Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Future of Beauty

I ran across this six part documentary video by British philosopher Roger Scruton. In it, he outlines the importance of beauty throughout history, what has become of it, and how we can return to it. His premise is that beauty is a quality which embodies the human desire to rise above the mundane, towards the divine. Scruton blames architects for the current lack of beauty in our environment, claiming that modern architecture has abandoned beauty and replaced it with utility.There are many references throughout the documentary to the beautiful architecture of past eras (Baroque, Renaissance, Rococo, etc), and it is clear the Scruton believes that architecture can be redeemed through a return to such ornamentation.

While I agree with his basic premise, I disagree that we should regurgitate the architecture of the past. I believe that the future of beauty lies in technology. It is true that a lot of Modern architecture leaves much to be desired, but contemporary avante garde designers are allowing beauty to once again drive their projects. Whereas Modernist architects like Mies sought simplified forms and closed logical systems, these designers seek beauty (not utility) through variety, repetition, scale, and composition.