By Cher Xiong
Standing upon a simple yet elegant mansion, I was awed when I first saw how architects were able to transform white walls and wide pane glasses into such an aesthetic building. Walking through the rows of mansions by the lake, I always admired the modern houses the most. I admired how architects are able to turn such a simple shape like boxes and triangular prisms using the colors of whites, grays, and black to establish grand and beautiful houses. To me, these homes represent wealth, elegance, and power. As an immigrant, these qualities are part of the dream that my family and many other families had dreamt of when sacrificing our blood and sweat. To live in such a house meant that you worked hard to get there.
As my host brother walked me through the traditional houses and the shops, we came to a halt at a big intersection. At first glance, I noticed all the sleek and beautiful modern houses across the road. This road is where the vacation homes for the rich intersect with the homes of the people whose ancestors have lived here long before it became a destination for tourists. I admired how beautiful they were, but questions popped up in my head. Why do these beautiful houses feel so out of place? What was here before them? As I explored my new home, I noticed that these houses were by the beaches, on top of mountains, and in perfect places for houses to be located with amazing views. Everywhere I go, there is always a white boxed house with beautiful details. They all begin to look the same to me. A house that I used to admire so much now became so common, basic, and identity-less.
Modernist architect designs became popular after world war two. It was a form of design to embrace the beauty of simplicity, function, and rationality that utilized the new materials and advanced technology. These modern designs reject old, traditional, historical ideas and styles, and ornamentation. These designs were meant to improve the standard of living for all by using industrial ideals.
The inspirations drawn by modernist architecture is to make the home more functional, rational, and improve the quality of living. When you look closely to those who live in these houses and how big they are, you begin to question these intentions. The people who live in these types of houses already have access to wealth and a great quality of life. The homes that are made in this style takes up so much space for usually a family of four. Due to the fact that this style rejects the old, traditional, and historical ideas, it looks out of place, especially when it is planted in a city that has a lot of historical context such as Florianópolis. In my perspective, these houses fail to appreciate the culture and historical context of where they are built. The style is so different from those before it that it seems as if they don’t want to acknowledge the history of the land. The intention of the modernist design is to improve the home for people throughout the world, but the impact doesn’t correlate with the intention. This is because only those with access to wealth have access to this design, because it takes up more room than it needs, and it is a clear display of wealth and power. The modernist home design is a beautiful design that has great intentions to improve society, but fails to deliver the impact.
I appreciate these homes for their intention and beauty, but after seeing what the impacts are, I am beginning to question that appreciation. Architectures are a great part of history and culture of a location. When you implant something so different and it doesn’t relate to the culture, like modernist architecture, it seems as though the culture and history of that location was not acknowledged, creating ignorance and division between the new and the old.
Larkin, Maggie. “A Brief History of Modern Architecture and Design.” Daily News, The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., 22 July 2013, http://www.dailynews.lk/2013/07/22/features/brief-history-modern-architecture-and-design.