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POLL: Is Roger Ebert correct to dismiss modern architecture as 'totalitarian'?

July 13, 2010 |  9:54 am

Caltrans

Roger Ebert is giving a big thumbs-down to modern architecture.

The Chicago Sun-Times film critic uses his blog to sound off on a variety of hot-button topics, from the Catholic Church to Wall Street greed. On Tuesday, Ebert posted a blog entry in which he expresses his personal aversion toward modern architecture and what he calls the children of Mies van der Rohe.

"Much modern architecture has grown tiresome to me. It does not gladden the heart. It doesn't seem to spring from humans," Ebert wrote. "It seems drawn from mathematical axioms rather than those learned for centuries from the earth, the organic origins of building materials, the reach of hands and arms, and that which is pleasing to the eye. It is not harmonious. It holds the same note indefinitely."

Ebert singles out van der Rohe and his generation of master builders for creating "an architecture that is totalitarian in its severe economy." A proponent of the "less-is-more" aesthetic, van der Rohe created buildings that were noted for their rectilinear minimalism and deliberate lack of ornament.

Acknowledging his own "reactionary" tastes in architecture, Ebert waxes nostalgic for the Gothic structures of the University of Chicago, whose campus is sometimes referred to as "the University of Chicagwarts," after its resemblance to the Hogwarts School of the Harry Potter series.

Certainly everyone is entitled to his or her own tastes, but does Ebert's architectural screed represent the prevailing popular sentiment, or has the outspoken critic descended into old-fogey bellyaching?

Tell us what you think by taking our poll. And if you don't see an answer that you like, feel free to leave a response in the comments section.

-- David Ng

Photo: The Caltrans building in downtown L.A., designed by Thom Mayne's Morphosis Architects. Credit: Morphosis Architects

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