De Stijl architecture was formed by a group of young artists who created the new movement in 1917; calling both the movement and the magazine they published De Stijl. The group promoted utopian ideals and group members believed in the birth of new age in the wake of WWI. They felt it was a time of balance between individual and universal values. The work was completely abstract as well. The goal was total integration of art and life.
GERRIT THOMAS RIETVELD, Schroder House, the Netherlands, 1924. Rietveld came to the De Stijl group as a cabinet maker and created spectacular furniture throughout his life. He used this as an inspiration for the plans and designs of his architecture. He expresses his spirits and definition into the whole piece. This structure is an anti-cube and does not contain much functional space, nor did it intend to.
It instead throws all of this space out of the center therefore making the height, width, and depth an open space. The main areas such as the living room are on the second floor where as the private rooms are confined to the bottom. The second floor also uses sliding objects in order to be able to have definite shape or be open when needed. The movable panels illustrate three-dimensional ideas but have proportional planes. This contemporary style portrays nature through its open plan.
Walter Gropius developed a particular vision of “total architecture”. He made this concept the key to his work and the work of others who studied under him at a school called, The Bauhaus. It taught that all art forms, from simple to complex should be designed as a unit.
WALTER GROPIUS, Shop Block, the Bauhaus, Dessau, Germany, 1925-1926. In 1924 a new government was elected who forced the Bauhaus to move north to Dessau. When the Bauhaus program had matured, Gropius set guidelines for the schools universal goals. These included maintaining a positive attitude to living in a contemporary world (technology was embraced), avoid all romantic embellishment and whimsy, restriction to basic forms and colors to what is typical and universally intelligible, and simplicity within complexity.
All these goals are used in Gropius’ Work Shop Block. The building consisted of workshop, class areas, dining rooms, a theatre, and gym. Standing 3 stories tall, it housed many activities and programs however in a simplistic form. They constructed the Skelton of reinforced concrete but supported it back farther in order to sheath the entire building with glass creating a streamlined and light effect also revealing the classrooms beyond. The building is lifted off the ground slightly, seemingly floating. The white horizontal stringcourses also embrace the building. He wanted the “economy in the use of space” which was one of the schools ultimate goals. It is organized and simplistic, free from embellishments or architectural motifs, a masterpiece he always dreamed to create during his career.
This style from the 1920s to 1950s was greatly influenced by the Bauhaus. Its qualities and styles focus on simple geometric aesthetics. Le Corbusier, an influential architect and theorist on modern architecture applied himself to designing a functional living space which he referred to as a “machine for living” using these ideas.
LE CORBUSIER, Villa Savoye, 1929, Poissy-sur-Seine, France
Le Corbusier made an elegant country house which dominates its site and has a broad view of the landscape that surrounds it. It is essentially a cube that is composed with the idea of space where free open-rooms let light flow freely throughout the house as well as utilizing the space it has, including using the roof as a patio.
It contains a three-bedroom villa with servant’s quarters and the main part of the house is lifted off the ground by narrow columns and thin freestanding posts. It does not have a definite entrance and the building has no traditional façade so one must walk around the house to truly comprehend its layout, however, the turning circle on the bottom floor is a carport so that family members can enter directly from their car. The boxlike horizontal quality of the house displays its abstraction by showing that the spaces and masses interpenetrate so fluently that the inside and outside space intermingle.
Contradicting the simplistic forms of the international style, Art Deco focuses strictly on industry, the machine and aerodynamics by focusing on industrial designs. The names comes from the 1925 exposition International des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes, held in Paris, which celebrated living in the modern world. It replaces the vegetal forms of its parent with machine stylization. Its products have a “streamlined” elongated symmetrical aspect through its simple flat shapes alternate with shallow volumes. Many themes of Art Deco include automobile wheels, grills, cruise ship portholes and railings. This style was popular in the 1920s and 1930s.
WILLIAM VAN ALEN, The Chrysler Building, 1928-1930, New York Art Deco’s masterpiece is the stainless steel spire of this particular building being the world’s tallest building during its time, even taller than the Eiffel Tower! It is built up of fan shapes and has an extensive use of metalwork on the façade. The car motifs dominate the building; the symbols of hubcaps, car fenders, gargoyles in the form of radiator caps and hood ornaments. At the top there is a brilliant crown honoring the business achievements of the great auto manufacturer. The Chrysler Building was dedicated to the principles and successes of American Business before the Great Depression.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT- Robie House, Chicago, Illinois, 1907-1909. Frank Lloyd Wright was influenced by volumetric shapes. His architecture is “natural and organic”. He sought to develop an organic unity of planning, structure, materials, and site. Also he showed a lot of continuity in his patterns and designs. This structure (the Robie House) was known for its naturalism in the way it was adjusted to the site. The long, sweeping, ground-hugging lines, unconfined by abrupt wall limits, reach out toward and capture the expansiveness of the Midwest’s great flatlands.
This building has no symmetry, and the entrance is almost concealed. For the plan of the Robie House, Wright filled it with intricately joined spaces (some large and open, others closed) grouped freely around a great central fireplace. He extends the roofs far beyond the walls for dramatic effect. This house has domestic significance showing unexpected light sources designed with enclosed patios, overhanging roofs, and strip windows. Also they show glimpses of the outdoor viewers as they move through the interior space. The construction of this house creates a sense of motion, inside and out. The flow of interior space is determined by the sharp angular placement of exterior walls.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT- Kaufmann House (Fallingwater), Bear Run, Pennsylvania, 1936-1939. This residence was nicknamed “Fallingwater” because of the image of the water that flows through the exterior of the house. Wright believed that the inhabitants of this Residence would become desensitized to the waterfall’s presence and power if they merely overlooked it, so he built it over the waterfall. He confines the building-to-site relationship in this architecture by incorporating the natural water around the building into the actual construction of it. This was designed as a weekend retreat at Bear Run near Pittsburgh. It is perched on a rocky hillside over a small waterfall; the building extends in all four directions.
The full-length strip windows enliven the house’s shape, as well as the contrast in textures between concrete, painted metal, and natural stones in its walls. This site is an icon of modernist architectural design because of its unique approach to space design. It was made as a space designated to fit the patron’s life. Unfortunately, Fallingwater has been plagued in recent years with structural problems due to the unusual terraced design.
The dynamic exchange of fluid between the interior of the house and the natural environment outside was a problem. Frank Lloyd Wright designed a series of terraces that extend on three levels from a central core structure, like self-supporting shelves. However, overtime the “shelves” became unstable. In the end, about $11.5 million was put into the restoration of Fallingwater and was completed in 2003.
FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT- Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (exterior view from the northwest), New York, 1943-1959 (photo 1962) In the age of modernism, architects became concerned with a formalism that stressed simplicity. Wright had already introduced curves and circles in his earlier plans, so the spiral (the circle brought into the 3 rd and 4th dimensions) was the next step.
The thick walls and solid organic shape give the building a sense of turning in on itself. Inside the building, the shape of the shell expands toward the top, and a winding interior ramp spirals to connect the gallery bays, which are illuminated by a sky light strip embedded in the outer wall. The long interior viewing area opening onto a 90-ft. central well of space gives the impression of a sheltered environment, secure from the bustling city outside.
LE CORBUSIER- Notre Dame du Haut, 1950-1955. Ronchamp, France. This is a fusion of architecture and sculpture. The building is illusive, giving the impression that it is huge from afar, when it actually only holds about 200 people. The stale, heavy walls and ambiguous illumination make the building reminiscent of a sacred cave or a medieval monastery. Like the medieval cathedrals, this structure was built and designed with an underlying system integrating mathematics. This structure is made from fabric formed by a steel frame and metal mesh.
The entire interior is painted white except for the ceiling in a couple of private chapel niches which were left unpainted to darken and lighten with the time of day. Corbusier constructed the roof so that it appears to float freely by elevating the roof with near invisible blocks. The same illusion can be seen on the Indian structure Hagia Sophia with had the same effect achieved through the usage of windows. These two structures share many qualities and thus demonstrate the roots of inspiration.
The overall design of the building came from shapes such as praying hands, the wings of a dove (which is the symbol for the Holy Spirit), and the prow of a ship (this is referring to the Latin word “nave” which means ship, referencing old basilicas). Through those images, Corbusier wanted all who viewed this structure to be in awe of the floating roof, see the religious shapes, and then have the urge to go forth and profess their faith in God. He hoped to develop a new interpretation of the sacred beliefs of his people and of the natural environments, bringing them closer together as a society.
LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE and PHILIP JOHNSON- Segram Building, 1956-1958. Manhattan, New York. This is a rectilinear glass and bronze tower in Manhattan and was one of the first models for skyscrapers when the industrial revolution was taking place in the United States and large cites began to urbanize. Once finished, this building plan was common in all major cities, all around the world.
Although many people vulgarized this design, it was easy to duplicate and so many companies used the same design for their own buildings. This building was designed thin purposely so that the first quarter of the space that the building was to occupy could be used as an open pedestrian plaza. This plaza has been famous for drawing people to the building for social interactions.
The architects gave the illusion of the building rising out of the street on stilts; they even made the lobby completely out of glass giving it the illusion of being invisible and unsupported to further that effect. The recessed structuring of the building makes it seem to have glass skin being that everything is glass apart from the bronze that holds the windows in place. Together, the bronze and amber glass make the building appear more elegant, rich, and illuminated. The architects even went a step further and planned the interior and exterior lighting to achieve an intriguing and elegant look both day and night.
RICHARD ROGERS and RENZO PIANO- Georges Pompidou National Center of Art and Culture (the “Beaubourg”), 1977. Paris, France. This structure marked the beginning of deconstructivist architecture, incorporating the characteristics of being unfinished and incomplete. The architects incorporated motifs from industrial building in their design for this structure, seen by the metallic, factory theme to the building. What is fascinating about this structure is that the anatomy of the entire structure was left visible with no exterior walls, very reminiscent of the Crystal Palace.
What is even more intriguing is that the metabolism -pipes, ducts, tubes and corridors- is visible and color coded according to function (red=movement of people, green=water, blue= air conditioning, yellow=electricity). Common criticism of the structure is that it requires frequent maintenance to protect the exposed structure from the elements. While that is true, it doesn’t stop the many people who still go to enjoy the art that they building holds.
Its many functions include art galleries, industrial design centers, a library, science/music center, conference rooms, research/archival facilities, movie theaters, rest areas and even a restaurant. The same type of activities and demonstrations that occurred outside of the great cathedrals can be seen outside of this building. Art lovers can be found performing day and night outside of the building along with the likes of salesmen and people who utilize the large number of tourists that visit to their advantage. It is all of these characteristics that further the building’s prominent reputation for culture and popular entertainment.