Ugliness and modernity

14 Jul

How contemporary ugliness is.

Have you noticed how ugly most of our communities are, all the strip malls, concrete boxes, offices, and even churches, void of aesthetic touches?


Have you noticed that this is a relatively new phenomenon?

Yes, it certainly is.

Compare a modern shopping center to, say, the marketplace of Arles in Provence — it is now called the Place de la République — and the falling-off is incontestable. Where the Old Western man created beautiful forms instinctively, as a matter of course, we New Westerners as reflexively create ungainly ones. The Old Western man, the historian Johan Huizinga observed, insisted on having artistic beauty “in the midst of life”; the New Western man has “set art apart from life.”


If the New Western man delights to heap up, in his art mortuaries, fragments of Old Western plastic art — scraps of frieze and pediment, flèche and portico — he does not emulate his forebears by introducing this spatial poetry into his own everyday life; his schools, offices, and shopping centers are inartistic.

Alas, indeed…


Posted by on July 14, 2014 in culture, The Decline, The Kulturkampf


7 responses to “Ugliness and modernity

  1. Eric

    July 15, 2014 at 1:19 am

    The classical pagans and earlier generations of Christians believed that art and architecture were inspirations from the soul. As modern man lost his soul, his ability to create art has gone with it. Most art and architecture today actually does reflect the spirit of the age: meaninglessness, cynicism, and symbolism over substance. Even when a city tries to build something artistic, it just looks stupid, like this hideous structure:

  2. Will S.

    July 15, 2014 at 1:22 am

    The ancients were wise; our generations have become fools, and indeed, have lost our sense of taste as well as our morals and manners…

  3. Bub

    July 15, 2014 at 1:24 am

    I’ve thought about this alot but I don’t have any real answers. Maybe it’s the breakdown of culture or maybe it’s purely financial (higher building costs, shortage of qualified artisans)
    Maybe it’s a side effect of “diversity” – intentional blandness to not put off whoever they think might be put off by a display of a particular culture. Is it just easier to lease out a bland building rather than one with cultural “baggage”?

  4. Bub

    July 15, 2014 at 2:06 am

    I agree with Eric that we’ve lost something. And that building in Seattle is a perfect example. It looks like something from an untalented and uninspired first year architecture student. Makes you wonder what designs were rejected.

  5. Will S.

    July 15, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I don’t know why it is this way. It started real early, too: consider the drabness of the ‘modern’ architecture of Le Corbusier, who pioneered the ugly, blockly, concrete and glass monstrosities that are now omnipresent in every major city (thanks a bunch, guy!).

    And yet, it didn’t have to be this way; also in the early 20th century, there were innovative, fresh new styles like Art Deco and Art Nouveau, which nodded to the past and kept intricate details in the architecture like older styles, while becoming more colourful, and playful.

    So why did those new styles die out, and modern crap take over?

    Same with the world of art; in the early 20th century, the Surrealists came in, and gave us Dali and Magritte, who were mad but brilliant; and then what happened afterwards? We got ‘modern art’, a urinal in a gallery; paintings of three vertical stripes that look like they were done by a kid with a paint-roller, and ‘shock’ value crap like dresses made of meat, skulls made of gemstones, crucifixes in urine, and so on. No more real art, just transgressive boundary-pushing agit-prop.

    What happened? Other than the obvious, that somewhere along the line, artists and architects lost their visions…


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