The Modern Synthesis

Futuristic Free-Form Cultural Center, New Zealand by Dialogue Architecture Studio

Paolo Soleri Repositioned

The next monumental leap in Modernism that is not stylized abstraction demands a return to social factors as its springboard. The demand goes far beyond workers' housing needs as it did in the 1920s and 30s. But, similarly, consensus on the movement's direction is impossible.

The next phase follows the lineage of Catalonian architects Gaudi Torroja Candela and Calatrava, plus the Italian Paolo Soleri. Gaudi and Soleri refused to be labeled stylistically, Torroja fell under Modernism's banner, and Calatrava and Candela were branded as Futurists. Still, these labels do not capture a sense of the dynamic synthesis this next stage of Modernism entails.

Since Gaudi and Torroja held strong religious beliefs, the French priest and scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and his Omega Point theory that the universe is spiraling toward the point of unification with Christ would best capture architecture’s futuristic role in housing the divine.

Although caught up and entangled in de Chardin's religious fervor, Soleri, the heretic, remained faithful to his social democratic roots and demanded compromise. He found balance in human agency, the idea that humans make decisions, enact them in the world, and thus make themselves.

Soleri stands alone due to his fusion of architecture and ecology. His early work falls along the line of ecosystem engineering––a way of living and building with the intent of ecological restoration through human intervention.

Critics viewed his megastructure concepts as potentially dictatorial spaces that trapped the human spirit instead of freeing it, and for this reason, many rejected his designs as unlivable. They couldn't imagine that his work was never intended for the present, nor envision the unspoken cultural and genetic changes his work demanded.

He could not explain how his megastructures could be realized as a logical outcome of human development because the notion of how human habitat and culture affect human genetic evolution, Modern Synthesis, was still in its infancy. Luckily, this is no longer the case. To live in his City in the Image of Man requires cultural software and a highly developed altruistic gene complex.