Steel & Glass, and Fashion

As for myself, I cannot imagine the Mid-Century Modern sans steel and glass.  Steel, glass, and technology is the sine qua non of the old-fashioned “Modern“.  And, steel and glass, and energy-efficiency is the sine qua non of the new modern.*  Trouble is, the old steel and glass are expensive, mostly energy consuming … ever sit near a window in summer, in winter?  Yes.  And those breezes.  And steel is cold. Perhaps you have noticed.  I wonder: Have you attempted to clean a 6’ x 10’ glass window … I have, many of them, and can say without reservation, Large windows are a devil-a-lot-of-trouble to clean.” 

Mid-Century Modern house, Palm Springs.

Then, notice this: At night, when you would have privacy, any peeper can through the glass, peep; at day in sun’s glare, curtains must blind the piercing rays.  And this one more detail in observation: The walls of bushes, concrete screens and other hiding-things find themselves placed in front of windows soon after the architect has designed the masterpiece.  For the most part, you will notice that glass houses do not enjoy an architect’s intention: glass houses learn from families, families who choose to keep the family business within the family

A frozen “solar panel”, photovoltaic farm.

Consider this: Man-fashioned glass is old, some 5,500 years old; man-fashioned metal is older, some 9,000 years old.  Ever wonder why steel and glass were so lately used.  Technology.  True.  And perceived cost savings, which seldom counts the actual annual cost of HVAC necessitated by cold steel and convectioned glass.  The difference in total cost between mod and traditional building, “a wash”, I am by experts told. 

What of the energy grid.  Perhaps you noticed the 210-plus deaths of this year’s Texas winter storm.  Why so many deaths.  Solar Power and Wind Power have replaced coal and gas and nuclear.  Notice: With no sun, no solar energy (insufficient batteries, et cetera); likewise, wind, insufficient in most all places, excepting Palm Springs’ wind-rich Coachella valley. Further, consider this: Within ten years the major automakers are discontinuing gas-burning, carbon-emitting automobilesHum … let us suppose a Texas with less traditional power, with more electric automobiles sucking wind-and-solar energy during a winter’s storm.  Yes, death from freezing, from gas-oven accidents, and all that desperate people do.  Imagine this scenario country wide: Automobiles unable to move, blackouts, houses not warmed in winter, not cooled in summer.  Easy to imagine, because already happening.

The author’s first model house, 1967 … just noticed the similarity of my window design to the design of the “mod masterpiece” windows, below. They are crooked.

Yes, there are fashions in design, in ideas, in politics, in politicians … after actors, square politicians are the most fashionable of people, the most effected by trends.  Consider: If not trendy, politicians would not be reelected, a problem of democracies known since foolish Athens lost to desperate Syracuse.  How then serve design, fashion, and reason, simultaneously.  Might not be possible.

I recall, some 50-plus years ago winning the “science” expo at The Immaculate Heart of Mary for my Solar House.  See it there with the silly cellophane roof; the pedantic didactic label, and the innocent face.  Little has changed in architecture these fifty years, little that reason and reality could keep at bay.  Even today, politicians, solar designers and the woke smile at their toys, wait hands-out for the big reward of taxpayer cash. Today, scolding labels are found everywhere on-line, in laws and in textbooks, and today’s solar panels heat but little longer than my ambitious cellophane roof once did (a day or few).  Then too, I recall some 40-plus years ago when graduated from the University of Michigan, my friend Chris, a brilliant nuclear scientist, was sent to the showers, benched for all four quarters of the Energy Game, “Damned Silkwood movie: idiots” he mumbled, or something similar.  Alex, a bright, good guy, was lifted upon the rising Solar star – as in those days, and these, who does not** – in the Energy Game.  One more friend of that time, another “Chris”, when young became a regional director of the Environmental Protection Agency.  You get the picture clear-as-glass: The game was fixed.

Steel and Glass, Neuer Zollhof, Düsseldorf, Germany.

And what has all this to do with “home”.  The Mid-Century Modern is a beautiful style, hopeful and ambitious, capable of every improvement, many of which it desperately needs, it is a style worthy of conservation, the sine qua non of Conservatives.  Trouble is, the Mid-Century Modern has become a Progressive style, progressing into an excess that neuters its parent, Cronus-like, as we see in Tauxemont and other communities gone McModern.  In truth: The Mid-Century Modern embodies the Atomic Ranch and all the good the ranch suggests of family and country and victory.  In my opinion, Clasives should embrace the Mid-Century Modern to save it, to enrich and to expand the American experience. 

You will recall that most iconic of victories, the Moon Landing.  Hum … what should we say: “Apollo”.  You will recall the name of the missions to the moon, the “Apollo Missions”, the Aristotelian reason, the science born of the Catholic Church in the 13th Century by a patron pope who aspired to understand God and God’s works, and by his clients Aquinas and Bacon, devout men who invented the “Scientific Method”.  You will recall the enlightenment of Jefferson, of the Founding Fathers who made all that we understand to be “modern”, a modernity by liberty made possible.  Who was Apollo’s brother: “Dionysus” … perhaps you know Dionysus by his Roman name, “Bacchus”, or by his American name, “Jim Morrison” and his thousand cousins who embodied the bacchanal, progressively, tragically.  You will recall the dark error of the modern, the “Modern”, the destructions of Free Love, of Sex Education, errors for which we are paying in the destruction of family, of community, of country.  You will recall Modern drugs’ dissipations, dissipations now legalized, delivered by eager capitalists to the mod wastrel’s door, whose door-buzz the wastrel is too head-buzzed to answer.  Here, I am put in mind of Tennyson’s Lotus Eaters.

Church of the Good Shepherd, in the Aeolic Order. M. Curtis, designer, 2011.

In epistēmē, in techne, the Mid-Century Modern partakes of the Apollonian rather more than of the Dionysian, of technologies made possible by conservation of tradition, of Aristotelian and of Baconian processes.  Of most importance to the country, our nation: Classive architects are less inclined to fashion, to trend, they seek the Beautiful, the Good, the True, those qualities most healthful to mankind.  Nowhere in the Progressive is there an inclination toward the Good, Beautiful, True, and this is why the Progressive tends toward the Ugly, the ignorant and mean.  In Progressive America I find no governor upon a willful hurtling into Future’s error.  We are not the Jetson’s living skied in glass bubbles.  We are souled animals attached to an earth spinning through the universe … cause enough for caution.  Solar?  Yes.  Wind?  Yes, though in moderation. Moderation is most always, best. 

“Steel and Glass”, all for it.  Have designed an architectural Order to succeed the Composite, the “Aeolian”, so that Classives might beautifully design Classive buildings of steel and glass … steel and glass, useful materials made affordable by technology, materials healthy if mediated by conditions, if employed in reason, materials dangerous in overuse of energy, and harmful to the human psychology when misused in design, as in the dismal cavities of city streets, as science has demonstrated

The Aeolic Order, created for Classive designs in steel and glass.

Perhaps you noticed that little air-conditioner in my circa 1967 solar house.  Cute, yet not sufficient.  Later,

– I would learn to locate doors and windows opposite so that prevailing breezes might cool
– I learned siting, that advantages of sun, water, land might be maximized
– I learned of overhangs, of reasoned, open plans
– I learned of Beauty, a healthful condition that does more for each person than the progressive will in argument allow. 

Seems to me that this generation of Mid-Century McModerns suffers from reliance on the HVAC, that Beauty (the necessity of humane beings) is subordinated to the architect’s ambition to “Newness”, and to magazine covers.  At first, the Mid-Century Modern learned from the indigenous Ranch style, at second, from the PTSD induced International.  To grow in health, in beauty, in efficiency, the Mid-Century Modern will want to learn from the Classive tradition of humane universality … or so it seems to me.

* “Modern” is the period circa 1900 to 1980; “modern” from the Latin, meaning “just now”, the “contemporary”.

** The Obama Administration’s $39B in annual subsidies to “renewable energy” companies, and the $535MM newsworthy gift to the incompetent, bankrupt solar company, Solyndra.

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