The architecture of the modern period was essentially a reaction to the decorated buildings of preceding history. Czech architect Adolf Loos (1870 –1933) was one of the first to do way with ornament and the results are there for all to see in his Steiner House of 1910. This almost shell-like dwelling with its economy of style and functionality, was to become symbolic of the force, shaping the architectural stylistic revolution that was to come.
Adolf Loos in fact objected so strongly to surface decoration that he wrote an essay in 1908 called, Ornament and Crime, where he denounced the modern man with body tattoos as, "either a criminal or degenerate.....If someone who is tattooed dies at liberty, it means he had died a few years before committing a murder".
Steiner House is a building in Vienna, Austria. Wikipedia
Le Corbusier (1887 – 1965) was inspired by classical Doric architecture and the shapes of modern machinery. In, Towards an Architecture, he compared the two systems, with the comparison of the Parthenon with a Farman biplane. Corbusier was interested in perfect proportions, precise material, precision and clarity, what he called the "White World". In the Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier demonstrated his 5 points of architecture, which involved:
- The use of pilotis, a kind of pillar which supported the structure and separated it from the ground.
- A free façade, non supporting wall.
- Open floor plan
- Continuous window for unencumbered view
- Flat roof garden
Many of Le Corbusier's early work exploited the form and structure of concrete, combined with glass, also he favoured white and stated, "The house is a machine for living in."
German-American architect, Mies van der Rohe (1886- 1969) is famous for his words, "less is more" and "God is in the details". He was another modernist, pioneer architect who was instrumental in steering architecture toward functional minimalism. His artistic vision was to create a "skin and bone" structure, which exemplified "clarity, simplicity and honesty" (G. Schnitzler, 1929). He also ambitiously wanted to change the language of architecture, to authentically express the essence of the modern age. And as a leading member of Rationalism in architecture, his buildings were revolutionary with a great purity of form.
Barcelona Pavilion, 1929. (reconstruction)
The idealist architect Walter Gropius (1883 –1969) when in his early twenties worked for Peter Behrens, who was a leading industrial designer. Interestingly this designer had not only Gropius in his employ, but also Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier -what an incredible concentration of talent, in one place and time! Gropius became the master of the Grand-Ducal Saxon School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar, in 1915 and gradually transformed the institution into the renown Bauhaus (literally 'house for building). Gropius wanted architecture to separate itself from the past and become something totally new, he also viewed architecture as combining art and craftmanship and as being one of the purest art forms.
Bauhaus (built 1925–1926) in Dessau, Germany
Bruno Taut ( 1880 – 1938) was an early member of the German Werkbund. The Werkbund was formed in 1907 and was a joint collaboration between artists, craftsmen and manufacturers, formed with the express purpose to improve design. Taut's famous Glass pavilion is often hailed as the beginning of Expressionist architecture. In the design of this building Taut collaborated with the poet paul Scheerbart who rhapsodized about the future use of glass in architecture, in his 1914 work Glass Architecture (Scheerbart). Taut was a tremendously prolific architect who tried to create an "all-encompassing architecture", which incorporated all the artistic elements from, music to sculpture.
1914 "Glass Pavilion" of Bruno Taut
Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) created some of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century. Born two years after the end of the American Civil War, Frank Lloyd Wright embraced the huge technological changes which took place in this period. He rejected the European ornate styles of architecture and developed his own unique vision, which he called “organic” architecture". Wright was inspired by nature, not so much in the visual sense, but as an "inner harmony". Although many of his buildings are simple in form, there is a subtle sense of rhythm, balance and fluency, which is quite exquisite. His beautiful Fallingwater (1935) has been called "the best all-time work of American architecture" while the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is quite simply, a masterpiece.
Fallingwater, Mill Run, Pennsylvania (1937)
Antonio Sant'Elia (1888 - 1916) became involved with the Futurist movement and it is believed that he was behind the publishing of the The manifesto Futurist Architecture. Sant'Elia saw his drawings as "expressing their times" and as representing a "machine style". His drawings heralded the machine age of industrialisation and had a crisp engineered quality reminiscent of modern bridges and factories. His drawings however were never built.
Perspective drawing from La Città Nuova, 1914