Doing Their Own Thing

U.S. architects: goodbye to glass boxes and all that

The 1970s were the decade in which Modernism died. Its Boot Hill turned out to be the U.S., in whose hospitable soil the dreams of the pioneers of modern art and architecture lie buried, toes to the rising sun. Once they hoped the world would be made whole by new paintings and new buildings. It was not, and there is no avant-garde any more; the very phrase has been scrapped, becoming one of the historical curiosities of criticism.

The belief that art could assist social change was a central idea of the Modernist enterprise. It pervaded the revolutionary idealism of...

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