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Modern architecture

While modern architecture started with the Crystal Palace in 1851 and continued up to art nouveau, modernist architecture started in the 1920s when the straight line, the rejection of ornament and the form follows function credo had come full speed. Modernist architecture is usually characterised by a rejection of historical styles as a source of architectural form, an adoption of the machine aesthetic and an adoption of expressed structure. As such, for the purpose of this site, modernist architecture is a subgenre of modern architecture.[Mar 2006]

Glass, steel and concrete are the main structural elements of modern architecture.

Related: architecture - Art Nouveau - Bauhaus - Googie space age - international style - Le Corbusier - mid-century modern - modern - modern art - modern design - modernism - postmodern architecture - retro-futurism - De Stijl

Architects: Frank Lloyd Wright - Le Corbusier - Antoni Gaudi - Adolf Loos

The Crystal Palace (1851) - Joseph Paxton

Eiffel Tower (1889) - Gustave Eiffel

More than a million people took the elevator to the top of the Eiffel tower when it was opened at the 1889 Exposition Universelle. The Eiffel Tower, the tallest building in the world at the time, was France's answer to the Crystal Palace of the 1851 Great Exhibition.

Tassel house (1893) - Victor Horta

Modern architecture

Modern architecture is a broad term given to a number of building styles with similar characteristics, primarily the simplification of form and the elimination of ornament, that first arose around 1900. By the 1940s these styles had been consolidated and identified as the International Style and became the dominant way of building for several decades in the twentieth century.

The exact characteristics and origins of modern architecture are still open to interpretation and debate, but it's generally accepted that modernism was superseded by postmodernism and is now regarded as a historical style. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_architecture [Oct 2005]


Some historians see the evolution of modern architecture as a social matter, closely tied to the project of Modernity and hence to the Enlightenment, a result of social and political revolutions.

Others see modern architecture as primarily driven by technological and engineering developments, and it's plainly true that the availability of new materials such as iron, steel, concrete and glass drove the invention of new building techniques as part of the Industrial Revolution. The Crystal Palace by Joseph Paxton at the Great Exhibition of 1851 is an early example; possibly the best example is Louis Sullivan's development of the tall steel skyscraper in Chicago around 1890.

Other historians regard modernism as a matter of taste, a reaction against eclecticism and the lavish stylistic excesses of Victorian Era and Edwardian Art Nouveau.

Whatever the cause, around 1900 a number of architects around the world began developing new architectural solutions to integrate traditional precedents (Gothic, for instance) with new technological possibilities. The work of Louis Sullivan in Chicago, Victor Horta in Brussels, Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, Otto Wagner in Vienna and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, among many others, can be seen as a common struggle between old and new. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_architecture#Origins [Oct 2005]

Modernism as dominant style

See entry on modernist architecture.

Mid-century modern

See entry on modernist architecture.

Form follows function

See entry on modernist architecture.

Wainwright Building (1891) - Louis Sullivan

The 1891 Wainwright Building in St. Louis (often credited as the world's first skyscraper)

Louis Henry (Henri) Sullivan (September 3, 1856–April 14, 1924) was an American architect, called the "father of modernism". He is considered by many as the creator of the modern skyscraper, was an influential architect and critic of the Chicago School, and was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright.--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis Sullivan [Feb 2006]

The Wainwright Building is a 10-story red-brick landmark office building in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Built in 1891 and designed by Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan, it is among the first skyscrapers in the world. Sullivan used a steel frame and applied his intricate terra cotta ornament in vertical bands to emphasize the height of the building. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wainwright_Building [Feb 2006]

See also: modern architecture - 1891 - USA

Einstein Tower (1921) - Erich Mendelsohn

Unidentified photograph of Einstein Tower (1921) - Erich Mendelsohn

The Einstein Tower is an astrophysical observatory in the Albert Einstein Science Park in Potsdam, Germany designed by architect Erich Mendelsohn. It was built for Albert Einstein to support experiments and observations to validate his relativity theory. The building was first conceived around 1917, built from 1920 to 1921 after a fund-raising drive, and became operational in 1924. It is still a working solar observatory today as part of the Astrophysical Institute of Potsdam.

This was one of Mendelsohn's first major projects, completed when a young Richard Neutra was on his staff, and his best-known building.

The exterior was originally conceived in concrete, but due to construction difficulties much of the building was actually realized in brick, covered with stucco. It underwent a full renovation in 1999, for its 75th anniversary, to correct problems with dampness and decay that had meant decades of repair. It is often cited as one of the few landmarks of expressionist architecture.

According to lore, Mendelsohn took Einstein on a long tour of the completed structure, waiting for some sign of approval. The design, while logical and perfectly sufficient to its purpose, stood out like an "ungainly spaceship" in the suburbs of Potsdam. Einstein said nothing until hours later, during a meeting with the building committee, when he whispered his one-word judgment: "Organic". (Otto Friedrich, Before the Deluge.) Mendelsohn himself said that he had designed it out of some unknown urge, letting it emerge out of "the mystique around Einstein's universe" (Wolf von Eckardt, Erich Mendelsohn.) --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein_Tower [Mar 2006]

See also: 1921 - expressionism - architecture - biomorphism - Germany

The Sources of Modern Architecture and Design (1968|1985) - Nikolaus Pevsner

The difference between architecture and building is a subject matter that has engaged the attention of many. According to Nikolaus Pevsner, European historian of the early twentieth century, "A bicycle shed is a building, Lincoln Cathedral is a piece of architecture."

The Sources of Modern Architecture and Design (1968|1985) - Nikolaus Pevsner [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Sir Nikolaus Pevsner CBE (January 30, 1902 – August 18, 1983) was a German-born British historian of art and, especially, architecture. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolaus_Pevsner [Feb 2006]

See also: architecture - modern architecture - design - Modernism

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