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001. Introducing AB1006: The Lower Modernisms

Architecture Burger project AB1006, code-named “The Smartpatrol Blog,” is an effort to investigate, analyze, and define “the Lower Modernisms”. I hope to refine my conception of that term along the way, but here is a working definition of the Lower Modernisms: those categories of design endeavors that are Modernist in style and intent, but fall short of meeting the standards to qualify as legitimate Modernist Design. In the case of Modern Architecture, these categories would include both work not sufficiently rigorous to be Modern, and work not sufficiently disciplinary to be considered Architecture. The Lower Modernisms is plural because it encompasses a plurality of styles and categories, and seems a suitable umbrella term for a diverse set of underachieving design tendencies.

There are practical reasons for pursuing a project like this one in a blog format. My taco project made me a believer in the self-improvement prospects of blog-writing. The incremental nature of blog posts makes it easy to take small steps forward – it’s reasonably possible to pile up large heaps of source material and data that would be intimidatingly vast if pondered as the goal from the outset. The burden of organizing one’s scattered thoughts is essentially waived. The imperative to update the blog regularly might create just enough sense of accountability and deadline pressure to help fight off the inertial inactivity. The blog format offers the teasing and fantastical prospect of dialogue and constructive discourse with one’s half-dozen readers.

The Lower Modernisms blog will be unapologetically parochial, focused on the LoMos of architecture in the Los Angeles-area, but with occasional forays into other design disciplines. My intent is to take a closer look at that which is typically considered beneath consideration. The derelict mini-mart at the end of your street may suddenly be a potential subject for half-serious architectural criticism.

I have a small reservoir of ideas for topics. To give some indication of where I’m going, here is an incomplete list of Lomo categories and styles: Googie; Nautical Mod; Hollywood Regency/the Mansard Style; The Perfect Building; Semi-Professional Helvetica; Orientalizing Mod; Knockoff Sea Ranch; Terrible Modernism. Here is an incomplete list of building types commonly or intrinsically LoMo in style: dingbats; coffee shops; supermarkets; gas stations; liquor stores; charbroiled burger shops. The most important topic to tackle, perhaps, is why the Lower Modernisms are important enough to bother thinking about.

One response to “001. Introducing AB1006: The Lower Modernisms”

  1. barbara lamprecht

    what a great topic. back in the day, say, Laugier’s day, there were huge arguments over what constituted building and what constituted Architecture. As the profession of architecture reified, and those practicing design became gentlemen and other than builders or engineers, it was decided that only “polite” building commodious with their surroundings AND were poetical could be called Architecture. Is that something akin to what you’re doing … buildings that are three or four or more degrees of separation from poetry but know it when they see it … those buildings like the red-blooded American grain silos in Buffalo all the European Modernists swooned over … something to do with the relief of pragmatism as driver and lack of self-consciousness that draws one. Margaret Crawford has written much about the everyday. I guess I think nurseries, especially those in the SGV and founded by Japanese gardening families, would merit a glance, too. Thank you for your blog, James.

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