Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I thought this image would be a good example from our discussion about consumerism and our 'throwaway culture.' What design opportunities are presented by this giant pile of 'trash?'

and what ideas does this image bring up about design?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Context: The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

In order to study a style or period of design, you must look at it in context. Design is constantly changing and reacting, constantly rebelling against the present style. There are always so many factors influencing design that it cannot be expected to stay the same for long. From production methods, to innovations in materials and processes, to social reforms and cultural influences, design is always fluctuating. We go from periods of intense ornamentation, like the Baroque, to theories of design that are the polar opposite, like Mies Van der Rohe's 'less is more.'

More recently, materials and production methods have had a significant impact on design. Because of new materials like plastics, rubberized foam, aluminum, and synthetic materials, designers have been able to experiment with forms and create things that are new and unprecedented. (Think of Gunnar Andersen’s rubberized foam chair for the Museum of Modern Art – page 320 in Raizman) or this one, which we all know:

This freedom of expression has not always been granted to designers. This is yet another context of design, the cultural influence of the time. Remember Hermann Muthesius, in Germany, who rebelled against Art Nouveau and felt that ‘individuality should be subservient to the creation of more practical, rational forms of furniture and fittings.’ (Raizman) If someone today tried to say, ‘Designers, abandon all individual expression, for there is one superior form that we must all strive to achieve,’ we would laugh at them! But during Muthesius’s time, that was exactly what was needed to help unify the country in the time leading up to World War I, lending to a strong sense of nationalism and a national identity that everyone could relate to.

For any given time period or style of design, you must consider all influences surrounding it and how they shaped that period or style. Of course, during the time that a new style is being developed and implemented, it is often unnamed and not necessarily considered a style until we can look back and examine it in context. So my question is, and you can all have fun with this, what would you call the ‘style’ that we are currently in? Consider contemporary designers and architects, (Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, Zaha Hadid, and other designer’s whose work we read about in Architectural Record or Digest) as well as the economic, political, cultural influences, and the influence that is starting to permeate the design community – the idea of ‘going green.’

Sunday, November 25, 2007

As we all know post modernism is design that rearticulates a distinct historical style. In Post Modernism classical forms are exaggerated or over simplified. Post modernism thrived during the 80's. Architects and designers like Graves and Venturi were (and still are) legendary for their perspectives. Still I wonder, what does it mean to be a post modernist? Does being a post modernist mean that you have honor for the past or that you laugh at the past? Look at Venture’s Chippendale chair. Is this reverence or is it mockery? And are the shadows of historical forms comforting when portrayed in this whimsical fashion or are they alarming?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Contemporary design & Mass Culture

Obsolescence remained a guiding principle in industrial design for the mass market, but during the 1960s many products abandoned flamboyance and playful novelty in favor of greater standardization and conformity. Products began to have less and less variety between them, but they came in different colors and available accessories offered the variety that the original product lacked. As a result, the industrial designer wasn’t much needed anymore in terms of styling and invention.
Technology was a big motivation behind many of the new products that were aimed at increasing and satisfying the wants and needs of the mainstream mass market. Formica was manufactured in an increasing number of colors and patterns suitable to every taste, including simulated natural and traditional materials.
The major influence at this time was the changing culture. For example, advertising for many products almost exclusively featured women either marveling over the products or playing hostess. What changed was the REJECTION of traditional role models in the 1960s, which lead to the women’s liberation movement. During the 1960s women debated and protested sexual discrimination and sought alterations to the gender stereotypes socialized through education and the media. But this wasn’t the only change in traditions going on. There was also an increasingly diversified youth culture was being joined by other secondary groups of the 1960s, such as “racial minorities, women and homosexuals,” each with a strong desire for recognition. Rebellions, strikes, and student protests during this time ranged from skirt-lengths and marijuana –use to abortion, the death penalty, and freedom of speech, racial discrimination, the voting age and the U.S. participation in the Vietnam War
With all of this change from old to new traditions happening and all the controversy arising, producers wanted to make sure they were appealing to a wide variety of the demographic, which at this time was a majority of youth. What do you think had the most impact on design during this period? Why? Why was it a big deal?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Design and mass appeal/ new materials

After World War II the manufacturing industry started to explode due to the new forms of marketing and the public was tuning in and listening to what the companies had to offer. The working class was added to the target audience of the marketing strategies due to the increase in production in the manufactories the working class was earning higher wages. One of the new strategies to increase production after the Model T from Ford came out was the term obsolescence. To companies this meant they would offer options to the consumer instead of just one standard style and that there were always new editions coming out in the market constantly. This idea was endorsed also by the growing ads about “Keeping up with the Jones” and with the new development of new materials. These new materials included different types of plastics that enabled the companies to come out with different colors and textures as well as Formica, a vinyl-like flooring tile, as well as laminated plywood that was used on furniture as a surface covering. This lead to companies simply applying new finishes instead of creating or revising a product and market it as the new “must have” of the season. These manufactories were producing at such alarming rates one might wonder how they had the time to design these new products. This was seen more in the car industry as bands fought to be the first to produce a new design that the public would love. This “mass design” was a very risky business so many companies limited “the role of the design to superficial elements of product housing rather than integrating design with engineering, ergonomics, or other research-based considerations.” This was all due to the large scale of competition brought on by the increasing manufactories and trying to produce the latest and greatest. So due to this high competion do you think obsolescence hurt or helped good quality design as a whole?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

little change in interiors...

thought you all might think this was interesting...

"Visitors to the Liberty Hotel in Boston move up an escalator from the street to the lobby as a hotel employee descends on Monday, Oct. 22, 2007. The Liberty was recently converted from the nearly two-century-old Charles Street Jail into a five star luxury hotel." (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia) (yahoo!)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

International Modernism

The phrase “international modernism” was first coined by Philip Johnson to describe the architecture of the International Style Exhibition at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 1932. The phrase is self explanatory in that it refers to the fact that, during the first half of the twentieth century, modernism had found a place for itself in the newly conceived national styles across the globe.

The design of this era (per Raizman) was founded upon the use of new materials such as glass and concrete, the implementation of new technologies for production, recognition of the factors of comfort, importance of fitness to purpose, and the respect of individual expression, Visually, (per Johnson), evident was an expression of volume instead of mass, reliance upon balance instead of preconceived symmetry, and, most definitively, the abandonment of ornament.

The emergence of international modernism can largely be credited to the shared desire of nations across the world to create their own national identity within the global community. These identities were meant to demonstrate the status and power of a nation, to its citizens and to the world, at economic, technological, cultural, and political levels. Design was used as the “commercial face” of the identities, thus resulting in national styles. In order for nations to be able to “stand their ground” within the international marketplace, their style had to be one not only of function and efficiency, but of beauty and appeal as well. Thus, the successful national styles can be described as that of a “marriage of industry and art” which, in turn offers a definition to what is modern. This expanded at an international level as a marriage of “commerce and culture”. Conclusively, international modernism was a result of national identities, shaped through modern design, to offer international appeal.

The International Style, mentioned earlier, was an extreme version of international modernism with strict Rationalist principles. The public buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe (Miles if your Josh) exemplifies this style. They are essentially floating, glass boxes and technically all look the same. They demonstrate the style’s essence in that, design solutions were indifferent to location, site, and climate. There were no historical ties, nor any vernacular qualities. They could literally be built anywhere.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s theory pertaining to the relation of the interior to the exterior was in direct opposition with that of the International Style. Site and location were central to his designs, and his ability to create architecture as the manmade extension of the land played a big part his success.

So, who wins? Was the indifference of the International Style a strength, or weakness? Is a universal solution the best solution, or a limited one? Does the anonymity of the International Style undermine it origins as a symbol for patriotism and nationalism? Give your opinion and reasoning.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Art Deco & Industrial Design, II

Industrial design emerged as a response to the lack of diversity found in products like Ford’s Model T. Although the use of Fordism did much to revolutionize production, even leading to American industrialization as “the basis for prosperity and economic recovery” in other counties, as the 1920’s loomed on it became evident that Ford’s success, built on the idea of every product being the exact same, was not going to last. People had begun to opt for used Model T’s, because they were in fact the same as the new ones being produced. A solution to this problem was found by another car manufacturer, General Motors, who began to offer their vehicles in a variety of colors and to use the principle of “planned obsolescence” which hinged off the idea that new colors or styles would be preferred over older, out-dated ones. This idea, along with heavier advertising, brought about the position of the industrial designer. More than just designing a product the industrial designer was said to fill the middle ground “between advertising’s concerns for consumer appeal and planned obsolescence, humanistic concerns with progress through improved performance and social responsibility, a desire to work closely with the engineering in the organization of a product’s working parts, and individual creative expression.” Notable industrial designers include Bel Geddes, who was hired to redesign kitchen ranges to create more consumer demand and chose to tackle the issue of ease of cleaning; and Walter Dorwin Teague, who redesigned cameras for Kodak and was able to incorporate elements of design that also served functional purposes. This idea of designing products for usefulness is seen even more with the occurrence of WWII, when it became an issue of “shortages, restrictions, and the retooling of industries” to meet production needs of the war effort.

The industrial designer started out solving the problem of “how do we sell more of a product?” but developed into a person who deals with all facets of the product from the design down to the how it effects the of quality of life. What effect do you think the development of the profession of the industrial designer has had on the world today in terms of what is produced and, also, how do you think it relates or has shaped what is required of us as interior designers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Modern Movement II

The move to modernism was not only a shift in styles but also the killing off of others. The art nouveau style, infiltrating furniture, architecture, and fine arts, was planted to grow into a revolutionary movement. Although debatably it did revolutionize design. It never reach its full maturity in growth as it was cut down.
Although it can’t be pinpointed, the short life of art nouveau has been attributed to competition from antique dealers and cheap departments stores. Leading to a deprivation of the exclusive audience wanting and consuming modern style.
In the beginning stages of the art moderne development there was a balance between representing classical and other styles in a more abstract way, often constrained by principles that the style holds. (Abstracted forms, symmetry, and lines) There started to form an appreciation for the function of items and the best form to show that. This was often done by stripping styles down to some basic elements and principles.
That is show well in Henri Matisse’s quote,
“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and tranquility, devoid of troubling subject matter, an art which could be, for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as for the man of letters, for example, a soothing balm, a mental calmative, something akin to a good armchair which eases his physical fatigue…”
This brings me to my discussion of conformability and modernism/art moderne/deconstructivism. Is modern design comfortable? That is the overall question I ask. Is the stripping of furniture, for example, to a bare form going to be more comfortable because it eases your fatigue through tranquil, simplified design? Have we sacrificed out comfort for design? To what extent have we or have we not? What fields of design? Examples could include cars, transportation, furniture, and space.

Monday, October 15, 2007

"Modern Movement I"

The ideas of modernism began to spread when Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson organized “The International Style,” an architectural exhibition in 1932. Seventy-Five projects were presented and many of them shared the same characteristics that are mentioned in Pyle’s text: Flat roofs, smooth, white walls, large spans of glass, asymmetrical plans, and the absence of ornamental or historical detail. These projects were considered to be designed under the idea of function, rather than what is just aesthetically pleasing. Eleven of the projects were highly based on interiors, here noting a key principle of modernism – That the design of architecture be first based on the interior arrangement of a space, ultimately leading to the exterior's design. Hitchcock and Johnson describe the new modern style as abstract, cubistic, and representative of the “machine age.” In its simplicity, modernism also lead to further exploration in form through steel and concrete.
Because of the new approach to design, others viewed it as very progressive thinking. Putting the past behind and moving forward. Many countries, particular in Europe, were uncomfortable with these new ideas, limiting progressive thinkers, and opposing everything that was not eclectic or an imitation of history. Modernism was the belief that design should be for and used by everyone. Therefore, it developed in areas where democracy and social idealism flourished. With its evolution, do you see modernism as a result of politics, a style driven only by technology and engineering developments, or just a matter of taste? Maybe, perhaps, none of these apply to what you perceive. In what ways do you see the principle of modernism used today?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Traditional or Modern? Why not have both?!

This question often popped up in the nineteenth. People were sure you MUST make a choice on whether to implement techniques of the past or completely turn away from them. Eclecticism changed the way people thought about design. Literally “selecting what appears to be the best in various doctrines, methods or styles”, eclecticism allows design to take the best of what was from all “period styles” and implementing them in the best combination. With the rise of eclectic architecture, it is said also came the first emergence of the Interior Decorator. Someone needed to make the choice of what interior style would best suit the architecture of a specific building. Supply and demand. A demand for decoration of space surfaced, so therefore people with such talent began to carve a niche for the Interior Decorator. Trained in all period styles, decorators had to know how to create a space for any style architecture. They also held expertise in antiques and artworks that would complement specific designs. Decorators of this period also assumed the role of salesperson, buying and selling items such as furniture, rugs, and accessories. Personality played key in the success of these decorators, they needed to be able to schmooze their clients, as well as easily adapt designs to their liking.

While Interior Designers today encompass many more skills, it seems that the characteristics of the first decorators still prove essential. Knowledge, business sense, and tact.

Did “eclecticism” define the role of interior designers? Why or Why Not?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Art Nouveau & Vienna Secession

The Art Nouveau movement and Vienna Secession intersect in the early 20th century . Even though these movements overlapped they were both very different in style and popularity. While items produced in the style of Art Nouveau were organic in shape and detail, items produced during the Vienna Secession were fully geometric in design and pattern. Art Nouveau allowed people to experience and feel design rather than just viewing it.
Emile Galle played a very influencial role in the development of the Art Nouveau movement. Galle looked for inspiration from nature. Also he liked to include symbolism. He wanted the viewers interpretation of the piece to be both from an artistic and psycological stand-point. His glass work set the pace for renewing the world's interest in such artistic pieces. Unlike Art Nouveau the Vienna Secession was lead by a specific group rather than individuals. The Wiener Werkstatte organization was founded in 1903. It's purpose was to bring aesthetic design to Austria. This was achieved through producing everything from furniture to clothing. A common motif seen in these pieces was a series of cuttouts creating a pattern. For example, in Josef Hoffmann's Skyscaper Basket, small squares are cutt out and evenly spaced to add an aesthetic appeal. Without these cuttouts the basket would still serve the same purpose, but it would not be as appealing. Also the use of color was crutial to the final design. In Hoffmann's Gaming Chair a pattern in apparent in the structure of the chair, but is emphasized even more because of the placement of the black squares.
Both Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession changed the world of aesthetic design and have greatly influenced today's styles. Because of the difference in the two styles which style do you feel was more influencial and still seen today?

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Aesthethic Movement

The Aesthetic movement was a rebellion against the heavy ornamentation and mass production of goods that was introduced after the Industrial Revolution. The first two key players of the Aesthetic Movement were John Ruskin and William Morris. They both beleived that all of the technology and new furnishings of the Victorian had caused a great seperation between the art and the artist. They felt that the true beauty of crafting a piece of furniture or creating an original design had been lost to the machine. The new designs of the Aesthetic movement were very referential to nature and not to the latest fashion of displaying how much wealth someone possessed through the amount of ornamentation and fabric draped on anything that would stand still.
John Rustic was mainly a writer on the theory of arts and crafts, while William Morris was one of the designers who actually implemented these theories. He is most known for his furniture design as well as patterns. In addition to his designs , Morris was greatly involved with rebelling against capitalists whom he believed to have created the unequality between classes due to the mass production of goods.
Furthermore, I belive that at some point "stuff just becomes stuff" unless there is something meaninful about where goods come from or how they were created. I believe that William Morris and John Ruskin had great ideas about reuniting the artist with the art.
I think a perfect comparison to the Aesthetic movement's rebellion against the Victorian Era, is today's rebellion against unsustainable buildings as well as unrenewable products. The Victorian Era brought so much happiness to the people that were finally able to afford things they never dreamed of and became the new "middle class". People came to realize that possessions do not hold as much meaning when they are so easily accessible. Today, we have every demand at such convience that we forget the simple things in life. We have become so advanced that we forget that nature is the only reason we are here in the first place. We have all been so comfrotable with today's convientient technology that we forget about the issues it brings, much like the loss of craftsmenship. I wonder what John Ruskin and William Morris would think off today's world and where they would steer design because of our environmental issues? What do you think?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Victorian Era

The Victorian Era
Quantity VS Quality

The Victorian Era allowed many middle class people to afford many goods previously enjoyed only by the rich. However, the ornate rugs, draperies, and richly decorated objects that were once all handmade and of the highest quality were now being produced in quantity. The craftsmanship suffered and the cost went down but the quality of life for many people went up. Today nearly everything in mass produced because it is efficient and cost effective. Many of the small items that are produced can be made for very little cost but in turn have very little value or use. If you wanted you could have five hundred Frisbees, plastic whistles, or visors with your company logo imprinted on it, no problem. But how many of those would actually be used for more than a day? With it being so easy to produce goods and put them onto the market think how much goes to waste. Do you think we are moving forward with mass production or are we just becoming more efficient at producing junk?

Friday, September 7, 2007


I thought the discussion of the effects of Marketing and the role "Visualizers" played in marketing in class today was interesting. We saw vaccuums cleaners that were advertised in old print and the new Dyson vacuum was mentioned by Estee. I just had to look it up!


Hope this is ok Megan.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Industrial Revolution, part I

A step forward or step in the wrong direction?

As we have discussed in class, historians relate the Industrial Revolution to that of the Neolithic Revolution, when humans became an agrarian community versus nomadic (Tate & Smith, 1986, p. 219). There is no doubt that because of the Industrial Revolution we have benefited from its many inventions, advancements and improvements. Without it, our lives as we know it would be non-existent. As a person that belongs to middle class society, I would not have had the opportunities which I enjoy today if it were not for mass production and technology. In addition, very few individuals would know and understand the same comfort and luxuries we expect today. Still, history shows that the ancient Romans (before the fall of Rome) were a very advanced society and had invented many processes and materials to make life easier and more secure. Unfortunately, these methods were lost or forgotten with the fall of the Roman Empire. It took many years before these techniques were revived and improved upon. However, these “improvements” employed different methods than what was originally utilized, and since 1850 we now have 35% more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere (CBS evening news, August 2007). Sooner or later our idea of “comfort” will have to become compromised in the interest of the world’s future. The effects of this change are sure to bring about a new revolution; one that is perhaps more healthy for our environment, but (as some feel) could be detrimental to our way of life.

Considering global warming, do you believe that the Industrial Revolution, specifically the discovery of coal and other fossil fuels, was a necessary step forward or a “misstep” in the advancement of modern man? Do you think we would have found the same quality of life if we had continued to develop the technology we were already using (such as wind and water mills)? Explain your answer.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hey everyone it is good to be back in school...right? Well I hope to have some stimulating discussions with all of you. Hopefully we will have diverse opinions to share. Just as a warning, my spelling is terrible so if you are confused or if I have made some outrageous error please email me.


Testing 1, 2, 3

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Welcome to ID 243

Anne Frank once said "paper is more patient than man." Today, the internet has become our "paper" and blogs, which are outlets for expressing thoughts and opinions, are a modern form of journals. For this class, the blog should be used as a tool to inform, educate, and express ideas centered on modern design, theories, and culture. All thoughts and opinions must be original to writer (blogger) and engage others to discuss the topic at hand. There are no "wrong" answers or responses, rather poorly supported statements. Therefore, it is important to use real examples and document sources to support your argument. Don't forget, these will be graded, so be creative with your discussions/ responses!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Contemporary Desing Part III

As we have talked about in class we are the contemporary era we are living it. Ideas and design are changing in forming into something of the future or something of now. Ideas of the past reflect design of today but with technology and new materials they can recreate old or even restore old building with new architecture. Today materials are easy to recreate to appear old. Buildings are created with new materials once again designing it and using old styles with flashy new materials.

Designers and architects have been researching green design and how by using certain products and materials they can change and the use of energy by the amount that is used and the amount created. Another name for this is green design. Green design has just become popular or even thought about being used in the last 10 -15 years. Green design may not be considered a style but it’s a direction that we are going. If we want to enjoy the earth later in our life or make it a nice place for the future generation we must start to consider green design. This has become its own style it’s unique and interesting. There are so many ways to use green design. Many different materials can be used glass, metal, recycled just to name a few. When these materials are constructed just the right way or in the right form they are extremely effective. Energy is not wasted and some is even stored for later use. A good example of both old and new architecture and green design as well is a building built in New York. The Hearst Magazine Building it was an original finished in 1928 but in 2006 an additional tower was erected. The tower was built and designed as green design. The Hearst building was the first and only building in New York City that is a green design.

This is just the beginning of hopefully many more green designs. From what we have learned green design may even be considered a style because of the use of materials and as contemporary style / design we may have found our new style.
This is a question I have for designs students. Will green design become more of a style or a technique for the future?

Contemporary Design III

Historically, almost every style can characterize a certain period of time. The Victorian Era carried us close to the 1900's with its innovative material use on exteriors, such as the Crystal Palace with iron and glass, and the amazing ability to fit large amounts of ornate and rich furniture into their homes. The Arts and Crafts is another example that characterizes the early 20th century. This style called for a return to handcrafting and simplicity with introducing more natural materials and innovative layouts.

Currently though, design is going in many different directions. There are deconstructivists such as Rem Koolhaas and Peter Eisenman, who love to push the envelope with new mater
ial uses and cutting edge technology use. The Prada retail store in New York (to the right) is an example of Koolhaas' innovative use of planes and materials.
On the other end you have a return to the classics, again, but with a twist on the earlier elements of this style. An extreme example is Greenburg's "perfected" and enlarged version of Washington's Mount Vernon. Some say that this structure could easily be mistaken to have come from a much earlier period.

So, my question is, with so many different styles happening at one time, will we ever be known to have come togehter to create the great style of our time?

Contemporary Design III- 21st century design and beyond

Just like any other transition between design periods there is always an emergence of the two styles. Right now the emerge consist of elements like straight lines, flat planes and right angles from the modern period, and complex curvilinear lines and free forms from the contemporary period. New technologies, like computerized drafting and 3-D modeling software, is making it possible for designers to have an unlimited freedom unlike before. In the past, designers (architecture and interior) have been basically limited to what they can draw onto paper letting drafting tools with right angles and straight lines being an extensive influence to their designs. I am not saying that curved elements have not been apart of architecture in the past, but if it was used the space was labeled as being special.A good example of the emergence is the Frank Gehry Walt Disney Concert Hall, which has a combination of complex curvilinear and rectilinear lines on the exterior and the interior is symmetrical with some unusual curving forms.
Some designers feel that the use of the computer will damage the production of creativity from designers, where others believe that it will give the freedom that sculptors and other hands-on crafts have- the freedom of limitations. This freedom for designers will allow the exploration of clean free flowing forms. A good example of this free flowing form is the Reebok Flagship Store located in Shanghai, China. It is clean, asymmetrically curvaceous and spaces blend seamlessly into one another, which this also allows functions of the space to overlap.

So, my question to you all is that do you believe that the use of computer related technology interrupts the production of creativity of designers and why, and also, do you feel that we will continue down this road of free flowing spaces and move away from the usual rectilinear feeling that most interiors possess?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Contemporary Design_part II by Kelly Stevens

In the design world today, there are several different "directions" in which modernism is taking. Previously, the international style has been the most prevalent theme seen in modern design after World War II due to the spread and developments of air travel, making country to country travel take only hours. Communication has developed through the use of internet and other devices which make communication easier and faster no matter what the distance. This caused more influences to be seen world wide. However, now other sub-styles are beginginng to emerge conerning modernism: Hi Tech, Post-modernism, revival of tradition, and Late modernism. My question is this: in the future, which one of these "sub-styles" do you see becoming the more dominant theme to be used? Do you think international style will still be the most prevalent, or because of the fast developing technology that in the future all design will become high-tech based? Or, have we already stretched modernism out too far and feel the need to return to traditional modified classic styles? Because design is such a broader and more in demand occupation these days, will there be no over-riding theme to unify the term "contemporary", but instead just have a hodge-podge of individual styles?
-Kelley Stevens

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Contemporary Part 1

Today we live in a hi-tech environment. As our interiors demanded more technology designers needed to explore the relationship of technology and design.

One of the first designers to marry the two was Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983). He was an American engineer, inventor, and philosopher. Many of his designs were called futuristic and most never went into mass production, like a prefabricated bathroom that was put together like a puzzle on site. One of the designs that he did implicate was a dome at the World’s Fair in Montreal in 1967. The large dome was enclosed by automatic plastic panels that allowed light to come in and out.

Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers teamed up to build on of the most hi-tech environments of its time. The Centre Pompidou in Paris, a multipurpose cultural center, shows structure and technology of the new century. “The large, multi-story building exposes and displays its structure, mechanical systems, and vertical transport (escalators) on its exterior in a way that suggests, on the west side, the scaffolding of a building under construction, and, on the east side, the pipes and tubes of an oil refinery or chemical plant.” (P.411) The design of the building unifies the structure and technology that make the building progressive.

After working with Richard Rogers from 1963 to 1965 Norman Foster went on to use technology in his spaces. One of his more noted designs was the office building of Willis, Faber, and Dumas in Ipswich, England. The large space is connected with two escalators that point upward towards a ceiling with open trusses.

James Sterling was a British architect that played with manipulating space through technology. For example at Olivetti training facility in Haslemere, England had rooms that served multiple users. Later in his career he moved away from technology and focused the relationship of art and architecture of the past in the modern world. The Staatsgalerie in Germany has classical elements that have been manipulated with a modern eye.

Have advance in technology influenced the way that we view design? Do you think that we have lost our classic roots? Has technology spurred or hindered creativity? Are contemporary spaces lacking in design or concept? Do they only focus on the materials and technology?

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Contemporary Design_part I by Monica Mooney

Contemporary design is a direct product of a dominance of modernism and the norms associated with it, and designers and architects exploring outward and away from previous schools of design.
Two architects who influenced the start of Internationalism, and Contemporary design were Louis I. Kahn and Cesar Pelli. They are so influential because their work could not really be categorized into any stylistic category, and they were also some of the first architect/designers to gain international acceptance. This was because of the advancements in communication technology, and the ability for people to learn about design and the people involved.
Kahn was known for his “concern for expression of materials and with the ways in which light reveals form.” (Pile. Page 407) This was evident in his Utilitarian Church and School in Rochester N.Y. The materials used are kept in pure form, such as the grey masonry walls and the light seems to be coming from somewhere you can not see, emphasizing the curved form on the ceiling.
Pelli was also very influential in the move towards internationalism and contemporary design. He was more involved in larger projects such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Winter Garden in the World Financial Center also in New York. Pelli’s work also showed a concern for such things as light and the expression of materials. However, Kahn’s work showed a sense of restraint while Pelli’s work shows a tendency towards being large and exuberant and in excess.
After a move towards this style, there emerged another specific style categorized in contemporary design, Hi-tech. The term Hi-tech refers to a design based on the new advancements of technology. Hi- tech design is based on the philosophy that 50% of the cost of a project today is accumulated from the systems which make a building “work”. This includes things like elevators, plumbing and electric. Architects and designers involved in the Hi-tech movement felt that since these systems were such an integral part of making a building that they should be a focus and a large part of the design itself.
Someone who had a large part in moving along the Hi-tech style and starting it was Richard Buckminster Fuller. His designs were thought to be futuristic, dramatic and beautiful and nature. He is credited with expanding on the geodesic dome, (see picture), and coming up with such ideas for mass production. However, his designs were never mass produced
as he had hoped.
One of the best examples of Hi-tech design was that of the Centre Pompidou, designed by Rogers and Piano. This building, which is a multi-level cultural center displays everything on the interior and exterior. The exterior shows all working systems, with one wall looking almost as though it is covered in scaffolding, with elevators and other systems outside of the facade. On the interiors pipes and tubes cover the ceiling and show an honest portrayal of what goes into making a building work. Rogers and Piano also stated that they wanted their design of this building to be able to accommodate any activity it needed to have through the changing of plan, elevation and even sections. This is such a perfect example of Hi-tech because all of the decoration and ornamentation are created with the exposed systems.
There was much controversy over this style and the Centre Pompidou itself because architectural critics complained, “When architecture can accommodate any activity, which may be required, it has no positive attitude towards these activities.” Alan Colquhoun. In other words- the ability for a building to change for any activity does not give the sense that it was created in the idea of being used in a certain way-something that is thought of negatively is some schools of thought. Also it was argued that keeping the systems visible was not really design. It was just using an already set form of systems and not covering them, and that there was no creativity in it.
What do you think? Do you feel that the style of Hi-tech with its abilities to adapt is a negative thing and can damage the feeling of a space? And do you feel that Hi-tech with its exposed systems is true design? Or just taking advantage of something that is “already there” in a sense?

by Monica Mooney

Monday, April 2, 2007

Ascendancy of Modernism_II- by Jordan Powell

The end of World War II permitted a gradual return to prosperity across the globe, which in turn rapidly encouraged new buildings of economic health. Growing businesses required new offices and other facilities, as well as the expansion of programs in other institutions generated an extensive need for Interior Designers.

Design in this period possessed a norm of Modernism with a basis of International style. This made possible by the increasing amount of information through circulation of magazines and books—made easier by intercontinental air travel. Technical developments contributed as well to growth of this nature. Synthetic materials became readily available, such as plastics, as replacements for older, natural materials. Alongside scientific advancements, were commercial and residential improvements, such as the mechanical air conditioning system, inexpensive fluorescent lighting, and innovative textiles.

Aside from the growing population of the physical rewards of post war depression, the minds and talent of renowned names exercise design influence in America. One form of this genius belongs to Eero Saarinen, where his artistically-sculpture forms exhibit design in the TWA Terminal of Kennedy Airport; and another to Frank Lloyd Wright in the Guggenheim Museum—both explore the modernist, curvilinear appeal of concrete and fluid line. Among Wright and Saarinen were a number of many other emerging designers who were regarded as “power” and established recognition for specific design. Names such as Sarah Tomlin Lee in specialized hotel interiors; Ward Bennett with furniture design; and Masimo and Lela Vignelli for graphic, industrial, and furniture design.

All of the people mentioned above as noted designers are well traveled and educated in design as well as had access to resources in order to work. “Architects have used a different set of values in deeming what a well-designed building should look like. Modern design seemed contemptuous of the local context, deliberately clashing with the surrounding built context instead of harmonizing with it. The result might look minimalist at times, but such designs require tremendous meditation on the part of the designer. Classicist design, because of its elaborate codification handed down from the ages, requires relatively little reflection. It is the meditative aspect of the profession that inspires the young to become architects, and serves as a major basis in judging excellent work.” Also is reference to

professional versus traditional design (that exists in the over-populated, bad tast of the suburbs) which qualifies the work as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. So do you think, that in the Ascendency of Modernism, a time of excessive supply of economic funding, demand for design, unlimited access to information through magazines and books, and intercontinental air transport made it possible for an un-trained ‘commoner’ to self-educate themselves in the hopes of becoming an architect designer? Or do you agree with the blogger, that design is instinct to a person, and that no one without that accomodation can become a successful designer. In other words, is formal education a requirement during this time for a person to be ‘professional/good’ designer? How do you feel about formal education in the field now? Is it a neccessity in order to be a successful ‘professional’ designer, or could anyone acquire the skill? What do you believe, aside from formal training, that a person needs in order to be an architectural designer, and why?

by Jordan Powell

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Ascendancy of Modernism

We are still paying for the design sins committed during the ‘ascendancy of modernism’.
Of course this is not to say that all of the design created after world war two was bad. In fact many groundbreaking designs were coming into fruition. Design in the, United States and Europe, was ‘happening’ in some ‘far out’ ways. Organic shapes became more popular, as did glassed wall skyscrapers. Outwardly society was futuristic and adventurous, but in reality society was a sham. Society began to flee the city causing what is known as ‘suburban sprawl’. Business still occurred in the city but after work each day the modernist posers would journey to their homeland, also known as, Suburbia. Suburbia was according to Pile a group tragically arranged settlements that were sad mock-ups of traditionalism. Contractors could easily develop suburban dwellings and make large profits.
Other sad events also occurred in the ascendancy period. Windows became obsolete. Florescent lighting and air conditioning took the place of nature. The home was becoming separated from its surroundings and thus the inhabitant from the world.

While there were some examples of creativity in domestic design (see Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House) the majority of new home design was doubty and poorly executed. What does it say about us, as a civilization, when our public spaces define us as modernists but we live the lives of traditionalist? How is it possible that we could become so detached from who we claime to be and who we truly are? Surely this is pretence in design. It proves that we wanted to be modernists but couldn't bring ourselves to live the modernist lifestyle. If so then was modernism an unrealistic ideal?
Why does society feel so comfortable with a style based on poor interpretations of traditionalism? Perhaps it had something to do with economics and the expense of something unique. Still, are we contradicting ourselves in design even today? Suburbia has become the American dream. Nothing outrageous ever happens in suburbia (at least in our ideal Suburbia). Some suburban districts can even control what color you paint your house. While this may sound like some fascist rule it provides a great deal of comfort to suburban residents. People love suburbia because it’s predictable and safe. And who can blame them don’t we all want to live in somewhere safe?

If all this is true then will the principals of modernism ever prevail in everyday domestic design or are we stuck in suburbia?

Modernism in America

In the 1920's when the "Internationtal Style" was taking off around the world the majority of American architects and designers were still designing in the tradition of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, producing works of "eclectic historicism". The work done by architects such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright at the turn of the century had been almost forgotten and looked upon as a fluke. It was not until the mid-1930's more than a decade after Wright returned from Japan did his work slowly become known. As in today's culture it was first recognized by the young and aspiring designers of the time. When they approached Wright for advice on education he swayed them away from attending architectural school and invited them to apprentice him. Though throughout Wrights life he never acknowledged any influence on his work from other designers it is clear that the "International Style" had an influence upon his work as seen in the unornamented cantilevers and the bands of windows with thin metal frames that dominate his designs. Many other modernist designers had began to filter in to America from places in Europe such as Austria, Rudolph Schindler and Richard Josef Neutra are examples of that movement. Having been influenced highly by the De Stijl use of geometry. They both practiced in California and both had tumultuous professional relationships with Wright. The use of stark white walls outside ,and in that were unornamented, coupled with the use of grey carpeting and built in furniture, their homes represented the modernist style in America. The continuing importation of European modernist style lead to the construction of the first truly modern tall building anywhere, and the first readily visible "International Style" structure in America. It was done by William Lescaze in Philadelphia between 1929 and 1932. The modern structure was shocking to the conservative public that had never before seen true modern architecture. The United states was further inundated by the European modernist when Walter Gropius became the head of the design school at Harvard University in 1937. "Modernism, and particularly the modernism of the International Style, began to replace the tradition-oriented and modernistic directions that existed in the 1920's and 30's" (Pile 379). The now full blown modernist movement in America required furniture manufacturers to fall in line and begin producing furniture for not only homes but commercial buildings as well. Hans Knoll from Germany became one of the most well known and still operating lines of mass produced modern furniture in the US. Half way through the 20th century it was clear that modernism was here to stay and practiced by most American architects and designers. Do you think that modern design in America today would be the same if not for the influx of the European designers to America such as Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe? If Frank Lloyd Wright had been less opinionated and more tolerant of other designers would he have been able to be even more influential on American modernism by working with other designers on projects? In your opinion has modern design gone to far with the utilitarian clean lined structures that still often times stick out like a sore thumb on a city block? And what designer that immigrated from Europe do you feel had the most lasting effect on modernism in America?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Emergence of European Modernism

European Modernism touched closer than Art Nouveau or Expressionism could with the human spirit in a mechanomorphic way that provided a geometric abstraction to classicism. People like Mackintosh carry over Arts and Crafts trends through the use of decorative arts in architecture, but in his work at the Glasgow school of Art, through stiff, severe rectilinear lines there is provided a sense of functionalist, abstract, modern look. And so it is true that in most buildings of this time that we see this popular manipulation of line to create harsh backdrops of lines pieced together to create rectilinear sculptures more than architecture. Hoffman and Loos with their pure symmetry countered themselves with one or two sweeping uses of a curve allowing for an added punch of modernist appeal. This appeal is derived from the controversial theory surrounding Loos and his ideas concerning ornament. "It is a crime, as stated in the 1908 Ornament and Crime, such as how a degenerate or criminal would tattoo himself". This coupled with the idea of cultural evolution being the elimination of items rendered unneeded helped spur the modernist theory as it it marched forward. Francois Hennebique, although not theoretically a major contributor to the idea of the modernist, developed for the movement a type of and material for construction. A widely used method still to this day, the slab-and-beam has a major role in how 20th century architecture was able to evolve and make use of engineering in this time of reaching for the impossible in height, function, and overall aesthetic in which modernist almost tried to abandon whilst all the while creating a new one.

Where do you think we'd be without decoration as the modernist so often enjoyed removing?
If not for ferroconcrete and slab-and-beam we may not have developed the ability to cover large expanses and such, what material and methods do you think spur today’s construction?

Trachtenberg/Hymen, 1986. Abrams, INC. Italy.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Spread of Early Modernism in Europe

The Countries in Europe where democracy was able to thrive, such as the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and Britain, is where Modernism was accepted and embraced. Flat roofs, smooth white walls, and large glass areas dominated the style. Also, as in Art Nuevo and Art Deco, there was an absence of historical and ornamental detail.
The designers of the time such as Mendelsohn, Dudok, and Mies van der Rohe focused on the functions of their designs, placing aesthetics second. They also prioritized their works by designing interior spaces first and molding the exterior around it.
The Modern era was defined as having an abstract and cubistic style. It was referred to as the “machine age” by Pile. The spread of Modernism in Europe happened in the years between World War I and World War II. With the uncertainties going on in Europe after World War II many of the designers escaped to the new world to spread Modernism in America. Think about if the designers had stayed in Europe and continued spreading modernism. How much different would Europe look now? Do you think other countries would have adopted the style once they became more democratic? Most importantly, would you want modernism to spread and why?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Art Deco

Art Deco was a popular design style that started in the 1920s, and strongly carried on until the early 1940s. Art Deco was a mostly decorative style that was applied to a wide range of architecture and interior design, as well as visual and graphic arts. This style was seen as a form of modernism because it preserved principles of elegance and simplicity, while maintaining functionality.
Many French Artists including Hector Guimard and Emile Decour, who controlled the foundation of the style, first introduced art deco to the world. In 1925, these French artists organized the International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, which showcased the new art deco style.
During the 20s and 30s modern technology such as radio, air travel, and electricity highly influenced the development of the art deco style. The chevron pattern, zigzag pattern, and sunburst theme were common graphic depictions of such technology. Materials such as stainless steel, inlaid wood, and black lacquer accompanied these bold geometric motifs. This style immediately followed the end of World War 1 (1914- 1918), and preceded the Great Depression. Highly decorative forms were somewhat lavish during the Art Deco style as a counteraction to the depression of war.
Art deco style is primarily seen in Miami?s Art Deco Historical District. During the 1920s, John Collins and Carl Fisher transformed South Beach Miami during the boom of Art Deco style, yielding the South Beach we know today. My recent trip to South Beach revealed the dominance of bright pastel color themes in the Art Deco architecture. This style is almost excessive in South Beach because it consumes every building in sight; however, it fits in extremely well in such a tropical location. Would such a style fit in so agreeably at another location? Art deco style is seen in other cities around the United States, but imagine if another city (such as NYC) was strictly dominated by Art Deco Style. The style was booming during the 20s and 30s, but is it a style that can carry on universally through time? Was Art Deco just a decorative phase, or can it be recognized as a significant movement that can successfully be applied in any environment?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Art Deco

The Art Deco style was characterized by sharp, almost harsh angles and cubistic forms, similar to the Modern Movement. The main difference between the two was that Art Deco was a fashion and more decorative statement, rather than the function statement the Modern Movement made. Also, the Art Deco style was developed and expected to take its place in the order of design eras, like a slow development instead of a completely new one.

The Art Deco style utilized aluminum and other polished metals, black lacquer, glass, and mirrors in the interiors. The furniture of the style mimicked the skyscrapers outside and was made of rich materials like macassar ebony, zebrawood with ivory, tortoiseshell, and leather inlays. All of these were employed for the purpose of making it luxurious, modern, and sleek.

The Art Deco style was expensive for the common person at the time, yet the general public became familiar with it through restaurants, hotels, and new ocean liners, like the Normandie. Although only the wealthy could have Art Deco in their homes, the middle and lower class

in France, the United States, Britain, and Scandinavia got to appreciate it through public settings.

One of the more prominent features of the Art Deco style is the influence that new technology had on the development of the style and the colors it incorporated. Blue was prominent in the style, because its affiliation with electricity, which was growing more widespread throughout this period. Black and chrome were widespread in this era, because they suggested new developments and cutting edge technology. Also, the radio, electricity, and jazz music played a part in how line and shape was used. The zig-zag shapes of the Art Deco style suggest a relationship between all three, like the rhythm of jazz, the sound waves of the radio, and the current of electricity. Furniture containted stepped forms, mimicking the wave of new skyscrapers at the time. The developments occurring outside of the design world still incorporated themselves into new designs. Is this always the case? If so, what other styles has this occurred in?

Monday, March 5, 2007

The emergence of Modernism

Modernism in design in many ways has been noticed and appreciated more after its time than anything. Classical elements that we see often come back to what people like Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and the famous Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright were all about. The element that sticks out to me most about classical design and modernism is line. Columns, pillars, strong lines on the façade, and many others were done primarily for the function of structure and secondly for the aesthetics. In the modernism movement we see some walls no longer solely dependent for supporting the roof. The structural technology of this time period with elements like reinforced concrete and steel made it possible for many more options as far as wall placement and floor plan. The abstraction of spatial elements made it possible for the simplicity of something to become the beauty of it. This abstraction was taking the place of what used to be beauty with ornamentation (Pile 333) To understand this concept a little more fully think of the Victorian period. Interiors often were full of clutter, mindless objects, extravagant décor, over the top ideas everywhere… Modernism is much simpler.

So is less really more? Mies van der Rohe a very well distinguished designer of the modernist movement lived by this philosophy. When looking at the architecture of modern movement its important to take notice of simplistic elements that became the essence of the design. Terms like minimalism were used to express the intense detailing given to the construction. The idea that the real beauty of an object lies within the construction of it is a similar concept to what the true believers in arts and crafts pushed. As far as modernism goes, I believe hands down that line is the most prominent and important element we see. If you agree, name at least one other movement or style that line is used so purposely for the aesthetic aspects of design. If you do not think that line is the core of this design I have another question for you. Is less really more in design, why or why not?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Emergence of Modernism

"In art, architecture, and design it became increasingly evident that the traditions that had served past ages were no longer relevant to this modern world."(Pile, 323) Some of those traditions which architects were doing away with included the revivialism found in the Eclectic Movement. After the eclectic movement ran its course, it was a relief to find a new frontier of design through Modernism. The four people who were the forerunners of this movement included Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Walter Gropius. All these designers stirved for originality through geometric forms straying away from the excessive decoration of previous styles such as the Victorian Era.(104) In particular, Frank Lloyd Wright is credited for the earliest successes of this movement through creating the Prarie-style house form. In this style, the long horizontal line creates emphasis accented by short verticals while the interior plan was very open. FLW had many commonalites among his designs including of square skylights, hanging light fixtures, and stained-glass windows of geometric form, commonalites which would surface later in European art and design a few years later. (Pile, 325) In fact, Wright himself expressed that he was the only inventor of modernism insisting others were just imitators.(Pile, 326) Also, Wright's was the first in the modernist movement to have a house plan which was so open and centered around the chimney, and yet the Farnsworth House by Mis van der Rohe was completely open and situated around a central island. The book even makes other allusions to the fact that this imitation may be true when it compares FLW's Gale House to Robert van't Hoff's Dutch huis ter Heide in Utrecht. So my question: Was Frank Lloyd Wright the only inventor of modernism and the other European designers just imitators? Or did the other prominent designers such as Mies and Le Corbusier have original ideas despite their knowledge of FLW's designs published in De Stijl?(Pile, 327)
Photo taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_lloyd_wright

The Emergence of Modernism

“Modernism is the name given to the new forms that appeared in all of the arts- in painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and literature. Four men are regarded as pioneers in the modernism in design. They defined new directions with such clarity and force that they can be thought of as the originators of the ‘modern movement.’ (Pile 323)”

In the emergence of modernism, four men really stand out as the “instigators” of the movement: Walter Gropius, Ludwig van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright. These men paved the way for architects and artists by manipulating forms and lines into ideas that had never before been possible. Thanks to newfound technology (such as reinforced concrete) and yet another wave of displeasure with gaudy decoration, simplicity and abstraction became all the rage. But throughout this movement, another movement has really begun to take off- one that Pile neglects to really mention in his account of the emergence of modernism. For the first time in the history of design, notable designers are also women.

One such designer would be the indisputable genius of Eileen Gray, who is noticeably absent in Pile’s account of modernism. She gets her start doing lacquer screens and furniture as an apprentice, and quickly moves to furniture and rug design. One particularly famous piece would be her cigarette table (seen above), which is still commonly featured in design magazines. Her long and successful career culminated with her house, E.1027- which inspired Modernist pioneer Le Corbusier so much that he not only bought a neighboring lot, he fixated and eventually occupied E.1027! He even attempted to add his own touch to the house- eight massive murals done in Gray’s “style.” Naturally, Gray was horrified.

This is not to rant on Pile for not including women designers in his analysis of the Modernist movement, or even to chastise Le Corbusier for degrading Eileen Gray’s already acclaimed design. Rather, it is to pose a question. In a profession so markedly dominated by women (the profession of interior designer, not architect), how many will actually be remembered or celebrated? Will future movements be marked solely by achievements in architecture as well, or will interiors and their designers also be able to create and define future movements without being incorporated into architecture? Furthermore, where will women be in the scheme of all of this?

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Towards the end of the nineteenth century the idea of looking to the past for inspiration became known as eclecticism. During this time people were ready for an alternative to modernism. Imitating any historical period style became the new viewpoint of design. This was the first time that people were looking to completely recreate past styles. Other eras often used historical precedents to create a style, however they always had an original twist. This new idea actually led to the need for a new profession known as interior design. A designer with the knowledge to recreate any period style as convincingly as possible was now needed. An inteior designer had to be skilled enough to revive any style needed to match the outside of buildings such as; French Renaissance, Gothic, Georgian Colonial, and anything else that was thought of as "traditional style."Architects were also being taught design through historial precedents. Style was now chosen by whatever seemed most appropriate for a particular project. It's evident that without the rise of eclectism the interior design profession would not have been demanded by the late nineteenth century. Where do you feel the interior design profession would be without the rise of eclecticism?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Art Nouveau & Vienna Secession: United States

While Art Nouveau in the United States didn’t have the most lasting impression on its generation, its impact on the future of design can’t be denied. It is often times considered to be a regeneration of Victorian Style influenced by an awareness of the standards of quality and craftsmanship established in the Arts and Crafts Movement. While the décor in interiors remained rather stuffy, a change in subject matter set it apart from the interiors that came before it. Lighter, iridescent colors came into play and a focus was put on nature and natural forms. Sinuous forms taking on plant-like characteristics became visible in exteriors and interiors alike, marking a dramatic change and replacing the historic decorative elements that had come before. Iron and cast iron became large players in the execution of these designs. It was easily molded and manipulated into these very curvilinear and almost obscurely abstract designs.

The two most prominent players in this era of design were Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) and Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924), both of which were known primarily for their definitive styles in Art Nouveau. Tiffany became increasingly interested in the decorative arts and founded the ‘Louis C. Tiffany & Associated Artists’ Design Firm in New York City. His early style tended to follow in the footsteps of the Victorian Era with highly decorative elements taking over his interiors. Tiffany was best known for his concentration in stained glass. He was commissioned to produce windows for many American churches, including H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church in Boston. These works featured traditional imagery of religious subjects as well as landscape, floral and semi-abstract themes that were very similar to French Art Nouveau. While Tiffany grew to be most well known for his ‘Tiffany Lamp’, he also produced many vases, bowls and other decorative objects, combining his famous glass work with metal work resembling natural forms such as floral or vine-like pieces as well as peacock feathers and insect wings.

Louis H. Sullivan was the other key designer in this movement. Often considered the ‘Pioneer of Modernism’, Sullivan is noted for his ideology that “form is to follow function”. He was America’s first modernist architect and was noted for his use of rich ornament combined with strong functionality. Sullivan was a noted designer in terms of both spatial organization and ornament. His Chicago Auditorium Building (1886-1890) marked a major step in the development of iron structural framing, but the interiors of his buildings were the height of his designs. In this particular building, we find an auditorium topped with great arches incorporating the use of electric lighting, covered in gilded relief similar to what we’d find in the Victorian Era combined with great functionality and genius in his design of a moveable ceiling to promote better acoustics.

Many critics have considered this the “style that failed” and had only begun to appreciate it after World War II when various exhibitions and publications brought it to the masses. It is now considered to be a strong step towards modernism, but many disagree, claiming it didn’t let go of the frivolous and tasteless over decorating of the Victorian Era. Do you feel that this was merely an extension of the often over-done interiors of the Victorian Era or that it was, indeed, yet another step leading us toward modern design? Was Art Nouveau in the United States able to successfully transition from the Victorian Era and the Arts and Crafts Movement into modern design without entirely abandoning either of these schools of thought?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Art Nouveau & Vienna Secession: Europe

The Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession in Europe originated in Britain during the late nineteenth century. As a style led by France and Belgium, the Art Nouveau expanded the possibilities of materials and was most commonly characterized by whiplash curves and abstract natural forms. This style developed due to the economic expansion of growing cities, the social rejection of historical precedents, and the experimentation of new materials. For example, in The Horta House, Victor Horta explored the possibilities of iron in the staircase as well as whiplash décor on the walls. As a rich display of slender columns, curvilinear lines, and sharp curves, the Horta House exemplified a new style in Europe that would continue to push technological advances. Small amounts of iron, for instance, supported a large amount of weight. This strength allowed the designer to have more flexibility with the space thus allowing Horta to experiment with curving lines based on natural forms.

Soon after the Horta House was created, Otto Wagner and many others led the Vienna Secession in 1898. They led this style by including even more abstracted natural forms in design. While the early characteristics of Art Nouveau included slender proportions, long curvy décor, and more functional designs, the Art Nouveau became more of a style for the aesthete, a person who had a refined sensitivity to nature and more of a disregard for historical precedents. And although architects such as Otto Wagner called for designs based on purpose, this style continued until World War I. Consequently, the art of pushing ideas from the past including reinterpretations of inspiration(the art of Japan, nature, and geometry)relatively ended in the 1920‘s. However, the flowing Art Nouveau patterns and carefully detailed fantastic forms continued to prosper throughout Europe.

At the height of the Art Nouveau style, Spain gave Europe an interesting interpretation on the style. For example, Antoni Gaudi used untraditional decorative design and fantastical forms in order to push the limits of the Art Nouveau style. In the same way, current designers often push ideas from the past in order to create designs with a new purpose. After all, social, economic, political, and technological circumstances dictate the direction of design and as one might say, ‘history repeats itself’. However, even though society was changing at the turn of the 20th century, was it a good idea to include such precarious metal work in Art Nouveau designs? After all, as a style of unpredictable turning angles someone could run into something, misjudge angles, get hurt; Was it worth the risks to create an interesting design over what some may call un-functional design?

Bibliography: http://www.barcelonaexperience.com/images/spot%20light/bigPics/pedrera/b.gaudiPedreraD769.jpg
Pile. A History of Interior Design.

Art Nouveau & Vienna Secession: United States

Art Nouveau in America was a time when iridescent colors, floral motifs, naturalistic forms, bold accessories and ornamentation dominated; as well as elaborate wall and window decoration. However, unlike styles before, Art Nouveau was slightly simpler but still highly decorated. The introduction of the Art Nouveau style in the United States is credited to two well known designers; Louis Tiffany, and Louis Sullivan. These designers took a long leap away from norms of classicism and were inspired by both the Arts and Crafts movement, and the decorative arts. Tiffany founded his own glass company and became internationally known for his intricate stained glass patterns, often showing relation to nature and the four seasons. He also popularized lamp design by adding metal bases to lamp frames, and glass shades. However, Tiffany's designs could no longer hold the majority of the public's interest.
Louis Sullivan is often referred to as "The Pioneer of Modernism,"because he was the most successful when it came to stepping away from the roots of antiquity. He worked a lot with public spaces such as hotel lobbies, stairways, stores, and auditoriums. Sullivan was a master of acoustical application; a prime example would be his Auditorium Building in Chicago. He also spent a great deal of his time studying skyscraper design, and focusing on how to add decorative aspects to verticality. The Schlesinger & Mayer Department Store in Chicago was one of Sullivan's most clever designs because his use of a grid pattern on the outside facade. Horizontal lines divided floors and vertical lines colonized windows. This itself was a brave approach to modern design. Like many others, Sullivan's work became less admired. He experienced disagreement with clients while working on St. Paul's Methodist Church because of finances. In his late career he designed small banks and employed great American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. His book, "A System of Architectural Ornament," is still used today by modern architects.
It's been argued that even though Art Nouveau was a down play from previous styles, it was still too excessive and overly decorated. Art Nouveau has been accused of poor taste and unnecessary decor. In your opinion, how important is architectural ornamentation and how does it affect you. Are you drawn to ornamental decor or are you not so interested, explain why. Also, was an Art Nouveau movement in the United States necessary?

Source: Pile, John. "A History of Interior Design" 2nd edition. 2005

Monday, February 5, 2007

Aesthetic Movement: Britain: Arts and Crafts

The Arts and Crafts movement was partly founded based on the ideas of John Ruskin, a writer. He believed that with the technology that we had gained, we were losing the most important parts of design. Design wasn’t as personal as it had once been, everything was produced in bulk, and was losing quality as well. Ruskin’s ideas were based on Gothic Revival ideas because Gothic Revival emphasized craftsmanship. However, where Ruskin’s ideas differ is where Gothic Revival is bringing back that original Gothic style, the Arts and Crafts movement brought on a new style and was completely original. The Arts and Crafts movement was very small, mainly because of how expensive it was. While the ideas were great, people simply didn’t want to buy hand crafted products anymore when they could buy the same thing of lesser quality for significantly less. A huge part of the Arts and Crafts movement was shifting away from the Victorian era of design. Most of those associated with the Arts and Crafts movement hated the bulk and clutter of the Victorian era. They disliked how heavy it was and how it lacked functionality, so they created something handcrafted and simple to break away from that. Arts and Crafts designers were regarded as craftsman, because the introduction of machines left people to learn the machines and not crafts, which turned these designers into the craftsman as well. Since the Arts and Crafts design focused more on functionality than formalities it led to designs such as the Red House designed by Philip Webb. The Red House was designed based on the functionality of it. Everything was placed a certain way for a specific purpose, not just to make something look good. Webb was a designer that took his ideas from that of William Morris. Morris was a huge influence in the Arts and Crafts movement. He took his ideas from Ruskin and brought them to a new level with his designs. Even though these designers thought they were technically taking a step back in time by using hand crafted things, they were taking a huge step forward in regards to design. The designs of the Arts and Crafts movement really pushed into modern designs because they were focused on the function and quality, which was completely different than the gaudiness and clutter of the Victorian era. What do you believe caused such a rapid shift from the Victorian era to the Arts and Crafts movement? And do you believe that the shift to the Arts and Crafts movement affected the future of design?

This blog is intended for the interior design students in the college of design at the University of Kentucky. It was created with the intent to present students with information, providing them with a channel for contemplation and discussion.