The Contemporary Home as a Microcosm of Postmodernist Failure
Contemporary home architecture is a perfect microcosm of why postmodernism has failed —
Don’t get me wrong:
Postmodernism isn’t unique in its failure. Every artistic and cultural movement must fail; it’s the only mode of progress.
I’m saying we just happen to be alive in a rare period of transition between artistic movements.
Let’s go to the single-family home as an example.
The Home-with-a-capital-H is a beautiful, but imperfect, institution:
- It’s becoming less accessible for average Americans to own a home.
- Old homes might have leaks, electrical issues, plumbing problems.
- Homes in certain parts of our country, like the Dixie south, were built with slave labor.
Rather than accepting the nuance of this institution, or creating a new style of homes, we’ve fallen into the trap of postmodernism: we’ve deconstructed the American Home.
Stripped it of its personality.
Taken its soul. Taken its structural nuance. And replaced it with these blocky, soulless collections of cubes.
It’s not just an architectural choice. We’ve completely deconstructed the idea of the American Home.
Because that’s the core of postmodernism: deconstructing for deconstruction’s sake.
Because we’re still coping with the fact that the Holocaust happened––
Because we can’t admit to ourselves that we lost the Cold War––
Because we still don’t know what exactly happened on September 11th or what it meant.
In fact, postmodernism should have died when those twin towers fell. But that’s beside the point. The point is:
The widespread nihilism that is characteristic of postmodernism is no longer viable.
We are so bereft of a God that we’ve become our own vengeful deities, tearing down institutions like the single-family home. Just to feel that something has omnipotence, even if it’s only evidenced by our own destructive powers.
In other words, as Americans we have become our own shadows. The very things we spent the better part of the 20th century fighting against.
The result? We build disposable homes, imbued with a uniquely American Brutalism:
These homes have the same geometric, minimalist, heartless style that marked brutalist architecture in the Soviet Union.
Except our Brutalism is packaged in materials more expensive than the USSR’s concrete:
Glass, cheap wood, fake brick facades––
what we’ve built are houses in only the most technical sense.
Mere simulacrums of homes.
Functional, disposable, godless. And not worth dying for.
Just like all of postmodernist creations.