The Age of Travel is Over




Charles-de-Gaulle airport, Terminal 1, Paris, 1967-1974 / Paul Andreu © Paul Maurer

Charles-de-Gaulle airport, Terminal 1, Paris, 1967-1974 / Paul Andreu © Paul Maurer

Modernism always wanted to have it both ways: on the one hand, modernist architecture was supposed to be, in theory, the same in all places; that’s one reason why modernism in architecture was also called the International Style. If all modernist buildings look the same, when you see one you have seen them all: no need for further travel. Yet throughout the 20th century modernist culture and technology enthusiastically endorsed and favored travel. In the 60s we traveled to the Moon, and civil aviation made the world smaller. In modernist culture, travel was good. It made all travelers better, happier humans. It was good to learn foreign languages and to go see distant places. High modernist travel was not only good; it was also cool. The jet setters of the 60s were the coolest citizens of the world. Even later in the 20th century the general expectation was that borderless, seamless travel would keep getting easier and more frequent. Most Europeans of my generation grew up learning two or more foreign languages, and it was not unusual until recently to be born in one country, to study in another, and find one’s first job in a third one. That was seen as an opportunity, not as a deprivation.

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