Why did modern fall out of favor?

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tallrick
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Why did modern fall out of favor?

Postby tallrick » Wed Dec 05, 2007 2:22 pm

This may seem like the obvious question but why did people stop building the mid-century modern style and go to much uglier styles? I enjoy looking at old books or architectural magazines of both commercial and residential properties to see what good taste really is. Everything from the 70's on seems to be compromised in some way. There's nothing built in this period that I would ever want. Just looking for some views from you Modern experts on the subject.
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Postby Perks » Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:03 am

I think you'll find as many theories as there are people on this board. My theories:

1. Modern architecture was fueled in part by the optimism of the post-WWII era and the technological advances that were going to lead everyone to this great new future where cars would fly and we'd all have our own personal robot assistants. By the time the mid-1960s rolled around, life was getting a bit more serious: Cuban missile crisis, civil rights violence, war in Vietnam, the assassination of Kennedy, and so on. My belief is that the exuberance that led us to these awesome, forward-thinking trends in design fizzled out and people felt more comfortable retreating to a more familiar, comfortable old life because gosh, the future might be pretty bleak after all. You might think of it as the country collectively saying "OK, we've had our fun, now it's time to get back to work."

2. When you get down to it, fashion is simply a series of fads, each one not necessarily a step forward (remember when bellbottoms came back in style?) but definitely a step in a different direction. Eventually the modern architecture of the 50's and 60's just wasn't new anymore. Now there is a popular enthusiasm for modernism, but that resurgence too shall pass and people will eventually re-discover the of the 1980s in their place. If you don't believe me, go back in time 25 years and see how many people believe that folks would eventually be paying a very steep premium to own an Eichler or a Rummer.

It's worth noting that modernism was never truly a mainstream thing, at least in residential design. For many people, a home is simply a place to live and be comfortable; they want a place to keep their bed and their kids and their television, not a sweeping statement about the architectural values they embrace. MCM homes were built among a sea of other, more traditionally designed and styled buildings. Here in the San Fernando Valley, there are MCM homes by the thousands...but they're buried among so many other tens of thousands of traditional houses from that same era that a lot of them are actually quite difficult to find unless you already know where to look. George Alexander had his greatest successes in Palm Springs because although many people loved the idea of a more whimsical house as their vacation getaway, many of them wanted a more "serious" home to live in the rest of the time.
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Postby moderns-r-us » Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:12 am

When did it fall out of favor? :wink:
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Postby Perks » Thu Dec 06, 2007 11:54 am

Andy Perkins, Broker/Owner


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Chimay
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Postby Chimay » Thu Dec 06, 2007 2:04 pm

I second everything Perks said. I read an interview with Don Hensman once, and the interviewer asked him why he and Conrad Buff had shifted so dramatically in the 70s and later years away from building post & beam architecture. He said that they had just grown a bit bored by the style, finding it too limiting.

To me, personally, I still find that there's a sense of quiet, understated elegance and serenity in a post & beam building that you just don't get in a dry-walled, stucco'd box or even a concrete cube.

Just also wanted to add that building codes - especially for residential - accelerated the decline of of modernism in the 70s as the energy crisis, fireproofing, and other concerns caused post-and-beam architecture to become difficult or impossible to do in many areas (although there are ways to do it still today, depending on materials used, etc.), in favor of the current techniques.
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Postby egads » Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:51 pm

I also once read (somewhere?) that lenders killed modern. They just could not get their heads around newly defined spaces. It's the reason today, you find new tract houses with a little tiny living room and dinning room that no one will ever use. The people who lend the money want defined rooms. An open plan just does not pencil out for them.

An aside, I had a concrete guy I kind of know come to my Cliff May. He says "Where's the front door?" You can't believe how many of our neighborhood homes have been destroyed by folks trying to define a "front door" So many houses here have been taken apart and put back together just to fit the great unwashed masses definition on a house.

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Postby Perks » Fri Dec 07, 2007 8:31 am

Andy Perkins, Broker/Owner


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Re: Why did modern fall out of favor?

Postby davidk6 » Thu Dec 13, 2007 9:28 am

Marxist Philosophy: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

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Postby Chimay » Thu Dec 13, 2007 9:42 am

Friends don't let friends live in McMansions

House pics at http://www.flickr.com/photos/88017382@N ... 387250721/

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davidk6
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Postby davidk6 » Thu Dec 13, 2007 10:02 am

Marxist Philosophy: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

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Postby Futura Girl » Thu Dec 13, 2007 11:05 am

it's funny- in my manifesto for Mondo Lounge - i put the end of the "era" so to speak as quite a bit earlier... the loss of innocence from the televised broadcast of the kennedy assasination...

http://www.mondolounge.com/manifesto.php

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Postby davidk6 » Thu Dec 13, 2007 11:13 am

Marxist Philosophy: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

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Postby davidk6 » Thu Dec 13, 2007 12:32 pm

Marxist Philosophy: "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend; inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

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Postby hoodlam » Thu Jan 17, 2008 1:35 pm

modernism only really slowed down in the US in the late 60's 70's and 80's. The 90's and 00's have seen a resurgnce of a desire for good design. Modernism never went away in the rest of the world which explains why they are leaps and bounds ahead of us in terms of design and appreciation of design.

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Postby Jed » Fri Jan 18, 2008 9:12 am

Greetings,

Being from the northern suburbs of Manhattan, I can see a much different perspective. There is a sprinkling of modern houses in certain areas that were built by iconoclasts of their time in the 50's through the 70's. These were the bohemian types who made it to the suburbs. These houses are great, but they usually sell for a great deal of money, to people who want to replace them with big ugly houses.

Most of the housing stock from the 50's and 60's period is comprised of neocolonials, ranches with colonial details, split levels with colonial details, and then the dreaded, mass produced raised ranch with colonial details. While New York is considered to be cosmopolitan, the architectural tastes here have been very provincial for a long time. This is the area that can't get enough of the McMansion barbie dollhouse school of architecture. I think that modern styles never caught on here because they aren't showy and massive from the front. Our rich people just have less taste and less self-confidence than the west coasters. they need hollow fibergalss columns and non-working shutters to fake the feeling of old money.

I didn't realize that the type of modern 64 World's Fair style architecture really existed en masse outside the movies until I went to LA about six years ago. It opened my eyes to see so many beautiful houses in such a dense concentration. I could drive those streets for days, just admiring beautiful architecture. Looking at them from a NY point of view, I couldn't believe that such good taste was still standing. Even LA's fake chateaus and haciendas are better looking than NY's fake mansions.

On the other hand, Modern design has lived on inside. Most kitchens in new houses have space for dining, and a center island. Most floor plans have a "great room" and are more open, even if they retain a vestigial livingroom to show off the family's tacky reproduction antiques and cringe-inducing "distressed" country furniture.

Great modern houses tend to look unassuming from the road, and this has hampered their acceptance in my region almost from the start

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Postby SDR » Sun Jan 20, 2008 4:29 pm

Great comments. I grew up in Westchester, and I guess I'd forgotten the truth of your observation.

To take up your last point, the current series of "This Old House" (Dorchester turn-of-the-century remodel, I believe) just showed a new house in modified Shingle Style by an architect named McHarg. The house has an innovative interior: the entry and its stair are secondary in expression to the main stair tower rising from the family room (?); the entry foyer leads straight ahead into a sitting room, on either side of which are the kitchen (left) and said family room (?), right; in front of the kitchen is a library which, with a central table and long upholstered window bench, can serve as a dining room when necessary. "The Death of the Dining Room," says the architect.

The boys' bedrooms upstairs are divided from their hallway (with storage below windows) by sliding "barn doors" that, when open, expand the bedrooms into the hall space and create large cross-lighted areas. Nice.

SDR

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Postby rockland » Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:48 am

Well put Jed. Sad but true.
Smaller lots and dense population does not give much room for showy McMassive fronts.
Pretty impressive interiors in the density of Manhattan, and often blank stone-faced entries.
shocking that not much at all exists in Queens or Bklyn. (not really shocked) most of those
neighborhoods were well established by the 50's and no room for an Eichler/Cliff May way of living.
I do wonder what the Eichler neighborhoods planned for Spring Valley would be like today if
he had not been run off by the zoning thugs. A shame that only 2or3(?) exist. and a hundred or so were
planned? That alone may have made a huge impression and impact on the areas north of Manhattan.

The few homes near me of note for sale are suffocated by surrounding 3 story giants.
They sit on 3-4 acres. Just enough land to be replaced by a couple of McMe's.
Fortunately i need to go off the main roads to come across many of the (gasp) void of trees, manacured
green rolling lawns, spiral shrubs, and showy fronts.
(It's not the 'tooth fairy' anymore. It's the 'tittie fairy'.)


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