Some buildings on the planet will take your breath away: the Taj Mahal, La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Colosseum, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and the Sistine Chapel, among others, of course. These are true testaments to the incredible structures that humans can create when they have vision, energy, and resources.
However, it’s rare to find a new building that makes visitors say anything other than, “It’s all right.” And one Twitter account that’s dedicated to calling out lackluster modern architecture is Culture Critic. Below, we’ve gathered a list of pics from this page that might make our ancestors shudder, so enjoy scrolling through them, and be sure to upvote the ones that make you wish you had lived several hundred years ago! (H/T)
The Culture Critic Twitter account has only been around since 2020, but it’s already made quite a name for itself on the site, amassing an impressive 718.4k followers. The page states, “Tradition is not worshiping ashes, but preserving fire.” And over the past few years, it has shared nearly 1,400 tweets celebrating fantastic art and architecture of the past while also calling out some of the most disappointing pieces and structures of our modern day.
Of course, everyone is allowed to have their preferences regarding which buildings they consider the most impressive or excellent in the world. But if you look at almost any list featuring the planet’s most breathtaking structures, you’ll quickly find that many were built at least a century ago. Plenty was even built several hundred years ago! So why don’t we create buildings like we used to anymore? We still find them beautiful, so what happened to ornate churches and stunning state buildings? First, let’s take a look at Gothic architecture in particular.
According to Newspire, you don’t see Gothic buildings popping up in your city today for several reasons. These structures are costly to build and maintain, the style isn’t in fashion anymore, and there aren’t enough skilled stoneworkers to create intricate designs today. Building planners must pay a pretty penny for these structures; they don’t always have the necessary resources or time. Also, no matter how much you may love the Notre-Dame, this building style has been deemed outdated.
The peak of Gothic architecture was around the 12th and 13th centuries, and since then, the Renaissance and Baroque styles pushed these designs out of the forefront of architects’ minds, and they have rarely been revisited since. And nowadays, it would be highly challenging to find builders familiar with and skilled enough in the construction techniques needed to perfect a gorgeous Gothic building.
But of course, Gothic structures are not the only gorgeous buildings we don’t see anymore. So why are modern structures so ugly? According to Nader Sammouri at ADF Magazine, a lot of it comes down to today’s architecture being a business. There’s not as much emphasis on aesthetics or creating a beautiful structure that will complement a city. Architects are often given small budgets and strict time constraints, so they make do to earn a paycheck. Plus, many other factors are at play today, including government regulations, safety codes, and political agendas, that may impact how much freedom an architect has.
Despite being eyesores, many modern buildings are also terrible for our planet. John Barham wrote a piece for Medium explaining how the materials used nowadays make buildings last for much less time than their predecessors. “Switching from wood, bricks, and stone to concrete, composites, and plastics is a big part of the issue, as these new ‘low maintenance’ components often mean ‘un-maintainable’ and become destined for landfills,” Barham writes. “For example, while a wooden sash window will need regular repainting, it can last hundreds of years, but a plastic window, once damaged, will need to be completely thrown away.”
Barham also notes that the ideology behind modern architecture is also a problem. He notes that architects today argue that because beauty is subjective, they don’t need to worry about intricate details or trying too hard to make a structure stunning. “When they find themselves bored by the dullness of a sheer glass and concrete façade of a pastiche Minimalism, they turn to irregular, incoherent, asymmetric shapes, or uncomfortable cantilevers,” Barham writes. “They claim their brief is to shock with ‘originality’ or to ‘challenge’ the public. The results are anti-human buildings that do not ‘spark joy.'”
Creating buildings while solely concerned with function also does a disservice to future residents or occupants, as they will no doubt want to renovate or rebuild. If the structure isn’t timelessly beautiful, there’s no reason to preserve it. And the cycle of tearing down and using resources to rebuild continues. So the solution to this, Barham suggests, is to build structures intended to last forever. He notes how many pre-modern buildings have been homes, offices, and retail spaces and gone back and forth between the above simply because they were so beautiful and timeless that there was no desire to alter them.
According to ScienceNordic, beauty in architecture can even be used as a strategy for sustainability. Nicolai Bo Andersen, associate professor at the Institute for Architecture and Culture at the Royal Danish Academy for Fine Arts, School of Architecture, says it’s essential to focus on aesthetics and ensure that buildings can physically stand the test of time. “It’s a question of how we experience architecture,” Andersen says. “A building’s form, color, proportions, materials, and daylight directly affect the human body and give a feeling of connectedness to the world. Beauty may be understood as the uplifting feeling experienced through the body and the senses.”
We’re not saying creating a beautiful building today is impossible, but structures like the Sistine Chapel don’t appear daily. It’s important to keep enjoying and preserving these fantastic buildings, and perhaps one day, we will have another creation on par with the Taj Mahal. And if not, at least we can continue admiring the one and only. And we were roasting all of the ugly, lackluster modern buildings on Twitter!
Are these pictures making you ashamed to live in modern times, pandas? Don’t beat yourself up unless you’re an architect with an unlimited budget. It’s not your fault! But we hope you’re enjoying these reminders of the fantastic old buildings and that we should do everything possible to preserve them. Keep upvoting the pics that hit home for you, and then if you’re interested in checking out another A&D article featuring questionable modern architecture, look no further than right here!
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