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Roger Scruton, Architecture needs a Grammar
CLASSICAL and Gothic buildings spoke of another age, in which glory, honor, and authority stood proudly and without self-mockery in the street. We could no longer use their styles and materials sincerely, the modernists argued, since nobody believed in those old ideals. The modern age was an age without heroes, without glory, without public tribute to anything higher or more dignified than the common man. It needed an architecture that would reflect its moral vision of an equal and classless society from which hierarchies had disappeared. Hence it needed an architecture without ornament or any other pretense to a grandeur that no living human being could emulate, an architecture that used modern materials to create a modern world. The key words of this new architecture were "honesty" and "function." By being honest, modern architects implied, buildings could help us to become so. The new city of glass, concrete, and parkland would be a city without social pretense, where people would live in exemplary uniformity and be rewarded with equal respect. ...
For many people, the best thing about modernist music is that you don't have to listen to it, just as you don't have to read modernist literature or go to exhibitions of modernist painting. Architecture, however, is unavoidable. It is not a transaction between consenting adults in private, but a public display. The modernists nevertheless conceived design in terms appropriate to the intimate arts of music, literature, and painting. Their buildings were to be individual creative acts, which would challenge the old order of architecture and defy the tired imperatives of worn-out styles. Modernism's egalitarian mission could be accomplished only by a daring elite, who built without respect for the tradition of popular taste—indeed, without respect for anything save their own redeeming genius. The paradox here is exactly that of revolutionary politics: human equality is to be achieved by an elite to whom all is permitted, including the coercion of the rest of us. ...
Cf. A comment on Scruton's text, by J. T. Henry and Roger Scruton: Modernist buildings exclude dialogue. Cf. Victor Hugo, Variety, Eternity, Proportion: Time was the architect—Europe was the builder * J. O. y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses * Pericles Giannopoulos, The Greek line & the Greek color