Art history final

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After reading the book and doing some research I was able to learn a lot about the development of modern and post-modern architecture. There were many things that contributed to the change in the style of how architecture was created. I believe that technology was a major factor in the these changes, as well as the demands that people wanted met when they had a building designed. As people changed their needs, they needed to change the environment where they lived and where they worked. I have also learned that there were certain people, architects, that played a key role in the changing of the architectural designs. Without a few of the famous architects we would not have things look the way they do now. Whether it is the modern or post-modern beliefs, they both have shaped the way architects today create the building we have.

        Modern development is defined as art with similar characteristics. The style wanted to break with architectural tradition and design simple, unornamented buildings, even though very few modern style buildings were created in the early twentieth century this is the time when they were first conceived. It wasn't until after the Second World War when it gained its popularity. Modern architecture dominated institutional and corporate buildings for the next three decades. The modern style emerged in the Western countries in the decade World War One and was based on the rational use of modern materials. "The United States became a strong hold of modern architecture after the emigration of Gropius, Mies, and Bruer from Germany during the 1930s." Columbia Encyclopedia,( pg.3).

        Modern architecture was based on a functionalist planning and rejected the historical precedent and ornament. It has also been called, or referred to as functionalism. Most historians believe that the evolution of modern architecture is a social matter; they think that the style developed as a result of social and political revolutions. Others think that modern architecture was driven primarily because of technological and engineering developments. There was a new availability of new building materials, like iron, steel, and glass. These new materials helped to inspire new inventions of creating buildings. These new building techniques are part of the Industrial Revolution. They used glass for the façade, steel for the exterior support, and concrete for the floors and interior support. Iron and glass construction are one of the first new building materials to have been used. The Crystal Place by Joseph Paxton was created in eighteen fifty one in London, it was made up of iron and glass materials. William Le Baron Jenney and Louis Sullivan created the tall steel skyscraper in Chicago around eighteen ninety. There was also the development of sophisticated air conditioning and heating systems which allowed modern architecture to spread from temperate climates to extremely varied weather conditions. I think that the technological advances were a very key element in the creation of the modern era. Without those new building materials they would be still using the same old materials and not be able to create new looks to their buildings.

        There were two famous architects that I thought were the most significant in contributing to the development of modern architecture. Louis Sullivan designed the Wainwright building which was built in eighteen ninety in St. Louis, Missouri. This building revolutionized American architecture. It was unornamented, he used red bricks, and horizontal panels to decorate, and the top story has round windows and terra cotta leaf scrolls. "...the Wainwright Building has a U-shaped plan that provides an interior light well for the illumination of inside offices. The ground floor, designed to house shops, had a wide plate-glass window for the display of merchandise. The second story, or mezzanine, also features large windows for the illumination of the shop offices." "This illustrates Sullivan's philosophy of functionalism, summed up in his famous motto, "Form follows function," which holds that the function of a building should dictate its design." Stokstad (pg. 798). This building became a prototype for modern day office buildings. Sullivan was most notable for his contributions in creating the tall commercial office buildings. He emphasized the vertical rise, which was able to be done by using steel frame construction and light weight materials like terra cotta. Sullivan inspired many other architects by using his ideas. Frank Lloyd Wright was another famous architect who even though created his own works, would also imitate Sullivan's style. Wright became a legend; he was one of the most talented architects of the twentieth century. As well as being an architect, he was also an interior designer, writer, and educator. Wright promoted organic architecture and created many different types of buildings, like offices, churches, schools, skyscrapers, hotels, and museums. What was important to him was to create a relationship between the site and the building and the needs of the client. Wright was known for serving as both architect and art dealer for his clients. He was well known for manipulating interior space in residential and public buildings. Wright also had a desire to place his occupants close to natural surroundings, his most famous residence, Fallingwater was created for Mr. and Mrs. Edgar J. Kaufmann Sr. is located in Bear Run Pennsylvania, it was built in nineteen thirty four to nineteen thirty seven. The Fallingwater residence has a stream and waterfall running under part of the building, and used limestone for all the verticals. He also used Pyrex glass for his windows to allow for interaction and viewing the outdoors while still protecting the person from the outdoor elements. I think that without his style and outlook on space for the people using the building space then we would not have some buildings the way they are now, I think that space is a big attraction for people when they are looking to buy a house or office building.

        After nineteen sixty a more revolutionary era come about. Postmodernism recreated the use of ornament, which was banished by modernism. Postmodernism is defined a "term used to designate a multitude of trends-in the arts, philosophy, religion, technology, and many other areas-that come after and deviate from the many 20th cent. movements that constituted modernism." Postmodernism,( pg 1). The postmodernism movement emerged in the nineteen sixties and became prominent in the late nineteen seventies and eighties, and remains now until this day. The postmodern movement was a reaction to the absolutism of the International Style.

Post-modern architecture evolved from the modernist movement, yet contradicts many of the modernist ideas. They combine new ideas with traditional forms, many buildings may startle, surprise, or even amuse people. Familiar shapes and details are used in unexpected ways. The buildings may incorporate symbols to make a statement or just to delight the viewer. Postmodernism is known for its functional and formalized shapes and spaces. Post-modernism has a sense of humor; the style often combines two or more very different elements. Post-modern houses are always unique, but some will view them as being humorous or shocking to the viewer's eye. A good example of post-modern architecture is Philip Johnson's Sony building (originally AT&T building) in New York City. Johnson's building borrows elements and references from the past and reintroduces color and symbolism. It is a tall skyscraper the uses double coding, which is a prevalent trait of postmodernism. Postmodernism is a rejection of strict rules set up by the early modernist and seeks exuberance in the use of building techniques, angles, and stylistic references. I think that historical tradition, ordinary commercial architecture, and pop art were all multiple influences of postmodernism.

        Without the designs of the architects in the post-modern era there would not be as many beautiful buildings. Robert Venturi was an inspiration to the post-modern architecture. "He became the unofficial dean of the eclectic movement known as postmodernism." Encyclopedia Britannica, (2009). Venturi is famous for saying "Less is a bore", which is what post-modern architects were like. Venturi broke many of the rules that modernist were expected to follow. Venturi published a book "Learning the Las Vegas Strip" which is an inspiration to post-modern architecture. "..Venturi designed a house for his mother that illustrated many of his new ideas. The building is both simple and complex. The shape of the façade returns to the archetypal "house" shape- evident in children's drawings-that Modernist from Rietveld to Safdie had rejected because of its historical associations. Its vocabulary of triangles, squares, and circles is also elementary, although the shapes are arranged in a complex asymmetry that skews the restful harmonies of Modernist designs." Stokstad (pg. 908). He was the foremost campaigner of the rebellion against Modern Architecture which became known as Post Modernism. "Last month the Philadelphia designer was cited for "changing the course of architecture in this century" when he was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize in a ceremony in Mexico City." McGuigan, (1991).

Another very famous architect that has contributed to the post-modern architecture is Michael Graves. In nineteen sixty he began his career creating houses that were in the abstract and austere orthodox modernism style. "In the late 1970s, however, Graves began to reject the bare and unadorned Modernist idiom as too cool and abstract, and he began seeking a richer architectural vocabulary that would be more accessible to the public" Encyclopedia Britannica(2009). Graves started as a child painting and drawing, drawing is central to his way of working. He is well known for his evocative sketches and drawings. Graves uses representational colors to nature. Terra cotta represents the earth, blue is used as a metaphor for the sky, which he often uses for the ceiling. "By the mid-1980s Graves had emerged as arguably the most original and popular figure working in the postmodernism idiom" Encyclopedia Britannica (2009). His most recognizable architectural projects include the The Swan and The Dolphin hotels in Orlando Florida which are apart of Disney World. His larger scale buildings was the restoration of the Washington Monument and the expansion of the Detroit Institute of Arts. By 2001 Graves was awarded the American Institute of Architects for his lifetime achievements. Graves is also well known for his collection of household products that are sold in Target Stores.

        After learning about both modern and post-modern architecture I feel that they have both contributed to the architecture that people still design today. I still see how both have been an influence on the buildings that we use today, whether it is houses, offices, skyscrapers, or churches. I think that technology was a major reason for the changes in the designing of the buildings. With the creation and findings of new materials architects were able to use a variety of different looks. I also think that the evolution of people helped change things. As we change our demands change, these changes have been shown to affect architecture as well. I think that the architects aimed to please, they wanted to meet the demands of the people who would be using these buildings. With meeting these needs they were able to create beautiful works of art in the process.


  • Modern Architecture. (2009). In Columbia Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from Columbia Encyclopedia online:
  • Postmodernism. (2009). In Fact Monster. Retrieved November 30, 2009, From encyclopedia online:
  • Robert Venturi. (2009). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online:
  • McGuigan, C (July 1, 1991). The Thinking Man Of Design. Newsweek. Retrieved November 30,2009, from
  • Stokstad, M (2008). Art History(3rd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall
  • Michael Graves. (2009). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 30, 2009, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online: