26 November 2010

Fragment: Notes on Metamodernism

I recently stumbled upon an essay entitled Notes on Metamodernism by two academics from the Netherlands - Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker. The essay proposes a new condition that is neither modern nor postmodern - metamodernism. The essay is part of a wider research project "documenting current developments in politics and aesthetics that can no longer be explained in terms of the postmodern" that grew out of an international conference 'Nu-Romaticisim' at the University of Reading. I am currently interested in theories of post-postmodernism ("What next?") having grown increasingly frustrated (and equally inspired) by a range of texts on the modern vs postmodern city and cultural experience and their relevance to today. I  am currently digesting the entire essay and will be following up a more in-depth analysis in the coming weeks, but in the mean time I thought I would share one particular paragraph that resonated with me.

"CEOs and politicans, architects, and artists alike are formulating anew a narrative of longing structured by and conditioned on a belief ("yes we can", "change we can believe in") that was long repressed, for a possibility (a "better" future) that was long forgotten. Indeed, if simplistically put, the modern outlook vis-a-vis idealism and ideals could be characterized as fanatic and/or naive, and the postmodern mindset as apathetic and/or skeptic, the current generation's attitude - for it is, and very much so, an attitude tied to a generation - can be conceived of as a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism."

The idea of pragmatic idealism is one which I think you can see increasingly in projects by Architects globally but increasingly those whose influence/education lies in the so called 'Super Dutch'. I am reminded of The Why Factory's Visionary Cities with it's very 'modern' "Calling all visionaries!" - seeking utopian ideals that are visionary but remain weighted in the issues of the everyday.

Yes Is More. An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution by BIG (Taschen 2009)
In Yes Is More, Danish practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) set out a manifesto that shares many similarities with the description Vermeulen and van den Akker use for the current metamodern climate.

"Historically the field of architecture has been dominated by two opposing extremes. One one side an avant-garde of wild ideas, often so detached from reality that they fail to become something other than eccentric curiosities. On the other side there are well organized consultants that build predictable and boring boxes of high standard. Architecture seems entrenched between two equally unfertile fronts: either naively utopian or petrifyingly pragmatic. Rather than choosing one over the other, BIG operates in the fertile overlap between the two opposites. A pragmatic utopian architecture that takes on the creation of socially, economically and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective."

The emergent of pragmatic utopian/ideal approaches in Architecture has the potential to reinvigorate a profession and perhaps provide the toolkit for a healing process. Where this sits in the wider framework of a globalised consumer-as-producer society though seems to need more questioning.


Vermeulen, T. and van den Akker, R. (2010), Notes on Metamodernism, Journal of Aesthetics & Culture, Vol. 2
Maas, W., Sverdlov A. and Waugh, E. (Editors) (2009), Visionary Cities (The Why Factory), 1st Edition, Amsterdam: NAi Publishers
Ingels, B. (2009), Yes Is More. An Archicomic on Architecture Evolution (Bjarke Ingels Group), 1st Edition, Koln: Evergreen