Postmodernism

Postmodernism emerged after the 1950s, more precisely between 1960 and 1970 in America as a reaction to the formalized architectural “international style.” The style requires the introduction of specific forms where necessary, rather than the use of formal principles regardless of territory and location. Postmodernism is a neo-eclecticism that requires architecture not to conform to purely functional and economic requirements, giving rise to an architecture similar to that of Louis Sullivan in the 1920s, who directly calls himself a functionalist. The initiator of the movement is Robert Venturi (born 1925 in Philadelphia). Prominent names are Michael Graves, Charles Willard Moore, Santiago Calatrava, James Sterling. The style allows a very wide treatment of classic patterns in an eclectic spirit, most widely used in attractions in Las Vegas and New Orleans.

Piazza Italia in New Orleans by Willard Moore and the new gallery in Sturgart by English architect James Stirling
Michael Graves’ Portland Public Service Building, completed in 1982, is a typical example of postmodernism.
A skyscraper in Montreal by Lemay and Dimakopoulos, 1982, a typical example of postmodern
The Library of San Antonio, 1995, by Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta

Brutalism

Brutalism was an architectural style of fashion between 1950-1970. Brutalism was based on some of Corbusier’s post-war projects (especially the Chandigarh Court). The style is characterized by rough textures of visible concrete, heavy structures without cladding, paints and ornaments, monotonous rectilinear shapes. It spread widely in the Soviet Union and Great Britain, from where it spread to the United States, especially in university construction. The Royal National Theater in London is a typical brutalist building. It was built in 1976 by Sir Dennis Lasden. Prince Charles called the construction of the theater “the most elegant way to build a nuclear power plant in central London.”

One of the most famous brutalist buildings is the library of the University of California at San Diego (1970) by William Pereira, whom we also noted as influenced by futurism in another library university building in California.

Organic Architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright

In 1939, the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) wrote the book Organic Architecture. Although the idea came from his teacher Louis Sullivan, who formulated the idea as early as 1890, based on evolutionary biology, Wright consciously realized the principles of organic architecture. He says he is heavily influenced by the Japanese concept of earthquake construction. The Japanese do not oppose the earthquake, but follow it. This concept, applied in architecture, means harmony with nature and the use of natural materials. The building, Wright says, must be a product of the specific environment in which it is built. Below is his famous winter residence in Taliesin:

The following illustrations are from his program for organic architecture, Fallingwater, built as Edward Kaufman’s residence in Pennsylvania in 1934. Wright is a follower of Lao Tzu and says in imitation of the Chinese sage: “It is not the walls and windows that make up the building, but the empty space they form. ” The result of this way of thinking is the typical for Eastern architecture approach elements of the external environment of the building to enter the interior of the premises.

The international style

The so-called “International style” was a leading trend in architecture in the period 1930-1960. The principles of the style require the abandonment of decorations and national features in favor of reinforced concrete, steel and glass. The spaces become wide and bright. Architecture is the apotheosis of industrial society, practicality, utilitarianism stand above all other requirements. The motto of this style was coined by one of its most important representatives, Mies van der Rohe: “Less is more”. Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Peter Behrens, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Philippe Johnson are the leading architects and initiators of this style. Subsequently, the style penetrated countries with conservative aesthetics such as Italy and Brazil, where architects such as Pierre Luigi Nervi and Oscar Niemeyer built their concrete poetry. It was not until the 1970s that postmodernism in the face of Robert Venturi confronted the boredom and monotony of this style. Mid-century glass skyscrapers in the United States are a product of this style. Mies Van der Rohe’s Siegram skyscraper in New York is a typical example of the style. The entrance was designed by kinetic sculptor Alexander Calder.

Villa Savoy on Corbusier
Corbusier Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, 1959. In this later period he renounced his original purism and under the influence of plastic arts creates more artistic works such as the Ronchamp Chapel (1955)
Corbusier, Ronchamp Chapel
Corbusier, Ronchamp Chapel

Corbusier invented an anthropomorphic scale called MODULOR as a transition between the imperial and metric rocks. At its base is the standard height of the American police officer (6 feet). This scale shows the continuity from Vitruvius through Leonardo da Vinci and Leon Battista Alberti to the fact that architecture is based on human proportions. At the base of Modulora is the golden ratio.

Corbusier, Ronchamp Chapel
Golden spiral in a golden rectangle

Golden rectangle (a-b / b = b / a) and division of a segment in the proportion “golden ratio” (BC = AB / 2, BC = DC, AS = AD and then BS / AS = AS / AB)

Interior sizing according to Corbusier’s Modular
Basic measures of Corbusier’s Modulora on the human figure

Villa Tugendhat, designed by Miss van der Rohe, is the most striking example of “international style” in the architecture of the modern movement in Europe in the 1920s. The villa is a product of innovative spatial and aesthetic concepts related to the new lifestyle and the use of the possibilities of modern industrial production.

Interior of Villa Tugendhat

Art Deco

Art Deco (literally decorative art) was a trend that emerged after 1925 in architecture and decorative arts in France, and subsequently spread to other countries. As a style, it is a synthesis of neoclassicism and secession. Includes strict forms, ethnic decorations, expensive materials. In America, the style reached 1930 under the name Streamline Modern (Aerodynamic Modern). Although it originated in Paris, the practical realization of the style took place in the United States, where the entire decade of 1930-40 was under the sign of this style in construction, automotive and industrial design. The most famous Art Deco building in the United States is the Chrysler Skyscraper.

The Chrysler skyscraper
Buffalo City Council, New York, also an example of Art Deco.
This 1934 Chrysler is an example of Art Deco in industrial design
From this era in the Art Deco style in its American version are also shown above toaster and radio

Bauhaus

The Bauhaus University of Civil Engineering and Artistic Design is probably the most famous name of the architectural avant-garde of the early 20th century. The Bauhaus existed in Weimar, Germany from 1919 to 1933, when the Nazis closed it. The Bauhaus was led by Walter Gropius, and after 1930 by Miss van der Rohe. Influenced by Russian constructivism, the school nevertheless chose a more moderate path of development and essentially formulated principles that were later adopted by the so-called “International style” (see below). Gropius states the basic principle of the school as follows: “We want an architecture that suits our world of machines, radio and cars.” At the same time, this architecture should be achieved through a deep knowledge of the craft practices laid down in construction. It is paradoxical that Gropius fought against historicism in architecture, which is a wrong aesthetic product of the industrial age – ornaments that are glued to the facades were produced industrially in series.

The program diagram of training at the Bauhaus
A chair designed in the Bauhaus.
Typical architecture for the Bauhaus style – a house in Schemnitz, Saxony
Details of the Bauhaus building in Dessau
University of Weimar of Henri van de Velde

During the same period, the “modern” trend emerged in Germany – the term is also used for Art Nouveau, but it is a coincidence (Neues Bauen) associated with the Weimar Republic (1910-1930). The product of this trend are six residential areas in Berlin, the result of an innovative housing policy pursued during the Weimar Republic, when Berlin was undergoing turbulent political and social transformations. The areas are an example of new urban and architectural standards, innovative design and new technical solutions. The main architects of these projects are Bruno Tout, Martin Wagner and Walter Gropius, who have influenced housing in many countries around the world.

Constructivism

During the decade 1920-1930, constructivism emerged in the Soviet Union. The great age of delusion, according to which together with the proletariat innovation will win in all spheres of human activity, gives birth to geniuses who subsequently have a great influence on Western modernism. Kazimir Malevich, El Lisitsky (who together with Kandinsky created the school “Suprematism”, a kind of abstractionism), Petrov-Vodkin, Rodchenko, Marc Chagall, Vasily Kandinsky are just some of the names of the artistic elite of Russia, which creates schools of modernism or avant-garde even before the revolution in painting, graphics, decorative arts and posters (poster artists of this era call themselves “advertising designers” – see two posters by El Lisicki on the right – use photomontages). And Kandinsky himself (on the right is his painting The Red Square, 1915) is one of the theorists of one of the most revolutionary architectural schools in Europe – the Bauhaus. There are similar modern schools in poetry, literature, and drama, and in Russia before and after the revolution in general, a global modernist wave encompassed the entire Russian spiritual life. Names like Mayerhold, Vakhtangov, Eisenstein change create a new vision for the theatrical and cinematic space. Constructivism is a universal style of the era and applies not only to architecture. Rodchenko, for example, is considered an artist-constructivist.

Kandinsky, El Lisicki
El Lisicki

As one of the constructivists says: “Tectonics, construction and texture – the mobilizing material elements of industrial culture.” Constructivism as a style is characterized by strict forms, conciseness of forms, expression of constructions and monolithic image. In 1924 an official organization of the constructivists (OSA – Union of Modern Architects) was created, which developed the functional method of design based on a scientific analysis of the functions of buildings, facilities and urban complexes. This lays the foundations of modern design theory.
Famous names in constructivism are the brothers Vesnini, Moses Ginzburg, Ivan Leonidov, Konstantin Melnikov. Many utopian projects were developed, but the realizations of the constructivists were relatively few (see the following illustrations).

Project by Ivan Leonidov, 1927
Residential building in Moscow, 1920
El Lisicki, Lenin’s Tribune
Ivan Melnikov, Factory Cultural Club, 1927

Expressionism

In the period 1910-1924 in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Austria, avant-garde art and architecture were defined as “expressionism”. The style is characterized by the use of biomorphic modeling of materials such as bricks, concrete and especially glass, using new knowledge about the design capabilities of materials. Especially after the war, when Germany was in a particularly difficult social and economic situation, architecture took on extremely expressive forms. The forms are deformed and evoke disturbing emotions, the tendencies are more gothic than classical, the architecture is treated as art more than usual, forms influenced by natural forms such as rocks, caves, mountains and crystals are used. The brightest name in painting is Caspar David Friedrich (bottom left), in architecture – Eric Mendelssohn (bottom right Einstein Tower in Potsdam, 1922).

Expressionism influenced world architecture even after the Second World War – the styles of Art Deco and Deconstructivism, for example. Great names such as Eero Saarinen and Santiago Calatrava use expressionist techniques in their works.

In 1993, Calatrava had an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York called Art and Expression.

Futurism

A style that emerged in the early 20th century as a reaction to architectural historicism. It is characterized by long linear shapes, suggesting speed, effort and movement. The movement was founded by the Italian poet Filippo Marinetti, who wrote the Futurist Manifesto in 1909. The architect Antonio Sant Elia (1888-1916) transformed futuristic concepts into an urban form, but only as projects.

Two projects of Sant Elia

Futurism was revived in the years after World War II, introducing into architecture the pursuit of space, high speeds. Big names, not tied to a specific architectural style, but having built their own styles such as the Brazilian Oscar Niemeyer, use the principles of neo-futurism in some of their buildings.

William Pereira University of California Library, 1965

Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa spread their style throughout the city. The city of Brazil is the new capital, built in 1956 in a deserted place in the center of the country. The city is a model of new urban planning and construction, where each element is subordinated and harmonized with a general idea from the detail to the planning scheme of the city, which has the shape of a flying bird.

The building of the National Congress in the city of Brazil

Secession

Jugendstil in Germany, Art Nouveau and „Fin de siecle” in France, Modern style in England, Secession in Austria (also called Viennese Secession), Liberty style in Italy, Modernism in Spain and Sapin style in Switzerland, Tiffany in the USA are names of the same artistic direction from the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th century. The peak in the development of the style are the years 1890-1905. This coincides largely with Belle Époque (the wonderful age), a conditional name for the historical period 1890-1914. This term was born after the First World War as a nostalgic memory of the years before the terrible European catastrophe. The Eiffel Tower was built in the White Age. In any case, the visual form of the white epoch is secession. Suffragettes, an organization for granting women’s suffrage, appear in politics. In response to 19th-century academic art, the style features flat decorative forms; intertwined shapes of the whip curve; asymmetry; highlighting handmade items as an opposition to factory production; extensive use of new and often expensive materials; attention to detail and workmanship; rejection of previous styles in art. Particularly characteristic of Art Nouveau are all sorts of wavy shapes – tendrils, flames, waves, lush, fluttering stylized women’s hair. Based on the English School of Crafts and Japaneseism, he also patronized decoration primarily in architectural terms. The presence of creeping plant motifs is intensified. Balconies and bay windows are supported not only by atlases, but also by tree branches made of stone, cement, plaster. Plant and animal motifs adorn the arches and frames of windows and doors, similar to a much earlier example – Manueline architecture. The direct predecessor of the style is considered to be the Arts and Crafts Movement, which originated in England with the most prominent representative William Morris and with European lines such as the Deutscher Werkbund with the most prominent representative Henri van de Velde. These schools emerged in response to Victorian eclectic solutions and turned to industry as an inspiration for new forms, praising the machine-made products of the Industrial Revolution as a natural product of the era. In any case, these schools consciously apply the same principles in design, architecture, decorative products and interiors. Several illustrations by William Morris and van de Velde will show the connection between their ideas and secession.

Names such as Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), Otto Wagner (1841-1918), Victor Horta (1861-1947), Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939, by the way, founder of Czech Freemasonry), Charles Mackintosh (1868-1928) and Louis Tiffany (1848-1933) are significant for secession. Although it does not create new architectural types, this style manages to introduce a cult of industrial products in the sometimes pretentious decorativism.

Interior of a Horta hotel in Brussels and Macintosh furniture
Lamp and stained glass by Tiffany, 1902 and an image by Alphonse Mucha
House by Otto Wagner
Pavilion in Hitzig by Otto Wagner, 1899
House in Varna and hotel in Brussels by Paul Hankar, 1897