Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Promises made lightly

I don’t understand architecture. Neither do I know what it actually is, nor do I understand any of the technical steps necessary to make a building manifest itself. That said, I can begin to indulge in my entirely emotional, pre– or post-rational approach to architecture:

My almost visceral reaction to buildings that pay witness to the age of modernism has been building up and worsening since my early childhood days in the—all in all—aesthetically uninspired late seventies and early eighties. Being shown photographs of the Weissenhof Siedlung in Stuttgart and of furniture from the Bauhaus heydays were responsible for my first perception of history as well as the miracles of past and simultaneity: How can it be that such fresh and clean design is (then) 50-odd years old? How can it be that my fellow countrymen were instrumental in creating such breathtaking beauty, e.g. by sending Mies van der Rohe out to represent Germany at the World exhibition in Barcelona, at a time when the NSDAP surely held already 20 percent of seats in the Reichstag?

Although I am able to see things slightly more shaded in greys today, the intensity of my initial responses to buildings as diverse as the Barcelona pavillon, the Villa Tugendhat in my grandfather’s temporary home town Brno, or even the flirtations of social housing with totalitarianism and modernism alike (like Prora at the baltic see) is not about to wane.

Modernism and Minimalism to me bear a certain promise of simplicity that real life will never cash in. You are likely to get bruised if you come too close or stay too long, both me as an individual or society as the funder and user of modernist architecture.

That’s why I should be careful, but that’s also why I fall for it, wholeheartedly, painfully, every single time that I am allowed to witness it, experience it, come close to it.

Dieser Beitrag ist auf Englisch, doch einiges an der Zeitmauer gibt es auch in der hervorragenden Kultur- und Verwaltungssprache Deutsch zu lesen.

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