Talk: "It's alive!" – Regional Survival Strategies of the International Style
Global und rootless, produced with mindless efficiency, plonked down onto cities with no regard to human scale and context. Such was the cliché of modern architecture, and more often than not it was true. Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building in New York, the embodiment of International Style, was copied countless times around the globe, and a good dozen times by Mies himself. On the other hand, wherever it landed, modern architecture has mingled and mixed with local mentalities and traditions in weird and exciting ways, producing a host of clever and lively bastard kids in countless sub-styles. In Japan, Metabolism turned the austerity of Le Corbusier into biomechanical structures ready for takeover, while its next generation of architects turned cold concrete surfaces into something warm and earthy. Brazilians Oscar Niemeyer and Lina Bo Bardi and Mexican Luis Barragán twisted the Mediterranean DNA of High Modernism slightly further and made it lush and sensual. In rainy England and Scotland, architects oscillated between the humanist grimness of Brutalism and low-key Scandinavian cosiness, and in Eastern Europe, industrial prefabrication met in controlled collisions with archaic forms and symbols. Today, the modern heritage has entered its next phase, with Africa rediscovering and updating its traditions, and social design in Chile and elsewhere reclaiming the egalitarian modern ideals against retro-chic commodification. Modernism's not dead, it just smells different.