Discussion of Architectural Movements

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Question 1: Consider the impact of the Industrial Revolution on nineteenth century architecture. Your answer should explore the way in which buildings could be constructed, as well as the new demands being made upon architecture.

The nineteenth century brought an age of uncertainty, confidence apparent in the elegant architecture of the 18th C had diminished, rejecting irregularity and polychrome, and was subjected to a period of architectural eclecticism. The birth of this sought after style would allow elements to be retained from previous historic precedents, returning to the style of Michelangelo etc., whilst creating something that is new andoriginal, forming styles of Neo-Classical and Neo-Gothic. This ability to create a fusion of styles allowed for expression devised through creation, notreminiscence; usually elected based on its aptness to the project and overall aesthetic value, seeking to restore order and restraint to architecture.

Another Influence can be traced from the industrial revolution, a time of rapid change, experiencing dramatic variation and experimentation. With Changes in manufacturing, transport, technology, there was a profound consequence on the social economics and cultural conditions. The urban population radically increased, with cities alike multiplying in size and number. The consequences for these new expanding cities was massive overcrowding. Factory owners were required to provide a large quantity of cheap houses, resulting in densely packedterraces, constructed to a low standard. The expansion of mass industry brought the potential of new building technologies such as cast iron, steel, and glass, with which architects and engineers devised structures previously un-reached in both function, size, and form. Consequently, materials could be mass produced rapidly and inexpensively, not only being applied to things like bricks, but also iron columns, glass panels etc., meaning structures of all types could be constructed quicker and cheaper than ever before. This generated a new potential of standardised designs, created from identical factory components, which could be mass produced improving the efficiency of construction time but not necessarily the quality.

Through the rise of the revolution, architecture was now exposed to a magnitude of new construction methods. Structures consisting of metal columns and beams no longer needed walls for structural support, glass could be fashioned in larger sizes volumes and dense structures could be replaced by skeleton structures; making it possible to reach previously restricted height and width very quickly, using pre-fabricated elements. However, this new architecture lacked in imagination and style as the focus was cast towards functionality. An example of this new technology was The Crystal Palace 1851. It was a glass and iron showpiece, with pre-fabricated parts that could be mass-produced and erected rapidly. This dazzled the millions of visitors passing through its doors as it stood in blatant disparity to previous massive stone construction. Crystal Palace became the foundation for modern architecture, its transparency signified a sense of ‘no boundaries’.

Question 2: Chart the key characteristics of the Art Nouveau movement in architecture. To what extent was this movement influential in the move towards International Modernism?

The architectural style of Art Nouveau first arouse in Europe, producing its most creative phase between 1893 and 1905. Art Nouveau repelled against previous classical Greek and Roman principles, rejecting the strict and formal ideals, which had been prevalent during much of the 19th C. It was established on the amalgamation of formal inspiration from the English Arts and Crafts, as well as the structural importance of French Rationalism, and the structural abstraction from nature, which was perceived as the best source of stimulation and aesthetic principals. Architects found their inspiration in the expressive organic forms that emphasised humanity's natural ambition, with dominate ornate embellishments, curvilinear forms, and design motifs based on stylised plants and flowers. Art Nouveau style architecture can be identified by specific rudiments and distinguishing factors which led to ubiquitous cultural impulses, appearing throughout its life time, however there is no single definition or meaning behind it.

The style originated from the reaction to a realm of art which was dominated by precise geometrical compositions of Neo-Classical ideals. In search of a new design language, concepts evolved distant from historical and classical restraints employed by previous academics and current precedents. Instead designs were characterized by graceful, sinuous lines filled with irregular direction, which were rarely angular. This was accompanied by violent curves; rhythmic patterns of curved, fluent lines that connect beautified plain items, such as entrances and cast columns. The philosophy of Art Nouveau was in provision of applying delicate beauty to commonplace objects, in order for beautiful objects to be transparent to all. No entity was too utilitarian to be beautified, it was not only evident in external architecture butinterior ornamentsdisplayed its standards as well. The tendency led towards organic subject matter, flowers, leaves, vines, and other organic images embellished architecture with each characteristic obtaining a different appearance; a doorknocker moulded to look like a dragonfly, birds etched into window frames, abstract lilies drifting around stairwell banisters. The style embraces a variety of stylistic interpretations; some architects opting for new low-cost materials with the ambition of mass production, whilst others used more expensive materials valuing high craftsmanship.

A variety of movements continued to reconnoitre integrated organic design, includingDeStijl, and theBauhausSchool, however this soon declined. Art Nouveau constituted a major step towards the intellectual and stylistic innovation of modern architecture, breaking the trend of looking backwards, which emphasised function over form and the elimination of superfluous adornment. The stylistic rudiments progressed into the simpler, rationalised forms of modernism. Theunderlying fundamentals of the art nouveau concept, of a thoroughly integrated environment, remains a significant element of contemporary modernism today.

Question 3: With references to examples of his built work, explore Le Corbusier’s ‘Five Points of a New Architecture’.

Le Corbusier’s first principle looks at the system of structural support, it suggests that a distinction can immediately be made between elements. Therefore supporting walls can be replaced by a grid of columns, spaced out at specific, equal intervals that withholds the structural load. By elevating the ground floor, it is thereby removed from the damp ground and is now to subject to light and air and consequently the landscape can continue to flow beneath whilst gaining additional flat roof space. The second principle identifies the need for the flat roof to be utilised for a domestic purpose such as a roof terrace or garden, subsequently meaning that space lost in built up areas can be recovered. This area will display luxurious organic vegetation, however it provides a structural purpose providing essential protection to the concrete roof. Resulting rain can now be controlled, flowing off gradually down drain pipes, concealed within the interior of the building.

The third principle states that, due to circumstances made clear in the first principle, interior walls can now be placed where required, each floor being entirely independent to the next. The absence of supporting walls allows unrestrained freedom within the internal design. The forth principle dictates that the façade can be lifted from its structural function, allowing the freedom of design separated from its original exterior. By projecting the floor beyond its system of structural supports the whole façade is extended, losing its supportive quality, the façade therefore is free from restrictions. The fifth principle determines that the façade can be intersect with horizontal window running the entire length, extending from support to support. These rectangular openings allow plentiful amounts of light and air, achieving evenly lit rooms of maximum illumination and hence removing the need for vertical windows.

We can depict the development of these principles through some of his built work, first with his experimentation with Maison Citrohan, 1922. Through numerous prototypes le Corbusier plays with introducing this distinctive features. Villa Stein 1926, is the first full exemplification of these principles. Built around a strict grid of structural columns, the villa features an open plan layout with roof terrace protected by screens. The concrete structure obtains strips of ribbon windows, however that land beneath has been fully consumed by the Villa. The Villa Savoye 1929, visibly embodies all five points of the new aesthetic. The bulk of the structure is supported above the ground by slender reinforced concrete stilts. The house conceals an open floor plan that culminates a roof garden, compensating for the green space lost beneath. Finally, the clean white façade embodies the distinctive ribbon windows that allow unobstructed views.

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