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?


20 comments:

kelsdietz said...

I agree that the most prodiment element in Modernism was the line. Giving the clean and simple look that is so well know and asociated with Modernism. I feel that during the Arts and Crafts movement the line was also the prodiment element. As a reaction to the mass production during the Industrial Revolution, the Arts and Crafts movement was a return to hand made design. Also taking on a more clean and simple look after the clutter of the Victorian Era. The line helped shape and form the asethically pleasing design of the Arts and Crafts movement now also seen in the same effect in Modernims design.

monicam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
monicam said...

I also agree that the most prominent element in modernism was the line.I think this is what made modernism what it is, a clean simple way of organizing a space. However, I want to react to the second question asked because I think it is an interesting one! I personally do not always agree that less is more. I feel that it all depends on the space and what you are trying to convey with the elements you use. Yes, less would be more in somewhere like a bank where you want to move people through quickly and make it feel professional, but what about a space where you want people to feel comfortable? Sometimes you need the "more" to make a space feel less uncomfortable.

Megandrees said...

I agree with Monica, less can be more in some cases. I thought about how I wanted my bedroom to look in my head it was these clean simple lines. After living in the space for a day it was a jumble of things and the power of the clean lines was taken over by the stuff. I want to live in a space that is modern and clean but I am not good at keeping the space in the prestine condition that it requires. (if your looking for an example see my desk in studio)

Mallory said...

I agree completely with Megan here- hands down line is the prominent design idea behind the Modernist movement, but it is also the main idea behind movements like the Arts & Crafts Movement. Designers like Greene & Greene in the Gamble House concerned themselves solely with the line- from the lines the wooden joinery would create to the exterior architecture echoing its surrounding landscape. This movement focused on simplicity and gathering around the "heart" of the home- and often line was used to point and highlight what the designer felt was important (such as a fireplace or gathering area.) Furthermore, in buildings from the Arts & Crafts movement, one finds large open spaces- divided not by walls and permanent fixtures, but rather by implied lines; dividers dropped from the ceiling that would only go about 1/4 of the way to the floor, tall chairbacks to create seclusion, etc. So line is definitely an important part of the Arts & Crafts Movement as well as Modernism!

Brad said...

I agree that the line is the primary element in Modern design, and I feel it is also the primary element in the Art Nuevo movement. The difference of the use of the line in Modern design versus that of the Art Nuevo movement is clear, it is the use of clean structured lines compared to the more organic whiplash curves of the Art Nuevo period. Though very different types of lines their importance to the style that they make up are immeasurable. Without the use of both of these lines there would not be an Art Nuevo or Modern design movement. Aesthetically there is not an element that can be more manipulated than the line. In Modernism it is used to show the clean sleek minimalist ideals. In the Art Nuevo period it was used to show the manipulation of new materials and how they could be used in a new and innovative way. Much the same use of the line in Modernism.

Caitlin said...

I also agree that the line is the most prominent element in the modernist movement, as well as in all art. Line has the ability to make the most bold statements, in any design. It can become simple and complex, and has the ability to make impact that may not be possible with other elements. I believe that the Arts and Crafts movement used the line in a modernist, simplistic way, where the Art Nouveau style used the line in a more abstract manner. The line allows principles to come to life. It has been the emphasis of movements in the past, is used prominently now, and will continue to do so in the future.

spees said...

Yes, I believe that line was the most prominent element in the Modernistic Movement. However I also believe that form played a big role as well, especially in FLW's designs. Falling Water, for example, made good use of the long horizontal line in the exterior as a whole while incorporating form in it's cantilevers. Without those large, rectangular prisms, Falling Water wouldn't have had quite the dramatic effect as it did. Form was also apparent in designs like the Villa Savoy by le Corbusier. The building itself was simply a rectangular prism with an additive form on top. All in all,I am glad that the world has appreciated this period enough to preserve most of the buildings because they were a landmark in design. The simplicity and originality displayed during this movement was inspirational to all of design. But concluding all of this, Line was the most important element during this period but form was the runner-up.

emily said...

In the same way line is a prominent element in the modernistic movement, it is also a prominent element in the Art Nouveau style. However, instead of an emphasis on simplistic elements found in the Modernistic Era, the Art Nouveau stressed highly decorated curvilinear spaces. For example, in the Horta House staircase, lines dominate the space from the motifs on the wall to the decoration on the floor. Thus, the space becomes active, interesting, yet still emphasizing the strength and construction of the structure. Similarly, the Vienna Secession was a style dominated by rectilinear lines that showed off the structure of the design. As seen in these styles, line is a powerful element that has the possibility to transform a design.

Jonathan Fox said...

Less is most definately more! Anyone can throw element after element into a design until it eventually comes out right. It takes true skill and understanding to acheive a goal with the least possible steps or elements. Over-crowding a design makes the essence of the design go away. Usually, when a design is jam packed full of stuff and ornament, it is trying to hide something. Modernist designs let you see right through the design, only showing you what it needed to in order to get it's point across. The designers used the structure itself as a decorative element thereby simplifying the design and in the end, making a more powerful statement.

brittney said...

Well...as so many have mentioned before me, I must agree in saying that line was the most prominent element in Modernism, as it was in the Arts and Crafts Movement. The use of line, especially horizontal and vertical, as the dominant element created spaces that were driven by function...they were simplistic, clean, and comfortable...and most importantly, they were useable for the task(s) at hand. So, I'll have to agree with Jon in saying that less is more in design, for this very reason. Our job, as designers is to create functional spaces for people...and I think that these spaces should be defined and recognized by those people that inhabit them, not meaningless clutter we add to show off our knowledge and resources.

G.Fickle said...

I agree that (inorganic) line is the main element of modern design, however art nouveau was based heavily on line as well, but it was organic lines used in the interior spaces.

Answering the question, is less really more, I would have to say yes (most of the time) I agree with Le Corbusier in the fact that the architecture should stand out instead of the ornamentation. I do believe that ornamentation, in the right amount and balanced, can make good architecture great

Mary Margaret said...

As everyone else has stated I do agree that line is the core element and as Janet said Frank Lloyd Wright is a prime example of line. Everything that he designed from the architecture to the window design were typically manipulated lines to create an intereseting composition.

The question about "Is less really more" is a good question to think about. When designing a space you think of endless possibilities when sometimes the answer was already infront of you but you were trying to be too extravagant. Detail can be lost if there is too much going on in a space so I definitely think less is more. As Pugin said years before "The great test of beauty is the fitness of design for the purpose for which it was intended." A design should be thought out and the way that the designers like FLW used line in their work shows that everything did have a purpose. It seemed that there was one idea that everything was based on and the lines pulled it all together.

kinseyjanzen said...

I also agree that line is one of the most prominent elements, but it could also be mass or form also. Many pieces that come about in the modern movement seem somewhat heavy, or full of mass. Form also played an integral role in moderism.

In many ways, I think that less is more, like in the Victorian Era. The over-ornamentation was borderline tacky and definitely took a toll on that style, and the principle of less is more applies to this era because of this. Yet, if ornamentation and style is applied tastefully and correctly, I believe less might not be more in all cases. For example, I believe that is anything had been taken away from the Art Nouveau, it would not have been as tasteful or forward thinking as it was.

Joyce T said...

I agree that line was a very prominent element in the modernist movement as well as many other movements. However, I would rather address the later question of whether less really is more. In most cases, I would agree that less is more. I feel that the most successful designs are those which provide the appropriate function, utilizing the principles and elements of design, in the most simplistic way possible. Einstein was applauded for the way in which he turned complex ideas into simple, easy to understand diagrams and examples from everyday life. In this same way, I feel that if you can make the space express an idea in one simple, easy to understand element, it is much more beneficial for the viewer. They easily understand the space with out clutter to get in the way of the concept. I believe it truly does take more skill to create a space using simple elements than to create the same feeling in the space by using numerous, complex elements.

Jennifer Litsey said...

I definitely enjoy and appreciate modernism more than any other period or style to date. I agree that line, and more importantly, planes are definitely what sticks out in this movement. When I think of the beginning of modernism I think of Frank Llyod Wright, as do alot of poeple I'm sure. But with that, I automatically picture his defining planes jutting out from the outer perimeter of the building, which as Megan said, aren't even needed for construction but strictly for aesthetics.

I also agree with the less is more theory. With styles in the past that were so cluttered and busy, actually becoming quite gaudy, this modernism movement, I believe is like a breath of fresh air to most people. But more than that, even if these past styles hadn't been this way, the less is more theory really does still ring true. With all the clutter and decor, you really lose the true design of the space. You don't focus so much on the architecture and the design of the overall space, you are more focused on the decoration. And even without the decoration, there can be too much architecture getting in the way of the true intent. If you have too much, there ends up being too much to look at, and when you are experiencing the space, it is almost as if you don't even know where to look or what to think. With a simplistic space, automatically upon entering, you know the intent and overall feeling of the space. There is something almost alien about the way that some construction looks. Some architecture can make us "feel" a certain way, or think a certain way. But as I said, if there is too much of it, that overall "feeling" gets lost.

algrun2 said...

I find design that is minimalistic and pure is just as effective as the more dramatic design.Line and natural form can give a space origin and at the same time I believe it gives the occupant a sense o openness and is less confusing. I agree with Kelsi that the Arts and Craft's movement was a turning point which naturalistic and simplistic design came into play.And from that eroused modernism whic we are accustomed to today. However, style do fade in and out of time and I believe we will live to see a time when overabundance of material and ornamentation will revive and become the new trend. It reall is a continuous cycle.

edperr2 said...

Line is as important to design as carbon is to life on earth. Aesthetically, line is used in Arts and Crafts prominently to create structural simplicity to which simple shape and form followed. In Art Nuevo, line is used as an abstract organic to create decoration as well as some structure through wrought iron manipulation. As modernism emerged, line becomes a device for creation that is not only a building block for life of a construction, but also, line becomes the very essence of the meaning of life for buildings.

Becca Cole said...

I feel like I am repeating what everybody else is saying, but anyway, I also believe that less is more, and it seems like this rule applies to more than just design. Also, the primary element in Modern Design is line. The other movement that used line as the primary element is Art Nouveau. The difference is that Modernism used straight horizontal and vertical lines, which made the design seem simple where to Art Nouveau used the whiplash, S-curve and curvilinear lines, which made it’s designs seem more complex.

estee said...

I do feel that less is more according to sthe style being used. Less could have been a whole lot more during the Victorian Era. Maybe people could have actually seen what they were looking at. Less is definitley more when it comes to modernism because the focus seemed to be primarily on the construction itself much like the arts and crafts movement. I feel that line is one of the dominant aspects of modernism. When I think of the emergence of modernism i also see images of very stern and sleek materials and geometric shapes.

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.