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Maybe Modernism is More –

Maybe Modernism is More –

I recently went on vacation to a small hamlet in the south of France called Esparon. During the “off-season,” it boasts a population of 15 which swells to a daunting 45 during summer. Everything built on top of this little mountain is over 300 years old.

At first, you are overwhelmed by the antiquity of style – the stone work, the arches found everywhere, the low-ceilings and never-to-be-paved routes. But the minimalism also had me thinking about modernism. Not modernism with high tech cellphones and solar panels but architecture that is true to itself. Esparon is a place where buildings are striped of their pretentiousness so that they only reveal the structural forces that make it possible for them to exist. It is the antithesis of mannerist because here less is definitely more.

Being dragged away from the familiarity of steel and glass gave me a sense of peace as I realized the buildings I now considered more rustic, had once been defined as modern themselves. But the town of Esparon is a haven that I could not stay in forever. I travelled one afternoon to an archeological museum about 40 minutes east of Esparon in Arles.

While some would have called the museum modernist – to me it was anything but. It tried to develop its own narrative. But a museum’s purpose is to exhibit, to accent the art, not take away from it. The floor plan was not only uninspired but overly complex – I was overwhelmed by the excess of mannered materials.

These two towns were creating a contradiction in my own definition, how could the old be modern and the new be so outdated? Maybe modernism is more than just style, more than just materials, maybe it’s a certain air about something or maybe, ironically, it is what stands the test of time.

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