Sunday, October 5, 2008

Eclecticism, Part A

Eclecticism can be defined as the enthusiasm for the imitation of work of the past through historicism, revivalism, and traditionalism (Pile, 301). The overall idea of Eclecticism was that originality was forbidden and only an imitation of the past was acceptable (Pile, 302). This was a movement in which designers looked to the past for stylistic influences of periods such as Victorian, French-Renaissance, and Gothic and included monumental figures such as Richard Morris Hunt, McKim, Mead, & White, and George Herbert Wyman. Many of these important people came from a very influential school of architecture: The Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris. This particular school paved the way for future design school curriculum's, including our very own University of Kentucky.
Under this method, students were given a written "program" of requirements for a building desired by some imagined client. Each student then prepared designs under the direction of a "critic" who operated an atlier or studio. On a given date, all of the designs by the many students in a class were presented in the form of elaborate drawings to be criticized and judged by a "jury" of established professionals. High marks in many such judgements could earn a diploma that certified a high level of achievement and skill. The Beaux-Arts method was so successful it attracted students from all over the world, and the kind of design encouraged at the Ecole came to be called Beaux-Arts style. (Pile, 302)
The program at Ecole can also be defined as a "rigorous and organized program, which included classroom lectures on history, construction, and other specialized topics" (Pile, 302). Richard Morris Hunt studied at Ecole and brought back his Parisian training to New York. His eclectic viewpoint made it possible for him to work in any style that suited a particular project or taste of a particular client (Pile, 302).

When examining UK's design program, how do you relate the teaching method of Ecole to our curriculum? What would design be like in today's world if there was no individualism? How would this affect our learning method at UK? Why is it important to have knowledge of past styles just to move on with the present/future? Here's a thought: Without past styles, how would we ever know what "modern" is?


nicoLe said...

Hmmmm there is a thought. It seems impossible to have a present, or future for that matter, without a past. As we are often told here at UK, "Don't re-invent the wheel." Chances are if a problem is faced today, it has already been adressed in the past. We are resourceful as we resort to past styles and the creations and inventions of others to formulate solutions to current design problems. There is a plethera of examples in which existing ideas have been reworked or reinvented to solve modern day cases. An example of this is the modern interpretation of the Greek Klismos chair. Using the same basic structure, the original design has been manipulated slightly in its appearance due to an update in materials as well as a slight change in the form. Without these previous design concepts and styles, the designers of the modern era would struggle to create new ideas rather than simply new interpretations.

AinsleyW said...

We've learned about the Ecole des Beaux Arts before but their teaching style was never really explained. We're totally living in their shadow, still! It seems that the curriculum we follow- even here, at little old University of Kentucky- is modeled after that of the Beaux Arts. (Not to mention we sponsor the Beaux Arts Ball every year...) We are given a program, we design for simulated or practice clients, we are supervised by a studio teacher, we are required to have full visual representation of our projects and we present to a jury of our peers.
We are a direct imitation of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts except our studies aren't limited to styles of the past. Keeping up with current design is strongly encouraged.

Molly Rowland said...

I personally view Eclecticism in two very different ways.
One way is that the time of Eclecticism was a time when design was paused. The time period did not encourage new ideas or designs, so therefore, time, in a way, stood still. Noone was challenged to come up with something different than anyone else. In fact, designers were encouraged to copy past designs. For this reason, I think the time of Eclecticism had somewhat of a negative affect on design.
Secondly, I think Eclecticism had a somewhat positive affect on design as well. In a way, designers need the knowledge of past styles in order to learn from them and move forward. Furthermore, here at UK, we are required to know the historical aspects of design in order to further develop our theories and ideas.
In conclusion, Eclecticism may have been a time when design stood still, but it also was a reminder of design's history.

Elizabeth Chaffin said...

It seems as if anything, including design and its teaching methods, moves about in a cyclical pattern. Something that is done now and considered ''modern'' may just be a variation of something that has already been done. So is it actually considered modern? Elements and components of past ideas are always influence the ideas of the present so it's hard to say if there is an actual modern.
Even though we, at UK's School of Design, learn about these pasts and pull from them, it doesn't mean that is all were limited to, like that of the times of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. We evolve our ideas and push past to create our own.

Parahita Rachmani said...

I think it is important to know or even adapt styles from the past because from looking at the past, designers are able to figure out what's working and what's not working in design. It does not mean that we can copy what the previous designers have done in the past, but design is a process and part of that is taking inspirations from the past works and develop them to solve the design problem. Design solution is never easy to accomplish in one sitting since designers have to go through all the process of adding and editing before reaching the final solution. I think this is what the Ecole des Beaux Arts (as well as UK College of Design) was trying to teach their students that they had to struggle sometimes and experience the process of planning, developing ideas, learning from the past, taking inspirations, consulting with their teachers, and editing their design before presenting their final work to the jury.

Moore13 said...

I find it interesting that still today we are using the same teaching methods of the Beaux-Arts. That those methods of teaching were and still are that effective and implemented in every design school I know of. Though we are encouraged to think towards the future (sustainability) we are also encouraged to learn about the history and to not ignore what has been done. It’s so important to know and understand the past because it can be learned from. You can take what has worked and make it your own, you can also take note of what didn’t work well and stray away from it.

Sara Watson said...

UK's style of teaching is the same as the Ecole des Beaux Arts. This style must work well since people have been copying it for so long. One of the key parts to this teaching style is knowledge of the past. As Nicole said, we don't have to re-invent the wheel. A lot of ideas come from taking a problem with one idea and solving it. The past is an important part of learning. Looking at current design trends is also a part of UK's curriculum. Green design has become a major trend instead of just a good idea. Individualism is an important factor. We are all given the same challenge, but take different paths to solve it. There would be a lot of boring spaces without a little individuality.

gnjones15 said...

It is interesting that in such a long period of time, not much has changed. I feel like we do the exact same thing here at UK. Project explanation with imagined client, then specified drawings, followed by a teacher critique. I believe that we learn a lot from the past. This obviously helps when dealing with a problem that has already been solved. You can take that information and build upon it to create a great new design.

Lindsey Calvin said...

Before the Ecole de Beaux Arts came about, the typical teaching method for architecture and interior design students was to work as an apprentice and to self teach. Students would learn their craft by working alongside a professional. When the Ecole de Beaux Arts came about however, the teaching methods changed. Instead, students went through a very rigorous and organized program consisting of lectures on history, construction, and other topics. The students were then given requirements from an imaginary client. Students were to use their acquired knowledge to create designs and on a certain date they presented their designs to a group of judging professionals. This is extremely similar to the way that the University of Kentucky teaches the curriculum. We too are given requirements for an imaginary design project and are supposed to use what we know to brainstorm and solve the design problem. Once we have reached a solution that we feel is appropriate then we present them to the class on critique days. If there was no individualism in the world today, everything would begin to look alike and architecture would become boring and uninteresting. Students would be less inclined to explore a variety of ideas and students' designs would all begin to resemble one another. Also if fewer people strayed away from the typical then there would be fewer technological advances and architecture would remain much the same. The styles of the past are what we base the styles of the future on. We look to the past to figure out what worked and what didn't. We get rid of the bad and embrace the good. Or we explore a range of ideas to turn the bad into a part of the good. This is how we create modern 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.