents focused case studies of modern architecture in three realms—political, religious, and domestic—that address our very essence as human beings. Several essays explore developments in Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia and document a modernist design culture that crossed political barriers, such as the Iron Curtain, more readily than previously imagined. Other essays investigate various efforts to reconcile the concerns of modernist architects with the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian institutions. And a final group of essays looks at postwar homebuilding in the United States and demonstrates how malleable and contested the image of the American home was in the mid-twentieth century. These inquiries show the limits of canonical views of modern architecture and reveal instead how civic institutions, ecclesiastical traditions, individual consumers, and others sought to sanction the forms and ideas of modern architecture in the service of their respective claims or desires to be modern.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-76064-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    Frederick Steiner

    Just when an idea or a movement seems to have run its course, or merely run out of steam, a new mind and set of eyes come along and make it fresh again. Such is the case withSanctioning Modernism, where three young scholars have brought together a new perspective on the Modern Movement. This triad—Vladimir Kulić, Timothy Parker, and Monica Penick—has enlisted an interdisciplinary band of other emerging and more seasoned academics as allies in this effort.

    In doing so, the young and seasoned scholars go far beyond what modernism looks like and deeply probe its political,...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. IX-XI)
    VLADIMIR KULIĆ, TIMOTHY PARKER and MONICA PENICK
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XII-XIV)
  6. INTRODUCTION. WRITING HISTORY: REFLECTIONS ON THE STORY OF MIDCENTURY MODERN ARCHITECTURE
    (pp. 1-6)
    DENNIS P. DOORDAN

    In a park-like setting along New York City’s East River the United Nations stands proudly as an enduring symbol of … what? Today the UN buildings are assailed by some as the sinister architectural symbol of a new world order that threatens to strip nations of sovereign control over their own affairs. For others, the pristine geometry and midcentury palette of materials and artworks serve as a poignant reminder of the naïve hopes and disappointing achievements that trail in the wake of the promise of a new peaceful world order rising phoenix-like from the ashes of World War II. Six...

  7. PART I. MODERNISM AND THE STATE
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 8-10)
      VLADIMIR KULIĆ

      During the two decades following World War II, various political entities across the world adopted modernist architecture in its different guises both for representational purposes and as an instrument of modernization. The period thus stood in contrast with the interwar years, when modernists struggled to attract official support, especially after the turbulent alliance between the avant-gardes and the varied central and local governments of the 1920s dissolved under the rising totalitarian forces. It was only in a few places such as Czechoslovakia and Turkey that architectural modernism before World War II was consistently accepted as the “official style” of political...

    • 1 BUCHAREST: THE CITY TRANSFIGURED
      (pp. 11-36)
      JULIANA MAXIM

      On an April morning … a group of young architects and workers strolled through the [Floreasca district] around Rachmaninoff Street, which had once been deserted. They passed through three large plazas, through wide interior courts, which opened towards perspectives similar to Renaissance architectural visions. Teams of men and women were planting trees and flowers. They stopped in front of the colonnade of a large theater in neoclassical style. They walked along storefronts. In a library window was an art book titledProjects for a Socialist City…. They came to the lake, and on its shores, raised miraculously between air and...

    • 2 THE SCOPE OF SOCIALIST MODERNISM: ARCHITECTURE AND STATE REPRESENTATION IN POSTWAR YUGOSLAVIA
      (pp. 37-65)
      VLADIMIR KULIĆ

      Apart from the fact that they were both prominent architects in socialist Yugoslavia, at first sight, Vjenceslav Richter (1917–2002) and Bogdan Bogdanović (1922–2010) do not seem to have much in common. The former was an avantgardist known for light, cool, geometricized structures that explored the limits of modernist tropes of abstraction, technology, and space. The latter created exuberant, allusive, symbolically charged monuments, often rustically hand-carved out of stone, which evoked a distant history rather than projecting the visions of a brave future. Even at a second look, there is not much that connects them, as they emerged out...

    • 3 CZECHOSLOVAKIAʹS MODEL HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS: MODERN ARCHITECTURE FOR THE SOCIALIST FUTURE
      (pp. 66-89)
      KIMBERLY ELMAN ZARECOR

      In the aftermath of World War II, Czechoslovakia began a process of national transformation and reconstruction that ultimately led to more than forty years of Communist Party rule. During the war and immediate postwar years, its multiethnic population became more homogeneous with the decimation of the Jewish population, the loss of Subcarpathian Ruthenia to the Soviet Union, and the expulsion of three million people of German descent. Internal and regional migration was also common as the government encouraged Slavs to resettle in the “borderlands” (Sudetenland) where properties and businesses confiscated from Jews and Germans were distributed to new settlers. One...

    • 4 SANCTIONING MODERNISM AND TRADITION: ITALIAN ARCHITECTURE, THE VERNACULAR, AND THE STATE
      (pp. 90-107)
      MICHELANGELO SABATINO

      From the early 1920s to the late 1950s the dialectic of modernism and tradition, whether classical or vernacular, characterized the Italian state’s architectural patronage.¹ This essay investigates post–World War II state-sponsored building initiatives, mainly housing, and the architectural debates accompanying their design and realization. It sets them against the backdrop of Italian architectural discourse on identity that surfaced during the Fascist period (1922–1943) and continued to weigh heavily on the decisions of architects and urban designers in postwar democratic Italy. The essay focuses on the role that appropriation of extant vernacular building traditions and the abandonment of classicism...

  8. PART II. MAKING RELIGION MODERN
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 109-112)
      TIMOTHY PARKER

      The essays in this section address a phenomenon that, from certain points of view regarding modern identity, remains virtually invisible. A long-standing trope of modernity is that it emerges insofar as religion, superstition, and their premodern cognates diminish. Thus, for instance, the modern world is roughly equated with not only the sociopolitical results of industrialization but also the philosophical implications of the scientific revolution and Enlightenment rationality, eventually yielding a disenchanted world, however incomplete its achievement may remain. Such a view is clearly reductive and simplistic, as the spate of “post-secularization” literature during recent decades in religious studies and elsewhere...

    • 5 UNCERTAINTY AND THE MODERN CHURCH: TWO ROMAN CATHOLIC CATHEDRALS IN BRITAIN
      (pp. 113-138)
      ROBERT PROCTOR

      The 1960s witnessed the most significant changes in the history of the Roman Catholic Church (and, arguably, in Christianity) since at least the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. A major liturgical reform was announced at the Second Vatican Council of 1962 to 1965 and was subsequently implemented throughout the Church. This reform marked an endorsement of previous calls for change from theologians, liturgy scholars, and ordinary priests around the world; known as the Liturgical Movement, it now has a well-documented historical narrative.¹ Yet in Britain these changes came suddenly to many clergy and faithful, since few had any significant awareness of the...

    • 6 ʺHUMANLY SUBLIME TENSIONSʺ: LUIGI MORETTI’S CHIESA DEL CONCILIO (1965–1970)
      (pp. 139-167)
      TIMOTHY PARKER

      In 1967, Luigi Moretti (1907–1973)¹ published inFede e Artea pointed essay, “Where two or three are gathered in my name … (Matthew 18:20),” concerning the “great perplexity” facing architects of new churches in the wake of the sea change that was the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965).² Observing the “dangerous, or at least incautious, vehemence” with which otherwise sincere architects prematurely produced “a flood of purely formalistic designs,” Moretti lamented the too-frequent consequence of “bare, denuded” churches.³ The verbal terms of this judgment and disparaging visual characterization echo a description Moretti had given a work of his...

    • 7 MODERNISM AND THE CONCEPT OF REFORM: LITURGY AND LITURGICAL ARCHITECTURE
      (pp. 168-180)
      RICHARD KIECKHEFER

      On the face of it, the rise of modern church architecture appears closely linked to the development of liturgical reform. Both were anticipated in Western Europe shortly before World War I, became discernible movements after that war, gained mainstream adherence after World War II, and became canonical if not virtually universal after the Second Vatican Council, not only in Roman Catholicism but in mainline Protestant denominations as well. At every stage there were proponents of modern church design who took inspiration and authorization from the work of liturgical reformers. Writers on church architecture of the mid-twentieth century sometimes report with...

  9. PART III: MODERNISM AND DOMESTICITY
    • INTRODUCTION
      (pp. 182-185)
      MONICA PENICK

      During World War II and in the two decades that followed, scores of architects were engaged in the design of the postwar house, a building type that offered extraordinary opportunities and unprecedented challenges. In the United States in particular, the postwar house—single-family, detached, and increasingly built for a middle-class clientele—became, on the one hand, an arena in which a once-stagnant housing industry could expand and thrive; on the other hand, the postwar house offered a venue in which architects could explore progressive ideas. Perhaps more significantly, as the three essays in this section demonstrate, the house became a...

    • 8 ʺTECHNOLOGICALLYʺ MODERN: THE PREFABRICATED HOUSE AND THE WARTIME EXPERIENCE OF SKIDMORE, OWINGS AND MERRILL
      (pp. 186-218)
      HYUN-TAE JUNG

      Mid-twentieth-century American architecture has been considered a degenerate outgrowth of modern European architecture. It is believed that the overwhelming influences of the era’s corporate and consumer culture impeded the proper transplant of modern architecture on American soil. One of the most influential architectural theoreticians in the twentieth century, Colin Rowe, argued that “purged of its ideological and societal content,” modern architecture in the United States was reduced to being either a “décor de la viefor Greenwich, Connecticut,” or the “suitable veneer for the corporate activities of enlightened capitalism.”¹ Rowe contended that utopian visions of modern architecture in Europe became...

    • 9 ʺMODERN BUT NOT TOO MODERNʺ: HOUSE BEAUTIFUL AND THE AMERICAN STYLE
      (pp. 219-243)
      MONICA PENICK

      In May 1950,House Beautiful’s editor-in-chief Elizabeth Gordon announced a new brand of postwar architecture: the “American Style.”¹ In a full-color feature, complete with a nine-point manifesto, Gordon presented the American Style as a cohesive set of design principles with identifiable aesthetics and an adherent set of architects. Gordon presented the American Style as a “mature” national architecture—indigenous, ingenious, and fully modern. In the pages ofHouse Beautiful, the style represented both a new spirit and a new look. With its emphasis on site- and purpose-specific plans, climatic responsiveness, emerging technologies, and “common-sense” design, Gordon argued that the American...

    • 10 HOUSE AND HAUNTED GARDEN
      (pp. 244-268)
      SANDY ISENSTADT

      In the opening scene ofThe Birds, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 thriller, Melanie Daniels, played by Tippi Hedren, meets Mitch Brenner, played by Rod Taylor, in a pet shop in San Francisco, where they admire a pair of lovebirds in a cage. In light of what follows—birds ravaging a small town up the California coast—the lovebirds clearly stand in for the ideal relationship between mankind and nature, at least as mankind imagines it: nature in repose, a repository of virtue and easy visual pleasure. The metal cage, a trifle for human industry, is the instrument that makes this relationship...

  10. FURTHER READING
    (pp. 269-273)
  11. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 274-276)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 277-290)