Monday, November 10, 2008

International Modernism C

Following the time after Word War II, nations around the world, like the United States and Germany, sought to create their own identity and style. In order to reach this goal countries would study their own material cultures using “designed artefacts and images as a means of expressing themselves and of attempting to persuade others of what they believed to be, or wanted to be” (Sparke, 95). From their material cultures, nations set goals for their economy, like better trade with neighboring nations (Sparke, 97). Overall, a since of nationality and unity was needed across the world.
When creating these national identities there were two major design ideas that countries would adopt into their design style. The first was a national style based off of the Craft time period, a movement focused on natural materials and manual labor. The second idea found in this time period was the idea that the world was moving into an industrial way of life. This idea was considered to be a “leap of faith” in the design world (Sparke, 95).
During this time of national growth and identification, a strong sense of competition was also present. This competition was best shown within the numerous exhibitions of the time. One of the first exhibitions included the exhibition in Hyde Park, London. The great sense of competition is also shown through the amount of countries participating in these exhibitions, like France, Germany and the United States (Sparke, 97)
Furthermore, there was a very large interest in the popular exhibitions of the time period. For example, Paul Greenhalgh, author of Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions and World’s Fairs, studied the various exhibitions and found a series of common themes in each (Sparke, 97). Some of these themes included “new technologies, raw materials and manufactured goods” (Sparke, 97).
Overall, each exhibition provided an opportunity to show off one’s national strength. Also, national achievements and products were displayed openly and proudly.

How is this different from our present day world?
Is our economic and national strength put out there for others to see, like in the various exhibitions of the time period?
Today, are different countries so eager to share their materials and products?
Furthermore, do you think nations today have met their goals in establishing their own national identities and design styles?

International Modernism

International Modernism was a major design style lasting from around 1945 to the 1960’s brought about by the “shortages” and “rationing” after World War II (Raizman, 244). However due to new exhibitions as well as the example of the United States, economic recovery, optimism, and consumer confidence were once again motivated (Raizman, 244). In the United States, architects maintained “eclectic historicism based on the concepts of the Paris Ecole des Beaux Arts,” (Pile, 373). Many new “modern design initiatives” began to appear after the war, which used new “materials and technologies to domesticate consumption and efficiency” (Raizman, 244). Modern Industrial materials, such as plastic, Poly-T, fiberglass, aluminum, steel wires, and concrete were utilized for individuality and comfort in a way they had never been used before. Technologies used in the war efforts began to surface for domesticate uses, like Ploy-T or pliable plastic manufactured in 1942 used in the new production of “Tupperware,” a household item which continues to be used today. Because there were products on the market which were more specialized to specific needs, companies began to market themselves to “differentiate the company’s product…from their competitors” (Raizman, 245) often favoring the use of photography (Raizman, 251). During Industrial Modernism, industrial technology was thought of as “the agent of improved efficiency” and allowed for a sense of “individual fulfillment” (Raizman, 247). Charles Eames took his knowledge from working in the US Navy and experimented with new technologies creating low cost furniture in more “organic sculptural” forms, for example the “lounge chair“ designed in 1956 (Raizman, 247).
International designers sought to design products in a way which would express individuality and new public appreciation for original designs and the production of new technologies allowed for sculptural flexibility. In the United States, designers like Frank Lloyd Wright, which was influenced by Japanese geometry (Pile, 373). International Modernists designers, like Paul Rand and Gene Federico, used the element of surprise and contrast in their works to communicate “bold innovation” (Raizman, 252). Designers like Alvin Lustig believed they must remain “free” in order to “experiment, play, change, and alter forms” (Raizman, 253-254). Magazines began to have more striking compositions which would experiment with typography using a broad array of techniques (Raizman, 254-256). Will Burtain, a German graphic designer, began to “cover a wide range of activities,” in which he would often juxtapose images freely (Raizman, 257). International Modernism took many varying directions, while having a large impact on the public, and designs of today.

How has International Modernism influenced design of all fields today? How has International Modernism changed from and developed over the past 60 years? Do you think that new materials (like the development of Tupperware) had positive or negative effect on society? How do you believe International Modernism has shaped todays society?

International Modernism (B)

Following WWII every country in its own way focused on marrying economy and efficiency, joining good design with practicality, or as Raizman summarized it, they all ‘dealt with the humanization of science’ 267. Along the way each of them explored the relationships between inspiration from the organic and experimentation with new technologies. In Scandinavia the lava-lamp curves of Anne Jacobsen’s Egg chair and the straight-from-nature radial forms of Poul Henningson’s lamps are an expression of the organic, while Gertrude Vasegaard’s porcelain tea service explored the more utilitarian side of new materials.
In England the war meant a severe depletion of resources, so their designs erred more on the side of the industrial- as is seen in George Carwardine’s Anglepoise lamp. But there was still room for whimsical creativity in the textile design of Marianne Mahler’s Bird and Bowl pattern.
Italy was highly concerned with establishing a name for itself- being such a little country competing in a global export market. They took a route harkening back to the director/artist system of the royal manufactories by employing a consultant designer to create a unified design approach. From there they could mass produce to their heart’s content. The curvaceous Lady armchair by Marco Zanuso references natural forms, simultaneously experimenting with the new materials of foam rubber while Italian light design (much like the simplistic English lighting) took the minimalist/industrial form of Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni’s Tubino desk lamp.
Germany pioneered the automobile field, using streamlined curves for its bodywork in the BMW while still maintaining straightforward rectilinear lines for much of its design such as Max Bill’s granite statues.
Japan had to work a little harder than everyone else to get back in the world’s favor, ‘With government support a number of Japanese manufacturers began a conscious pragmatic effort to enter the export market for the more sophisticated products of good design. (Raizman 286)’ They did so with the nature-derived curves of Sori Yanagi’s butterfly stool but more popularly with the orthogonal boxes of Nikon cameras and Sony radios.
Has America developed any tendencies in our own wartime world, whether they be in design or in lifestyle? Where do you see tension between organic design (not sustainable design, but specifically nature-inspired design) and industrial design in our contemporary world? List examples of products from the same time period that express themselves in these two different ways.

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.