Andrew Sullivan, a British immigrant to America, is one of Mel’s favorite writers. He usually writes from a center-right position about politics and social matters, most recently for New York Magazine. His latest long column ended with a short segment lamenting the inability of architecture in the modern era to match that of Notre Dame. The headline above is his section heading.
Sullivan thinks that the primary criteria for modernist architecture is function and cost, and the creation of beauty is subordinate. He is definitely wrong. He stated, "Even if you survey modern cathedrals, there is a lack of detail and an absence of the kind of skill that enabled the twelfth century to construct marvels beyond our capacity." He mistakes the crustiness of ornamentation for complexity, and he hasn’t looked for the exquisite materials and details of modernist construction.
Notre Dame Cathedral is a prime example of the architecture of the agricultural age; times when religion was the primary purpose for life and architecture focused on God or the gods.
Today is Easter, and I am celebrating with fellow Christians the resurrection of Christ. But religion is not central in the industrial age, or the information age that we are now entering. Science became predominant in modernity, and we turned our attention to the quality of life.
The many beautiful modernist houses that have been constructed over the past hundred years are probably the best buildings to illustrate the equal design quality of our times. The houses of Frank Lloyd Wright alone compare favorably with any architecture in the world. From thousands of beautiful modernist houses that exemplify the beauty of modernist architecture, consider this villa from our forthcoming book "Southern Vietnamese Modernist Architecture." It is located at 29 Phạm Ngọc Thạch Street in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh City. It was designed by Vietnamese architect Nguyễn Văn Hoa in the 1960s. This beautiful architectural photograph is by Alexandre Garel © 2019.