In its relentless pursuit of functional solutions, modernism ignored the aspects of culture that are the most important and the least tangible – memory and character.
Postmodernism might not be a new term, but it’s the only one that redresses this imbalance. It operates within the complexity of contemporary culture, and understands that universal, objective truths are no longer desirable. But it also says that people’s understanding of their environment is dependent on the play of history and memory. Postmodern architecture and design uses those things as generators for form.
Postmodernism allows us to consider aspects of culture that were anathema to modernists: nostalgia, taste and individuality.
If modernism was the product of the machine age then dataism is the product of the information age.
No longer does a building or a table need to express, in the most unelaborate way possible, the inherent logic of its materials. Instead it must be a ruthless conduit for people flow or cater to a specific body shape. Just feed in some statistics and the computer will turn them into a customised solution.
This is form derived from counting and measuring – design freed from individual authorship or inspiration. Dataism is the final victory of the numerate over the literate.
Rather than solving our problems, design is killing us. Architects and designers no longer provide for our needs but for our wants, fuelling the inferno of human consumption that is overwhelming the planet’s life-support systems.
Yet our collective fear of impending disaster is overwhelmed by our unwillingness to make the lifestyle compromises necessary to reverse climate change and habitat destruction. Contemporary notions of “sustainability” are aimed more at assuaging our guilt than making a real difference.
Neroism describes the contemporary condition of hedonistic behaviour in the face of catastrophe and also justifies it: ours is the last generation that will be able to enjoy such wanton irresponsibility, so let’s enjoy it while we can!