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Supermoderism, Hans Ibelings


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Supermoderism by Hans Ibelings - an analysis

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Supermoderism, Hans Ibelings

  1. 1. Nicholas Socrates 2008Analysis: Architecture - In The Age of Globalization, by Hans IbelingsBiographyHans Ibelings is a Dutch art historian and independent architecture critic, exhibitionmaker and writer of numerous works including:Supermodernism: Architecture in the Age of Globalization (1998 / 2003)Twentieth Century Architecture in the NetherlandsAmercians: Dutch architecture in the NetherlandsTwentieth Century Urban Planning in the NetherlandsThe Artificial Landscape: Contemporary Architecture, Urban Design and LandscapeArchitecture in the NetherlandsUn-modern Architecture: Contemporary Traditionalism in the Netherlands.He was a professor at the Polytechnic school of Eindhoven (2003 – 2004), and a memberof the scientific committee of the ‘Ciudaded, Esquinas’ exhibition in Barcelona.Hans Ibelings , is also the editor of the international architecture magazine ‘A10 NewEuropean Architecture (since 2004).PostmodernismPostmodernism literally means after the modernist movement’.The movement of modernism and the following reaction of postmodernism are definedby a set of perspectives. It is used in critical theory to refer to a point of departure forworks of literature, drama, architecture, cinema and design, as well as in marketing andbusiness and the interpretation of history, law and culture in the late 20th century.Postmodernism is an aesthetic, literary, political or social philosophy, which was thebasis of the attempt to describe a condition, or a state of being, or something concernedwith changes to institutions and conditions.The major influence in this architectural theory was the difference between the degree ofthe construction: its theory in relation to its practice - it is easy to agree with the theory ofpostmodernism (its idea), but when its actual building is built, some people critize it forbeing un-human, with no charcter…techno-cratic.Postmodernism in Architecture is any of various movements in reaction to modernismthat are typically characterized by a return to traditional materials and forms, which ismarked by the re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding buildings inurban architecture, historical reference in decorative forms, and non-orthogonal angles. It
  2. 2. may be a response to the modernist architectural movement known as the InternationalStyleModernismModernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. Morespecifically, the term describes both a set of cultural tendencies and an array of associatedcultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes toWestern society in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The term encompassesthe activities and output of those who felt the "traditional" forms of art, architecture,literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated in thenew economic, social and political conditions of an emerging fully industrialized world.often led to experiments with form, and work that draws attention to the processes andmaterials used (and to the further tendency of abstraction).To, "Make it new!". However, the break from the past was not a clean break.Modernism: It is in its broadest cultural sense the assessment of the past as different tothe modern age, the recognition that the world was becoming more complex, and that theold "final authorities" (God, government, science, and reason) were subject to intensecritical scrutiny.Modernity affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape theirenvironment, with the aid of practical experimentation, scientific knowledge and/ ortechnology.This movement encompassed the notion that architectural solutions can be international,such as: ‘The Matching House’ idea – that each space in each house has a specialfunction which optimize its space. The critezen was strong. Some parts of this idea arevery important, like the significance of the international architect, but in general this ideawas very distant to the people, this is globalization too: one international architecture.In my opinion this is not nesseccary, and it is more important to have particulararchictectures for each country, relating to their context: their history, culture, economyand enviroment.Modernism encouraged the re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerceto philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was holding back progress, andreplacing it with new ways of reaching the same end.These diverse aesthetic expressions are also a reflection of individual architects andindustrial designers’ personal expression, based on designers’ tendency to experimentwith form, materials, and ornament to create new aesthetic styles and aestheticvocabulary
  3. 3. Three different principles are identified: the expression of volume rather than mass,balance rather than preconceived symmetry and the expulsion of the applied ornament.By the 1920s the most important figures in modernist architecture had established theirreputations. The big three names are commonly recognized as Le Corbusier in France,and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius in Germany. The commoncharacteristics of this Modernism/ International style include: a radical simplification ofform, a rejection of ornament, and adoption of glass, steel and concrete as preferredmaterials. Further, the transparency of buildings, construction (called the honestexpression of structure), and acceptance of industrialized mass-production techniquescontributed to the international styles design philosophy. Finally, the machine aesthetic,and logical design decisions leading to support building function were used by theInternational architect to create buildings reaching beyond historicism.DeconstructivismThe philosopher, Jacques Derrida is the father of the idea known as ‘deconstructivism’.This thought was applied to architecture, and in 1988 MoMA (the Museum of ModernArt in New York held the Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition, organized by PhilipJohnson and Mark Wigley) promoting this new movement as very important andsignificant, which propelled this school of architecture into the mainstream contemporarydesign circuit.Deconstructivism in architecture, also called deconstruction, is a development ofpostmodern architecture that began in the late 1980s. It is characterized by ideas offragmentation, an interest in manipulating ideas of a structures surface or skin, non-rectilinear shapes which serve to distort and dislocate some of the elements ofarchitecture, such as structure and envelope. The finished visual appearance of buildingsthat exhibit the many deconstructivist "styles" is characterised by a stimulatingunpredictability and a controlled chaos.SupermodernismToday globalization plays an important role in public opinion.It is precisely because so many phenomena are associated with globalization that itscapacity to explain specific conditions is so limited and tricky to English.After postmodernism and its deconstructivist off-shoot , a new architecture now seems tobe emerging, an architecture for which such postmodernist notions as place, context, andidentity have largely lost their meaning.A new trend towards abstract, neutral architecture, which in various respects can be seenas the last word of modern architecture of the postwar International Style.
  4. 4. My personal opinion is that when philosophical movements and schools of thought areapplied to architectural design it is fundamentally absurd and ridiculous. Architectureshould be architecture: no explanations about poetry and philosophy needed –architecture is architecture.Its relationship with the people, the environment and the economy are the practical issueswhich are important, and should take precedence.GlobalizationToday we lived fascinated by the image of the great city;its technological glorification.Fascination of architecture, is a modern passion.In the modern world local & global tensions infuse all places.Globalization is taking place in virtually every field - exerting all kinds of direct andindirect influences on contemporary thinking.Globalisation is very complex;Not just the expansion of Western capital and its simultaneous spread of products, cultureand style, but Free trade, instant communication & pre-9/11 open travel;The growth of cross-cultural contacts; stores of new categories of consciousness andidentities embodying cultural diffusions.Seeking to increase ones standard of living and enjoy foreign products and ideas,adopting new technology and practices, participating in a "world culture".The cosmopolitan, with an enthusiasm for urban expansion,seeks spectacles of experience that lure an on the move elite (and the labour to servethem) from one world-city to the next.Globalization in its literal sense is the process of making, transformation of some thingsor phenomena into global ones.As a process by which the people of the world are unified into a single society andfunction together. This process is a combination of economic, technological, socio-cultural and political forces.Globalization is often used to refer to economic globalization, that is, integration ofnational economies into the international economy through trade, foreign directinvestment, capital flows, migration, and the spread of technology.Thomas L. Friedman "examines the impact of the flattening of the globe", and arguesthat globalized trade, outsourcing, supply-chaining, and political forces have changed theworld permanently, for both better and worse. He also argues that the pace ofglobalization is quickening and will continue to have a growing impact on businessorganization and practice.
  5. 5. Herman E. Daly argues that sometimes the terms internationalization and globalizationare used interchangeably but there is a slight formal difference. The term"internationalization" refers to the importance of international trade, relations, treaties etc.International means between or among nations. "Globalization" means the removal ofnational boundaries for economic purposes; international trade becomes inter-regionaltrade.Supermodernism is post-postmodernism, a high tech-inspired aesthetic movement thatreacts against the heavy-handed, 80s-era promotion and deconstruction.Auge, in 1995, portrays the increasingly fleeting and fragmented nature ofsupermodernity as a disappearance of place, suggesting that non-places are the realmeasure of our time.These include spaces of transit and temporal occupation as well as the informationalspaces of telepresence; increased mobility and telecommunications and the rise of newmedia being ascribed to globalisation, are altering our experience of time and space.the virtual space through telephone, television and computer have transformed theexperience of place. The layerings of virtual and real are not seamless.International interrelatedness and the emergence of cyberspace have changed ourperception of cities. With increasing mobility space is being reduced to a transit zone, in-between spaces.Auges non-places are identified as the placelessness of the modern urban landscape.The experience of the meaningless of the built environment is mainly related to thedifference between place and spaceWhile such sites and their placeless experiences proliferate, they surely cannot be definedas outside social relations, history or identity.Augé’s remarkable observation was that, in the contemporary world, place is giving wayto “non-place.”Places are made up out of social interactions between people, accumulating in memory toform historical meaning.Contemporary life, however, is a relentless procession through spaces of transit. Airportlounges and freeways, high speed trains are non-places, but so are less obvious spaces:street corner ATMs, the tube, computer workstations, and supermarkets in these spacesthe global meets the local in travel and transit.In these spaces shared experiences between humans rarely develop.Non-places, Augé concluded, remain empty, meaningless environments that we passthrough during our solitary lives.Airports, themed amusement parks, planned communities and shopping centres areutterly cut off from their surroundings.
  6. 6. Hans Ibelings accepts the spatial foreclosure of these new developments. He simplywishes they were better, and by better, he means less preoccupied with representation andsymbolism.The non-attachment phenomenon is regarded as one of three forms of abundancecharacterising the supermodern condition;abundance of space, of signs, and of individualisation.The latter affects the use of public and semi-public space.Therefore non places are those places to which nobody feels any special attachment, andwhich are particularly common in the sphere of mobility and consumption.Public spaces have changed from a meeting place into a highly regulated domain withsurveillance, rather than social control mechanisms, but by a third party.For Ibelings, this is simply a fact of globalization.“The ideal of boundless and undefined space is predominating an age of information andtechnology, a kind of supermodernity” - (Ibelings 1998).These non-places, are typical expression of ‘In the age of globalisation’, and with thecollapse of time and space, everything can happen anywhere and everywhere, thusundermining the postmodern dogma that architecture must have a unique, authenticrelationship with its context, of identity and meaning.Hans Ibelings has cited an example for the future of the city in the Western World; as anendlessly urbanised area with no coherent form, no hierarchical structure, no centre andno unity;Hans Ibelings, writes that modern architecture has lost all contact with context; ‘anarchitecture in which superficiality and neutrality have acquired a special significance’.Metropolis cities, such as Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai & Generic city, havearchitecture characterised by an absence of distinguishing marks, by neutrality,particularly in relation to its context."Here we are in Robert Venturis [post]modern city, not just Las Vegas but any[post]modern city, a media-scape of office buildings and stores transformed by theircorporate identities into the new language of consciousness: the sign moulded in glassand light, splashed over with the insignia or characters of logos . . . Buildings are nolonger mass and weight, stone and iron, but an array of sentences spelling out theconsciousness of a city, what a city means when we enter it and use its services, consumeits goods. The citys language of buildings and streets of glass and light, is a declarationof ideals . . . which the city achieves by transforming things into words, objects intosigns, the dark of nature into neon abstraction and codes. . . the media-scape devours theliteral materiality around it." (Christensen 1993, p.9-10)
  7. 7. Supermodernism adopts the philosophy of computer product design. Structures appearportable and therefore disconnected from their surroundings. As with computers, all thedetail is on the inside, while exteriors are neutral and unassuming.‘Todays minimalism, incidentally, is purer than ever before, thanks to improvements intechnology and materials.’ Hans IbelingsGlobalized commercial architecture has developed a symbiotic relationship with a newbreed of global star architects.As cities, more than nations, now compete to attract global investment and globaltourism, they seek brand differentiation and symbolic modernity.The commissioning of public buildings by star architects is now an established marketingtechnique.The buildings must be extra-ordinary and designed by one of a small band ofinternational global architects.A new architecture is emerging; large-scale and stylistic forms of building; monumental-conceptual architecture – signature buildings, many of them gestural, on a vastarchitectural scale.This rise of a “Supermodernist” architecture is epitomized by the work of star architectssuch as;Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Jean Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas, Norman Foster, SantiagoCalatrava and Renzo Piano.These architects deployed sensation through a play of surface and materials to sway theviewer.There is a personalized autobiographical dimension in the work of star architects,reinforced by the media.Ibelings even compares architects to rock stars:The personal status of these architects is now so great and the demand for their presenceis so high - from students, the lecture circuit and competitions as well as the citiesthemselves.Their work is strongly conceptual and cannot rely on any detailed study of fine grain orculture of the locality.Star architects are continually ‘on tour’: for competitions, juries, teaching posts, master-classes, interviews, conferences and lectures and the odd construction meeting.Just like pop stars, these star architects have all developed a clear media strategy.They have become increasingly preoccupied with merchandising.The competitive marketing of these buildings by cities has set up an upward demandspiral.Out of the work of the star architects, design types and styles emerge and becomeidentified with successful cities, even before they are built.
  8. 8. As star architects are, by definition, limited in number, demand for symbolic andextraordinary buildings far outstrips the capacity of the star group to provide their owndesigns.The conceptual nature of these star products allows global commercial firms (often, theexecutive architects for the star architects) to clone the trademark design characteristicsof the star product.The reproduction of the spiral or twisted forms, globular glass, planar intersection and soon, is facilitated by the use of the same sophisticated computer graphics employed by theoffices of the star architects to develop and present their concepts.This trickle-down effect and the high status of star architects within the architecturalprofession has influenced architecture more generally than the global origins of the starproduct.This new architecture has been coined Supermodern by the Dutch critic Hans Ibelings;For this architecture the surroundings constitute neither legitimation nor inspiration forthese are derived from what goes on inside the building, from the programme. Thisautonomy is in many cases reinforced by the fact that the building has an inscrutableexterior that betrays nothing of what happens inside ... In many instances these buildingslook as if they might house just about anything: an office or a school, a bank or a researchcentre, a hotel or apartments, a shopping mall or an airport terminal.Architecture and its rated star system have ascended, over the more traditional visual arts,as hallmarks of global capitalism.Architecture and design have attained a privileged status in contemporary culture.Supermodernism was, Ibelings insisted, expressionless and neutral, generally takingorthogonal form (the Box), but quite possibly also resembling sculptural objects (theBlob).Organic architecture represents the dislocation of nature into a hyper-real transcendenceof pure technology.Nature now becomes contemporary.The nature and organic design value is based on the idea that nature (all sorts of livingorganisms, numerical laws, sacred geometry, etc) can provide inspiration, functionalclues and aesthetic forms that architects and industrial designers should use as a basis fordesigns.Bilbaoism, in its pursuit of the artificial representation of the organic as something thatis identifiable - and desirable –as pure surface representation.It is the architectural equivalent to Genetic Modification.The city of Bilbao has Frank Gehrys Guggenheim, the definitive iconic building. Thisbuilding has restored the fabric of Bilbaos historic centre.Bilbaoism give forces to (the contemporary) world of replicated versions of techno-organics;
  9. 9. Nature gets remade by technology into the representation of the essentialist forms ofnatureOrganic designs tend to be characterised by free-flowing curves, asymmetrical lines andexpressive forms.The high technological development in glass and steel and other material over the last tenyears is an important factor for this surge of modern architecture.Integrating the latest construction technology in architecture has become an acceptedtrend, underlying a truly modernist belief in progress and reason.These latest technological developments make it possible todesign and build buildings which the modernists hadenvisioned and dreamed about in the early phase ofmodernism, but did not have the technology to actuallybuild buildings which could be so sleek and almost translucent.Mies van der Rohe’s vision of glass tower high rise buildings, conceived in the early partof the century, for the Friedrichstrasse in Berlin, which could only be realized 70 yearslater. Also buildings as the ‘Bibliotheque Nationale’ in Paris by Dominique Perrault, the‘Fondation Cartier’ by Jean Nouvel or the Louvre pyramid by the Amercian architect Pei– are a few examples.Only at this point in history modernism in its pure form anddissolution of materiality can be fully realized.Hans Ibelings labels these contemporary works of minimal form, minimal material, andminimal character as “Supermodern.”He describes their disabling abstractions and transparencies in profound & critical terms:“Today’s [architectural] minimalism, incidentally, is purer than ever before, thanks toimprovements in technology and materials. This purity is found both in the extraordinaryaesthetic architecture of the likes of Tadao Ando, Wiel Arets, and John Pawson, and inthe ‘almost nothing’ of today’s average glass box, the shape of which is also moreabstract than ever before [...] This simplicity is not primarily a reaction to the aesthetic ofvisual excess, although that aspect certainly plays a role. In essence, the new abstractionis an expression of a fundamentally different attitude to architecture, which it sees lessand less as significant and filled with symbolic meaning, and more and more as a neutralobject.”Minimalism is the design of simple forms, in aesthetics without considerable ornaments,simple geometry, smooth surfaces etc.Apparently the more cultivated a person becomes, the more decoration disappears.Simple forms will free people from the everyday clutter, thus contributing to tranquillityand restfulness.
  10. 10. The banishing of unnecessary ornament was articulated as a sign of hope, freedom andauthenticity.Local distinctiveness is often not a desirable characteristic.The intention is that the building should be an iconic global product.John Chase states in contemporary architecture: ‘Icy images of monuments, strictly byarchitects of global stature, float in a sea of seductively neat observations celebrating thepromise of a homogeneous worldview.’Postmodernist buildings—and some design products— are designed in accordance withthe particular characteristics of a specific place, achieving visual harmony between abuilding and its surroundings, as well as achieving continuity in a given area.Striving to create a connection between past and present forms.Postmodern practitioners always tried to find some way of expressing the building’spurpose, either by following the conventions of building typology or by adding symbolicpointers;Preserving and creating regional and national identitySupermodernism would argue that even if this intention is present it will not necessarilybe apparent to the users.Hans Ibelings, focuses on ‘the undefined, the implicit, qualities that…find powerfulexpression in a new spatial sensibility.”All design involves preconceptions about the nature of the community in a broader sense,whether they are conscious or not.Experiential richness cannot be created by accident, or without a basic understanding ofthe sensibilities of those who will be using the space.The development of the aesthetic reality, which characterises contemporary architectureand industrial design, by means ofindividual self-expression or one’s inner spiritual self and creative imagination, innerresources and intuition are utilized as the base used when designing.This philosophy is closely linked to a number of artistic values found in movements likeExpressionism and the Avant-garde art movement. This design value is closely related toabstract forms and expression, personal creative liberty, elitism and being ahead of therest of society.Expressionistic form, which can be found, to some extent in the “air” of a given time andeach generation, should generate an aesthetic style that expresses the uniqueness relatedto that time.Every age has a certain spirit or set of shared attitudes that should be utilised whendesigning. The Spirit of the Times denotes the intellectual and cultural climate of aparticular era, which can be linked to an experience of a certain worldview, sense of taste,collective consciousness and other-than-conscious greater awareness.The 20th century has been marked by the re-emergence of environmental values withinWestern societies.
  11. 11. Environmental problems and challenges found in the 19th and 20th centuries led to adevelopment where environmental values became important in some sections of Westernsocieties. These values can also be found among individual architects and industrialdesigners.Environmental technology, along with new environmental values have affecteddevelopment in cities across the world. Many cities have started to formulate andintroduce; eco-regulations concerning renewable resources, energy consumption, sickbuildings, smart buildings, recycled materials, and sustainability.50% of all energy consumption in Europe and 60% in the US is building-related.The future of architectural will be tested in this latest and most urgent global crisis; thesurvival of the ecology of the planet, such that it will continue to support our globalcivilisation.This is the supreme challenge for globalization: the cause, the effect and the resolutionare and will be global and local.It will affect all aspects of social, political and economic life and it will have a profoundimpact on architecture.