I watched this documentary on Sabbath and have been thinking about it since. When I was young I was introduced to architecture and design by my father. We would always look through architectural magazines and discuss each photo. At that time I bought into the idea of minimalism and there being perfect design out there for everything. I really wanted to reduce the world to something controlled and ordered. Later on I found out about people like Le Corbusier and his radiant city. About eight or so years ago though I started reevaluating my thinking though. What I noticed is that minimalism loses something that's hard to articulate. I notice for example that I prefer pre-world war homes and things that have an aged look. I now embrace chaos over order. So overall I don't gravitate towards universalisms any more.
However at the same time that I've matured out of modernism I'm also contradicted by human beauty. Human beauty is something where most people agree on what is beautiful. In fact this is one of the great stresses of society, because since everyone agrees on what is beautiful there is not enough for everyone. I guess I'm perplexed as to why there is universal agreement on human beauty but not on architecture.
Christopher Alexander talks about reconciling conflicting pressures through design patterns. But mass production is a pressure that he is unwilling to accept because he is too uncompromising. I disagree with this because mass production allows for a high standard of living for the masses that would be impossible without it. In effect, the type of modernism that Vignelli did was the best possible design patterns in response of the universal constraint of mass production. Ultimately Vignelli is practical and Christopher Alexander is not. Only the upper class can really afford Alexander's approach, and it is the buildings of the upper classes of the past that we currently admire. I do agree that beauty cannot be mass produced, but I would settle for the functionality and possible elegance of Vignelli that can be made available to everyone.
Vignelli and Steve Jobs came from a time when simplicity and elegance were appreciated. This is no longer true and anyone like Vignelli would fail today. Today consumers only want crap. And to some degree this was a product of modernism itself. Modernism sacrifices the local cultural aspects of design which helps kill local culture. And without local culture, all sense of quality is lost, even that for modernism itself. So ultimately a compromise between Vignelli and Alexander is needed with some things containing local culture to maintain a sense of quality, and others mass produced to provide an affordable quality of life for all.