Modern buildings do not easily harmonize with other buildings, regardless of whether the latter are also modern. This often-observed fact has not received a satisfactory explanation. To improve on existing explanations, this article generalizes one of Ortega y Gasset’s observations concerning modern fine art and then develops a metaphysics of styles that is inspired by work in the philosophy of biology. The resulting explanation is that modern architecture is incapable of developing patterns that facilitate harmonizing because such patterns would humanize buildings, and modern architecture is a homeostatic property cluster with a dehumanizing motive at its core.
Versions of this article were presented at the “Public Space: The Real and the Ideal” conference, Monte Verità, Switzerland, July 2–5, 2021, and at the Scottish Aesthetics Forum, November 18, 2021. Thanks to audience members and to Paisley Livingston, Glenn Parsons, Henri Tung, and the editor of this journal for helpful comments.
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