modern architecture

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modern architecture,

new architectural style that emerged in many Western countries in the decade after World War I. It was based on the "rational" use of modern materials, the principles of functionalist planning, and the rejection of historical precedent and ornament. This style has been generally designated as modern, although the labels International style, Neue Sachlichkeit, and functionalism have also been used.

Development of the Style

Since the mid-19th cent. there had been repeated attempts to assimilate modern technology in practice and theory and to formulate a modern style of architecture suitable to its age. A functionalist approach eventually replaced the formerly eclectic approach to design. Technical progress in the use of iron and glass made possible the construction of Sir Joseph PaxtonPaxton, Sir Joseph,
1803–65, English architect, noted for his use of glass and iron in a proto-modern manner. Beginning his career as a gardener and estate manager, he then built two greenhouses at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, for the duke of Devonshire.
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's celebrated Crystal PalaceCrystal Palace,
building designed by Sir Joseph Paxton and erected in Hyde Park, London, for the Great Exhibition in 1851. In 1854 it was removed to Sydenham, where, until its damage by fire in 1936, it housed a museum of sculpture, pictures, and architecture and was used for
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 in London (1851), in which a remarkable delicacy was achieved. In the ensuing years iron, steel, and glass enabled architects and engineers to enclose the vast interior spaces of train sheds, department stores, and market halls, but often the structural forms were clothed with irrelevant ornament.

As late as 1889 the exposed, iron skeleton of the newly erected Eiffel TowerEiffel Tower,
structure designed by A. G. Eiffel and erected in the Champ-de-Mars for the Paris exposition of 1889. The tower is 984 ft (300 m) high and consists of an iron framework supported on four masonry piers, from which rise four columns uniting to form one shaft.
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 in Paris was met with public outrage. In Chicago, William Le Baron JenneyJenney, William Le Baron,
1832–1907, American engineer and architect, b. Fairhaven, Mass. He studied at Harvard Scientific School and the École des Beaux-Arts.
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 pioneered the use of a complete steel skeleton for the urban skyscraper in his Home Insurance Building (1883–85). His contemporary, Louis Henry SullivanSullivan, Louis Henry,
1856–1924, American architect, b. Boston, studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris. He is of great importance in the evolution of modern architecture in the United States.
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, first articulated the theory of functionalism (see functionalismfunctionalism,
in art and architecture, an aesthetic doctrine developed in the early 20th cent. out of Louis Henry Sullivan's aphorism that form ever follows function. Functionalist architects and artists design utilitarian structures in which the interior program dictates the
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), which he demonstrated in his numerous commercial designs. In addition, experiments in concrete construction were being carried out in France by François Hennebique and Auguste PerretPerret, Auguste
, 1874–1954, French architect. He left the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris to join the family construction firm with his brother Gustave, and began to experiment with the new building material, reinforced concrete.
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, and in the United States by Ernest Ransome.

As a result of these advances, the formal conception of architecture was also undergoing a profound transformation. Frank Lloyd WrightWright, Frank Lloyd,
1867–1959, American architect, b. Richland Center, Wis., as Frank Lincoln Wright; he changed his name to honor his mother's family (the Lloyd Joneses). Wright is widely considered the greatest American architect.
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, a pupil of Sullivan, experimented with the interpenetration of interior and exterior spaces in his residential designs. In Holland, where Wright's work was widely admired, the architects of de StijlStijl, de
[Du.,=the style], Dutch nonfigurative art movement, also called neoplasticism. In 1917 a group of artists, architects, and poets was organized under the name de Stijl, and a journal of the same name was initiated.
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 sought to organize building elements into new combinations of overlapping and hovering rectangular planes.

Form and Materials

By 1920 there was an increasingly wide understanding that building forms must be determined by their functions and materials if they were to achieve intrinsic significance or beauty in contemporary terms, without resorting to traditional ornament. Instead of viewing a building as a heavy mass made of ponderous materials, the leading innovators of modern architecture considered it as a volume of space enclosed by light, thin curtain walls and resting on slender piers. The visual aesthetic of modern architecture was largely inspired by the machine and by abstract painting and sculpture.

In giving form and coherence to modern architecture, Le CorbusierLe Corbusier
, pseud. of Charles Édouard Jeanneret
, 1887–1965, French architect, b. La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. Often known simply as "Corbu," he was one of the most influential architects of the 20th cent.
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's book Vers une architecture (1923, tr. 1927) played an important role, as did the writings of the Dutch architect J. J. P. OudOud, Jacobus Johannes Pieter
, 1890–1963, Dutch architect. Oud's interest in abstract painting led him to conceive of buildings composed in terms of pure planes. With several painters, including Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg, he became associated with the influential
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 and the German architect Walter GropiusGropius, Walter
, 1883–1969, German-American architect, one of the leaders of modern functional architecture. In Germany his Fagus factory buildings (1910–11) at Alfeld, with their glass curtain walls, metal spandrels, and discerning use of purely industrial
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, who also headed the BauhausBauhaus
, artists' collective and school of art and architecture in Germany (1919–33). The Bauhaus revolutionized art training by combining the teaching of classic arts with the study of crafts.
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 in Dessau. Other early leaders of the modern movement included Ludwig Mies van der RoheMies van der Rohe, Ludwig
, 1886–1969, German-American architect. A pioneer of modern architecture and one of its most influential figures, he is famous for his minimalist architectural dictum "less is more." In Germany, he was an assistant to Peter Behrens.
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, Marcel BreuerBreuer, Marcel Lajos
, 1902–81, American architect and furniture designer, b. Hungary. During the 1920s he was associated, both as student and as teacher, with the Bauhaus in Germany.
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, and Ernst May in Germany and Raymond HoodHood, Raymond Mathewson,
1881–1934, American architect, b. Pawtucket, R.I. He studied at Brown Univ., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris.
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, Albert KahnKahn, Albert
, 1869–1942, American architect, noted as a designer of factories, b. Germany, immigrated to the United States in 1880. He worked as a draftsman in a Detroit architect's office, learning the practice of architecture by observing and doing, and traveled abroad
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, Richard J. NeutraNeutra, Richard Joseph
, 1892–1970, American architect, born and educated in Vienna. Although Neutra worked for a time with Eric Mendelsohn and later with Frank Lloyd Wright, after he opened his own practice in Los Angeles in 1926 he adhered to a more functionalist
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, William LescazeLescaze, William
, 1896–1969, American architect, born and trained in Switzerland. Emigrating to the United States in 1920, Lescaze became influential in introducing the new European architecture to America.
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, and George Howe in the United States.

In 1932 the label "International style" was applied to modern architecture by the Museum of Modern Art, New York City, anticipating its growing acceptance around the world. The United States became a stronghold of modern architecture after the emigration of Gropius, Mies, and Breuer from Germany during the 1930s. By the mid-20th cent. modern architecture had become an effective instrument for dealing with the increasingly complex building needs of a global society. Large architectural firms such as Harrison and Abramovitz and Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill did much to popularize modern architecture around the world after World War II.

At the same time new technological developments continued to influence architects' designs, particularly in the realm of prefabricated construction, as seen in the works of R. Buckminster FullerFuller, R. Buckminster
(Richard Buckminster Fuller), 1895–1983, American architect and engineer, b. Milton, Mass. Fuller devoted his life to the invention of revolutionary technological designs aimed at solving problems of modern living.
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 and Moshe SafdieSafdie, Moshe
, 1938–, Israeli-Canadian architect, b. Haifa. He grew up in Israel, moved to Canada with his family at 15, studied architecture at McGill Univ. and with Louis Kahn, and later opened an office in Montreal.
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. The development of sophisticated air conditioning and heating systems also allowed modern architecture to spread from the temperate climates of Europe and North America to countries with extremely varied weather conditions.

The Style Evolves

Increasingly, during the 1950s, modern architecture was criticized for its sterility, its "institutional" anonymity, and its disregard for regional building traditions. More varied and individual, as well as regionalist, modes of expression were sought by architects of the next generation, although the basic emphasis on structure and materials continued. This tendency was evident in the works of Louis KahnKahn, Louis Isadore
, 1901–74, American architect, b. Estonia. He and his family moved to Philadelphia in 1905, and he later studied at the Univ. of Pennsylvania. From the 1920s through World War II, Kahn worked on numerous housing projects including Carver Court (1944),
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, Edward Durell StoneStone, Edward Durell,
1902–78, American architect, b. Fayetteville, Ark. Stone's first major work, designed in the starkly functional International style in collaboration with Philip L. Goodwin, was the Museum of Modern Art, New York City (1937–39).
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, and Philip Cortelyou JohnsonJohnson, Philip Cortelyou,
1906–2005, American architect, museum curator, and historian, b. Cleveland, grad. Harvard Univ. (B.A., 1927). One of the first Americans to study modern European architecture, Johnson wrote (with H.-R.
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 in the United States, and the architects of the so-called New Brutalism movement in England. A dynamic sculptural unity distinguished the buildings of Eero SaarinenSaarinen, Eero
, 1910–61, Finnish-American architect, grad. Yale (B.A., 1934), became an American citizen in 1940; son of Eliel Saarinen. Saarinen's reputation was established with his design of the General Motors Technical Center, Warren, Mich. (1951–55).
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 and the late works of Le Corbusier. Other leading architects of this generation include Alvar AaltoAalto, Alvar
, 1898–1976, Finnish architect and furniture designer. Aalto is considered one of the foremost architects of the 20th cent. Most of his designs were made in collaboration with his first wife, Aino Maria Marsio, 1894–1949, the celebrated furniture
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 of Finland, the Italians Pier Luigi NerviNervi, Pier Luigi
, 1891–1979, Italian architectural engineer. Nervi is considered one of the foremost European architectural designers of the 20th cent. His first large work, the Giovanni Berta stadium at Florence (1930–32), won world acclaim for the daring and
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 and Paolo SoleriSoleri, Paolo,
1919–2013, Italian-American architect. He studied architecture in his native Turin (Ph.D., 1946). Soleri's works have been influenced by both Frank Lloyd Wright, with whom he apprenticed in the 1940s, and Antonio Gaudí.
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, and in Central and South America, Lúcio CostaCosta, Lúcio
, 1902–98, As the principal designer of the city of Brasília (1957), Costa is known for his use of reinforced concrete in designs that combine traditional and modern forms.
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, Oscar NiemeyerNiemeyer Soares, Oscar
, 1907–2012, Brazil's foremost 20th-century architect, b. Rio de Janeiro. Influenced by Le Corbusier, Niemeyer developed an architecture noted for its daring conception, purity of line, and formal lyricism; it is frequently characterized by curving
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, Juan O'GormanO'Gorman, Juan,
1905–82, Mexican architect. Trained by Villagran Garcia, O'Gorman produced designs adapting the International style to Mexican requirements. O'Gorman's most notable work is the University Library, Mexico City (1952), with its elaborate, fantastic mosaic facade.
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, and Felix CandelaCandela, Felix
(Félix Candela Outeriño) , 1910–97, Mexican-American architect, b. Madrid. Candela studied in Madrid but was forced to flee Spain after his participation in the Spanish civil war.
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Development of Postmodernism

After 1960, a less evolutionary and more revolutionary critical reaction to modern architecture, first articulated in the writings of Robert VenturiVenturi, Robert,
1925–2018, American architect and architectural theorist, b. Philadelphia, grad. Princeton (B.A., 1947; M.F.A., 1950). An important and highly influential theorist, Venturi inveighed in his writings against the banality and simplicity of postwar modern
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, began to form. Architects have become more concerned with context and tradition. Ornament, once banished by modernism, has returned, often in the form of overtly historical revivalism, although it has just as often been reinterpreted in high-tech materials. This has resulted in a stylistic eclecticism on the contemporary scene. Prominent architects working in the postmodern mode include Philip Johnson in his later projects, Michael GravesGraves, Michael,
1934–2015, American architect, b. Indianapolis, Ind., educated at the Univ. of Cincinnati and Harvard. He taught at Princeton from 1962 to 2002. Graves was a member of the New York "Five" or "white" modernist architects during the 1960s, the other four
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, Ricardo Bofill, and Aldo RossiRossi, Aldo
, 1931–97, Italian architectb. Milan; grad. Milan Polytechnic (1959). He began working for the design magazine Casabella-Continuità in 1954 and became its editor a decade later. His book The Architecture of the City (1966, tr.
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See Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture (1923, tr. 1927); W. Gropius, The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (1937); V. Scully, Jr., Modern Architecture: The Architecture of Democracy (1961); L. Benevolo, History of Modern Architecture (2 vol., 1966; tr. 1972); H.-R. Hitchcock and P. Johnson, The International Style (2d ed. 1966); R. Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966); S. Giedion, Space, Time, and Architecture (5th ed. 1967); D. Sharp, A Visual History of Twentieth-Century Architecture (1973); C. Jencks, Post-Modernism (1987); W. J. R. Curtis Modern Architecture since 1900 (3d ed. 1996); D. L. Johnson and D. Langmead, Makers of 20th Century Modern Architecture: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook (1997); M. Filler, Makers of Modern Architecture (2 vol., 2007–13).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Modern architecture

Building design in the currently fashionable architectural style; the term was originally used to describe a movement that combined functionalism with ideals that rejected historical design concepts and forms; it included styles such as Art Deco, International Style, Organic Architecture, and Prairie Style.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved

Modern architecture

A loose term applied since the late 19th century to buildings in a variety of styles, in which emphasis is placed on functionalism, rationalism, and current methods of construction, in contrast with architectural styles based on historical precedents and traditional methods of building. This category often includes Art Deco, Art Moderne, Bauhaus, Contemporary style, International style, Organic architecture, Streamline Moderne.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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