Should Modernism be preserved?

I love Modern architecture.  One of the highlights of last year was when I visited Phillip Johnson’s spectacular Glass House in New Canaan, CT.  The house has a serenity, an intelligence and a beauty that is difficult to describe in words.  It makes you feel, it makes you connect to it.  I am so grateful it has been preserved and made available to the public.  Other Modern favorites are Le Corbusier’s Carpenter Center at Harvard and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Chicago lakefront apartment buildings.  The Seagram Building and Lever Building in New York are must see attractions in my book.

But should all Modern building be saved? No.  Too many are second rate, bad, dysfunctional.  For example, should anyone weep over the Walter Gropius’s MetLife building in New York?  No.  If it were to be torn down, all that we would lose is a firsthand example of how architects can be arrogant or unable to resist the pressure of commerce.

I don’t buy the arguments that someday, we will miss these buildings when tastes change.  A couple of years ago, James Levine presented a Boston Symphony Orchestra season long program of Schoenberg and Beethoven.  After a year of concerts, lectures and exhibits, I still don’t like Schoenberg.  I now understand why I don’t and also understand why after nearly a century, the public doesn’t either.  Modern music fails to resonate with people’s psychic needs.  It doesn’t connect. Much of Modern architecture is the same.  The public is never going to come around.  Stop waiting.  Most of these buildings should go.

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