USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

Supermodernism to the rescue!

We are all wondering in the dark. Modernism is the light at the end of the tunnel we entered from. Postmodernism is the lantern that ran out of fuel two decades ago. Deconstructivism was the packet of matches we found on the ground that lasted for about 5 minutes. Alas, what have we here? The light at the end of the tunnel, an end to what we have been in search for all along?

For years architects and philosophers alike have been contemplating what will follow deconstructivism and ultimately postmodernism as a means by which architecture is created, critiqued, and understood. As a student of architecture, my instructors have told me that they are unsure what will shape the architectural landscape for my generation. What will be our modernism or postmodernism? According to Ibelings writing, Supermodernism is that answer.

If you think about Modernism and Post-modernism as being on two opposite ends of the spectrum, I imagine that Supermodernism is somewhere in the middle, in the neutral, or in the grey. In the current age of globalization, ‘mobility, accessibility, and infrastructure have become the themes we live and die by.’ Additionally, this is not a movement that is touching just one or two areas, but the entire world. Thanks to globalization, architecture, technology, and the way we think are all being shared on the international plane. As a result, we see ‘cities around the world that have developed and assumed similar shapes.’ It is one of the reasons why you could look satellite night views of Madrid and Los Angeles and not be able to tell the difference between the two.

The writing elaborates on the topic of airports using the Supermodernist framework. One particular mention of the Chicago O’Hare international airport caught my eye because our studio project is dealing directly with what is occurring on a similar scale in Chicago. The O’Hare airport is developing into an ‘edge city,’ which is in turn taking away business from the Chicago city center. In essence, we are seeing a visible shift across the entire spectrum on how mobility and infrastructure nodes, such as an airport, can drastically affect the way cities and metropolises operate. Why is a businessman flying into Chicago from Shanghai going to travel from the airport all the way to the Chicago business center when he is able to carry out the same business in an area in close proximity to the airport?

The essence of Supermodernism is neutrality. Neither this nor that. Neither modernism nor post-modernism. No hierarchal structure, unity, or center. Supermodernism is not new. The author refers to cities like this as heteropolis’. The amazing thing is, I have seen it on this trip and have not even realized it. I saw it before we left, in Los Angeles; I saw it when we were in Tokyo; I saw it when I was Shenzhen. I see it when I look outside my window in Shanghai. All of these conditions exist in three different countries. One of the more important elements is that Supermodernism is not limited to architecture. In the era of globalization, it is foolhardy and reckless to think about architecture by itself and not of the urban as a whole. Not only is architecture being shared, but strategies of infrastructure, from airports and train stations, to the pedestrian walkways are being exchanged. The ability to move people has become an necessity in the constantly growing city-scape. This is one of the reasons by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has visited China to investigate how their high-speed rail operates and for perhaps future implementations in California.

It is also important to note that as a result of the constantly-connected environment that has been born out of globalization, any shifts in architecture are going to be felt on a global scale rather than a regional scale like in the past. Whereas modernism had its strongest origins in Europe and North America, trickling out to the rest of the world from there, globalization will allow a quicker action and reaction to changes in the architectural landscape. It will also allow for a much wider means of strategic application. In other words, a transportation and commercial node strategy in Hongquiao, Shanghai might be applicable in New Dehli, India, or Abuja, Nigeria. The metro-system in Tokyo could be looked at and used similarly in Shanghai.

How ironic is it that the 2010 World Expo is themed, “better city, better life,” with dozens of nations showcasing various methodologies and strategies that can be shared on the international stage in order to better each countries cities? The Expo is one of many examples where we can see the immediate exchange of ideas that has already started happening on the global scale and under the umbrella of Supermodernism.

-Christopher Glenn


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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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