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?

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.