chapter  9
74 Pages

The Emergence of American Modernism, 1940–1973

Social Agenda or the Latest Aesthetic?
ByLeland M. Roth, Amanda C. Roth Clark

The four decades starting in 1940 witnessed the full-blown emergence of Modernism in the United States, its ascendancy, and then, after the mid-1960s, a growing public sense of its symbolic emptiness and antihuman scale. The Modernism that Mies, and especially Gropius, taught had been rooted in the liberal socialism of Europe. While Gropius and Mies came to the United States permanently, the Finnish Modernist Alvar Aalto came as a visitor and to supervise the construction of his Finnish pavilion at the 1939 World's Fair in New York. At the start of 1942, just as in 1916–1918, there was a sharp drop in general civilian building as the United States entered the Second World War following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The years immediately after the Second World War, which Americans had decisively won, were characterized by a buoyant confidence and a desire to get on with the business of progress.