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Acclaimed theorist Sylvia Lavin's essay Temporary Contemporary from Perspecta 34


  • The MIT Press and Yale University, School of Architecture are collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Perspecta.

    Yale University, School of Architecture

    The Temporary Contemporary Author(s): Sylvia Lavin Source: Perspecta, Vol. 34 (2003), pp. 128-135Published by: on behalf of Perspecta. The MIT PressStable URL: 14-07-2015 23:52 UTC

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  • ^ a/////// rchitecture became contemporary. b ///////// oWhile this displacement began in the 1s mod %////X // 1940s and can be tracked through it crtf e The Dome at Soane House.

    ^/// nomyriadture forms, the shift had been

    In that year Sigfried Giedion look." Replacing the prewar emphasis terrain and a sensibility that is /y/// y///// iedpublished A Decade of Contemporary on firmness and commodity, they not historically determined.

    /Architecture, in which he describes seized on the element of the Modernism had become contemporary by /////////////// the "consolidation of the whole Vitruvian triad that the modern 1954, but the contemporary is modern

    ////////////// /movement." This publication reveals movement had neglected and argued with fashion sense. Today the

    y/////////////////a distinct struggle with the that "delight is the current difference between being modern and nomenclature of a phenomenon that fashion."3 When modern architecture being contemporary relates to but

    yy/////// ///////// Giedion argues began in 1947, with became contemporary, it shifted exceeds the differences that existed

    titles shifting among 'new," allegiance away from industrial at mid-century. The modern movement

    y//////v//////^//"recent," "modern," and so forth, production, the fortitude of understood itself to constitute a

    / // settling down uneasily and with engineering, and an ethos of fruition of a historical

    //////////////// hreservations to "contemporary" in purification, forging new development, culminating the 1954.1 That same year the editors of relationships with interior design, timefulness of classical eternity by

    ///////////// pArchitectural Record compiled A decoration, fashion , and above all substituting it with timelessness.

    / Treasury of Contemporary Houses.2 the quixotic pleasures and designed Tomorrow's House, a 1945 compilation While all the featured houses were obsolescence of consumer culture.4 by George Nelson and Henry Wright of described as modern, the editors Despite the basic undertone of Architectural Forum, equivalent in

    ////////////// also claimed that these houses conflict in Giedion and of many respects to A Treasury of

    /////// ////////resisted and exceeded doctrinaire celebration in the editors of Contemporary Houses and often

    / // definitions of the modern: "Why Record, both efforts to periodize mistaken as a harbinger of postwar ////////////////should a modern house have to have a modernism did so by restricting developments, actually enjoined the ///////////// / pnflat roof? Or a glass wall? Or an prewar modernism to architectural reader to be modern. Nelson and

    //////%/ / //////open kitchen? Why should it have to fixations and dispersing postwar Wright promised that architecture

    //////// //// / have its structure exposed? Why modernism into decorative could end the past by capturing the

    /////////////// shouldn't it have anything its supplements. In other words, in the future: "If one were to take the

    ////owners// really want, including a logic of mid-century rhetoric the best planning ideas, the best

    ///// ///////// ////curve or two, even a Victorian modern house had, by 1954, come to structural schemes, and the best

    ///////y///////// curve?" be dressed up in a contemporary equipment that have gone into the

    ~////////yy ~~/. ~style.5 best modern houses, and combine them

    y/y y//////// For the editors of Record the appropriately in a single house, the

    y////////contemporaneity of these houses lay This shift from modern architecture result would look like something out

    y/// /y///////in this excess desire. Unlike to contemporary style describes a of the day after tomorrow."6 Nelson Giedion, whose struggle to define historical phenomenon, a specific and Wright's injunctions against

    ~/^ ^/////// the contemporary led him simply to condition that emerged at a certain style ("you will find no catalogues % / extend modern categories like moment under definable of 'styles' [here], no orations on

    ^%y/////~ //// structure, urbanism, and social circumstances. Loosely speaking, the good taste"), against fashion ^/ improvement, the Record editors shift is characterized by the impact ("individuality in houses, as in

    /////// ///// asserted the contemporary's on the modern movement of social, people, is a fundamental expression yy y////// / ///specifically antimodern character: economic, and cultural developments of something real. It has nothing to

    ////////these modern houses had become occurring during and just following do with fashion"), against %%^contemporary by acquiring nothing World War II. But the contemporary specificities of all kinds ("the

    /////// / more (but nothing less) than a "new as such announces a speculative room with no name"), were efforts to

    ^yyyyyy ^1. Sigfried Giedion first published A Decade of New Architecture in 5. Another way to articulate the same historiographical point, which 1951. The second edition, which appeared in New York in 1954, has constitutes something of a digression in this context, would be to say

    //////////// two title pages, both n three languages. The French and German titles that as postwar architecture dispersed into contemporaneity and into remain consistent. Dix ans d'architecture contemporaine and Ein architecture's decorative supplements, it produced a consolidated ///// yJahrzehnt modermerArchitektur, respectively. The English title view of prewar architecture characterized by strictly architectural /

    /////yv////// / appears as A Decade of NewArchitecture in a small typeface on the fixations. Despite the differences in the manifest attitude toward the // { /////yy ///////y ////// first title page and as A Decade of Contemporary Architecture in a contemporary in the texts by Giedion and the editors of Record. both //' /

    large typeface on the second title page. The second edition contains efforts to delimit or at least define the contemporary brought into being /

    //y/////////y y an appendix on the years 1947-1954, which Giedion in his preface the very modernity with which the contemporary was contrasted. In // // /// / / //////^^/ describes as a "supplemental covering" of the "further consolidation of other words, it can be said that the modern house was laid bare only //

    /// ////X ////the whole architectural movement." when, by 1954, it had been dressed up in a contemporary style.

    yyyyyyyy/> //yyy2. A Treasury of Contemporary Houses Selected by the Editors of 6. George Nelson and Henry Wright, Tomorrow's House: How to Plan /

    S//yy////yy//// Architectural Record (New York: F.W. Dodge, 1954). Your Post-war Home Now (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945), 8. /

    y///y/////X///////~ 3. Emerson Goble, introduction to ibid. v. This book is often interpreted as a harbinger of the distinctiveness of // y////yyyy // /////////// 'oble, 'ntroductn tpostwar architecture. My argument. however, is that while the book ///// 4. Still today, common associations with postwar contemporary design may contain material often periodized as "postwar," its theoretical // are "heightened expressiveness, broader ranges of color and shape, concerns remain entirely modern and indeed helped constitute the /, and a mood of pleasure rather than austerity." See Lesley Jackson, very modernity with which it is contrasted. / // "Contfemporary": Architecture and Interiors of the 1950s (London:

    ///X Phaidon, 1994). / //,

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