Politics

Modernism is back in Australian architecture. And that may be a good thing

If the Australian Institute of Architects Awards are anything to go by, modernism is back, baby. Guy Rundle reviews the good, the bad, and the mildly depressing.

Wangaratta Street by MAArchitects (Image: MAArchitects; Private Media)

There’s many ways to define what modernism is, or was, or is again, and one of them might be as a war between architects and the rest of us. From around the 1920s onwards, writing started to become deliberately difficult, music resistant to deep-seated ideas of beauty, and painting abstracted entirely from showing us stuff.

None of that really mattered per se; there was still Gershwin and Edward Hopper, and scholars of the future may well conclude that the most significant book of the last twenty years was Fifty Shades of Grey.

Architecture is different, obviously. The same spirit that animated modernism — active rejection of the past, of an idea of natural beauty — involves the destruction of whole cities, the breach with living memory, and the imposition of regimes against ornament and detail, and all the pleasures that people build back into their lives and environments when they get the chance.

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