Feature: Making Room for Traditional Architecture

A noted architectural educator refutes the common arguments Modernists use to dismiss contemporary traditional architecture.By Mark Gelernter, Ph.D.Mark Gelernter, Ph.D., has written several books addressing the ideas architects use to explain or justify their design approach. In this essay, he examines five arguments commonly used by Modernists to promote their approach as fundamentally different from, and inherently better than, traditional design. Gelernter lays out the shortcomings of these arguments and shows how Modernism is just another style like the traditional styles it rejects. This opens the door for architects to choose Modern or traditional as the conditions of the project and context may dictate. – Martha McDonald In recent presentations to the Traditional Building conferences and in the August Forum of Traditional Building magazine, I discussed the most common arguments used by Modernists to dismiss traditional design. In this essay, I will examine and rebut these ideas in greater detail. The five most commonly heard arguments against traditional architecture are:

Traditional design is about style, and style is about superficial appearance. Good buildings are shaped by deeper ideas.

Good architecture expresses its own age. Traditional design expresses an age gone by.

Using traditional design languages today creates replicas that are not authentic, like Disneyland.

Traditional design is not progressive, because it does not move the discipline forward through innovation.

If one insists on using traditional design languages, one must adhere strictly to the traditional rules or a cartoon will result. This discourages creativity.

via Feature: Making Room for Traditional Architecture.


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