I am not at all opposed to “modern” architecture. In fact, I greatly approve of it. The Austin County courthouse in Bellville, TX, however, is a stark example of how not to do modern.
It was built in 1960, after the previous courthouse burned down. Driving into Bellville, the courthouse looms large in front of you. When you reach the square, it seems to suck up all the oxygen in the town. What you have is a nice little small town square, with old buildings around the perimeter, and then you have this gigantic, windowless, white block in the middle of the square- standing out-sized and incongruous in the center. It’s really quite stunning, but not necessarily in a good way.
It’s really a prime example of how modern was done wrong so often back in the 60’s. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing modern- even in the context of older historic buildings- but it has to be done right. There’s no sense of proportion to the building, in relation to the square, nor is any seeming regard for the context.
Still, you’ve gotta love the 60’s buildings. There’s a certain preciousness that can come from being too historically minded about all things. Sometimes you’ve gotta shake things up. The 60’s architects were all about saying F-you to the old ideas and ways. Sometimes it worked and many times it didn’t. Almost every small town in the country has at least a few examples of the sensibility of the times- either in a stand-alone building or the blank modern facade covering up an old historic one. The Austin County courthouse stands among the best/worst of this sensibility. It’s like the giant Mecha-Le Corbusier stamped his foot right in the middle of Bellville and left an impression that will haunt Bellvillians for generations to come.
Go check it out if you live in Houston. It’s only an hour or so away.