Saturday, May 06, 2006

Modernist Architecture and the classical Catholic Liturgy?

Most people who favour the classical Roman Rite do not have particularly warm feelings towards modern(ist) church architecture. It is in many cases, often justifiably, associated with the banal and commonplace, or else with the impoverishment and subversion of existing churches built in revival styles.

However, I believe that the languages of contemporary architecture can be marshalled in the cause of traditional liturgy and with the 're-enchantment' of the modern mass. Although he had some slightly strange ideas and an eccentric ecclesiology the church buildings of Rudolf Schwarz demonstrate that it is possible to cultivate an aesthetic and iconographic affinity between these two apparently irreconcilable ideologies. In Schwarz's built works and writings he pre-empted the now commonplace decoupling of the aesthetic of 'modernism' from the left-wing political ideas which were routinely used to underpin the movement both before and after the Second World War. Of course, 'Modernism' was never a singular movement from the start.

I respect entirely those traditionally-minded Catholics who associate a Christian architectural idiom with the revival of a historical style. But I believe that, despite the horror stories, banalities, the high-minded and unloved brutalist boxes, contemporary architecture can lend its poetics, sense and use of materials and space-making in the cause of the traditional Roman Rite.