Sunday, September 28, 2008

Art Nouveau & Vienna Secession B

The Industrial Revolution brought about many technological advancements that ultimately lead to the development of the skyscraper. The use of iron and later steel as well as the elevator were key factors. During the 1870's, skyscrapers were starting to be built in America; prior to that time, a six story structure was the limit (Morrison, 111). The skyscrapers of the late 19th century were seen as architectural challenges as their height and volume were considered artistic liabilities versus assets (Morrison, 113). Architects at this time, tried to diminish the height of the building and reduce the effect of volume. Louis Sullivan was a pioneer in modern American architecture who was willing to use ornamentation in his work. His architecture and interior design were reflective of the Art Nouveau movement that was popular from 1890 to 1905. Art Nouveau can be characterized by organic forms and curved design especially stylized floral and other plant inspired motifs (Wikipedia, 1). This movement was a rejection of the past and considered a bridge between historicism of Neoclassicism and Modernism (Wikipedia, 1). As Sullivan had a key interest in the "tall" building as a design problem, he devised a unique solution. His theory was to accept the practical conditions of the building, it's height and volume, and make beauty a part of the practicality (Morrison, 122). Sullivan gave visual unity to the skyscraper; he treated the building like a classic column articulating the base, shaft and capital (Morrison, 125). Sullivan's buildings "all have a simple vertical emphasis externally, rich but appropriate decorative detail, and public-space interiors filled with fine ornament" ( Pile, 298). His Wainwright building in St. Louis was thought to be the first successful solution to the skyscraper. The decorative details of predominantly organic shapes created a rich texture on a plane surface. This use of detail on the exterior of buildings to develop a unified as well as an aesthetically pleasing look exhibits creativity. Do you feel that the same can be said about modern, current day skyscrapers? Have the architectural details and interest of the late 19th century been lost to purely functional buildings? Was the invention of the skyscraper a positive force in the urban development of cities as well as the later development of commercial architecture?

10 comments:

nicoLe said...

The development of the skyscraper was a crucial force in the development of cities. The upward movement of interior space allowed for the growth that sculpted our cities today. Skyscrapers had the capbility to save the ever scarce land on the ground by defying gravity and towering high above existing buildings. this led to mass amounts of people able to occupy limited amounts of earth. Think about it, if we hadn't started to build up, we would have quickly used up all of our land. Slyscrapers are space savers.

Jessica Brake said...

The invention of the skyscraper was completely necessary. As the population began to grow, land became scarce posing a problem for architects and building design. The only solution they could think of to fix this land scarcity problem was to start building up. With the help of the Industrial Revolution introducing iron, steel, and the development of the elevator, this upward building solution was possible. Architects were able to get more functional building space out of less land. Today, the skyscrapers we see still carry the same functionality as they did when they were first being built; although, the exterior ornament may have changed a little. Then, the architects were concerned with decorative detailing on the fa├žade and creating a rich texture to make these buildings have a more pleasant appeal. Now, we see these huge, enormous skyscrapers that are made out of glass and more modern materials.

AinsleyW said...

It's really interesting to talk about the loss of ornament in skyscrapers. It's true that there is no longer any applied ornament (in the way of Louis Sullivan) however today architects are using the structure as the ornament. If you look at the New York Times tower in NYC and Jeane Gang's projects in Chicago it's evident that the walls of the building are the ornament. Ornament in and on skyscrapers hasn't been lost, it's just been fused into the surface and the surface is the decoration instead of the canvas for decoration.

Meaghan Boenig said...

I do believe that the invention of the skyscraper was a positive force in the urban development of cities. Land was limited and the population was growing; architects needed a way to build up, not out. The Industrial Revolution made this possible through new building materials - steel and iron - and through the development of the elevator. The verticality of skyscrapers presented a solution to the problem of limited land. This is why I feel they were necessary. I don’t feel that skyscrapers have lost their ornamentation today. I agree with Ainsley though that there has been a swift from applied ornamentation to architects using the structure as a whole for ornamentation. Today we have skyscrapers that are more intricate and even organic. And, as Jessica pointed out, we have skyscrapers that are built out of more modern materials, such as glass.

olivia said...

The developement of the skyscraper was an extremely important invention during this time. With more people working in the cities, it was only logical to live closer to their work. This led to the scarcity of land in the cities and land prices soaring. In response to this problem, the skyscraper was a positive solution. It allowed buildings to be built upwards instead of spread out. This allowed more people to inhabit these taller buildings for living and working needs. The ornamentation on these skyscrapers hasn't been lost over time. Now however, we consider ornamention present in the use of different metals and glass on the facades of buildings. Architects today seem to focus on creating an entire exterior of a skyscraper as its ornamentation.

Julie said...

I don't think the skyscraper was that amazing. Yes, it did help utilize mechanical equipment such as water pumps and elevators but, we were working towards a time that these inventions were inevitable. And yes, it did help save space by building up in a time of growth but were we really running out of land? Look at how much land we still have today. It seems like the skyscraper was more of an idea that we came across (because of the increase of materials like steel) and just happened rather than a necessity or something that changed the world one city at a time. Sullivan even looked more at the ornamentation of the building rather than the structure. So, it seems like he just used the new type of building to use his ornamentational skill on rather than concerning himself with making more out of the practicallity and use of the new structure. He didn't really care as much about the structure but cared more about the appeal and making it look visually strong.

Chris Jones said...

I think that skyscrapers of the present day are definitely a showcase of creativity. When I was reading this blog, the one building that stood out to me was the building in Cincinnati (I can't think of its name right off the top of my head). It is very asymmetrical in its overall form and truly catches people's eye. Something is creative when it does just that: catches the eye. Creativity also goes hand-in-hand with uniqueness and this particular building in Cincinnati is definitely unique! I think that architects of today know that in order for a building to be successful, it needs to be both aesthetically pleasing not only from the inside but from the outside as well, and it needs to be functional. The development of the skyscraper has definitely been a positive step forward in the evolution of architecture. Without skyscrapers, architects would have a limited "canvas" to display their design. Once we run out of horizontal space to design, it's only sensible to design vertically. I truly think that's where we're headed today.

Chris Jones said...

I think that skyscrapers of the present day are definitely a showcase of creativity. When I was reading this blog, the one building that stood out to me was the building in Cincinnati (I can't think of its name right off the top of my head). It is very asymmetrical in its overall form and truly catches people's eye. Something is creative when it does just that: catches the eye. Creativity also goes hand-in-hand with uniqueness and this particular building in Cincinnati is definitely unique! I think that architects of today know that in order for a building to be successful, it needs to be both aesthetically pleasing not only from the inside but from the outside as well, and it needs to be functional. The development of the skyscraper has definitely been a positive step forward in the evolution of architecture. Without skyscrapers, architects would have a limited "canvas" to display their design. Once we run out of horizontal space to design, it's only sensible to design vertically. I truly think that's where we're headed today.

Lindsey Calvin said...

Today's version of the skyscraper can hardly be compared to that of the late 19th century. In those days architects were concerned with giving the exterior an appealing appearance. Oftentimes today the modern skyscrapers that are erected are plain and monotonous. They are simple rectangles with the same rectangle windows. Eventually they all start to look alike. On the other hand though there are some architects that have found new and conventional ways to add decoration to the exterior of skyscrapers. Some have even used modern engineering to manipulate the shape of the skyscraper. Some of these can be seen in places like Dubai where architects are mainly designing only for aesthetic appeal and are less concerned about function. I do think though that the skyscraper was a positive addition to urban development. The skyscraper made it possible for cities to be built up rather than out so as to help conserve land and allow for more people to live in work within a smaller concentration.

Elizabeth Chaffin said...

Today it seems as if the skyscrapers that are built are just designed and built in a hurry. You can look across any majors city's skyline and see vast glass buildings that are nothing but reflective surfaces to the sky. During the Art Nouveau period, skyscrapers were somewhat new and they were used to exhibit the beauty of architecture and design, even in their large stature. Decorative details adorned the buildings of the past and as time went on and styles evolved we've gone into a time of more modern structures (which are the aforementioned glass buildings). Maybe ornamentation isn't applied as much as it was during the time of Sullivan, but is just merely derived from the structural elements itself.

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