In my last article, I discussed how parents have become disposable entities in the United States. In the present article, I am going to discuss how buildings have become disposable in the U.S., even when they represent examples of fine architecture. My home town, Chicago is particularly guilty of destroying fine buildings. It is ironic that this destruction should be occurring here, because Chicago happens to be the center of innovative architecture in America. When the city burnt down in 1871, many people, including urban planners and architects, saw it as an opportunity to rebuild the city using exciting new building concepts. Architects like Louis Sullivan with some of the first high rises, a “father of skyscrapers” and a “father of modernism”, and Frank Lloyd Wright with his residences and public buildings made Chicago a model for twentieth century architecture. Chicago was to the United States what Barcelona was to Europe: an exciting living environment filled with great buildings.
Now granted both Sullivan and Wright built buildings that were a mixture of organic qualities and mechanical qualities. One might say that, on a certain level, they represented a part of an architectural transition from more traditional natural living environments to more modern technological living environments. But to the extent that they did have some organic aspects in their presentation, they could be thought of as important sources of grounding and important templates for bonding in modern technological environments that had few places with significant amounts of organic stimulation.
So why has there been such a predilection to tear down so many of these special unusual buildings? Just as people in today’s world feel a compelling need to generate friction by abandoning their parents to assisted living facilities so they also generate friction by abandoning treasured buildings and having them destroyed. People overcome numbness by moving on from one particular building in their landscape to another that replaces it. And, usually, the replacement building has far fewer organic qualities to it than the early modernist building that it is replacing. And as we fill our living environment with more and more boxy later modernist buildings, there are fewer and fewer organic aspects in our living environments to ground in and to bond to. In other words, to feel alive, we generate abrasive friction by destroying organic patches in our living environment and creating living situations that are even more numbing than what we started out with.
Now granted some of these boxy modern buildings like those by Mies van der Rohe are considered classics, in spite of not having any organic stimulation at all and therefore are considered safe from the wrecking ball. The reason that Mies van der Rohe’s buildings are considered classics is because as time passes and there is less and less organic stimulation in the living environment, people’s minds and nervous systems become reconfigured to become numb to numbness as it were. They find a way to go on functioning, in spite of the growing experiential vacuum. They become used to the growing amount of mechanical and digital stimulation from all the different machines in their living environments. And it actually becomes more difficult for their minds and nervous systems to absorb the organic stimulation that their minds and nervous systems actually crave.
In the States, as living environments gradually make the switch from primarily organic stimulation to primarily mechanical and digital stimulation, those entities that, relatively speaking, have larger amounts of organic stimulation are going to stand out and disrupt the increasing purity and consistency of sources of mechanical and digital stimuli in the living environments. So, people are going to want to get rid of the organic stimuli which they have lost the capacity to absorb well and which they increasingly feel uncomfortable to be around. And without organic stimuli around very much, people model themselves after their devices and become like cyborgs. In other words, people gradually shift away from being like full-fledged human beings.
It is important that people have places where they can really root themselves. Without such places, people lose the opportunity to have experiences where they can make, preserve and receive organic imprints. These places represent the fundamental foundation of feeling alive. Modern buildings, which, in most cases, almost seem to be built with a death sentence hanging over them, are too transitory to provide much of a sense of rootedness. Now granted there was a time when buildings and other forms of shelter, being made entirely of organic materials, were always transitory. This is certainly true with the homes of preliterate tribes. But in these cases, it didn’t matter so much, because the natural living environment provided grounding and a template for bonding.
If we continue to build urban living environments based on boxy transitory buildings, people will continue to transition into mechanical cyborgs. And a sense of humanity will be lost both among the residents and the places where they live.