In some discourses on sustainability, modernism in architecture is blamed for its technocratic beliefs that supposedly generated a lot of the social and environmental problems the world is facing today. At the same time, many architectural critics seem to be convinced that the present call for sustainability with its “green buildings”, is but another screen behind which well-known old power structures hide. In this paper, we react to these viewpoints in different ways. First we clarify the issues that are haunting current architectural discourses by unraveling the logics behind the viewpoints of the critics of the “environmental doctrine” on the one hand and the technical environmentalists on the other hand. We will offer, secondly, a new framing to these debates by relying upon the modal sphere theory of the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd. This new framing will allow us to reconnect, thirdly, with the discourse of modernism, which, we will argue, is all too often conflated with a technocratic paradigm—a partial, incomplete and even misleading representation. In conclusion, we present a different framing of modernism, which allows understanding of it as a multilayered and multifaceted response to the challenges of modernity, a response that formulated a series of ideals that are not so far removed from the ideals formulated today by many advocates of sustainability. We are, thus, suggesting that the sustainability discourse should be conceived as a more mature and revised version of the paradigm of modernism, rather than its absolute counterpoint.
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