Modern versus Traditional

I was driving and stuck in traffic one afternoon. Stopping at a red light I was just noticing the latest city development in the intersection. One my left side is the latest incarnation of high-end modern condo development. The building looks to be almost completed and ready to offer modern luxury to those who could affordable it. Across the street is what looks to be a turn-of-the-century apartment building. It is very well-kept and maintains a lot of the original facade details. Out of curiosity, I asked my friends in my car which buildings they would rather live in if the prices are comparable. Both of them response very quickly and pick the older building. I quickly pointed out that the new building probably has a lot more modern amenities like en-suite washer /dryer, concierge services and in-house gym. But both still pick the old building saying that it is more unique and has way more charm. If the interior is renovated they would have no reservation in moving in. This response prompted me to question the positions modern architecture hold in the contemporary psyche. What prompted two highly educated individuals, one of them a young architect no less, to quickly dismiss the latest modern architecture project as being charmless and hence undesirable to live in?

You might say, because I didn’t give an apple to apple comparison. But when further examine, I think they are fair comparisons. One being a new condo development, that incorporates quality finishes and employes some contemporary facade manipulation to break down the massing into individual units. It is by no mean a contemporary architectural masterpiece or even an architectural adventurous building, but at least it is not a play by the book condo clone. From the drive-by glance, it is not a building that would offend the general masses. As for the older building, it is a very handsome turn of the century building, with brick facade, ornate details on cornices as well as a steady deployment of bay windows. It is no doubt built for an upper class occupancy in its days. From a layman perspective, the judgement projected onto the two buildings are totally based on the modernist stylistic approach versus the traditional beaux-art style. As an architect whose architectural education is entirely based out of the modernist doctrine, I want to understand the underpinning of the populous preference towards the traditional.

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