Art History: Architecture in the Late 19th and Early 20th Centuries

Technologies: Architecture


Sir Joseph Paxton, The Crystal Palace 1850-51Originally in 
Chatsworth, England
Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert, and the Duke of 
Devonshire's gardener, Joseph Paxton.
Most of the following text is "borrowed" from the following website.
Full text and story at Form: This structure is based primarily on an earlier greenhouse design Paxton used to house the giant Victoria Regia lily in Chatsworth England and incorporates iron, wood and glass.  Paxton's design won the commission primarily because the  materials were benefitial: the fact that they were lighter and cheaper.
The dimensions of the building based on 24 foot intervals were a result of the maximum size of a sheet of glass that could be manufactured at a reasonable cost (49 inches was the cheapest for reliable 16 oz glass).  Mostly site construction using pre fabricated componets, some of which were cast less than 24 hours earlier. The cast iron columns were tested on site, and on site milling and machine painting included miles of wood glazing bars.
Even temporary fencing material was designed to be used in the final building so little was wasted. The transept was strategically placed to preserve and temporarily cover the large elm trees on the site. When the building was torn down and moved to Sydenham, broken glass was remelted providing some of the replacements.
Iconography: The Crystal palace was built to showcase the achievements of Great Britain during the Industrial Revolution. The British were very secure in their belief that they were the ideal of Industrialization that they felt it neccesary to show the rest of the "less civilized" world by staging this enormous exhibition. "The prevailing attitude in England at the time was ripe for the somewhat arrogant parading of accomplishments. Many felt secure, economically and politically, and Queen Victoria was eager to reinforce the feeling of contentment with her reign. It was during the mid-1850s that the word "Victorian" began to be employed to express a new self-consciousness, both in relation to the nation and to the period through which it was passing.
Context: "Despite outbursts of opposition to Albert by the press the family life of the Victorian court began to be considered increasingly as a model for the whole country. Albert had appreciated the achievements of Prime Minister Robert Peel's political and military advances and publicly advocated the advancement of industry and science. These facts began to sway opinion in his favor as respectable foundations of family life and industrial supremacy were becoming rapidly acquainted with the monarchy of Victoria and Albert.  Conceived by prince Albert, the Great Exhibition was held in Hyde Park in London in the specially constructed Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace was originally designed by Sir Joseph Paxton in only 10 days and was a huge iron goliath with over a million feet of glass. It was important that the building used to showcase these achievements be grandiose and innovative.  Over 13,000 exhibits were displayed and viewed by over 6,200,000 visitors to the exhibition. The millions of visitors that journeyed to the Great Exhibition of 1851 marveled at the industrial revolution that was propelling Britain into the greatest power of the time. Among the 13,000 exhibits from all around the world were the Jacquard loom, an envelope machine, tools, kitchen appliances, steel-making displays and a reaping machine from the United States.The objects on display came from all parts of the world, including India and the countries with recent white settlements, such as Australia and New Zealand, that constituted the new empire. Many of the visitors who flocked to London came from European cities. The profits from the event allowed for the foundation of public works such as the Albert Hall, the Science Museum, the National History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum."


Gustave Eiffel 1887-1889 Eiffel Tower Paris, 
France 984-foot (300-metre)
International Exposition of 1889 
to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution
Form: Huge tower built of steel beams and girders." obtain the 300 meters, the Tower is basically composed of two elements : - a base, which is a sort of bar stool, very sturdy, standing on 4 main pillars that are bonded and extended with a much lighter batter at the smaller level that constitutes the second floor, - a tower firmly attached atop. The value of the pillar base is directly related to the swaying caused by wind forces."
" The parts used to construct the Tower:
All of the iron came from the factories of Mr. Dupont and Mr. Fould, blacksmiths located in Pompey (Meurthe-et-Moselle), who were represented in Paris by their director Mr. A. Prègre and who kept us informed on iron grades. They were delivered at the following prices:
Equal angles from 40 to 100 ..................................13.25 F per 100 kg 
Standard sections, 1st and 2nd grades..................................13.25 F per 100 kg 
Standard sections, 3rd and 4th grades ..................................13.75 F per 100 kg 
Wide flat bars up to 500..................................15.00 F per 100 kg 
Ordinary sheet iron..................................15.50 F per 100 kg 
Checkered plate ..................................16.50 F per 100 kg 
Special tee-sections (designated in Eiffel's book)..................................16.00 F per 100 kg 
Open and closed angle sections, at made to order angles ..................................20.00 F per 100 kg 
The rivets came from Mr. Letroyeur and Mr. Bouvard in Paris. The quality was that of boiler or locomotive rivets." Iconography:  " The plan to build a tower 300 metres high was conceived as part of preparations for the World's Fair of 1889.  Emile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin, the two chief engineers in Eiffel's company, had the idea for a very tall tower in June 1884. It was to be designed like a large pylon with four columns of lattice work girders, separated at the base and coming together at the top, and joined to each other by more metal girders at regular intervals. The company had by this time mastered perfectly the principle of building bridge supports. The tower project was a bold extension of this principle up to a height of 300 metres - equivalent to the symbolic figure of 1000 feet. On September 18 1884 Eiffel registered a patent "for a newconfiguration allowing the construction of metal supports and pylons capable of exceeding a height of 300 metres".  In order to make the project more acceptable to public opinion, Nouguier and Koechlincommissioned the architect Stephen Sauvestre to work on the project's appearance. Sauvestre proposed stonework pedestals to dress the legs, monumental arches to link the columns and the first level, large glass-walled halls on each level, a bulb-shaped design for the top and various other ornamental features to decorate the whole of the structure. In the end the project was simplified, but certain elements such as the large arches at the base were retained, which in part give it its very characteristic appearance. The curvature of the uprights is mathematically determined to offer the most efficient wind resistance possible. As Eiffel himself explains: "All the cutting force of the wind passes into the interior of the leading edge uprights. Lines drawn tangential to each upright with the point of each tangent at the same height, will always intersect at a second point, which is exactly the point through which passes the flow resultant from the action of the wind on that part of the tower support situated above the two points in question. Before coming together at the high pinnacle, the uprights appear to burst out of the ground, and in a way to be shaped by the action of the wind". 
Context:  " An engineer by training, Eiffel founded and developed a company specializing in metal structural work, whose crowning achievement was the Eiffel Tower. He devoted the last thirty years of his life to his experimental research... His outstanding career as a constructor was marked by work on the Porto viaduct over the river Douro in 1876, the Garabit viaduct in 1884, Pest railway station in Hungary, the dome of the Nice observatory, and the ingenious structure of the Statue of Liberty. It culminated in 1889 with the Eiffel Tower. After the end of his career in business, marred by the failure of the Panama Canal, Eiffel began an active life of scientific experimental research in the fields of meteorology, radiotelegraphy and aerodynamics. He died on December 27,1923."
All text and more fun readin about the tower at

John Augustus Roebling Brooklyn Bridge 1867-1883
Form: Length of river span: 1595.5 feet
Total length of bridge: 5989 feet
Width of bridge floor: 85 feet
Suspension cables: four, each 15.75 inches in diameter and 3578.5 feet long,
containing 5434 wires each, for a total length of 3515 miles of wire per cable
Foundation depth below high water, Brooklyn: 44 feet 6 inches
Foundation depth below high water, Manhattan: 78 feet 6 inches
Tower height above high water: 276 feet 6 inches
Roadway height above high water: 119 feet (at towers)
Total weight, not including masonry: 14,680 tons
Source: Blue Guide to New York, 1991, p616. ISBN 0393304868.  Iconography: "In 1855, John Roebling, the owner of a wire-rope company and a famous bridge designer, proposed a suspension bridge over the East River after becoming impatient with the Atlantic Avenue-Fulton Street Ferry. Roebling worked out every detail of the bridge, from its massive granite towers to its four steel cables. He thought his design entitled the bridge "to be ranked as a national monument… a great work of art."..." Responding to those who doubted the need for the bridge, Roebling responded that projected growth in the cities of New York and Brooklyn would necessitate the construction of additional bridges. Specifically, Roebling suggested future construction of the Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges further north along the East River.Two years later, in June 1869, the New York City Council and the Army Corps of Engineers approved Roebling's design. Later that month, while examining locations for a Brooklyn tower site, Roebling's foot was crushed on a pier by an incoming ferry. Roebling later died of tetanus as a result of the injuries. Immediately following Roebling's death, his son, Washington, took over as chief engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge...The Brooklyn Bridge cost $15.1 million to build, $3.8 million of which was to purchase land for approaches and the remainder going toward construction. This was more than twice the original cost estimate of $7 million.On May 23, 1883, President Chester Arthur and Governor Grover Cleveland officially dedicated the Brooklyn Bridge before more than 14,000 invitees. Emily Roebling was given the first ride over the completed bridge with a rooster, a symbol of victory, in her lap. After the opening ceremony, anyone with a penny for the toll could cross the Brooklyn Bridge. On the first day,the bridge carried trolley lines, horse-drawn vehicles, and even livestock."
Full text at
Context: " is Roebling's 1840 patent for the in-situ spinning of wire rope that has to be recognized as one of the decisive breakthroughs in modern suspension bridge technology. This patent brought John Roebling a commission to build a cable-suspended, wooden aqueduct over the Allegheny River in 1845. Roebling built a number of such aqueducts before receiving two major bridge,commissions in his mid-career: his 821-foot-span Niagara rail bridge of 1841-55 and his 1,000-foot span Cincinnati Bridge of 1856-67; both of which were prototypes for the 1,600 foot Brooklyn Bridge, whose construction ran through two generations of Roeblings between 1869 and its completion in 1883.The twin masonry support towers of this vast span necessitated the building of foundations 78 feet below the water level...
— Kenneth Frampton and Yukio Futagawa. Modern Architecture 1851-1945. p31.


Bibliotheque St. Genevieve, Labrouste, 1842-1850
St. Genevieve Library

Form: This building uses the barrel vault design, supported by the many decorative arches found within. Iconography: "The  Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve is located in the Quartier Latin in Paris, France.  It is located across from the Pantheon, built in1790, and in former years became the church of Ste.Genevieve.   Labrouste originally invisioned the library having a fore court, which would be planted with big trees and decorated with statues.  Instead he chose to embellish the vestibule to resemble a garden.  The size of the site
 was approximately 278' x 69'." ( 
Context:  "One of the greatest cultural buildings of the nineteenth century to use iron in a prominent, visible way was unquestionably the Bibliotheque Ste.-Genevieve in Paris, designed by Henri Labrouste and built in 1842-50. The large (278 by 69 feet) two-storied structure filling a wide, shallow site is deceptively simple in scheme: the lower floor is occupied by stacks to the left, rare-book storage and office space to the right, with a central vestibule and stairway leading to the reading room which fills the entire upper story. The ferrous structure of this reading room—a spine of slender, cast-iron Ionic columns dividing the space into twin aisles and supporting openwork iron arches that carry barrel vaults of plaster reinforced by iron mesh—has always been revered by Modernists for its introduction of high technology into a monumental building."
 —Marvin Trachtenberg and Isabelle Hyman. Architecture: from Prehistory to Post-Modernism. p478.

Walter Gropius, "Program of the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar," 1919: "Artists, sculptors, painters, we must all return to the crafts! Let us then create a new guild
of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist! Let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the
future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the
crystal symbol of a new faith."

Walter Gropius and Adolph Meyer. Fagus Factory, 
Alfed-an-der-Leine, Germany. 1911-16
Form: This three-story factory uses a steel frame, allowing the facade to be made almost entirely of glass. Iconography: The client's wish for an attractive façade was solved by Gropius in a special way: by means of a projected steel skeleton, which pulled the function of support to the inside, thereby making possible a broad dissolution of the exterior envelope into glass walls; the idea of the 'curtain wall' was at this point first expressed in a consistent manner."The Fagus shoe factory in Alfred, Germany is a seminal building in the history of modern architecture. Designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer in 1911,  This revolutionary technique set new standards for industrial construction and is still used in the building of every skyscraper. Fagus traces the history of the building from 1911, when it was designed and built, through the late 1920s, the period of final collaboration between Gropius/Meyer and factory management. It also emphasizes the Bauhaus idea of industrial culture, in which architecture, interior design, graphic design, and photography were interrelated with the business philosophy of the company."
© 2000 Princeton Architectural Press, Inc. (
Context: "Walter Gropius, German-American architect, one of the leaders of  modern functional architecture. In Germany his Fagus factory buildings (1910–11) at Alfeld, with their glass walls, metal spandrels, and discerning use of purely industrial features, were among the most advanced works in Europe. After World War I, Gropius became (1918) director of the Weimar School of Art, reorganizing it as the Bauhaus. It was moved in 1925 to Dessau. The complete set of new buildings for it, which Gropius designed (1926), remains one of his finest achievements. He built the Staattheater at Jena (1923), some experimental houses at Stuttgart (1927), and designed residences, workers’ dwellings, and industrial buildings. Driven out by the Nazis, he practiced (1934–37) in London with Maxwell Fry and in 1937 emigrated to America, where he headed the school of architecture at Harvard until 1952. His influence on the dissemination of functional architectural theory and the rise of the International style was immense. Practicing his principles of cooperative design, Gropius worked with a group of young architects on the design of the Harvard graduate center. He continued his architectural activity with this group, the Architects Collaborative (TAC), in such works as the U.S. embassy at Athens, the Univ. of Baghdad (1961), and the Grand Central City building, New York City (1963). His writings include The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (tr.1935) and Scope of World Architecture (1955).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.  2001.
"Gropius's first large building, the Fagus Shoe-Last Factory in Alfred on the Leine in 1911... was materialized due to his connection with Peter Behrens—and in cooperation with Adolf Meyer... as had been the case with most of his early structures. The starting point for the young architect was the already existing site plan, the ground plan, and construction plans of the architect Eduard Werner, as well as the foundation, which had already been laid. A loan from the American United Shoe Machinery Corporation made the continuation of the construction possible in 1911, and continued until 1912 step by step under the new concept of Walter Gropius. The whole operational procedure was newly thought through, according to the inner functions, and then articulated in a three-dimensional form. The client's wish for an attractive façade was solved by Gropius in a special way: by means of a projected steel skeleton, which pulled the function of support to the inside, thereby making possible a broad dissolution of the exterior envelope into glass walls; the idea of the 'curtain wall' was at this point first expressed in a consistent manner."
— from Udo Kultermann. Architecture in the 20th Century. p32-33.
taken from


Walter Gropius. Bauhaus, Dessau, 1925-26

Bauhaus, Dessau, 1925-26
Form: This is a view of the BauHaus school of design in Germany. A skeleton of reinforced concrete with brickwork, mushroom-shaped ceilings on the lower level, and roofs covered with asphalt tile that can be walked upon. Iconography: The Creator's Words "One of the outstanding achievements of the new constructional technique has been the abolition of the separating function of the wall. Instead of making the walls the element of support, as in a brick-built house, our new space-saving construction transfers the whole load of the structure to a steel or concrete framework. Thus the role of the walls becomes restricted to that of mere screens stretched between the upright columns of this framework to keep out rain, cold, and noise. ...Systematic technical improvement in steel and concrete, and nicer and nicer calculation of their tensile and compressive strength, are steadily reducing the area occupied by supporting members. This, in turn, naturally leads to a progressively bolder (i.e.wider) opening up of the wall surfaces, which allows rooms to be much better lit. It is, therefore, only logical that the old type of window—a hole that had to be hollowed out of the full thickness of a supporting wall—should be giving place more and more to the continuous horizontal casement, subdivided by thin steel mullions, characteristic of the New Architecture. And as a direct result of the growing preponderance of voids over solids, glass is assuming an ever greater structural importance....In the same way the flat roof is superseding the old penthouse roof with its tiled or slated gables. For its advantages are obvious: (1) light normally shaped top-floor rooms instead of poky attics, darkened by dormers and sloping ceilings, with their almost unutilizable corners; (2) the avoidance of timber rafters, so often the cause of fires; (3) the possibility of turning the top of the house to practical account as a sun loggia, open-air gymnasium, or children's playground; (4) simpler structural provision for subsequent additions, whether as extra stories or new wings; (5) elimination of unnecessary surfaces presented to the action of wind and weather, and therefore less need for repairs; (6) suppression of hanging gutters, external rain-pipes, etc., that often erode rapidly. With the development of air transport the architect will have to pay as much attention to the bird's-eye perspective of his houses as to their elevations. The utilization of flat roofs as 'grounds' offers us a means of re-acclimatizing nature amidst the stony deserts of our great towns;...Seen from the skies, the leafy house-tops of the cities of the future will look like endless chains of hanging gardens."
—Walter Gropius. from Walter Gropius. The New Architecture and the Bauhaus. p25-30. (
Context: Gropius' extensive facilities for the Bauhaus at Dessau combine teaching, student and faculty members' housing, an auditorium, and office spaces. The pinwheel configuration when viewed from the air represents in form the propellers of the airplanes manufactured in the Dessau area. This complex embodies various technological and design oriented advancements including a petchance for glazing, the creation of an architecture of transparency with the supporting structure rising behind the facing skin. It was a radical structure populated by progressive minds touting a unique group-oriented approach to learning.
—Darlene Levy. drawn from S. Giedion. Walter Gropius: Work and Teamwork. p54-56.
"The Bauhaus building provides an important landmark of architectural history, even though it was dependent on earlier projects of the well as on the basic outlines and concepts of Frank Lloyd Wright. "It consists of three connected wings or bridges...School and workshop are connected through a two-story bridge, which spans the approach road from Dessau. The administration was located on the lower level of the bridge, and on the upper level was the private office of the two architects, Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer, which could be compared to the ship captain's 'command bridge' due to its location. The dormitories and the school building are connected through a wing where the assembly hall and the dining room are located, with a stage between."The basic structure of the Bauhaus consists of a clear and carefully thought-out system of connecting wings, which correspond to the internal operating system of the school. The technical construction of the building... is demonstrated by the latest technological development of the time: a skeleton of reinforced concrete with brickwork, mushroom-shaped ceilings on the lower level, and roofs covered with asphalt tile that can be walked upon. The construction area consisted of 42,445 [cubic yards] (32,450 [cubic meters]) and the total cost amounted to 902,500 marks. Such an economical achievement was possible only due to the assistance of the Bauhaus teachers and students, which at the  same time, of course, could be viewed as an ideal means of education."
 —from Udo Kultermann. Architecture in the 20th Century. p37-38.


Iwao Yamawaki, collage, 1932
Form: Collage of Hitler walking on the Bau Iconography:  Iwao Yamawaki was a Japanese adherent to the Bauhaus style, and a photographer. This collage shows the nazi's trampling over the Bauhaus.
Context: "In 1932, the Nazis seized the power in Saxony-Anhalt and Bauhaus de Dessau was going to be established in Berlin in an empty factory that Mies van der Rohe made repaint in white. Hitler chancellor of Reich, Mies had an interview with one of the "cultural experts" Nazis, Alfred Rosenberg, with the autumn of 1933; it obtained the authorization to continue; but, considering that Bauhaus could not continue its?uvre in "this atmosphere", it made the decision to close the institution. "
(translated from German)  "Iwao Yamawaki (1898-1987) studied architecture (at) the Tokyo School OF kind,(Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko) in order to become active in architecture later. At the same time (he) began to photograph with (his) 35mm camera. In 1930 he gave his employment up in Japan, in order to apply at the BauHaus in Germany. He was trained from 1930 to 1932 there in both architecture and photography. After his return to Japan he began to further-obtain contents of the BauHaus. Yamawaki gave up, after some time, his photography in favor of working as an architect and a member of the art faculty at the university of Tokyo. Up to his death he had different exhibitions of his architectural photography and contributed writings for Japanese photo magazines."


Marcel Breuer, metall-chair, 1925

Marcel Breuer
Form: Polished, bent, nickelled tubular steel frame, and leather or fabric. Iconography: "Breuer was inspired by the shape and form of a bicycle handlebars when he created one of his most famous pieces, theWassily Chair No B3 in 1925. It was designed and made for Wassily Kandinsky'. The frame of the chair was made from polished, bent, nickelled tubular steel, which later became chrome plated. The seat came in canvas, fabric or leather in black section. This chair has been widely copied."
Context: "Marcel Lajos Breuer was born in Pécs, Hungary in 1902, and became on of the greatest architects and furniture designers of the 20th century. Breuer used new technologies and new materials in order to develop his 'International Style' of work. Breuer first studied art in Vienna after winning a scholarship. Marcel was unhappy with the institution and found work instead at a Vienese architecture office. From 1920 to 1928 he was a student and teacher at Germany's Bauhaus, a school of design where modern principles, technologies and the application of new materials were encouraged in both the industrial and fine arts.  During his time spent there Marcel completed the carpentry apprenticeship. While there he designed and made the  African chair and the Slatted chair.After completing his studies at the Bauhaus Marcel traveled to Paris, where he worked in an architects office. After a year he was appointed as head of the carpentry workshop at the Bauhaus. Breuer was given the title of 'young master'. Breuer helped to develop modular or unit construction. This is the combination of standardised units to form a technically simple but functional complete unit."


Marianne Brandt, tea set, 1924

Marianne Brandt
Form: Metal teapot set, with geometricized features Iconography: The Bauhaus, as an art school, was not just nterested in function, though that was the most important aspect of their designs, but also that what was made had to please the eye. When Marianne Brandt came up with this teapot, her interpretation was, "...This she interpreted as a reaction to the over-ornate kitsch they had grown-up with before the war. The geometric effect is more measured in her tea service of and teapot of 1924 also pictured below. The basic form of the pot is very similiar to the modular teapot developed by Theodor Bogler in the Bauhaus Ceramic Workshop.The semi-circular ebony handles are charactistic of the Bauhaus metal workshop."
Context: " Marianne Brandt was born in Chemnitz Germany and studied painting and sculpture at the Grand-ducal College of Fine Arts in Weimar. After spending some time in Norway and Paris, she returned to Weimar in 1924 to enroll at the Bauhaus, where she entered the metal workshop. When László Moholy-Nagy, assisted by the silversmith Christian Dell, took over as the metal workshop's Form Master from Johannes Itten in 1923, function was invoked as the source of form, Brandt who was one of the workshop's most talented apprentices later admitted that while they were very concerned about function (that vessels should pour properly and be easy to clean), geometric, elemental forms were in themselves something of an obsession."


Karl J. Jucker and Wilhelm Wagenfeld, table lamp, 1923-24
Form: Table lamp fashioned in the Bauhaus style out of glass and silver. Iconography: The student's production clearly stood under the influence of Itten's teachings: the main concern in the production of vessels and appliances was the free study of form together with the experimentally acquired knowledge of metallic materials and their possible treatment.When, in 1923, László Moholy-Nagy became head of the workshop, the focus was directed towards more functional aspects. Straightforward vessels reduced to elementary forms in brass, nickel-plated brass or silver were produced. These were indeed conceived for industrial serial production, but realized only as single pieces or in handcrafted series. 
This was the period in which the first lamp models were produced, namely the "Bauhaus lamp" by Carl Jakob Jucker and Wilhelm Wagenfeld. In Dessau, the more professional and extensive workshop's equipment was capable of accomodating a  more rational serial production of vessels and appliances. 
Context: "In line with the overall guidelines of the early Bauhaus, the metal workshop in Weimar, which at first ran under the name of gold, silver, and copper forge, taught traditional metal working techniques. Johannes Itten was the artistic director during the first years, and then in 1922, the experienced silversmith Christian Dell took on the position of master craftsman until 1925.  
Already in 1926, the metal workshop mastered the design and production of all the lighting requirements for the new Bauhaus building. In the following years, it became more and more a "design laboratory" for new lighting equipment and, finally, when several industrial lighting manufacturers took the models into serial production, it achieved the status of one of the most effective and successful workshops at the Bauhaus.  The production of some of the types, such as the Kandem lamps by Marianne Brandt and Hin Bredendieck, was continued for many years after the closure of the Bauhaus."
"The Bauhuas set the standards for a number of different types of light fixture. Its range of hanging and ceiling lights were very successful. In 1926 Marianne Brandt and Hans Przyrembel collaborated on the design of a counter-weighted hanging light that was used extensively in the Bauhaus workshops and was mass-produced by Schwintzer and Gräff from 1928 onward. In some models, a small shade was placed beneath the light source to prevent dazzle. As many people objected to naked aluminium, the shades were often spray-painted in colour. Brandt also designed in 1926 a ceiling light based around a simple, spherical milk glass shade, a component borrowed directly from industrial lighting and transposed into the domestic context. In order to change the bulb, the shade can be removed from the aluminium fixture by unhooking it. It was produced for a short while (1928-30) by Schwintzer and Gräff in berlin. Brandt also designed ceiling lights using concentric rings of milk glass, which did not throw strong shadows or collect dust. The picture right is of the Bauhaus Drafting Room in the then newly established Architecture Department taken in 1928. Note the gleaming linoleum floor, one of a number of new materials of the time. Brandt's and Przyrembel's counter-weighted hanging lights were put to good use above each of the drafting tables. Task lighting was another range developed. Marianne Brandt working with Hin Bredenieck, in1927 created the definitive form for small adjustable bedside and desk lights, with bell-shaped lacquered steel shades (intended to give a directional focused and evenly distributed source of light), gently curved necks and wedge-shaped feet from which the cord disappears neatly out of at the rear, manufactured by Kandem (Körting & Matthieson), Leipzig. Brandt's "Wandarm" (wall-arm) of 1927 was a typical piece of Bauhaus ingenuity. Designed for hospital use, it is an adjustable reading light mounted on a white reflective board (black was also available for a softer effect) which allows indirect lighting, with a push-button switch mounted on the wall-plate easily found by a drowzy patient. It was designed for ease of manufacture and was mass-produced by a Stuttgart firm. The design minimized the amount of soldering needed. All the elements could be cast, pressed and riveted, this reducing labour costs and speeding up production. The very success of the metal workshop's lighting fixtures made finding manufacturers for its tableware difficult as it was tended to be pigeon-holed as a lighting department."


Otto Rittweger and Wolfgang 
Tuempel, strainer set, 1924
Form: Metal tea strainers. Iconography: These are metal tea strainers, used in the time before we had tea bags and instant tea. A person would place the loose tea leaves into the 'ball' at the end of the rod, clasp it shut, and set it into the hot water in order to diffuse the tea. However, it would be rare for someone to have such a beautifully handcrafted set of four, as seen to the left, with a small dish as stand to catch the drips from the tea leaves as they are set up to cool off before cleaning.
Context:Once again, these two designers are following the BauHaus edicts of form, function, and design. While simple in nature, their very simplicity and clean lines make them attractive as well as functional.

  Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian: "De Stijl" Magazine
Theo van Doesburg tried from 1915 to 1917 to bring in new members for an alliance of Dutch artists. The purpose of the alliance was to stand up as a group instead of standing up as individual artists. In 1917 the first number of the magazine 'The Style' was launched. The idea for this magazine came from Theo van Doesburg. It was meant for explaining his own work as well as the work of the other members of the alliance. For them the magazine was an instrument to discuss new modern art and to spread their own ideas. Still there are several points of view about the origin of The Style.  If we look at the date of foundation, the first World War, we can point out the endeavor of the society as base of the origin. At that time it was very chaotic in Holland. The people wanted peace, rest and harmony again. The members of The Style tried to reflect in their work what in the entire social development could not be achieved, The Ideal Harmony If we look at the former art periods, The Style seems a logical outcome of the Cubist period (1907- 1914).  The Cubist artists tried to order the reality. The result of ordering the reality often looks like a harmonious totality. The cubists however, still used identifiable figures and elements in their paintings; their paintings were still telling something. The Style carried the principal of ordering the reality through, by ordering the reality even further. The paintings made by members of The Style do not show identifiable figures at all. These paintings have a non-telling character, but are still understandable and reflecting something. The Style did not restrict itself to the art of painting. The members wanted to realize the principals of The Style in many different artistic areas, such as architecture, sculpture, design, etc.   Theo van Doesburg actually wanted to call the magazine 'The Straight Line', but influenced by the other members the name became 'The Style' after all. The members thought that the word 'Style', preceded by the the word 'The' , suggests that it is the best, possibly even the only style, usable in the modern art and society. 
The principals of The Style;
The Style is a variation of the abstract art, witch is characteristic for the
opinions about art of the modern times. This modern art had to be
 non-illustrative and non-telling in contrast to the former art movements and
 it's opinions. The modern art had to be able to stand on its own and had to be
 understandable without referring to the concrete world. So it did not have to
 reflect something identifiable to be understandable. 
 The Style is recognizable by the use of straight horizontal and vertical lines
as well as the use of the primary colors red, yellow and blue. They also used
 the colors black, white and gray. The result of it all seems an almost
 technically constructured totality. It was not the intention to tell something
 concrete, but to show the world the ideal harmony.
 The Style went back to the fundamental elements of the art: color and form, level and line. With these elements the artist developed new sculptural language and with that the placed the ideal world opposite the reality. Most of the artist used closed and open forms, density and space, color and form. By using these elements within one painting, the ideal harmony could be reached. All elements have their own function in the totality. 
 The lines are the borders and make the open or closed forms. The lines are also used to create a certain space. The border of the painting is not the end of the painting. We can use our fantasy to fill in the rest; to let it grow as big  as we want, as big as we can imagine.  By using only the primary colors, the artist could create a 3-dimensional effect. The colors attract immediate attention. Therefor the rest of the painting seems to go to the background. It  looks like the white forms are further back than the colored forms. That is how the artists created a front and a back in their paintings, witch is held in harmony because of the  use of
different sized forms. So the ideal harmony could only be reached by using the perfect proportion between: the size of the colored forms ; the colored and uncolored forms the closed and open forms. By the use of ideal proportions, the artists were able to create peace and balance in their work, witch reflects the ideal harmony in the most perfect way.  The members of the alliance saw art as the bridge between reality and harmony. If harmony was reached in reality, art would lose its function." (culled directly from,


Piet Mondrian. Composition with Color Planes and Gray Lines 1, 1918
Oil on canvas 49 x 60.5 cm (19 1/4 x 23 7/8 in) Private collection
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl
Piet Mondrian. Broadway Boogie-Woogie. 1942–43.
Oil on canvas, 50 x 50" (127 x 127 cm).
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. 
Given anonymously.
Photograph ©1997 The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl
Form: Oil on canvas, geometric forms and shades of mostly the primary colors Iconography: Eliminating the real and visible from his paintings, he extracted pure form and color from the objective world. His aesthetic philosophy is, unsurprisingly, as distilled as his paintings: "What do I want to express with my work? Nothing else than that which every other artist seeks: to achieve harmony through the balance of the relationships between lines, colors, and planes. But only in the clearest and strongest way." Mondrian never viewed the black lines as edges: they weren't meant to contain the colors, since doing so would create foreground and background and thus interfere with the total unity of the work. Instead, the lines moved through the rectangles of color while remaining independent of them. Overtly basic compositions of color and line, these paintings emphasize the dynamic interaction of the essential elements of form and color.
Context:  According to,"The members of the De Stijl movement were pious, self-effacing artists bent on creating pure and accessible art. Although the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian did not himself organize the groups with which he is associated -- De Stijl, Cercle et Carré (Circle and Square), and Abstraction-Création -- his participation was essential to the growth of abstraction. 
Early in his career Mondrian worked in the naturalist style, but moved slowly toward innovations in color and abstraction. From the Impressionist and Pointillist-style landscapes and still lifes, composed around 1906, Mondrian’s aesthetic quickly evolved into free, Fauvist-style landscapes. A 1909 Amsterdam exhibition of these raw landscapes was fiercely criticized, but Mondrian continued to develop his style with an eye toward innovation. By 1911, he had moved to Paris and launched himself into Cubism. 
Mondrian's shift toward greater abstraction was inspired by a desire to express universals.  
Van Doesburg and Mondrian were the theoretical engines behind De Stijl, whose artists strove for anonymity and envisioned a collective art.  For Mondrian, the tensions between modern technology and individuality were more a matter of perception than reality, and he believed that the move from the particular to the abstract was the way to bring together these two apparent opposites. Mondrian composed his first plus-minus compositions -- paintings with rhythmic horizontal and vertical lines -- in 1917, and by 1918 he had created his first geometric grid works. But it was not until 1920, after the publication of his treatise "Le Neo Plasticisme" (Neo-Plasticism), that he composed the first heavily black-outlined colored rectangles.  In 1921, Mondrian further reduced his palette to three pure primary colors plus black, white, and gray. After his 1940 emigration to New York, the painter made his final stylistic refinement, changing to a framework of black lines replaced by colored lines and rows of small colorful rectangles. "Broadway Boogie Woogie," painted just prior to Mondrian’s death in 1944, created a splash, serving as a catalyst for the American abstractionists of the ‘50s and ‘60s."
- From David Sylvester, "About Modern Art: Critical Essays, 1948-1997"
- Taken from 


Theo van Doesburg. 
Simultaneous Countercomposition 1929
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl
Theo van Doesburg 
[Color contruction in the 4th dimension of space-time] 1924
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl
Form: Oil on canvas. geometrical forms, solid, straight black lines with a couple blocks of color, the rest is off white and grey.  Iconography: This is an example of a work done in the form of the group of artists who ascribed to the 'De Stijl". It is using the elements of horizontal and vertical, black and white, and primary colors. It is abstraction distilled down to its' most basic. Note, however, that it is intentionally not perfect. What the artist wants the viewer to realize is that the longer it is looked at, the more one can see. The lines are of varying widths, and in some cases do not follow all the way to the edge of the canvas. The colors are not consistent all the way through, if one looks closely, they begin to pick up the differences in shade and values. It can be seen as well in the lower work that the color values shift constantly, and though it may, at first glance, seem to be more complicated than the top composition, it is just as basic and abstract. The only difference being the creation of a three-dimensional illusion made by overlapping objects.
Context: "Christian Emil Marie Küpper, who adopted the pseudonym Theo van Doesburg, was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands, on August 30, 1883. His first exhibition of paintings was held in 1908 in the Hague. In the early 1910s he wrote poetry and established himself as an art critic. From 1914 to 1916 van Doesburg served in the Dutch army, after which time he settled in Leiden and began his collaboration with the architects J. J. P. Oud and Jan Wils. In 1917 they founded the group De Stijl [more] and the periodical of the same name; other original members were Vilmos Huszár, Piet Mondrian, Bart van der Leck, and Georges Vantongerloo. Van Doesburg executed decorations for Oud’s De Vonk project in Noordwijkerhout in 1917.  In 1920 he resumed his writing, using the pen name I. K. Bonset and later Aldo Camini. Van Doesburg visited Berlin and Weimar in 1921 and the following year taught at the Weimar Bauhaus [more], where he associated with Raoul Hausmann, Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Hans Richter. He was interested in Dada [more] at this time and worked with Kurt Schwitters as well as Jean Arp, Tristan Tzara, and others on the review Mécano in 1922. Exhibitions of the architectural designs of Gerrit Rietveld, van Doesburg, and Cor van Eesteren were held in Paris in 1923 at Léonce Rosenberg’s Galerie l’Effort Moderne and in 1924 at the Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture.The Landesmuseum of Weimar presented a solo show of van Doesburg’s work in 1924. That same year he lectured on modern literature in Prague, Vienna, and Hannover, and the Bauhaus published his Grundbegriffe der neuen gestaltenden Kunst (Principles of Neo-Plastic Art). A new phase of De Stijl was declared by van Doesburg in his manifesto of “Elementarism,” published in 1926. During that year he collaborated with Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp on the decoration of the restaurant-cabaret L’Aubette in Strasbourg. Van Doesburg returned to Paris in 1929 and began working on a house at Meudon-Val-Fleury with van Eesteren. Also in that year he published the first  issue of Art concret, the organ of the Paris-based group of the same name. Van Doesburg was the moving force behind the formation of the group Abstraction-Création in Paris. The artist died on March 7, 1931, in Davos, Switzerland." (


Gerrit Rietveld. Schroder House 1924
Utrecht, Netherlands
Weightless Floating Walls
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl
Form: Study painting for Schroder house construction. everything is geometricized and with primary colors plus white and black.  Iconography: It can be seen from this study how the essence of DeStijl was at work. Many right angles and cube forms, black and white and primary colors, and simplicity. 
Context: Rietveld was a part of the movement, in the form of architecture. Whlie Mondrian and vanDoesburg were traditionally painters, Rietveld was a cabinet maker and a carpenter. He brought the conceptual ideas of DeStijl to life in three dimensional form.


Gerrit Rietveld. Schroder House 1924
Utrecht, Netherlands
Weightless Floating Walls
Abstract Formalism or International Style or de Stijl

Form: a house with geometricized architecture, overlapping rectangles, mainly white with black and some primary colored rectangles to give it some life.  Iconography: "Gerrit Rietveld worked closely in collaboration with the client for this house.  More than any other, this is either—in Banham's words—'a cardboard Mondrian' or an enormous piece of furniture masquerading as a house. All windows could only be opened up completely, at right angles to frames, repeating the devices by which the upper floor could be transformed from one single space into a series of smaller ones—the point being that in either positioning of windows or moveable walls, the house retained its neoplastic hypothesis."
 —David Dunster. Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century Volume 1: Houses 1900-1944. p24.
"Reaction to the house is best described as polar, either people loved or hated the house. In many senses this is what Truss Schröder wanted, to challenge peoples traditional views. Most of the neighbours didn't like the house as many would stand waiting for the house to fall over, due to its radical construction. Even today many people find its direct modernity alarming. Sometimes the children were subjected to mocking because they lived in a "looney house". (Overy, 1988, p78)  Rietveld's peers (especially Van Doesburg) praised the house in terms of its achievement of De Stijl plastic principles of architecture. Other professional peers such as
Oud publicly denounced the building as harmful to modern architecture; stating that it was lacking solidity; was prone to wear and tear and would age badly . (Overy,1988, p79) Privately Oud held the house in high regard as an achievement ahead of its time. By the 1950's the Schröder house became entrenched as one the greatest developments of modernism as it was the first open-plan house. Up until the Schröder house Western architecture had been "enclosed". Rietveld however considered architecture as giving rhythm to a corporeal experience of space which is connected to "total space". Rietveld stated that the aim of his architecture was to "preserve a free, light and unbroken space, that gives clarity to our lives and contributes a new sense of life". (Kuper, 1992, p39)  As a spatial theory Rietveld considered architecture as manifestation of a specific visual form transcending the particular human activity it housed. Rietveld's reinterpretation of design was forged in the context of practical, pre-aesthetic requirements - that the building must provide functional and economic delineation of space. (Buffinga, 1971, p5) This Functionalism was enunciated by Rietveld as "eliminating everything that is superfluous. This is also what the word means in a social sense: it is a sort of spatial hygiene." (Kuper, 1992, p36) The expression of this Functional architecture is related to the idea of "befreites wohnen" meaning free or independent living.Rietveld's background in furniture design served as the main basis from which the conceptual functional and aesthetic issues and his attitude to design were to shape the design of the house. In many ways the furniture (such as the red blue chair, 1922) and the Schröder house were parallel. Rietveld once said :... when I got a chance to make a house based on the same principles as that (Red Blue - ed) chair, I seized it eagerly." (Overy, 1988, p61) The Schröder house was also the first truly open plan house (with the movable partitions on the first floor). It was from this manifestation of continuous space that the house gave modernism the greatest freedom from the previously enclosed nature of a house. The concept was more than just a liberation of the plan from structure (such as Le Corbusier's plan libre) it was conscious effort to elevate architecture to a realm where space and function were integral components. Many of Rietveld's
spatial devices and organisational methods can be traced throughout the canons of modernism, such as Mies Van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. The project was a manifestation of Rietveld's ideas about housing and living. He perceived traditional housing as a neutral space in which inhabitants conformed to the passive environment. (Kuper, 1992, p100). Rietveld considered that architects had a shallow conception of the specific requirements of housing and lifestyle. all too often Architects reproduced generic housing types without considering the relationship between house owner and lifestyle, instead developing housing that had degenerated into automatism. According to Rietveld inhabiting a house must be conscious act, carefully tailored to the needs of the inhabitants. (Kuper, 1992, p100) Truus Schröder's conceived new life-style was celebrated as a work of art (reinforced through the environment) with the house providing a setting for a masque celebrating the act of living. (Overy, 1988, p22) Daily routines were emphasised by creating specially designed fittings and built-in furniture, connecting the activities conclusively to the principles of the architecture.Adaptability became the key link within the whole house. During the day, walls are rolled away so that bedrooms merge into one living space. Also room size related to time spent in them and the activity, and activity spaces were merged such as the dining room with the kitchen, and the corridor with the staircase. Just as Rietveld's Red Blue chair is a proclamation of sitting down ("sitting is a verb" is Rietveld's famous remark), similarly the Schröder house is a manifestation of an enlightened and active living. (Kuper, 1992, p100) 
Rietveld instead of imitating nature with ornamentation sought to establish an interaction between house and nature. Space and material were conceived in relation to
revealing reality; as nature and culture are fused by achieving a symbiosis between outside and inside spatial realms. (Overy, 1988, p27) The perception of nature
through the open transition zones provide a discernible contrasting link; between the primary colours of the house and the assemblage of colours of the adjacent park; the
plain smooth geometric and proportioned planes and the unstructured organic forms. (Overy, 1988, p27)" (Full text at,
Context:  "No one had ever looked at this little lane before this house was built here. There was a dirty crumbling wall with weeds growing in front of it. Over there was a small farm. It was a very rural spot, and this sort of fitted in. It was a deserted place, where anyone who wanted to pee just did it against this wall. It was a real piece of no-man's-land. And we said, 'Yes, this is just right, let's build it here.' And we took this plot of ground and made it into a place with a reality of its own. It didn't matter what it was, so long as something was there, something clear. And that's what it became. And that's always been my main aim: to give to a yet unformed space, a certain meaning."
 —Gerrit Rietveld. from Paul Overy, Lenneke Büller, Frank den Oudsten, Bertus Mulder. The Rietveld Schroder House. p52.
 "...We didn't avoid older styles because they were ugly, or because we couldn't reproduce them, but because our own times demanded their own form, I mean, their own manifestation. It was of course extremely difficult to achieve all this in spite of the building regulations and that's why the interior of the downstairs part of the house is somewhat traditional, I mean with fixed walls. But upstairs we simply called it and 'attic' and that's where we actually made the house we wanted."
 —Gerrit Rietveld. from Paul Overy, Lenneke Büller, Frank den Oudsten, Bertus Mulder. The Rietveld Schroder House. p73.

Form  Wooden chair, laquer. "The famous Red & Blue chair was designed in 1917. Nothing has existed like that before. It marked the transition between the organic, curving Art Noveau Style and the crisp, chic Art Deco. The Red & Blue chair is composed out of a dramatic interplay of straight lines to form patterns. The lines produce form by enclosing space, the structure has very simple components and the striking colors are a reminder of paintings by the artist Mondrian. Although there is no upholstery, the chair is amazingly comfortable."
Context: This chair, or rather the duplicates of it, are still being sold today. It has become increasingly popular as a symbol of DeStijl, perhaps a testament to the thought that this movement may never truly die out. As said on, "With the Red-and-Blue Chair, Rietveld reduced the armchair to its most elementary form. In 1918, he strove to create a chair without volume or mass, one that left surrounding space unbroken. Rietveld also wanted to make furniture that could be machine-produced. The famous colour scheme probably only dated from around 1923, the colours adding to the strength of the spatial character of the work. The superficial similarity to the work of Mondrian made the Red-and-Blue Chair an icon of De Stijl design. Rietveld himself attached no absolute value whatever to the primary colours, making the same chair for Charley Toorop in pink and sea-green, as well as a version for Paul Citroen in black with white trim on the crosscuts."

Le Corbusier

Le Corbusier 
Form: This is the architectural design for 'modern' buildings that Le Corbusier is credited with creating. It came about because of hs discovery of using reinforced concrete, that is, the use of steel rods throughout, which made the structures stronger and gave an architect the ability to use less supporting beams within the building itself. Iconography: "Had Le Corbusier had his way, most of his architectural activity would have been directed toward the collective housing of the many. But as things turned out, he spent most of his time designing villas and private mansions, which were akin in style and spirit to the contemporary works of Mallet-Stevens, Chareau, and Rietveld. Le Corbusier was a rational theoretician, and he subjected his works to a cold, standardized logic and an uncompromising functionalism. "The twentieth century hasn't built for men," he once opined, "it has been built for money." Le Corbusier asserted that modern towns -- which he called "stone deserts" -- are perishable because they cannot adapt to meet the needs of populations in rapidly progressing societies. He proposed that cities be pruned and that those centers unfit for traffic be demolished. Once the old patterns are destroyed, he argued, the new can be entirely reconceptualized. Le Corbusier envisioned ideal dwellings for universal populations. He conceived a vertical city, with apartments that would open onto interior streets. Common services -- from the laundry to the kindergarten, the gymnasium, and the theaters -- would be located in specialized sections. The individual apartment would differentiate collective life from individual life, and would be small and functional."
(Taken from,
Context: "Le Corbusier, the great Swiss Architect and city planner is often  mistaken as being of French origin. In actuality, he was born on the 6th of October in 1887 as Charles Edouard Jeanneret in La Chaux-de-fonds, a watch-making city in Switzerland. He pioneered functionalist architecture with the use of reinforced concrete and the concept of a house as a "machine for living." He died in the Mediterranean in 1965." (


Le Corbusier Villa Savoye 1929
Poissy-Sur Seine France
Form: Iconography:
Context: "The Architect,Le Corbusier. He was convinced that the bold new industrial age required an equally audacious style of architecture. And who better to design it than him?  Le Corbusier loved Manhattan. He loved its newness, he loved its Cartesian regularity, above all he loved its tall buildings. He had only one reservation, which he revealed on landing in New York City in 1935. The next day, a headline in the Herald Tribune informed its readers that the celebrated architect finds American skyscrapers much too small. Le Corbusier always thought big. He once proposed replacing a large part of the center of Paris with 18 sixty-story towers; that made headlines too.  He was born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret in Switzerland in 1887. When he was 29, he went to Paris, where he soon after adopted his maternal grandfather's name, Le Corbusier, as his pseudonym. Jeanneret had been a small-town architect; Le Corbusier was a visionary. He believed that architecture had lost its way. Art Nouveau, all curves and sinuous decorations, had burned itself out in a brilliant burst of exuberance; the seductive Art Deco style promised to do the same. The Arts and Crafts movement had adherents all over Europe, but as the name implies, it was hardly representative of an industrial age. Le Corbusier maintained that this new age deserved a brand-new architecture. "We must start again from zero," he proclaimed. The new architecture came to be known as the International Style. Of its many partisans--among them Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius in Germany, Theo van Doesburg in Holland--none was better known than Le Corbusier. He was a tireless proselytizer, addressing the public in manifestos, pamphlets, exhibitions and his own magazine. He wrote books--dozens of them--on interior decoration, painting and architecture. They resembled instruction manuals. An example is his recipe for the International Style: raise the building on stilts, mix in a free-flowing floor plan, make the walls independent of the structure, add horizontal strip windows and top it off with a roof garden. But this makes him sound like a technician, and he was anything but. Although he dressed like a bureaucrat, in dark suits, bow ties and round horn-rimmed  glasses, he was really an artist (he was an accomplished painter and sculptor). What is most memorable about the austere,  white-walled villas that he built after World War I in and around Paris is their cool beauty and their airy sense of space. "A house is a machine for living in," he wrote. The machines he admired most were ocean liners, and his architecture spoke of sun and wind and the sea."


Form: Iconography:
Context: "By 1950 he had changed course, abandoning Purism, as he called it, for something more robust and sculptural. His spartan, lightweight architecture turned rustic, with heavy walls of brick and fieldstone and splashes of bright color. He discovered the potential of reinforced concrete and made it his own, leaving the material crudely unfinished, inside and out, the marks of wooden formwork plainly visible. Concrete allowed Le Corbusier to explore unusual shapes. The billowing roof of the chapel at Ronchamp resembles a nun's wimple; the studios of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard push out of the building like huge cellos. For the state capital of Chandigarh in India, he created a temple precinct of heroic structures that appear prehistoric. Le Corbusier was the most important architect of the 20th century. Frank Lloyd Wright was more prolific--Le Corbusier built oeuvre comprises about 60 buildings--and many would argue he was more gifted. But Wright was a maverick; Le Corbusier dominated the architectural world, from that halcyon year of 1920, when he started publishing his magazine L'Esprit Nouveau, until his death in 1965. He inspired several generations of architects--including this author--not only in Europe but around the world. He was more than a mercurial innovator. Irascible, caustic, Calvinistic, Corbu was modern architecture's conscience."


Form: Iconography:
Context: "He was also a city planner. "Modern town planning comes to birth with a new architecture," he wrote in a book titled simply Urbanisme. "By this immense step in evolution, so brutal and so overwhelming, we burn our bridges and break with the past." He meant it. There were to be no more congested streets and sidewalks, no more bustling public squares, no more untidy neighborhoods. People would live in hygienic, regimented high-rise towers, set far apart in a parklike landscape. This rational city would be separated into discrete zones for working, living and leisure. Above all, everything should be done on a big scale--big buildings, big open spaces, big urban highways. He called it La Ville Radieuse, the Radiant City. Despite the poetic title, his urban vision was authoritarian, inflexible and simplistic. Wherever it was tried--in Chandigarh by Le Corbusier himself or in Brasilia by his  followers--it failed. Standardization proved inhuman and disorienting. The open spaces were inhospitable; the bureaucratically  imposed plan, socially destructive. In the U.S., the Radiant City took the form of vast urban-renewal schemes and regimented public housing projects that damaged the urban fabric beyond repair. Today these megaprojects are being dismantled, as superblocks give way to rows of houses fronting streets and sidewalks. Downtowns have discovered that combining, not separating, different activities is the key to success. So is the presence of lively residential neighborhoods, old as well as new. Cities have learned that preserving history makes a lot more sense than starting from zero. It has been an expensive lesson, and not one that Le Corbusier intended, but it too is part of his legacy." 
taken from

LeCorbusier -- Villa Savoye
Color slides copyright Jeffery Howe.

Click on thumbnail image or highlighted text for a larger picture.

One of the most famous houses of the modern movement in architecture, the Villa Savoye is a masterpiece of LeCorbusier's purist design. It is perhaps the best example of LeCorbusier's goal to create a house which would be a "machine a habiter," a machine for living (in). Located in a suburb near Paris, the house is as beautiful and functional as a machine.
The Villa Savoye was the culmination of many years of design, and the basis for much of LeCorbusier's later architure. Although it looks severe in photographs, it is a complex and visually stimulating structure. As with his church of Notre Dame du Haute, Ronchamp, the building looks different from every angle. After falling into disrepair after the war, the house has been restored and is open to the public.
The design features of the Villa Savoye include:

  • modulor design -- the result of Corbu's researches into mathematics, architecture (the golden section), and human proportion
  • "pilotis" -- the house is raised on stilts to separate it from the earth, and to use the land efficiently. These also suggest a modernized classicism.
  • no historical ornament
  • abstract sculptural design
  • pure color -- white on the outside, a color with associations of newness, purity, simplicity, and health (LeCorbusier earlier wrote a book entitled, When the Cathedrals were White), and planes of subtle color in the interior living areas
  • a very open interior plan
  • dynamic , non-traditional transitions between floors -- spiral staircases and ramps
  • built-in furniture
  • ribbon windows (echoing industrial architecture, but also providing openness and light)
  • roof garden, with both plantings and architectural (sculptural) shapes
  • integral garage (the curve of the ground floor of the house is based on the turning radius of the 1927 Citroen)

Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, 1929-30



ground floor

garage door

spiral staircase

spiral staircase

ramp to roof garden
Staircases and Ramps

roof garden

roof garden

roof garden

roof garden
Roof Garden

interior ramp



LeCorbusier: Ronchamp | LeCorbusier: Carpenter Center

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Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright, 
Falling Water (Kaufmann House) Bear Run, PA. 1936

Form: "Fallingwater, one of Frank Lloyd Wright's most widely acclaimed works, was designed for the family of Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar J. Kaufmann. The key to the setting of the house is the waterfall over which it is built. The falls had been a focal point of the family's activities, and they had indicated the area around the falls as as the location for a home. They were unprepared for Wright's suggestion that the house rise over the waterfall, rather than face it. But the architect's original scheme was adopted almost without change. Completed with guest and service wing in 1939, Fallingwater was constructed of sandstone quarried on the property and laid up by local craftsmen. The stone serves to separate reinforced concrete "trays," forming living and bedroom levels, dramatically cantilevered over the stream. Fallingwater was the weekend home of the Kaufmann family from 1937 until 1963, when the house, its contents, and grounds were presented to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy by Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. Fallingwater is the only remaining great Wright house with its setting, original furnishings, and art work intact. In 1986, New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger wrote: "This is a house that summed up the 20th century and then thrust it forward still further. Within this remarkable building Frank Lloyd Wright recapitulated themes that had
preoccupied him since his career began a half century earlier, but he did not reproduce them literally. Instead, he cast his net wider, integrating European modernism and his own love of nature and of structural daring, and pulled it all together into a brilliantly resolved totality. Fallingwater is Wright's greatest essay in horizontal space; it is his most powerful piece of structural drama; it is his most sublime integration of man and nature." 
(culled from
  Iconography: "Architecture is the triumph of the Human Imagination over materials, methods, and men, to put man into possession of his own Earth. It is at least the geometric pattern of things, of life, of the human and social world. It is at best that magic framework of reality that we sometimes touch upon when we use the word 'order'."
       -- Frank Lloyd Wright, 1930, 1937 
"Perhaps the most well known of Wright's buildings is the "Falling Water" house in Bear Run, Pennsylvania. The house is
surrounded by a dense forest, large rocks and a stream. What makes the house special is the way it blends in with the
forest and water around it. The house is integrated with a waterfall, and strong horizontal, sheltering roof lines accentuate
the broad rocks below. Inside the house, a large fireplace gives a friendly appearance, and windows offer a beautiful view
of the foliage surrounding the building. Overall, the house generates a feeling of being in touch with nature. "
Full text at 
Context:  "Frank Lloyd Wright  began his architectural career in Chicago working in the firm of Adler and Sullivan between 1887 and 1893.  Louis Sullivan's famous dictum, "form follows function", certainly had an impact on Wright's conception of what he termed Organic Architecture. Wright  was also very influenced by Japanese architecture after he saw a Japanese home that was constructed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He particularly responded to the openness of the interiors of Japanese homes and how the exterior, natural world was integrated with the interior. Another important domestic influence was the contemporary Arts and Crafts Movement and its emphasis on the warmth and texture of wood. His design sense also shared much in common with De Stijl, the contemporary art and design movement in Holland that emphasized vertical and horizontal elements in very rational and spare designs. Gerritt Rietveld's Schroeder House of 1924 is an excellent example of De Stijl architectural design.  Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg were two painters working in this style. Throughout his long career of more than 70 years Frank Lloyd Wright received relatively few commissions for large public buildings. The majority of his work consists of single family homes. His creativity and approach to the design problems associated with domestic architecture were allowed to range freely in creating a diverse and rich  body of work. Wright's early homes he dubbed Prairie Houses because of their inspiration from the long flat horizontal planes and space of the American Midwest. The Prairie Style houses exhibited the characteristics of Wright's Organic Architecture and the Robie House, built in Chicago in 1909, epitomized the early maturation of his concepts. The Prairie Houses seemed to be one with the horizontal landscape they rose out of. Frank Lloyd Wright's Organic Architecture was first described in a paper published in 1898. He first used the term "organic architecture" in a talk given in 1894.  He defined Organic Architecture as architecture that is appropriate to time, appropriate to place, and appropriate to man.  By "appropriate to time" Wright meant that the building should be of its own era. That is a 20th century building should look like a 20th century building, not an 18th century building. It should also make appropriate use of the materials and technology available to the builder. By "appropriate to place" Wright  felt that the building should be in harmony with its natural environment. When possible the building should take advantage of and work with, natural features of the site. By "appropriate to man" he meant that
buildings should serve people, not the architect and not fashion. He designed buildings that were conceived on a human scale with the human body as the basic unit of measure. "the reality of the building is the space within to be lived in, not the walls and ceiling" The basic design elements of his conception of Organic architecture may be summarized by the following characteristics. 
Open, well modulated, interior spaces 
Informal design 
Unity with nature and the space around the structure, often           created by using materials from the construction site 
Rich textures and surfaces 
Built to a human scale 
The E.J. Kaufmann House (Falling Water) in Bear Run, Pennsylvania, is without a doubt the best known example or Organic Architecture, and perhaps the highest manifestation of these concepts.Frank Lloyd Wright first came to Arizona in 1927 in order to consult on the design of the Arizona Biltmore.During his second visit when he worked on the design of a resort hotel to be called San Marcos-in-the-Desert he brought his family, draughtsmen, and students. They built a camp village in the desert made of tent-like structures. The structures, made of canvas, let in a soft diffuse light to the interiors that inspired Wright to develop new ways of lighting interiors. He also liked the close relationship of the open, light interiors with stark beauty and the broad expanse of the desert they live in. In 1936, after contracting pneumonia in the harsh Wisconsin winter, Wright decided to build a more permanent winter home in the desert near Phoenix. A piece of property in north-east Scottsdale was selected near the base of the McDowell Mountains. The site of TaliesinWest, as the home and studio came to be known, is on a rise with a sweeping view of the desert to the south. Construction began in 1938.
"...Arizona needs its own architecture. The straight line and broad plane should come here - of all places - to become the dotted line,
 the textured, broken plane, for in all the vast desert there is not one hard, undotted line!"
The basic structure of Taliesin West is made of formed concrete filled with local rocks picked up from the building site. Wright incorporated his ideas inspired by the translucency of the canvas used in the earlier desert camps and many of the first roofs and walls at Taliesin were initially made of canvas. Now the canvas has been replaced with glass or fiberglass. The translucent walls and ceilings provide the interiors with a wonderful diffuse light during the day and bring in the desert sky at night. Click here for a description of the buildings.
Taliesin West like the Prairie Houses and Falling Water appears be one with its site - growing out of the desert with forms that echo the
 nearby McDowell Mountains and the vast expanse of the surrounding landscape.Wright designed several private homes in the Phoenix area. The Harold Price, Sr. House, built in 1954,  is one of the most striking and most accessible, it's right on Tatum Road north of Lincoln. The Price House is built with inexpensive, common building materials, notably concrete clock. Nonetheless, the house still maintains Wright's basic design sensibilities with open, fluid spaces, broad overhangs and the feeling that it belongs on the site. The Price House compliments the site, and the landscape, in the way that  Fallingwater compliments the waterfall it sits beside and over."
 Taken directly from, (


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