chapter  9
17 Pages

American Modernism

Fireplaces were of course essential concerns of the American vernacular, the architecture of the first settlers, short on labour and long on timber, for they were the only solid elements to a balloon-frame timber house. When European Modernism reached the United States it would have to morph into something accommodated by American socioeconomics. Some took to this easily, like Mies, since he had little interest in the socioeconomic system in the first place. In 1958 the American economist J. K. Galbraith published The Affluent Society. This influential book warned that in a future world dominated by advertising there was effectively no difference between need and want, that desire would propel the consumer society. Such a view understandably horrified the British establishment to the point it encouraged massive university building and state subsidy of the arts, but the Americans were hardly immune, and Louis Kahn's solidity was therefore deemed highly appropriate.