Victoria Somlo 
Member since Oct 23, 2013


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Re: “Charleston needs more contemporary buildings

Charlestonians should not fall for Whitney Powers's attempt to portray new traditional styles as being more "of the past" than "of the future." For centuries cities evolved, embracing diversity through design that built on the best practices of the past to move into the future. Thus, painting the past as somehow anathema to the future, or as somehow more stodgy than the future, is to embrace a false dichotemy.

Powers herself notes that many different styles fit well together in the past, and can do so today. She suggests that this means that the character of Charleston will grow stronger just as surely with more modern architecture as it did when many different traditional styles happened to fit well together over a period of centuries. She does not want to remind Charleston, however, that the harmony of diversity in traditional architecture was based on an underlying sympathy of forms.

The diversity that modernism promises for Charleston is based on an underlying lack of formal sympathy. The essence of modern architecture is disruptive. The character of a city of modernist forms is is indeed one that reflects its time. That is, it reflects the disruptive aspects of today's society. But architecture that emphasizes the disruptive for ideological reasons threatens to implant that disruption more firmly in the character of the city - which is not good for its people, whatever some elites may believe.

Even today, society in all of its aspects is more a matter of continuity than disruption. Tradition in architecture, be it historical or contemporary, emphasizes that continuity as a more valid way to make the future. Charleston is a place of historic beauty because it has embraced continuity for centuries, emphasizing it over disruption. The city can only remain beautiful and successful by continuing to embrace that continuity, and not allowing itself to be bamboozled into accepting Ms. Powers's false dichotemies as valid paths toward civic progress in Charleston.

David Brussat (Providence, R.I.) (Excuse Facebook's confusion of me with my wife.)

7 of 8 people like this.
Posted by Victoria Somlo on October 23, 2013 at 4:14 PM
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