Monday, February 11, 2013

Buildings as expressions of world views

Is it really some kind of accident that a university chose this as one of its campus buildings?

That's a building at the University of California as reported here at The Thinking Housewife. I can't help but think that this type of architecture is an expression of a modernist mindset, one that is oriented to the technical and the functional. But why be oriented this way?

Jim Kalb in his book The Tyranny of Liberalism writes that:
Since 1945, Western public life has been based on the practical supremacy of economics and the principle that social order exists to get men what they want rather than to express an essence or ideal.
So if you aren't oriented to, say, an ideal of beauty or to an expression of man's soul or essence, then perhaps you'll think more in terms of purpose or function. And that's how a campus architect explained the building at the University of California. As reported at The Thinking Housewife, that architect thought that the building was an attempt to represent the purpose of the curriculum, which has a biotechnology focus:
...he impartially ascribed the ugliness to seemingly neutral causes. One of these was the premise that the architecture should reflect one of the main emphases of the curriculum: biotechnology.
Not all modernist architecture is as ugly as the building in the photo. It's possible to build for function and have a building with, for instance, sleek, geometrical lines. But I wonder if modernist architecture went through a phase when the aim was not only to build for function, but to assert the modernist aesthetic strongly against the traditional one: hence, a more aggressive ugliness in design.

Finally, I thought I'd include a few photos of some of the traditional architecture at the University of Melbourne, by way of contrast:

If you look at the Melbourne buildings and then the California one, you get a sense of how cold and soulless the modernist architecture is. And as I've tried to explain, I don't think that's an accidental outcome, as the modernist mindset isn't oriented to a consideration like man's soul - the focus is instead more technocratic.


  1. Looks like something from the Brutalist school of architecture, which the government of the time was quite fond of. If you want an example of a pretty California school, check out Stanford University, which unsurprisingly is not a government school.

  2. That's it:

    A lot of ugly buildings were built in the mid-20th century, and at the time people thought they were 'futuristic', but now many are being demolished...

  3. There's probably very few unis around where you wouldn't have at least a few ugly/bizarre new buildings. None in Australia at any rate, since our unis expanded in size significantly in the 20th century and more were added.

    In this respect I think Melbourne Uni architecture is more or less similar to that of Sydney Uni, my own old campus, containing a incoherent mix of the old and the new.

  4. It's amazing how perfectly art mirrors life. No surprise that a disordered mess of a society that's lost all respect for truth and beauty produces architecture, music, drama and paintings that are the same.

    It's strange though that whilst the elites push this nonsense, the public are still resistant. Few people like ugly buildings and they still have to sandwich atonal works in the middle of symphony concerts to get people to sit through them.

    I remember when all the artistic types were lauding Federation Square as a masterpiece. Scarcely 10 years later it's an eyesore - I even heard one of the volunteer tour guides admit that to a group of tourists.

    It's a shame the modernists have gotten their mitts on public spaces. A symphony for 200 metronomes or a play depicting the struggle of disabled Aboriginal lesbians doesn't do much harm as it'll be forgotten in a couple of years, but creating permanent monuments to fleeting architectural fashions makes us all suffer.

  5. I have no 'soul' and yet a part of me too is forsaken by the former architecture.

  6. That's UC Santa Barbara. UCLA has a beautiful campus (altough the modern buildings are less beautiful than the older ones).

  7. Modern architecture, art, music etc is the product of degenerate minds, and by its ugliness gives an insight into the inner character of those who create it. True beauty comes from a firm rooting in the culture of the people, not in Marxist-liberal fantasies.