Nieuwmarkt -- Side Effects of Modern Architecture

Modernism created a new architectural style that broke away from its history, but it did more than that. By eliminating former styles it created a linguistic vacuum that could not be bridged by metaphorical intend only.


It had been a relieve to strip buildings of their in the end meaningless ornamentation, but the total lack of it made the public very uneasy in a need for meaningful details structured like a language.

People often add semantic elements to improve the relation with their environment. This sometimes culminates in fantastic results such as Sam Rodia’s Watts Towers in Los Angeles.

Watts Towers
Watts Towers, LA.

Demolition of Nieuwmarkt houses,'74.

More than stripping of the ornamentation of buildings, also, as a side effect of modernization, complete city quarters or village areas were erased to become replaced by large scale buildings. Such neighborhoods were regarded as replaceable objects, not to be living organisms. As a result riots became a part of the building process like in the Nieuwmarkt area of Amsterdam.
But as life is a learning process awareness grew and appreciation for beautiful places already existing. As much as possible houses became remodeled on an individual basis and special care was provided for the maintenance of monuments. In this respect modern products lack this extra care and attention. This way not only the architectural and urban language survived, but with it the neighborhood as a living entity.
Amsterdam Bloemgracht
17th century houses at Bloemgracht, Amsterdam.
Thompson Square

Side effect: the Homeless. Thompson Square squad, NY '90.

Exemplary modern neighborhoods had to be broken down for the opposite reason being the lack of social structure. Extreme monotonous and large-scale modern neighborhoods impoverished and had to be blown up. The demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing in St. Louis in 1972 marked the decline and ending of Modern Architecture, such writes Charles Jencks in his Postmodern Architecture. But in another edition he had to admit there is such thing as Late-Modern Architecture. Projects always larger in scale that replace old townscapes or valuable landscape areas. 
The main purpose of a building or a house is to create an optimal interior climate for its inhabitants. It cannot be denied, that improving health conditions was an item of attention for the modern world. One side effect of Modern Building however is what results in so-called 'sick buildings' through an accumulation of unhealthy materials and installations.

We communal try to ignore what our modern lifestyle causes. And more than that our Modern Lifestyle threatens the delicately balanced ecologies around the globe or destroys them. In our languages we speak in a derogative fashion of the “hut” of the “primitive” which may be a perfectly working house. If we don’t respect it than authenticity maybe lost forever and without it our environments will not sustain.

Townscape  of Sanga, Mali Africa, that inspired Van Eijck to create his structural architecture.

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