Architecture lost itself in an identity crisis not long ago. The discipline wandered in self-reflection, reexamining how practitioners go about their work, how the built environment should appear, and why. Movements came and went. Promising paths dead-ended. Eventually, the profession gave up looking for ways out of its uncertainty, leaving us where we are today.
In premodern eras, new construction techniques, evolving opinions on art, and shifting societal beliefs drove styles. Advances were slow, but once established, became long-lived norms. The Gothic period lasted four centuries, the Renaissance three. From the nineteenth century on, though, more than a hundred aesthetic and philosophical movements lived quickly and died. As historian Charles Jencks notes, there were “a plurality of live architectural traditions” even during the International Style’s forty-year hegemonic heyday.
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