In Defense of Modernist Architecture

Owen Hatherley presents his case for a revival of modernism, particularly in its original intent as a social reform movement, in his new book, Militant Modernism.
May 31, 2009, 9am PDT | Tim Halbur
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"In this sparky, polemical and ferociously learned book, Hatherley - an icon contributor - makes his case for a modernist reformation by eulogising some of its less-appreciated past glories. Modernism, far from being just another chapter in the history of architecture or the interior decorator's sourcebook, is nothing if it is not a comprehensive, utopian social programme. As such, it is a potentially useful "index of ideas" for progressives. As you might have guessed, Hatherley is writing from a position firmly on the left - he suggests that modernism provides a blueprint for a radical left-wing alternative to the existing world, a positive proposal for a political persuasion at the moment fixated on protest and rejection.

Militant Modernism breaks into four sections, each tackling a maligned aspect of modernism head-on: brutalism, totalitarianism, sexual politics and alienation. Hatherley is at his best in the architectural tours of the first two of these chapters, which look at Britain's experiments with brutalism and the Soviet Union's flirtation with the architectural avant-garde before the Stalinist freeze."

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Published on Friday, May 29, 2009 in Icon Eye
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