We often lack the language to know what is wrong with modern architecture. It is shifty, trying to escape definition and trying to fit somewhere. There are many different styles, which are barely known by the general public. Reading this will help you understand why it fails so dramatically and give you the terms.
Ultimately, modern architecture derives its strength from a split, a very unnatural one. This split, is the split between two fundamental concepts: chaos and order (also termed by Jordan Peterson).
First on chaos. Chaos is disruption. It is splitting what was one. You don’t know where to look. There are too many focus points and too many parts. This is the consequence of deconstructing basic forms. Chaos is the tendency that breaks everything down, that makes things chaotic. There is nothing to hold fast to.
On the other hand, there is order. Order is ultimately a unity. Things come together. But too much order can entangle creativity. When the laws are too strict, nothing new can come. Totalitarianism, with its enforcing order can strangle a society. It is ultimately a kind of deadness.
How to apply them
Now, how do these two terms apply to art? Let’s first take a look at music. When there is too much order in music, it can get boring. You know what is going to come, it is very repetitive. An example is AI created music, or just some basic repetitive disco music. It is mostly generated by computer (which is a pattern that also returns in too orderly architecture and art in general). On the other side of the spectrum, there is the modern (classical music) tendency to create very disorderly music. It feels horrifying to listen too long at this, and this is most modern “classical music”.
Another example is in paintings. Abstract art is often very chaotic, without recognisable form. At what do you have to look exactly? There is too much detail, or it is just splatters of paint. I surely can’t see any meaning in that, how long I keep looking at that. Then, on the other hand, there are the extreme orderly styles, such as the typical line paintings and minimalistic art. They feel almost empty. Mondrian can also be classified in this. There is too much order, that it becomes empty. Nothing of worth is recognisable in this anymore, something both the chaotic and orderly art have in common.
Then a last example, architecture, which is found everywhere around us. The chaotic tendency, mostly found in the International style, feel like just randomly attached pieces. There is no coherence. Where is the entrance even of most of these buildings? Once inside, there is no clear structure where the important places are, or where exactly in the building you are. This can feel very alienating.
On the other side, you have the mall feeling. This dead style, found everywhere in the world, without a certain identity. Again, this boring dead feeling, without some kind of life. Brutalism and minimalism are examples.
The Solution: Harmony
A solution to this is a kind of interplay between chaos and order, but in what way? I think Mozart is the master of this on the musical side. What he does, is take very orderly and simple tunes (the orderly aspect), which repeat throughout the piece. These tunes sometimes change a little (which is the chaos), or get worked out in their fullness. This working out of the fullness, is chaos (as it is not the pure essence), but a chaos that points back to the origin. It remembers the original tune, and adds beautiful layers. It enhances the whole, instead of making it chaotic. Again, very important, the interplay between chaos and order. It is ultimately the order that wins, but it needs chaos to come alive, to breathe fire through it.
Take again the problem of architecture. Gothic architecture is the perfect solution to it. You have the basic structure of the church, the entrance and the sanctuary (part where the priest stands). Yet all Gothic architecture has a uniqueness to it. It is the play on a same theme. Similar to Mozart, there is a standard theme (the lay-out of the church, the order), and there are the variations and working out to its fullness (chaos). A church is beautiful on all levels, but you still know that you’re looking at a church. The details of the church are still part of the church and enhance them, instead of taking all attention. Again, the interplay between order and order. The order defines, but the chaos is interwoven, and enhances the architecture like a perfect symphony.
On the side of art and paintings, there should be something recognisable in it (the order). And then the beauty, the working out of the original idea, the adding detail, which increase the painting. Beautiful colors, little hints and secrets. The reason for the current split, is that we lack common stories, around which to center our art. First the great story, then the art. Ultimately, the classical stories, or the Biblical stories should be seen as a guidance.
The modern split, between chaos and order, is felt everywhere. In art, it becomes extremely visual and in music clear to hear. Ultimately, the best art is order with a layer of chaos. We all crave the return of Beauty and harmony, and these terms will give you arguments. It is in the harmonisation of the two that truth will be found!
Where do Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright fit in?