I believe that architecture should be able to define thetimes at which it was built in, becoming a part of history and allowing us tolook back on a piece and learn about society of that time period from it.
‘Areaction or reflection’ (Hughes, 2016) of their time. The twentieth century sawmany changes in such a short space of time, with dramatic advances intechnological innovation as well as numerous architectural styles leading us towhat we have today (Frampton, 1992, p.222). This essay will explore the effectof technological innovation on architectural style between the years 1920 and1960, and the effect it had on Gropius and Le Corbusier’s work.
Art and architecture came hand in hand throughout the 20thcentury with many art movements heavily influencing architecture. One being theBauhaus movement 1919, emerging from Germany with the aim of making aconnection between fine arts and crafts. The Bauhaus building 1926 designed byGropius utilized glass curtain walls allow light and air into the studios, a signof engineering efficiency. With the use of glass, the design does not visuallyamplify the corners (Sveiven, 2010) and to allow a view of the interior a glassfaçade was added on the load-bearing framework. Both architectural choices madeto create an impression of transparency.
It incorporated the main Bauhaus ideasabout simplicity, geometry and aesthetics. An innovative design using simpleflat roofs and geometric lines, with smooth surfaces and modernist glassblocks. Gropius was interested in demonstrating the latest technology at thattime, using a skeleton of reinforced concrete with brickwork (Sveiven, 2010). Itshares similarities with LarkinRST building 1911 an engineering building at a time of pre-electric lighting withthe use of glass windows as the solution, focusing on engineering principals ratherthan aesthetic. An engineering efficient building which could have influencedGropius’ design. The use of glass was becoming popular at that time,”Let the modern now work with light, light diffused, light reflected” (Frampton,1992, p.187), Frank Lloyd Wright in 1930.
However there is purposeful lack ofornamentation and decoration on Bauhaus style buildings, leaving mouldings inthe past, a conscious artistic decision of style as a response to irrationalismat the time by creating these minimalist, rational designs which became popularas architects felt free to express themselves. In this perspective the BauhausBuilding was designed as an architectural building expressed by Gropius as he focusedmore on aesthetics. Vers Une Architecture was cutting edge at its time, advances in photography,printing, ease of transatlantic travel allowed ideas to cross seas and inspirationsto change, and therefore expressions to change most importantly aesthetically (Benevolo,xi). The author LeCorbusier designed the Villa Savoye 1929, a more expressionist approachcompared to the Bauhaus Building. It had an international style with dramaticcurving elements and a lightweight looking building.
This effect being made byusing a freely-designed façade, unconstrained by load-bearing with a thin skinof wall and windows. There was emphasis on volume over mass, a feature of theinternational style. The support columns which elevate the building are reminiscentof the Parthenon fluted columns holding up a pediment with a roof on the top. Incontrast to Gropius’ glass curtain walls, Le Corbusier deliberately often usedpoured-in-place concrete and deep window reveals to create forms that arearchitectural rather than technical and ones which evoke feelings. Experimentingwith the idea that “Windows serve to admit light” (Towards A New Architecture,1923, p120).
The design followed Le Corbusier’s five points one being a freeplan which was created using load-bearing columns from the walls creating space(Frampton, 1992, p.157) allowing him to achieve the aesthetics he wanted.A reinforced concrete frame was used similar to the otherVillas Corbusier designed at that time (Frampton, 1992, p.154). By usingreinforced concrete Corbusier could use structural integrity and complex shapes,an architectural innovation. Although reinforced concrete was more consideredan engineering material at the time mainly used for industrial buildings,Corbusier went ahead with it. Whereas architects at the time such as Van DerRohe preferred steel frames.
Reinforced concrete brought a revolution in the aestheticsof construction (Towards A New Architecture, 1923,p 63), terraces and suppressingroofs could be constructed. Villa Savoye is alsoa demonstration of Le Corbusier’s idea belief that the home should be a”machine for living in”, a concept formed from Corbusier’s admirationfor well-built automobiles and trans-Atlantic steamships. This waswell demonstrated by the design of similar Villa Stein at Garches 1927 by Corbusieran approach more influenced by technological development. Compared to industrialbuildings being built at that time Corbusier was free to express himself artisticallyas it was a house.
Engineering buildings such as the Washburn Crosby GrainEevator, Buffalo with their use of cylinders and rectangles could have inspiredCorbusier. Although Corbusier used engineering I believe this building isarchitectural expression of his style and what came before him. It encapsulatedthe international style a development of architectural styles. “Let us listen to the counsels of Americanengineers. But let us beware of American architects!” declared LeCorbusier (Towards A New Architecture, 1923). Without engineering efficiency modernarchitecture we now know would not be the same. There is a strong correlationbetween the changes in styles and the improved engineering capabilities insociety. At the same time drastic changes to society occurred and mostimportantly art movements which heavily influenced architecture.
Art movements moreso at the beginning of the 20th century than now but technologicalchange was throughout. Architectural styles formed in the first half of the 20thcentury led onto post-modernist buildings such like the Seagram building, architectureexpressed primarily of engineering efficiency, showcasing the best technology of the time ratherthan an artistic movement or rebellion as to what came before. A varietyof movements came together to form modernism that we know today. Our technological abilities combinewith our artistic references to create structures and how the structure isexpressed is always down to the architect.