Charles Edouard Jeanneret, known as Le Corbusier, b. La Chaux-de-fonds,
In the 1920s and '30s, Le Corbusier's most significant work was in urban planning. In such published plans as La Ville Contemporaine (1922), the Plan Voisin de Paris (1925), and the several Villes Radieuses (1930-36), he advanced ideas dramatically different from the comfortable, low-rise communities proposed by earlier garden city planners. During this 20-year span he also built many villas and several small apartment complexes and office buildings. In these hard-edged, smooth-surfaced, geometric volumes, he created a language of what he called 'pure prisms'--rectangular blocks of concrete, steel, and glass, usually raised above the ground on stilts, or pilotis, and often endowed with roof gardens intended to compensate for the loss of usable floor area at ground level.
World War II, Le Corbusier moved away from purism and toward the so-called new
brutalism, which utilized rough-hewn forms of concrete, stone, stucco, and
glass. Newly recognized in official art circles as an important 20th-century
innovator, he represented (1946) France on the planning team for the United
Nations Headquarters building in New York City--a particularly satisfying honor
for an architect whose prize-winning design (1927) for the League of Nations
headquarters had been rejected. Simultaneously, he was commissioned by the
French government to plan and build his prototypical
worldwide reputation led to a commission from the Indian government to plan the
city of Chandigarh, the new capital of the Punjab, and to design and build the
Government Center (1950-70) and several of the city's other structures. These
poetic, handcrafted buildings represented a second, more humanistic phase in Le
Corbusier's work that also was reflected in his lyrical Pilgrim Church of Notre
Dame du Haut at Ronchamp (1951-55) in the Vosges Mountains of France; in his
rugged monastery of La Tourette, France (1954-59); and in the structures he
designed (from 1958) at Ahmedabad, in India. Le Corbusier accidentally drowned
Frank Lloyd Wright, b.
After briefly studying civil engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Wright moved to Chicago, where he went to work (1887) as a draftsman in the office of Adler and Sullivan. While working under Louis Sullivan--whom Wright called 'Lieber Meister'--he began designing and building on his own a few private houses for some of Adler and Sullivan's clients. These 'bootlegged houses,' as Wright called them, soon revealed an independent talent quite distinct from that of Sullivan. Wright's houses had low, sweeping rooflines hanging over uninterrupted walls of windows; his plans were centered on massive brick or stone fireplaces at the heart of the house; his rooms became increasingly open to one another; and the overall configuration of his plans became more and more asymmetrical, reaching out toward some real or imagined prairie horizon.
In contrast to the expansive openness of those houses which inspired the prairie school, Wright's urban buildings (unlike Sullivan's, for instance) tended to be walled in, somewhat inhospitable to the city, and lit primarily through skylights. Whereas two of the finest buildings of Wright's early period--the Larkin Company Administration Building (1904; demolished 1950) in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Unity Church (1906) in Oak Park, Ill.--seemed to proclaim Wright's distaste for urban environments, houses he designed in the same period (such as Buffalo's Martin House, 1904, and Chicago's Robie House, 1909) reached out into the landscape with large, glazed walls, terraces, and low-slung roof overhangs.
worked on his own after 1893, when the issue of his bootlegged houses finally
caused a break with Adler and Sullivan's office. During the 20 years that
followed he became one of the best-known (and, because of a tempestuous
personal life, one of the most notorious) architects in the
reputation assured on both sides of the
His view of architecture was essentially romantic. Although Wright often paid lip service to the rational systems called for by mass-produced building (modular planning and prefabrication), his efforts in those directions seemed halfhearted at best. The most spectacular buildings of his mature period--Tokyo's Imperial Hotel (1915-22; demolished 1968); Fallingwater (Kaufmann House; 1936), Mill Run, Pa.; the S. C. Johnson and Son Wax Company Administration Center (1936-50), Racine, Wis.; Taliesin West (1938-59); and New York City's Guggenheim Museum (completed 1959)--were based on forms borrowed from nature, and the intentions were clearly romantic, poetic, and intensely personal. At his death he left a rich heritage of completed buildings of almost uniform splendor; few disciples, however, could match the special genius reflected in his works. Unlike Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and other giants of modern architecture, Wright was, at heart, an essentially idiosyncratic architect whose influence was immense but whose pupils were few.
architecture is a form of building design characterized by the use of
unornamented industrial materials--principally steel, glass, and concrete--to
make simple, geometric forms standing free in space. Such buildings, which
began to appear around 1922 in
Some of the architects cited by Hitchcock and Johnson as exponents of the International Style resisted this narrow, formal definition. The dissenters asserted that their work was only the direct, logical manifestation of contemporary science and society, that it would change as its preconditions changed, and that architecture had in fact finally escaped the limitations of stylistic fashions. The course of architecture since 1932 has proved both camps correct: if the International Style has been universally accepted as the symbolic expression of modernity in building, it has also been shown to be essentially an artificial construct that is neither the inevitable nor necessarily the most logical reflection of 20th-century conditions.
the architects who developed the International Style, the Germans formed the
largest and initially the most important group. By 1918 a group of radical
designers, centered in
chief theorist of what its adherents called the Neue Sachlichkeit, or the new
factualism, was Gropius, who from 1919 served as director of what had formerly
Neoplasticism and Constructivism
Bauhaus architects' final step from expressionism to the Neue Sachlichkeit is
widely credited to the influence of two contemporary art movements: Dutch
neoplasticism, usually called de Stijl, and Soviet constructivism. The
neoplasticist group was assembled (1917) by the poet-painter Theo van Doesburg.
Van Doesburg and Cornelius van Eesteren outlined the neoplasticist ideal in a
was initiated in the
The contemporaneous work of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, differed in its premises, if not in its outward appearance, from that of the Germans. His early buildings--for example, the Villa Savoye (1929-30) in Poissy--resemble those of Gropius and Mies in their asymmetrical and flowing spatial arrangements, as well as in their unornamented glass and stucco planes.
Corbusier's explanation of his art in his immensely influential Vers une
Architecture (1923; trans. as Towards a New Architecture, 1927) emphasized that
a new and purer classical architecture of forms seen in light could be created
by following the logical conceptual processes of the engineer. He also insisted
that the reorganization of the city was the first task of modern architecture.
His 1922 exhibition entitled '
Also active at the time of the epochal 'Modern Architecture' exhibition was another leading exponent of modern architecture, the American Frank Lloyd Wright. Although his work was recognized in the 1932 exhibition, Wright was set apart from the practitioners of the International Style because of his 'individualism' and 'romantic' attachment to nature. He was also a generation older than his European counterparts and had actually influenced some of their work through the publication (1910) in Berlin of the Wasmuth Portfolio of his work. Wright accepted the machine as an aid to architecture and made early use of such modern materials as reinforced concrete in his compositions of cantilevered roof planes, unornamented surfaces, and flowing spaces. On the other hand, he believed in what he termed the 'organic' use of building materials and in the close relationship of a building to its site--19th-century ideas rejected by his European contemporaries. His idea of modern organicism is expressed in such works as the Johnson's Wax Company Headquarters (1937-39) in Racine, Wis., a great space wrapped with brick and fiberglass tubing whose roof is supported by slender, mushroom-shaped columns; and in the dramatically cantilevered concrete-and-glass Kaufmann House, 'Fallingwater' (1936-37), at
1932 the International Style embraced only a small proportion of recent
architecture; outside of private houses its influence was limited to certain
housing projects in
After World War II
the International Style provided the basis for the rebuilding of European
cities--for example, van den Broek and Bakema's
Equally attracted to the philosophy and the aesthetics of the new architecture were institutions that sought to project a modern image, such as the Air Force Academy, whose Colorado Springs, Colo., campus was designed (1954-57) and built (1956-62) by SOM. Even the New York City headquarters of the United Nations (1947-50) was rendered in the International Style by a team of architects that included Le Corbusier, who had been passed over (1927) for the design of the
Limits of the International Style
If the term modern architecture is understood to consist of a particular form-vocabulary (the International Style) embodying a certain philosophy (functionalism), then the term cannot be used to signify all the architecture produced in the modern epoch, but only one architectural tradition extending backward and forward from an accepted year of conception (1922). Frank Lloyd Wright's so-called Prairie style (from c.1900; see prairie school) clearly foretells the International Style, as do the contemporaneous concrete designs of Auguste Perret and Tony
another vein the Art Nouveau movement of the 1890s also sought to produce an
innovative modern style using the industrial materials of metal, glass, and
concrete; only its sculptural, biological form-vocabulary separates it from the
buildings of 30 years later. Art nouveau, in turn, represented the culmination
of a search for a new style adapted to new materials and new institutions that
commenced around 1830 with the work of European romantic rationalist
architects. Going back in time even further, direct expressions of materials
and function in works of engineering can be discerned in the mills and iron
The fact that such pioneering movements of modern architecture can be identified as much as two centuries ago indicates that modern architecture did not primarily evolve out of the conditions and demands of modern society. Its aesthetic and philosophical roots can actually be traced back through a long line of artists and theorists.
Modern architecture claimed to be based on a logical expression of the spatial and structural facts of building, yet its practitioners have rarely approached the structural ingenuity of conceptual technicians such as R. Buckminster Fuller. Similarly, although its apologists claimed that modern architecture represented a democratic style expressing the taste of the general public, its works often have been seen as aloof and oversophisticated by their residents. Finally, modern architecture's efficacy in solving the problems of redesigning cities into finely tuned social organisms was questioned by those who saw it as the destroyer of cohesive neighborhoods through wholesale urban renewal.
these contradictions in modern architecture began to emerge clearly in the
1950s, many architects sought to modify the codes of the International Style so
as to create buildings at once modern and monumental, as well as functional and
responsive to the needs and expectations of a wide audience. An international
group of architects formed (1953) under the name Team X succeeded in 1959 in
dissolving CIAM and setting its own goals for a new, more humane system of
public housing. Team X members such as Alison and Peter Smithson and Aldo van
Eyck, working from the aesthetic basis of the International Style, evolved from
it more visually complex, texturally rich, and physically substantial
buildings. Late in his career Le Corbusier himself became a major figure in
this development, particularly with his sculptural concrete chapel at
Eero Saarinen turned the International Style to expressionistic ends in works
such as his TWA Terminal (1956-62) at J. F. Kennedy Airport in New York City,
his buildings are scarcely more extraordinary than the later works of Frank
Lloyd Wright, whose spiraling, concrete Guggenheim Museum was conceived in 1942
and completed in 1959. Finally, Louis I. Kahn developed a new monumentality
that was first expressed in his
opposite forces have coexisted in American art since the establishment of the
first colonies. On the one hand, American artists have been aware of their European
cultural heritage and of continuing innovation in
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