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.

11 comments:

Caitlin said...

I think that design would not be where it is today without decoration. Modernism made use of the clean, simple line, which has impacted design today immensely, but I think that simplicity needs the balance of decoration. Modernists believed in abstraction and modernism, but what would there be today if that were the only thing available? Decoration is needed. The materials used today allow large expanses of space to be covered, and allow creative designs to actually exist. I think this rests in the building techniques and also materials, which are glass, steel and concrete, in my opinion.

brittanyg0321 said...

Decoration is needed in society but not ever to the extent of the Victorian Era again. I see that as being the extreme opposite to the moderism movement and when given a choice I would choose no decoration over too much. The experimentation with the materials definately helped architecture move forward and concrete, steel, and glass remain a favorite even today in simple styles.

Megandrees said...

Decoration defined what interior design was for so many years. Then the modernist came and stripped design of the decorative forms. I think it is a good thing to have the control over a design that the modernist had. No decoration in any building would be bland and stail but with to much decoration it is impossible to see the buiding. I agree with Caitlin that the steel, concrete, and glass are best for these types of design. These things are now being manipulated with pattern to create designs. A combination of form and function.

kelsdietz said...

Decoration is the way for spaces to express themselves, without most buildings wouldn't have personality. However decoration to the extremene can cause the Victorian Era and none at all can cause Modernism. There needs to be balance found that will allow a space to say what it needs to say about it's self with out yelling it out. So wether it's a lot of a little decoration in needed in design. As far as the materials used in construction during the Modernism Movement I believe without them we wouldn't be able to create the crazy buildings we have today that go against convention.

Mary Margaret said...

The modernists removed decoration in an effort to focus on function rather than aesthetics. Although it is very important to function correctly I feel that function is only a part of the whole design process. Decoration is another part of it and important to the users as well as function. If we did not have decoration at all it would be miserable. I do like clean lines but decoration contributes to the design so that we enjoy the space. But then I think of Piet Mondrian and his artwork that are rectilinear lines with just enough color and how much a little color adds to a space even without a lot of decoration. So I am in between if I would like it if decoration was removed but I feel like there are certain spaces that are appropriate for decoration and others that are not.

Today there are so many different materials that are used and known that were not known years ago. As everyone already said glass, concrete and steel are best for this movements materials and are still encouraging todays design because it is still being used with different methods.

Jonathan Fox said...

Isn't the lack of decoration a form of decoration itsself? Modernist used decoration, just in the form of simple architecture. The modernists said they were focusing on funtion rather than form, but in that, they created a new type of form that became the signature of the movement, just as terribly overdecorated spaces were the signature of the Victorian Era. Even though the modernists created these new building materials, they would have been created eventually. Need dictates progress. We needed those new materials and if the modernists had not came across them, someone else would have. However, we are lucky that they were the ones who came up with it. I fit had been left up to engineers to create it, it would not had nearly the style that it did.

algrun2 said...

Without decoration, the public view of design would be different. If decoration was taught to be guady and unnessecary, then design would be limited to a "box," where no one should step out of what is known. The discovery of new materials aided in different types of support techniques but also allowed a variety of finishes to choose from in a decorative sense. Steel,glass.and concrete can be very durable materials for building, but can als be used as aesthetics.

Joyce T said...

I think that the ideas from the modernist movement opened up the eyes to so many of the importance of function over decoration. I personally believe that function always comes before decoration. If a space does not function well, then it is poor design whether it is finely decorated or not. However, if there was no decoration at all, there would not be nearly as much creativity, individuality, and aesthetic quality to designs. If decoration were obsolete, there would be less distinction between designs and everything would begin to blend together in looks. Decoration also catches people’s attention. If your space functions perfectly, people will never notice, because they won’t take interest in the space. Decoration catches people’s attention and makes them more interested in the space or piece of furniture. After decoration catches their attention, then they will notice what great function the space or piece has.
There are so many materials and techniques at hand today. In this age of technology, engineers can make anything possible. I believe designers are utilizing the new possibilities and attempting to come up with designs based on complex architectural structuring. When I was at ACADIA last semester, I noticed that “complex curves” were a reoccurring theme in many designs. These extreme curvilinear spaces would not have been possible if not for the new technology and materials available today.

Becca Cole said...

As I keep learning more about the different stylistic periods there is one thing that never leaves my mind, which is that there is a repetitive cycle. They might not be the same but there are key elements that keep on repeating. Anyway, at this point of time I don’t believe we would be without decoration. As in the past, people now days are always pushing the envelope to see what the boundaries actually are, or to see if there is any. Also, I feel they people think that the Modernist period had a lack of decoration, which I think it is full of decoration but its just expressed differently. As for the chance of certain materials not being developed … they would have been developed eventually.

Mallory said...

Decoration has been a huge and obvious part of interior design for as long as interior design has been around. I think that the two will always work in conjunciton and that interior design (no matter what the style that is popular!) will always incorporate a degree of decoration because of the psychological implications decoration can give you. Decoration can relate status, wealth, ranking, education, etc. as nothing else can and because of this, I think decoration will never be done away with!

spees said...

The world would be a very different place without decoration. I feel the world would have a much colder appeal, almost strictly business atmosphere. It wouldn't provide for as much creativity or aesthetic appeal. Decoration is the medium in which we really get to use our imagination to make designs work after the basic structure. Although I contend there were times when we had too much decoration, having an absence of it would be even worse and it would change the way people interact and how they conduct their lives.

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.