Lecture 5. 1900 Modernism and the Colonial World to Post-Colonial and Post-Modernism

This lecture discusses the influential manifestation of the European Beaux-Arts ideal in America through the City Beautiful Movement and its far-reaching effects in America’s most recent imperial acquisition: the Philippines. Also discussed is Germany’s war with a world that had grown powerful on colonial riches: World War I. The fallout of World War I permanently cleared out all vestiges of the pre-industrial, pre-colonial world and ultimately even spelled the death of the colonial world. The old-world empires all lost, industrial technologies and capital reigned forth, and the whole world decisively advanced towards nation-state hood. Additional influences include the establishment of the Bauhaus in Germany in 1919, the emerging expression of communist ideals of the Soviet Union after 1917, and the Cubist-inspired projects of Le Corbusier beginning in 1917. By the middle of the 20th century, the great expectations of the European Enlightenment, and of its modernist institutions, were both being pursued with greater zeal than ever and being widely critiqued for their contradictions and failures. High-Modernism’s heyday was the mid-century global world; but it was also its watershed point: from here it went into steady decline, to be severely challenged, and supplanted, by its postmodern critics by the late 1970s and early 1980s. The discussion continues to the defining event of World War II in disrupting the modernist project and dismantling the colonial world. Emerging aesthetics like Brutalism represent new expressions of the modernist work. By the mid-1970s, criticism of the perceived failures of modernist urban schemes evolved into a more scathing criticism of the formal orthodoxies of modern architecture. The emergence of Postmodernism called for a heightened awareness of a building’s context, though how such context was defined would be much debated. The introduction of more advanced technologies in the architectural planning process has recently enabled architects to envision, and to successfully construct, structures that previously would have been unthinkable.

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