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The Big Rethink: farewell to modernism − and modernity too

The second essay in the new Campaign decries Modernism for its betrayal of our essential humanity, and puts the case for why this must be regained to achieve true sustainability. In an emerging epoch based on a vision of a ‘living, organic universe’, architecture must start again to mediate our relations between nature, place and community.

Last month’s essay concluded by asserting that the ugent quest for sustainability spelt the end not only for Postmodernism, but also the termination of, rather than a return to, Modernism. If the former is not disposed to effective action (for reasons to be explored next month), the latter is unsustainable to its core. This month we start our investigation of the latter claim by exploring some key aspects of the unsustainability of modern architecture, recognising this belongs to the final, climactic phase of modernity − the era that started with the Renaissance and emergence of science. (The fundamental unsustainability of modernity, which further compounds that of modern architecture, will be explored in a later essay.) First, a caveat: although the downsides of modernity and postmodernity are a major topic of the Big Rethink, both cultural paradigms have also brought great and lasting gifts.