Catatonic Styles

Ever notice how when people want to be derogatory in referring to a building that uses a traditional style they will use the word “neo,” as in neo-Gothic or neo-Georgian, as if it were not quite the real thing. Instead of  simply saying Gothic Revival, or Georgian Revival. For the history of architecture, starting with the Renaissance, is a history of revivals. Gothic, for example, has been revived continuously, starting even during the Renaissance, and has come back to life regularly as clockwork in virtually every period, right up until the present day. When I mentioned this to Edwin Schlossberg, he thought for a second and replied, “What about the catatonic styles?” Of course, he’s right. Some styles seem impervious to revival. Art Nouveau came back in psychedelic posters, but not really in buildings. Modern styles come back, look at Meier and Le Corbusier’s White Period, or the Case Studies houses today. Sam Jacobs is even leading a small Postmodern Revival. But it’s still hard to imagine a Brutalist Revival (sorry Docomomo). It’s a catatonic style.

Federal Office Building, Columbia, SC. 1979, Marcel Breuer, arch.

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