The Modern Synthesis and Democratic Space

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

Paolo Soleri Repositioned

The next monumental leap in Modernism for a small band of democratic diehards that is not stylized abstraction demands a return to social factors as its springboard. This demand goes far beyond workers' housing needs, as it did in the 1920s and 30s. 

It follows in the footsteps of Catalonian architects and Paolo Soleri. Although 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 capture a sense of the dynamic synthesis this next stage of Modernism entails.

Gaudi and Torroja held strong religious beliefs that later found voice from 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.

Although also 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 through environmental design.

In this regard, Soleri stands alone due to his fusion of architecture and ecology. On the surface, 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 could they envision the unspoken cultural and genetic changes his spaces 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, from present-day standards, an unusual cultural software combined with a highly developed altruistic gene complex.