What is Modern Architecture ?
Before we understand what modern architecture is, we need to look back on what sparked its birth. The Industrial Revolution that peaked around 19th century has impacted many aspects of urban living, and people start to convey advancements through art and visual aspects. Modernism was born with the spirit of modern age advancement and to reform society. In the early 1930s, poverty was amassed throughout the world and forced architects to rethink architecture with objectives to rethink the spaces we live in and avoiding design for avant-garde purposes. Rapid Urbanization also forces buildings to be built rapidly as mass production, thus old ways apply no longer, and there is a dire need for a new form of architecture.
The key value of modernist architecture was “purity of form” and to design a better living environment. But modernist rejects the notion of ornamentation as a pure form of avant-garde and aesthetic purpose, although it often resulted in identity-less architecture.
To understand its characteristics, we need to understand its development. Although it is widely adopted after World War II, Modern Architecture started at the dawn of the 20th century. Early figures played a big role in its development such as Le-Corbusier, who coined ‘Five Points’. Villa Savoye is the physical manifestation of it. The usage of Raw or Industrial materials such as Steel & Concrete and the inclusion of Free Plan to the spatial programming are popularized within the modernist era and are still relevant today. Modern architecture also coined a notion of characteristics such as the use of rectilinear and cuboid form where the “form follows function” rule is widely adopted, although now it’s mostly left out. Internationalism also sparked among modernist for a universal style based on rational thinking.
Although most modernist rejects contextuality, there is still a wide diversity in modernism, because it’s not just a byproduct of a single mastermind. Some are trying to achieve humanizing the design instead of reforming the human, which is different from what modernist architects usually do. Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn explore the other side of modernism through the spirit of contexts, the harmony with nature, the revival of historical context to create a sense of regionalism, and the idea of communality, which then they could be seen as the rogue architects and the early post-modernism. One example is the Kimbell Art Museum, which includes ancient roman elements into the design to create contextuality. Their design characteristics are still relevant today and could be learned from because the way their design thinking works is by considering context, thus the formal architecture while still being modern, has a unique attachment to the context.
It can be stated that modern architecture fell because of its original value of reforming humanity and the way we live. Modern architecture starts being hated by many people because they lack personal identity. After all, it’s dictating how people live instead of designing along with how they live. According to Charles Jenks in his book “The language of post-modern architecture”, Modern Architecture died at 3 p.m., March 16th, 1972. It’s the exact date and time when Pruitt-Igoe was demolished. Modern architecture died because it is missing the essence of human-oriented design and contextuality. By leaving out all the elements of architecture that make it humane, modern architecture made dozens of placeless spaces throughout the western world. The history is repeating itself, an irony that it has the same fate as the one it is supposed to replace.
Emerge From the Ashes
Post-modernism emerged from the absence of Modern Architecture. The new movements tried to learn from what killed Modern Architecture, while still salvaging some relevant ideas that could be repaired and reused. Ornaments and Contextuality are being reconsidered as a needed aspect of architecture to give each unique identity. Regionalism sprouted as a byproduct of combining modernism and local regional identity and cultures, such as the work Tjibaou Cultural Center done by Renzo Piano. The usage of narrative architecture is expressed within the form of a building to give a value and purpose of architecture more than just a shell of activities. Post-modernism also tries to respond to climate and the way people live, to improve how human life instead of dictating how they should live.
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Rowley, H. A. (2011). The Rise and Fall of Modernist Architecture. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/articles/1687/the-rise-and-fall-of-modernist-architecture
Lobell, J. (2017, March 23). John Lobell, Fall of Modern Architecture, Naples. Retrieved October 25, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9GixFf-VdQ