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Modern Architecture – Part 1 (Functionalism)

Modernism(1900-1950) focuses on simplicity, minimalism and a rejection of ornament. Also, the designers of Modern architecture concentrated on functionality of buildings. Discovery of new materials and construction technologies led to innovative designs, open plan interiors, taller buildings as well as multi-functional structures.

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier(French architect) and Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus were the founders of Modernism.

Characteristics of Modern Architecture

  • Asymmetry in building
  • Purity of form and simple geometries (Geometric pure forms – triangle, circle, square, cylinder, etc.)
  • Abstraction/Abstract art (Breaking the nature into simplistic patterns and forms)
  • Minimal color Palette
  • Emphasis on Function
  • New materials like glass, steel, concrete
  • Concrete and steel as aesthetic expression
  • Open-plan Interiors

Phases of Modern Architecture

  1. Organic
  2. Functionalism
  3. Expressionism
  4. Art Deco
  5. Internationalism
  6. Minimalism
  7. Brutalism
  8. Metabolism

Examples of Modern Architecture

I – Organic – Phases of Modern Architecture

Architectural Features

  • Low Pitched roofs
  • Flat cantilever overhangs
  • Rows of windows for horizontal emphasis
  • Natural materials

1. Fallingwater

Modern Architecture
Image source: franklloydwright.org
  • Building: Fallingwater
  • Function/Use: House, Weekend retreat
  • Location:  Mill Run, Pennsylvania
  • Date of construction: 1935
  • Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Key Features: Integration of building with nature, Fine Geometry
  • Materials Used: Concrete, glass, stone
  • Universal Value: UNESCO World Heritage Site, National Historic Landmark
  • Structure: Fallingwater stands as one of Wright’s greatest masterpieces both for its dynamism and for its integration with its striking natural surroundings. The design perfectly merges the building, living, and nature along with its pure geometry with cantilevering terraces, creating a strong emphasis and harmony between man and nature.
  • Façade: The concept of alternate solid and voids(stones and water) is reflected and continued in the form of design of the house by the alternate extended terraces and glass.

Prairie School Style Architecture

Characteristics and Features:

  • Influence of classical styles of Architecture
  • Influence from America’s vast tree-less Prairie land
  • Inspiration from Nature and its surroundings
  • Solids and Voids
  • Horizontal lines
  • Colors derived from Prairie grass lands.
  • Asymmetrical buildings

Architectural Features

  • Low pitched roofs
  • Large overhang cantilevers
  • Rows of casement windows
  • Materials – Natural textured woodwork without any paint, stained glass

2. Robie House (Prairie School)

Modern Architecture
Photo by Mike Moenning, courtesy of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust
  • Building: Robie House
  • Function/Use: Previously as a home, Now as a National Historic Landmark
  • Location: 5757 South Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
  • Date of construction: 1909
  • Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright
  • Key Features: Horizontal Emphasis, Natural and organic texture
  • Materials Used: Brick, terracotta, glass
  • Universal Value: UNESCO World Heritage Site, U.S. National Historic Landmark
  • Structure and Façade: Robie house is one of the best examples of Prairie style architecture as a part of Modern architecture. Asymmetrical in nature, the architectural features such as lengthy cantilevered pitched roofs, rows of windows – all create horizontal emphasis.

II. FUNCTIONALISM – Bauhaus Movement

Form Follows Function

 -Louis H. Sullivan

Architectural Features

  • Simplified forms
  • Pure function
  • Urban and Industrial context
  • Prefabrication
  • Standardization of materials and mass production

3. Bauhaus Building

Image source: bauhaus-dessau.de
  • Building: Bauhaus Building
  • Function/Use: Educational Centre for Art and Craft
  • Location: Dessau, Germany
  • Date of construction: 1925-26
  • Architect: Walter Gropius
  • Key Features: Asymmetrical structure
  • Materials Used: Reinforced concrete, Brick, Glass Curtain wall
  • Universal Value: UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Structure: The structure is organized in three different wings arranged in a pin-wheel form asymmetrically that connect workshops and dormitories within the school. The functions of the school building has been emphasized in the pure geometrical form of the structure. The design expresses that both functional approach and asymmetrical form combines beauty and function in an eloquent way. It also represents emerging relationship between industrial revolution and arts.
  • Façade: Steel and concrete were used as structural elements whereas large curtain wall in the façade provide ample light and exterior views. Pure colors of white, grey, black, yellow and blue were used.

4. Fagus Boot Factory

Modern Architecture
Image source: hoegl.com
  • Building: Fagus Boot Factory
  • Function/Use: Shoe factory
  • Location: Alfred, Germany
  • Date of construction: 1911-1913
  • Architect: Walter Gropius and Adolf Mayer
  • Key Features: pure forms of geometry, solids and voids
  • Materials Used: Reinforced concrete, steel, brick
  • Universal Value: UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Structure: Built with Reinforced concrete, steel and brick, the Fagus Boot Factory is a typical example of Modern architecture. It is combination of different materials and elements, yet expresses and appears as a unified whole.
  • Façade: Straight lines, pure forms of geometry, solids and voids are a part of design of the aesthetics. A major part of the façade is conceived of glass with a combination of exposed brick. The corners are left without any support which gives a sense of openness and a continuity between exterior and interiors.

Chicago School Style Architecture

  • Chicago school style architecture flourished between 1880-90.
  • Also known as commercial style
  • Promote new technologies in steel frame construction.
  • Associated with multi-storied commercial buildings.
  • Vertical building Masses
  • Steel frames
  • Cuboidal forms
  • Classically derived decoration
  • Stone façade/cladding/Terracotta cladding
  • Influence from Classical Greek Architecture.

5. Chicago School

Image source: wikipedia.org
  • Building: Chicago School
  • Function/Use: Chicago Savings Bank Building
  • Location: Chicago
  • Date of construction: 1904-1905
  • Architect: Holabird & Roche
  • Key Features: Horizontal emphasis with vertical building mass
  • Materials Used: Steel frames, concrete, terracotta cladding
  • Universal Value: UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Structure: The ground and first floor consists of shops, where as the upper floors function as spaces for offices and the last upper floor for other utility areas. Each of these functional spaces were designed accordingly in a distinctive manner. Large Chicago windows, distinctive horizontal windows and window bays, metal frame construction, terracotta cladding are the main features of this modern architecture style of Chicago school.
  • Façade: The division of horizontal lines in building mass creates an illusion that reduces the verticality of the building. The design elements such as cornices and their treatments were an influence from classical Greek Architecture.

6. Prudential (Guaranty) Building

Image source: wikipedia.org
  • Building: Prudential (Guaranty) Building
  • Function/Use: Offices
  • Location: Buffalo, New York
  • Date of construction: 1896
  • Architect: Louis Henry Sullivan
  • Key Features: Minimal ornamentation whose design is an inspiration from previous styles.
  • Materials Used: Steel frames
  • Universal Value: UNESCO World Heritage Site, National Historic Landmark
  • Structure & Façade: Similar to the Chicago saving banks building, the façade is designed according to the function of the building into three horizontal divisions – the base, central and the crown. The three zones of Sullivan’s design are visible in the large open windows of the ground zone, the thin vertical elements of the office zone, and the arches and curves of the terminating zone at the top of the building.(From Wikipedia). The terracotta cladding and ornamentation(Biomorphic lines and whiplash lines, flora and fauna) is inspired from Art Nouveau architecture.

De Stijl Movement

The main time frame of De Stijl Movement was from 1917-1931. De Stijl is a Dutch word which means “The Style.” This style is also known as Neo-Plasticism : an abstraction of art and purity in design. It is predominantly an art movement.

Characteristics of De Stijl Art

  • Use of straight lines
  • Primary colors – Red, Yellow, Blue including black and white
  • Geometric forms
  • Thick strokes

Examples of De Stijl Art

1. Composition in window frame

Stained glass composition by Theo Van Doesburg

2. Furniture Design

Zig Zag Chair (1934)
Gerrit Rietveld – Red-Blue Chair (1917)
Berlin Chair (1923)

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