WU - Modernism Lost in Construction


Albert Ivan Chan

At first sight, the WU may just be another product of modern architecture facilitating for the university of economics. Built in 1982, several decades after the arising of modernism, the building was celebrated at the time of its completion; yet it receives criticism of being a redundant relic of modern architecture only up until now. The WU was modern architecture built in postmodern times. Therefore it reduces to either: By not responding to the criticism of modernism during postmodern period at all, the modernism in this building had stood the test of time only up until now. Or, it was already a modified version of modern architecture to begin with, it adapted to the needs of its time well, so it did not receive criticism until now. To what extent was and is the WU modern? In all fairness, the criticism of modernism must begin at the root and not at the individual building. The fundamental principles must first be examined; those theories that influenced its followers. The architect Kurt Hlaweniczka, judging from his practice, could be described as a disciple of modernism. Yet to what extent the follower executed the theory is the key that will bring building and theory together.

 In this research, Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright's theories in early modern architecture were chosen to be put against the WU building. Hoping to understand the WU through these theories, both physically and conceptually. “Five points towards a new architecture” was one of the key manifestations on modern architecture, written by Le Corbusier. From his experience, the five points summarized the modern way of construction and what it enabled architects to do. “Organic Architecture” was developed in the beginning of the 20th century in America by Frank Lloyd Wright, another pioneer in modern architecture. Although there were many paths within modernism, this was a unique yet influential one that apparently inspired the WU design after more than half a century on the other side of the world. For this diagnosis to be meaningful, emphasis must be placed on the gap between the theory (what was taught) and its interpretation (what was built). Therefore the method was to first closely re-read chosen original theoretical texts of those words by having quotes against reality. In this way, the original theory can be taken to the testing ground along with the building, having been analyzed in full detail. This process enables to address the whole problem in layers; instead of blindly attacking the building with unwanted subjective criticism.