Exploring the ways two American movements may be linked
I would like to explore the possible connections between the rise of suburbia in the United States and the rise of modern, international-style architecture seen in U.S. city buildings.
I see the value in aesthetically pleasing buildings, ornate design, and other notions that modern architecture disagrees with. Thus, I appreciate Wolfe’s arguments, and they make sense to me. But in considering the other side of thing, I first wonder what made modern architecture as a style considered “Okay” as it was gaining momentum? What about that time perhaps made these boxy, simple, and material-centered designs tolerated and perhaps welcomed?
In considering these questions and notions of “senses of place,” I am led to believe there is some sort of connection or correlation with the development of suburban living. As people (largely upper middle class) moved out of cities into newly designed outlying towns, they began commuting to work. This marks a fundamental shift in space and place, and our general sense of the two. One “place” is literally where we live, sleep, eat, play, and the like, while the other is where we (as the breadwinners of the family) go with the express purpose of working. The family stays in the first space (the suburb) and fully lives in that sphere.
At the same time, the modern style of architecture was flourishing; glassy, boxy buildings went up in cities like New York and Chicago, metropolitan centers around which suburban development was immense. It seems like people would be okay with spending time in and around these bland buildings since they were not spending their leisure time there. They were walking inside, clocking in, making money, clocking out, walking out, and leaving the area. And once leaving, any depressing and alienating display of modern architecture is not a problem.
So, even if all architects and citizens agreed that modern/international-style buildings disable a special sense of place from forming in citizens, this might not necessarily change anything. Perhaps this was, in fact, irrelevant. In a time when focus was so excitedly put on sprawl, and pleasure and happiness were so emphatically placed on building a life with your nuclear family in a new, spacious, and whitewashed town, away from the rioting and ghettoization and poverty so prevalently forming in urban centers, these notions of sensing one’s place in a city were laughable.
Why create ways to build attachment to cities when all the attachment was on suburbs. The careful, pleasing, and ornate designs of yards, lawns, fences…these were important tasks. Perhaps rightly so, because these are the spheres people (with money and a decent sense of mobility) were now living in. Deindustrialization was demoralizing urban centers, and resources for things like aesthetics and place attachment have never gone towards places inhabited by the poor.
I digress…but you see the point. Perhaps there simply was
no point in a non-modern approach to city buildings. If the people with money are only downtown to work, let form follow function.