I Bauhaus style buildings, leaving mouldings in

I believe that architecture should be able to define the
times at which it was built in, becoming a part of history and allowing us to
look back on a piece and learn about society of that time period from it. ‘A
reaction or reflection’ (Hughes, 2016) of their time. The twentieth century saw
many changes in such a short space of time, with dramatic advances in
technological innovation as well as numerous architectural styles leading us to
what we have today (Frampton, 1992, p.222). This essay will explore the effect
of technological innovation on architectural style between the years 1920 and
1960, and the effect it had on Gropius and Le Corbusier’s work.

 

Art and architecture came hand in hand throughout the 20th
century with many art movements heavily influencing architecture. One being the
Bauhaus movement 1919, emerging from Germany with the aim of making a
connection between fine arts and crafts. The Bauhaus building 1926 designed by
Gropius utilized glass curtain walls allow light and air into the studios, a sign
of engineering efficiency. With the use of glass, the design does not visually
amplify the corners (Sveiven, 2010) and to allow a view of the interior a glass
façade was added on the load-bearing framework. Both architectural choices made
to create an impression of transparency. It incorporated the main Bauhaus ideas
about simplicity, geometry and aesthetics. An innovative design using simple
flat roofs and geometric lines, with smooth surfaces and modernist glass
blocks. Gropius was interested in demonstrating the latest technology at that
time, using a skeleton of reinforced concrete with brickwork (Sveiven, 2010). It
shares similarities with Larkin
RST building 1911 an engineering building at a time of pre-electric lighting with
the use of glass windows as the solution, focusing on engineering principals rather
than aesthetic. An engineering efficient building which could have influenced
Gropius’ design. The use of glass was becoming popular at that time,
“Let the modern now work with light, light diffused, light reflected” (Frampton,
1992, p.187), Frank Lloyd Wright in 1930. However there is purposeful lack of
ornamentation and decoration on Bauhaus style buildings, leaving mouldings in
the past, a conscious artistic decision of style as a response to irrationalism
at the time by creating these minimalist, rational designs which became popular
as architects felt free to express themselves. In this perspective the Bauhaus
Building was designed as an architectural building expressed by Gropius as he focused
more on aesthetics.

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Vers Une Architecture was cutting edge at its time, advances in photography,
printing, ease of transatlantic travel allowed ideas to cross seas and inspirations
to change, and therefore expressions to change most importantly aesthetically (Benevolo,
xi). The author Le
Corbusier designed the Villa Savoye 1929, a more expressionist approach
compared to the Bauhaus Building. It had an international style with dramatic
curving elements and a lightweight looking building. This effect being made by
using a freely-designed façade, unconstrained by load-bearing with a thin skin
of wall and windows. There was emphasis on volume over mass, a feature of the
international style. The support columns which elevate the building are reminiscent
of the Parthenon fluted columns holding up a pediment with a roof on the top. In
contrast to Gropius’ glass curtain walls, Le Corbusier deliberately often used
poured-in-place concrete and deep window reveals to create forms that are
architectural rather than technical and ones which evoke feelings. Experimenting
with the idea that “Windows serve to admit light” (Towards A New Architecture,
1923, p120). The design followed Le Corbusier’s five points one being a free
plan which was created using load-bearing columns from the walls creating space
(Frampton, 1992, p.157) allowing him to achieve the aesthetics he wanted.

A reinforced concrete frame was used similar to the other
Villas Corbusier designed at that time (Frampton, 1992, p.154). By using
reinforced concrete Corbusier could use structural integrity and complex shapes,
an architectural innovation. Although reinforced concrete was more considered
an engineering material at the time mainly used for industrial buildings,
Corbusier went ahead with it. Whereas architects at the time such as Van Der
Rohe preferred steel frames. Reinforced concrete brought a revolution in the aesthetics
of construction (Towards A New Architecture, 1923,p 63), terraces and suppressing
roofs could be constructed. Villa Savoye is also
a demonstration of Le Corbusier’s idea belief that the home should be a
“machine for living in”, a concept formed from Corbusier’s admiration
for well-built automobiles and trans-Atlantic steamships. This was
well demonstrated by the design of similar Villa Stein at Garches 1927 by Corbusier
an approach more influenced by technological development. Compared to industrial
buildings being built at that time Corbusier was free to express himself artistically
as it was a house. Engineering buildings such as the Washburn Crosby Grain
Eevator, Buffalo with their use of cylinders and rectangles could have inspired
Corbusier. Although Corbusier used engineering I believe this building is
architectural expression of his style and what came before him. It encapsulated
the international style a development of architectural styles.

 

“Let us listen to the counsels of American
engineers. But let us beware of American architects!” declared Le
Corbusier (Towards A New Architecture, 1923). Without engineering efficiency modern
architecture we now know would not be the same. There is a strong correlation
between the changes in styles and the improved engineering capabilities in
society. At the same time drastic changes to society occurred and most
importantly art movements which heavily influenced architecture. Art movements more
so at the beginning of the 20th century than now but technological
change was throughout. Architectural styles formed in the first half of the 20th
century led onto post-modernist buildings such like the Seagram building, architecture
expressed primarily of engineering efficiency, showcasing the best technology of the time rather
than an artistic movement or rebellion as to what came before. A variety
of movements came together to form modernism that we know today. Our technological abilities combine
with our artistic references to create structures and how the structure is
expressed is always down to the architect.