The Lower Modernisms, to the extent that they represent the lowbrow alternative to High Modernism, are a culturally relevant subject for the same reasons that everything lowbrow is presently in vogue.
Hipster culture celebrates working class culture, albeit in detached, ironic, and often offensive and farcical ways. The trucker hat is emblematic of a douchebag culture at its worst, parading a working-class symbol in a manner that feels like a mean-spirited joke at the expense of those perceived as their inferiors in the social hierarchy. But in another manifestation, the rise of gourmet food trucks, this stigma is absent – a middle-class hipster foodie culture, one that did not exist before the internet, earnestly appropriates working-class techniques and habits of consumption. The rise in the last five years of a thriving new market for designer jeans, with unprecedented price tags and rigorous techniques of pre-aging intended to mimic actual wear patterns, reflects this same impulse – such jeans are an elitist alternative to the trucker hat.
Each of these examples reflects a search for authenticity or “aura” in the Benjaminian sense, an attribute evidently perceived as lacking in mainstream, middle-class consumer culture. This sense of authenticity, sought in vain by consumers of pre-aged simulacrum denims, is on the contrary perceived as really existing in vintage goods and working-class trappings. Typical Lower-Modern architecture – liquor stores and bowling alleys – offers both advantages; the patina of real aging, and a legitimate working-class character. Considering also the general popularity of “Eames Era” design, hipsters should be crazy about this blog.
In contrast to the facetiousness of recent American Hipsterism, consider the thriving Japanese consumer market for both vintage American workwear and vintage-inspired renditions thereof. Japanese magazines like Free & Easy and Lightning demonstrate an otaku-like deadpan character that transcends Western irony. The Lower Modernisms project pursues that same spirit by evaluating the architecture of humble buildings on their own terms, without the conventional prejudice and snobbery that has kept these works out of the architectural history books.