This article was originally published on Common Edge. Apart from dressing like an undertaker, wearing black-rimmed circular glasses, and driving Swedish cars, modern architects’ most conspicuous trait is their aesthetic honesty, which is dangerous. Sincerity leaves little room for imagination. Contemporary architectural thought divides into camps, many of which are at war with each other. There is honesty in structure, function, and materials, the idea that what a building is should be explicitly expressed. The opposite is architecture that exists for its own sake, the building-as-object, wherein the only truth it knows is itself. These extreme philosophies and those in between are intellectually stimulating but often irreconcilable. Years of battles worthy of Homer ideologically split the profession into a loose federation of nation-states. As I write this, armies of architects are mentally marching in concentric rings, going nowhere.
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