Modernism,Post Modernism, Ultraviolence.

After today’s class (301014). I could not help but notice the similarities between the decline of modernist architecture in Britain, and the residential environment depicted in Stanley Kubrick’s movie, “A Clockwork Orange”. Based on a book of the same title written by Anthony Burgess in 1962, one could probably say that the parallels drawn were probably from events and occurrences of the times due to the close proximity of London’s modern expansion and the year the book was written.

Leaking roofs, unkempt streets, vandalism and thugs roaming the corridors(or streets in the movie) were common points of interest. The main difference, was that the movie depicted London in the future, while in reality, this was post-war London. Was this the author, and subsequently, Kubrick’s expression of a futuristic London or could it have been a perverted and exaggerated sign of the times? Nonetheless, the aforementioned issues were, in my opinion, resultant from an idea ahead of it’s time. It was great that the modernist utopia was extended into the everyday home. Everyone got to live in a “spacious” house, everyone got heated water and temperature control, and everyone even got something of a garden(communal or private, depending on the location). It was a dream home that appealed to the English sensibilities, the idea of your own “home and garden”, and it was no longer just a dream.

Needless to say, it was a great failure. Many reasons were cited to be the reason for failure, and they were, but not exclusively, poor design, shoddy workmanship, mimicry of an unsuitable design, poor materials used and an overly aggressive political push. Considering these points, one could not consider the buildings to be “Modernist” other than it’s physical outlook as they have basically failed in some of the most basic tenets of modernism. In my opinion, the idea was great, but execution, not so much. And as mentioned, the failure was due to it being too avant-garde.

How is it that I have such faith in the idea being too advanced for its time? In another place 10 years down the road, a young, emerging country did the exact same thing with far greater results. That country, was my home country of Singapore.

Conceptually similar to the one in Britain, but with better technology, better materials and blessings of a more benign weather, Modernism flourished in Singapore. Even up till today, buildings built in the 1960’s, other than their styling, look fresh and maintained due to efforts from both the government and people. No leaking roofs, no unkempt streets, controlled vandalism and one of the lowest crime rates in the world, Singapore’s modern utopia was what Britain could have done, if only done 10 years later.

As such, I feel that modernism in Britain was a situation of striking before the iron was hot, and therefore broke it before it could become something really great.

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