Sunday, April 10, 2011

RR 12-Modernism: TAKE 1

The Inception of Utilitarianism and Expressionism
Roth: 518-537

As the movement of Modernism escalated into the 20th century, the meaning of architecture was changing as well. The newest debate was whether architecture conveyed meaning beyond just accommodating human beings or whether it was so
mething more than that, something to stir a feeling or emotion in the core of your being. Could architecture actually change the way you see and look at things? This small segment o
f reading contained some thought provoking quotes that are worth expounding on in this response.

"Since the dawn of human symbolic thinking, architecture not only has provided utilitarian shelter but also has silently expressed how humans view themselves in relation to the cosmos, to their gods, and to each other." We see this statement come to life at the very beginning of time with the Tower of Babel, which was built at such a large height to seemingly "reach God." The pyramids, early cathedrals, and temples were all built around religious reasoning. Architecture then moved to building structures around housing needs and population increases. Herein lays one complaint regarding the movement of
modernism. Towards the middle of the 20th century, architecture was losing its meaning of symbolism and moving towards solely utilitarian purposes. This meant a loss of personality and vitality to the world of architecture. Was the invention of the machine a curse or a blessing to design?

Some forerunners of keeping traditional architecture alive yet still utilizing the machine were Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Mies van der Rohe was influenced by a fellow artist, Peter Behrens who idealized the that artists are "the agent of the taste of the age, and of architecture being an expression
of technical power." Le Corbusier, a true designer was fully aware that architecture was indeed more than just a structure to house people in. An entry from his book compared the Parthenon with that of modern day machine constructed buildings and noted that both were "elegant in form and function." He derived that as the new technique got perfected, modern architecture would find its place. His Villa Savoye (inset of 2 images) incorporates the use of 5 non-traditional building techniques and reflective of the Modernism age of the 20th century.

Meanwhile, over in Germany a similar movement was progressing.
To a larger extent, they believed that "architecture is much more than a
utilitarian appliance--- that it can and should be primarily a vehicle for evoking emotional, even mystical states of experience achievable in no other way." Architect Erich Mendelsohn believed architecture's purpose was to symbolize humans' inner feelings in a
tangible form. Another advocate of this idea was Paul Scheerbart who wrote that all architecture should be open to the outside world through glass. This is illustrated through (pictured right) Hans Scharoun's Schminke house with its glass construction and angular features. Expressionism is seen in this striking piece of architecture.

Modernism has a face similar to the movement of architecture today. The all glass house looks very much like sustainable housing we see today. The use of natural light and non-traditional structure resemble the mod design of the 21st century. Le Corbusier's use of a garden roof is representative of the sustainable movement today too. These designers were almost ahead of their time. Yes, their designs weren't always feasible and usually had to be altered later. I think that these designs were major players to follow though for design into the later 20th century to present day.

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