Saturday, October 4, 2008

Eclecticism, Part B

The height of the Eclecticism Movement came towards the end of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century. During this time, instead of producing completely new design, designers were looking to the past to get inspiration. “In design, it (eclecticism) has come to mean the practice of selecting from historical precedents whatever seems suitable or attractive for a particular project” (Pile, 301). Although Eclecticism thrived in both Europe and America, it seemed to expand more in America. Americans viewed the idea of incorporating history into their designs as producing culture and status. In Europe, the major incorporation of Eclecticism was in the Paris Ecole, the first true professional school of architecture. Students produced drawings of historical buildings as part of their schoolwork. This way of designing at Ecole became known as the Beaux-Arts style. One key difference between European and American Eclecticism is that in Europe, students and designers studied historic buildings in order to understand their attributes, not to imitate them. During this time in America, the idea was that “originality was forbidden; only imitation of the past was tolerable” (Pile, 303). This led to cities and towns being developed with various styles and unrelated buildings. Styles that were used in America included French Renaissance, Late Victorian, and Roman Classicism. A style known as American Renaissance was introduced and included buildings such as The New York Public Library and New York’s Grand Central Station. Interior designers also had to take historical precedents and incorporate those interior designs into the buildings or homes they were decorating. Should designers of this time have looked to past precedents for inspiration? This was a time of new ideas and new ways of thinking. Does referring to the past seem counterproductive? How do you come up with a new idea if you are always looking back in time? Or was that their goal?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Art Nouveau & Vienna Secession C

During the Art Nouveau Movement, the skyscraper became a more important aspect of architecture. It was a relatively new arrival in America, dating to 1874 with the New York Tribune Building; however this was only considered a high building. The first actual skyscraper was the Wainwright Building by Adler& Sullivan (Morrison 111). Sullivan became one of the most influential designers of the time. He was the first to attempt to solve the problems of the new architecture of the skyscraper. His solutions and answers to these problems are evident in the Wainwright Building and the Union Trust Building. He believed that this problem of skyscrapers contained and suggested its own solution (Morrison 122). As seen in these two buildings, Sullivan believed that the main entrance should attract the eye and from there each level should have a more simple design yet have an esthetically appealing fa├žade. He also believed in finding ways to ornament even the tallest of buildings (Morrison 135). Sullivan believed in finding the practical use out of the height and volume of a tall building. This is seen again in both the Wainwright Building and the Union Trust Building with the open court formed by a U shaped design. His designs’, as seen in these two buildings were coherent, direct, and suitable (Morrison 137). Do you feel that today with such advancements in sustainable design, that we are more focused on the practicality of design rather than the ornamentation? Do you feel that some designers have the ability to meet both the sustainable design and still develop ornamentation as Sullivan did? If yes how are these designs developed, and if no why is it so hard to accomplish?

Art Nouveau & Vienna Secession, A

Secession Design proved to be the most influential aspect of Art Nouveau. While florid curves of Belgian and French Art Nouveau came to be regarded as unconventional and willfully decorative, the more geometric forms of the Vienna work were more easily related to modernism. The movements of honesty through materials, and emphasis on puristic simplicity definitely carried into the modern world.
Two individuals were highly influential in the confining of the role of Art Nouveau in America. These two people were Sullivan and Tiffany. Neither were opposed to ornament as they both used much of it in their designs. Sullivan was known as the pioneer of modernism, and was the advocate of “form follows function”. (Pile, 295) Sullivan’s actual personal term of Art Nouveau was related to detail. Interiors and details continued to use nature based, florid ornament. He based his design around Curving art nouveau forms, which was later changed by one of his most significant students, Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright took his ideas and began to incorporate a more geometric design of his own. (Pile ,298) Tiffany used ornament through stained glass design. His designs were used in “residences, clubs, and similar locations his landscapes, floral, and semi abstract themes showed increasing similarity to French Nouveau work in glass.” (Pile, 296)
American Art Nouveau was looked at by many as a “style that failed”, or to dismissing it as “frivolous, tasteless, and even overly decorative.” (Pile, 299) But it wasn’t until World War II when the style was rediscovered and new studies brought it back into it’s rightful place. Do you think that Art Nouveau was a crucial step in the development of modernism and design today? Do you think that the ideas of these men of ornament and aesthetics are overshadowed by function in any cases today? How has recent interest in the Art Nouveau era established these designers as major figures in the movement?

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?

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.