Contemporary Architecture, Crisis, and Critique

Authored by: Swati Chattopadhyay , Jeremy White

The Routledge Companion to Critical Approaches to Contemporary Architecture

Print publication date:  August  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138917569
eBook ISBN: 9781315688947
Adobe ISBN:


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The term “contemporary” has become a common parlance in architecture, and in many respects, seems to have supplanted the terms modern and postmodern. Yet there is no agreement on what the term means. Mimicking the discourse on contemporary art, some scholars use it to invoke post-WWII architecture, which then becomes a surrogate for mid-century modernism and the backlash of postmodernism. Or, it extends the modern into the present moment, implicitly asserting fundamental continuity. For others, the substitution of contemporary for modern simply implies jettisoning the ideology of twentieth-century -isms and their grand narratives. Some critics use it to represent the fashionable trends in current-day architecture—dynamic building forms with luminous skins that defy the imagination of the organic—with some scattered references to sustainability, new materials, and digital media. No critical unraveling of the term takes place; its apparent self-evidence becomes tautological. The widespread yet inconsistent use of the term, however, suggests a need for critical examination.

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