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Facilitating civic engagement in the context of sustainable built environments
by Marjo Uotila

The ugly new and the beautiful old in Turku, Aurakatu

 

Facilitating civic engagement in the context of sustainable built environments

 

A stroke of serendipity. That’s how it seems now.

 

It was a snowy January in 2015. In the beautiful Stockholm old town.

 

I had just met with a bunch of colleagues, brainstormed about future collaboration.

 

Walking down to the subway, I took a newspaper to brush up my Swedish.

 

I was casually browsing the paper, not so sure there’d be anything to catch my eye.

 

That’s when it hit me.

 

An article about two guys who wished to see more humane, lovable, beautiful, genuinely sustainable buildings in Sweden. Michael Diamant had founded the Facebook group “Nyproduktion i klassisk tradition”, and Edvard Persson “Arkitekturupproret – det finns alternativ till fyrkantiga lådor”. They had started to engage likeminded Swedes in their groups.

 

They were publishing examples of an architectural approach, unheard of and forbidden in today’s Sweden and Finland, but alive and kicking in Germany, UK, USA, the Netherlands, Poland, Estonia, Russia. Almost in any other country except ours.

 

Let’s call it the contemporary classical revival, the 21st century classicism, as opposed to the modernistic architectural credo, dominant in Sweden and Finland.

 

I joined both groups, liked every posting and got to know Michael and Edvard. Their thoughts resonated with mine immediately.

 

Would there be a way to contribute? Would there be anyone in Finland, having similar thoughts? The simplest way to start was to become the founder of Arkkitehtuurikapina, the Finnish sister group to the Swedish ones.

 

 

Until that day I had believed in the truths we are told, even today, leading to the irreversible ugliness of our time.

 

We are told that beauty is subjective, in the eye of the beholder, so everyone thinks differently.

But studies on the most beautiful places or buildings show the common human preference towards the pre-modernist (before 1950s) variety of built environments, predominantly based on the classical tradition: an architectural philosophy and a set of rules on how to design sustainable buildings and cities from a human point of view, aiming to compose buildings with proportions, harmony, symmetry appealing to human perspective.

 

We are told that it is too expensive to build beauty.

But we are living in an age more well-off than ever. And even in poorer times, designing buildings with a modest purpose, it was considered worth the effort and investment to beautify the environment. Not to uglify.

Further, are all the ugly new buildings really cheap?

 

We are told that new buildings should reflect “our time”, not the past.

But this leads to false innovation, to value newness as a value in itself, only for the sake of novelty. And buildings to become outdated and ready-to-be-demolished at a quickening speed, so that there will be an urgent need for the new ‘new’ again and again.

All architecture is copying, imitating, emulating, recycling something that has already been done – classically inspired or modernistically inspired. But we are told to accept only the modernistically inspired new, although it also reflects the past.

 

We are told that a strong contrast between old and new architecture is a good thing.

But this leads to an ever worsening environment, with new buildings trying to stick out at any price. Adding contrast is adding chaos, not harmony.

 

The more I tried to dig into and understand these arguments justifying the modernist credo, the more all the arguments sounded like bullshit. They still do.

 

That’s why I believe it is an ideological phenomenon, dressed in the clothes of unquestioned truths. ‘The emperor has no clothes’ analogy.

 

Why should we be the generation to witness the downfall of beauty and the triumph of blunt ugliness?

 

 

 

Today we are a Nordic civic movement with altogether ca. 30.000 members in local, regional and national networks.

 

Join us if you care.

 

 

Marjo Uotila
Founder, Community Manager, Board Member

Facilitating civic engagement in the context of Arkitekturupproret-Arkkitehtuurikapina-Architectural revival

www.arkitekturupproret.se

www.facebook.com/groups/Arkkitehtuurikapina/

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