Glass House Conversations

    The Glass House was radical beyond imagination in 1949, but if created today it might seem tame, or just another house in Dwell magazine. Yet for American institutions of real power Modernism is still an unaccepted and possibly dangerous concept. Look at our currency; even the ‘new’ designs are utterly regressive. Consider iconic Washington; is any president likely to commission a modern rug for the oval office? Is there a single talk show or news set that has embraced modern design? Or baseball stadium? Not to mention the alleged public rejection of the redesigned Tropicana packaging or Gap logo. Americans cling to styles of the past just as firmly as the Tea Party claims that the past is America’s future.

    Once this was true for European Modernism. The 1927 Weissenhof housing exposition in Stuttgart promoted Modernism not only as the style of the volk, but as morally superior to traditional architecture. The public could be ‘saved’, in a quasi-religious sense, by Modernism. This notion was soundly rejected by most of the population and completely crushed by the German government which declared Modern art degenerate. After an appeal to make modernism the state style it forced the Bauhaus to close in 1933. But 75 years later the Reichstag has a glass dome by Norman Foster and the Bundestag meets in a modern space, while the only modern equivalent in the US is the UN; a kind of Vatican of internationalism in America’s most international city.

    In the design world it’s an article of faith that Modernism has been the dominant cultural style for decades. Designers, Architects and Artists are, in large part, solidly planted in the modern world, but the rest of America may not be as convinced.

    Why have we adopted a credo that the rest of America still can’t quite embrace?

    What will it take for America to embrace Modernism?

    Why is real power in America so anti-modern?