The main inference of Andrés Duany’s Heterodoxia Architectonica is that Classicists and Modernists equally contribute to one, continually evolving strain of Classicism. While I do see the benefits of this claim, at this point my experience and understanding of the subject forces me to disagree. Classicists and Modernists are diametrically opposed to one another and represent two independent processes of architectural design. There is a fundamental difference between the design tools utilized by Modernists and those utilized by Classicists.
To what type of design tools am I referring? Classicists predominantly use axes, proportional systems, rooms shaped by poché, compositional systems, etc. Modernists, at least as they are taught in school today, typically use intersecting planes, esoteric theories and interpretations, and hyperbolizations of site conditions (e.g., orienting a house to the flight path of an airline traveling back-and-forth to the owner’s country of origin). The tools of design one chooses to use will ultimately determine whether the design leans toward the Classical or the Modern. This is analagous to issues found in city planning: if the tools are Euclidean zoning, buffers, and car-centric subdivision regs, you will get suburbia. There is no other option. The tool dictates the outcome. (Perhaps I should be less deterministic: the tool at the very least limits the outcome.)
I have not tried it, but I’m pretty sure it is impossible to get this building using the beaux-arts system of design.
All of that said, there is likely no architect who can be classified as a pure Modernist or pure Classicist. All architects are influenced by these two poles in some way; thus, architecture exists on a continuum between these two systems. This continuum has pure Modernists on the left, pure Classicists on the right, and Synthesists in the middle.
At this point I would like to put the wisdom of crowds to work to distinguish relative levels of Modernism and Classicism. Contained herein is a brief survey highlighting 10 architects. If you would like to cast your vote, simply rate each architect below on the continuum provided then click DONE. The survey will close Monday, February 4. The results will be posted shortly thereafter.
The survey had a total of 26 respondents who were asked to rank ten different architects on a scale from 1 (Modernist) to 7 (Classicist) with the middle of the scale, 4, denoting Synthesist. The infographic below consolidates the mean, standard deviation, and range for each architect from the survey.
In the interest of full disclosure, I know that scientists are not supposed to run experiments looking for specific results, but I must say that these results were exactly what I was looking for. My gut was telling me that Gehry was a super-Modernist, Wright was a Synthesist, and Palladio was a super-Classicist. Et voilà.
The means roughly group Gehry, Breuer, and Mies as Modernists; Wright, Stern, Mackintosh, and Duany as Synthesists; and Gilly, Krier, and Palladio as Classicists.
Interestingly, the standard deviations for Gehry and Palladio were the smallest of the group (0.52 each). This shows that the respondents hovered very closely around similar rankings.
The highest standard deviations belong to Duany, Gilly, and Krier (1.19, 1.19, and 1.21, respectively) with the largest range being shared by Wright and Krier. This serves as a testament to the breadth of their collective work.
At this point, due to the results of this survey, I am going to hold out against the underlying claim of Heterodoxia Architectonica. Gehry is no Classicist. The goal for H.A., I believe, should not be in uniting all architects under one umbrella term of Classicism. Instead, it should try and bring both Modernists and Classicists together as Synthesists just as Wright and his contemporaries (Sullivan, the Greene brothers, et al) all managed to do. It is no accident that much of the architecture from the early 20th century visibly spans the fall of Classicism and rise of Modernism. It should be our job to rebuild that bridge. Duany and Stern today are attempting just that.
What Istanbul does for Asia and Europe, we should do for Modernism and Classicism.