The Old is New Again: Modernist Aesthetics and Form in Contemporary Urban Visions

By Harry Margalit.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Early modernist architecture developed with its corresponding urban visions. Key amongst these were the proposals of le Corbusier and Ludwig Hilberseimer, who gave form to rationalized solutions for the perceived urban ills of the time. Hilberseimer’s work, in particular, has attracted critical comment due to the highly abstract and relentlessly severe nature of his urbanism.
The paper proposes a reading of Hilberseimer’s work as a response to a political context where speculations about the form the future might take were subject to ongoing radical left-wing critique. In the face of this critique the individual as humanist subject is diminished, as K Michael Hays has written. Using examples from contemporary urban visions, this paper proposes that there is an historical reflex whereby architectural and urban imagining responds to the radical critique of environmentalism in a manner that parallels early modernism’s response to socialism.
The paper is not an assessment of the objective intent of these visions. Rather it proposes that urbanist proposals can be understood as recurrent historical tendencies, arguing that there is a politics explicit in urban forms following modernism which is manifest as distinctly today as it was in the early 20th century.

Keywords: Modernist Architecture, Urbanism, Ecological Urbanism, Urban Futures

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.39-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 728.516KB).

Dr. Harry Margalit

Associate Professor, Faculty of the Built Environment, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Harry Margalit is Associate Professor in Architecture at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. He has a professional degree in architecture, and a PhD from the Power Institute of Fine Arts at the University of Sydney. He has published extensively on Australian Modernist and contemporary architecture, and the dissemination and reproduction of modernist architecture generally. This in turn has informed a range of publications on design theory, energy policy and urban development. He also has extensive industry experience, and continues to design and build.