Modern Style FURNITURE ................Illustrated Architecture Dictionary.................Styles of Architecture
Modern / Modernist / Modernism Style
Early twentieth century, but especially after WWII
Late 19th and early 20th century Modernism - the conviction that the traditional forms of art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were becoming outdated in the new economic, social, and political conditions of an emerging fully industrialized world.
Some would classify "Modern style" architecture as beginning with Arts and Crafts and including skyscrapers, Prairie, Art Deco, Art Moderne, and International (Bauhaus).
Most would classify "Modern style" as beginning with International (Bauhaus) style.
All would agree that the principal distinguishing features are simplification of form and the elimination of ornament - radical departure from Western architecture rooted in the Greek and Roman eras. One frequently quoted rule is Louis Sullivan's "Form follows function."
One important group of Modernist architects is commonly referred to as the "Harvard Five": Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, John Johansen, Philip Johnson, and Eliot Noyes. All these men either taught with or were students of Walter Gropius, the legendary head of Harvard's Graduate School of Design.
- Cast iron buildings
- Expressionism: Building or design is distorted for an emotional effect
- International (Bauhaus)
- Skyscrapers: Platform and tower
- Skyscrapers: Tower in the plaza
Skyscrapers were made possible by the use of elevators and steel. Masonry (brick, concrete) was sometimes used, however.
What is Modernism?
By Sudip Bose
Reprinted from From Preservation | May/June 2008, p. 36
Trying to define modernism can be a frustrating exercise. As a style, it is less coherent, its boundaries looser, than, say, classicism. Many critics would argue that modernism is not even a singular style, that it incorporates a great variety of aesthetics and sensibilities.
And just who were the modernists? Frank Lloyd Wright vehemently opposed being grouped with them, but modernist architecture would not have been the same without him.
Modernism roughly spans the time between World War I and the early 1970s. What we generally think of as the modernist ethic evolved first in Europe, among such architects as Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius, the latter two of the German Bauhaus school.
The European modernists imbued their work with an inherent morality and social consciousness and were often associated with left-wing politics.
Intrigued by the emerging technologies of the day, they embraced concrete, glass, and steel in their revolutionary creations. They eschewed ornament, rejecting what they saw as the frivolous strokes of Victorian and Art Nouveau styles. Their work was both spare (think of Mies' famous dictum "Less is more") and lyrical. Perhaps above all, they believed in function dictating form, though many architects, such as Le Corbusier, would eventually distance themselves from that tenet.
In 1932, Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock curated a landmark exhibition at New York City's Museum of Modern Art in which they coined the term International (Bauhaus) . Aside from introducing the work of architects such as Mies to the American public, the exhibit consciously tried to define a movement. The ground was now broken for a distinctly American modernism to emerge, and the architects who subsequently worked in this country became less concerned with the moral and social aspects of building and more interested in appearance.
Jonathan Glancey, the architecture editor of The Guardian, sums up the movement this way: "Modernism was not simply a style: but more of an attitude, a determination to break with the past and free the architect from the stifling rules of convention and etiquette."
2 excerpts fromAs articulated by Reyner Banham in A Concrete Atlantis (1986), the grain elevators in general and those in Buffalo in particular were an inspiration to modern architects in Europe.
Reconsidering Concrete Atlantis: Buffalo Grain Elevators (online Jan. 2013)
Le Corbusier declared, “Thus we have the American grain elevators and factories, the magnificent FIRST FRUITS of the new age.” ...
It was the power of the visual image that moved these architects, and the adoption of their formal qualities had a long term effect on modern architecture. The simple but powerful geometric structures and the ideology of practical design without ornamentation conformed to the purposes of modernism.
- Lynda H. Schneekloth, p. 15 (online Jan. 2013)
In the 1910s and 1920s, photographs of grain elevators circulated in European architectural publications dedicated to modern architecture, prominent Buffalo examples included. That the functional dictates of grain storage could produce the uncontrived beauty of the platonic cylinder was taken as proof of modernist values. Such industrial buildings, it followed, were at least as modern as any contemporary architecture with masterly authors, such as Louis Sullivan or Frank Lloyd Wright.
On the authority of these images, avant-garde European architects began to design non-industrial buildings that resembled an American industrial type that they had never physically experienced ....
A Concrete Atlantis [by Reyner Banham, 1986] made the claim that the quintessence of European modernism was rooted in two types of American industrial buildings, the daylight factory and the grain elevator ....
The association of elevators with pure form appears to have entered modernist consciousness via Wilhelm Worringer’s comparison of contemporary silos to the monuments of ancient Egyptians in his celebrated text, Abstraction and Empathy (1908). In addition to the fact that the concrete silos bore an uncanny likeness to the massive columns of New Kingdom temples, ancient Egypt was associated with the history of grain storage through the biblical story of Joseph stockpiling grain for the seven years of famine, as well as the myth that the pyramids functioned as silos.
In 1913, Gropius’ [Water Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School] conclusion that America -- rather than Germany -- was the ‘Industrial Motherland’ would have come as a surprise the industrialists, artists, and architects to whom the manifesto was most immediately addressed.
- Hadas Steiner, pp. 106-107 (online Jan. 2013)
Modern examples from Buffalo architecture:
- Illustration above: Neo-Expressionism - Kleinhans Music Hall
- Residence - Robert T. Coles House and Studio
- Modern/Postmodern: Tower in the Plaza - M&T Bank
- Neo-Expressionism - Temple Beth Zion
- Neo-Expressionism - Trinity United Methodist Church Grand Island
- Brutalism - Buffalo City Court
- Cast iron - Glenny Building
- International - AM&A's Department Store
- International - Knox Addition to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery
- Tower in the plaza - Marine Midland Center/HSBC
- Photo: Glass box - Tishman Building
- Photo: Platform and tower - Main Place Mall Tower
- Photo: Ranch - 390 LeBrun Road, AMHERST