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Merete Ahnfeldt-Mollerup

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A Crash Course on Modern Architecture (Part 2)

Merete Ahnfeldt-Mollerup is associate Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. This article originally appeared in GRASP.

Miss Part 1? Find it here.

Architecture is inseparable from planning, and the huge challenge for the current generation is the growth and shrinkage of cities. Some cities, mainly in the Southern Hemisphere, are growing at exponential rates, while former global hubs in the northern are turning into countrysides. In the south, populations are still growing a lot, while populations are dwindling in Europe, Russia and North East Asia. The dream of the Bilbao effect was based on the hope that there might be a quick fix to both of these problems. Well, there is not.

A decade ago, few people even recognized this was a real issue and even today it is hardly ever mentioned in a political context. As a politician, you cannot say out loud that you have given up on a huge part of the electorate, or that it makes sense for the national economy to favor another part. Reclaiming the agricultural part of a nation is a political suicide issue whether you are in Europe or Latin America. And investing in urban development in a few, hand-picked areas while other areas are desolate is equally despised.

The one person, who is consistently thinking and writing about this problem, is Rem Koolhaas, a co-founder of OMA.

A Crash Course on Modern Architecture (Part 1)

The Barcelona pavilion, now an architectural icon but unnoticed in the beginning. Image © Flickr User CC Wotjek Gurak. Used under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>Creative Commons</a>
The Barcelona pavilion, now an architectural icon but unnoticed in the beginning. Image © Flickr User CC Wotjek Gurak. Used under Creative Commons

Merete Ahnfeldt-Mollerup is associate Professor at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. This article originally appeared on GRASP.

This is where one has to quote William Gibson:”The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

Within architecture (and design and planning), there are always several simultaneous realities. One very pragmatic reason is that architecture is a very slow form of communication: it may take several decades from the moment a concept arises somewhere to the point where it becomes mainstream knowledge within the industry, and then even more time before it reaches the general public.

Take the “Modern Movement” in architecture. Basically, its theories and formal language were fully developed from 1919 through 1924. And when we read the history books, we get this distorted version that the great modernist pioneers were only stopped by the evil dictatorships in the Soviet Union and Germany. This is as far from the reality of the era as it can possibly be. 

Keep reading Ahnfeldt-Mollerup's crash course to architecture, after the break...