The idea of modernity by Marshal Berman implies1 that the advent of scientific discovery led to a technological loop where we constantly reinvent what came before, only to destroy it soon after. In this destructive cycle, as he calls it, Modernity leaves Architecture as nothing more than a pawn in that cycle, bound by it. But I disagree, it is not technology but the human incapacity of feeling fully satisfied that leaves us birthing and killing endlessly. As such, is Architecture bound by Modernity as a technological renovating cycle or is there something else that pushes it to change?
The socio-economic status quo has changed in a way never seen before. It is no longer ideological movements but companies with their own economic based goals that have transcended national borders to connect every human on earth. Everyone now has something in common besides its genes. a Coca-Cola is recognisable on every corner of the world, just like a smartphone. Culture, technology, customs and language are all being brutally compressed and generalised. The human being is fading as an individual, for we base our actions on everything around us, from the time we are born until we die, our family, our socioeconomic position, in essence, our context dictates much of our behaviours, and that same context is fully plugged into everything by means of the new technological improvements, as such todays modern life is very different from what it used to be. Marshal Berman states that "modernity can be said to unite all mankind." and that it is a "unity of disunity: it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal"2 and whilst technology such as the Gutenberg press in the 1400s and later the instant access to information and communication by the world wide web in the 1990s has allowed us to be influenced by people we will never know and thus enact change in our environments locally following a disparate global idea, it doesn't mean we are acting because of technology, technology is simply the tool, to which we follow through with what we want. The true generator of modern life was not modernity or technology as Marshal Berman defends, sure technology has in the physical sciences, changed our perception of our environments such as the universe and even our own bodies, and the scientific discoveries have led to a more aggressive cycle of construction that needs to be erased once a new marvellous discovery shakes our societies, but that need to erase the old is exactly why technology not as its seen today in a digitalized service fueled idea, but as a concept of ingenuity and creation exists, it is the need to do, be and see something else, it is the unwavering force to want more, better, and even if we achieved it, still find it to not be enough. Technology is a natural response to a primal thirst of improvement.
Discussion B Modernity can be classified as a time period when technology from our point of view seems to have taken a leap, but Modern Life, is nothing more than the change of what came before, it is dependent on the perspective of time and not the time itself, every Human being that has ever lived, had a modern life in comparison to its previous ancestors, some more modern, thus more different than others but all still with slight changes. Modernity isn’t anything more than an update to humanity fueled by new tools and a new world view, just like all the preceding movements, while modern life is a revolution or alteration of one's singular environment, and we have been having these alterations since we left the cave. Modernity is not the first time we built, destroyed and rebuilt in a specific way, and Modern Life is yesterday, today and tomorrow, just as long we keep altering our environment according tour perspective.
But why it is relevant to Architecture to define modern life as a separate concept from Modernity?
The rise of technology has created a new organism that is constructed from the connections not from each nationalistic society with its borders acting as barriers but each generator of data, in this case, us, being fully connected regardless of borders. We are walking towards being a unified and uncontrollable animal that does not possess one control center but one universal network with unpredictable fluxes of change. The current modern life might seem more disruptive only because we are living it, but the discovery of farming seemed the biggest societal change ever for those who lived through it, we must not think we are it, as it comes to modern life, we are nothing but another step, and thus architecture, who has survived through all of the biggest changes to mankind will continue on its path just like modern life. The Violence of Sustainable Urbanity from the Harvard Design Magazine 37 describes a new type of modern life that is being born.3 It comes from the new paradigm of urbanity and climate destruction, which as indicated, are unilaterally connected, but this article completely ignores that those are not the sources of humanities newfound pains, they are nothing more than its symptoms. This new way of life is based on a rarely questioned thirst for the constant search of more, we are never physically and mentally satisfied with anything. Sir David Attenborough as one of the most recognizable presenters for everything nature from the BBC in an interview said, “We are a plague on the Earth."4 and in his 86 years mentioned, he has seen us change to it. We most definitely boast several of the conditions that would put us in such consideration. The human being is no longer struggling to survive. We have achieved a mild success of comfort with food and basic needs for a large segment of the world population, and yet, this segment of the population that has achieved everything it requires for a healthy life does not enter into a new life stage, it merely continues its previous path, impervious to Modernity, it keeps living its insatiable modern life.
Architecture being a product made and consumed by society, shows the characteristics of surviving even in the most tumultuous parts of history, it matters not the political or economic agenda, there will be architecture and it will be always eventually be altered to be something else. Given this, we can assume it matters not what happens to our society next, for as long as we are alive, and continue to want more, we will not only build more but want more out of our architecture.
Lourenço Vaz Pinto