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Modern Architecture is the term given to the range of approaches in
architecture, first appearing at the beginning of the 20th century, that
rejected historic precedent as a source of architectural inspiration and
considered function as the prime generator of form, employing materials and
technology in a honest way.
This short definition is to a certain extent inadequate because there are a
range of interpretations as to the origin and rise of Modern Architecture,
and what constitutes Modern Architecture itself, depending on the frame of
reference of the historian.
Some historians see the evolution of Modern Architecture as closely tied to
the Project of Modernity and hence to the Enlightenment, the Social/
Political revolutions, general progress of mankind, and so on. Here the
origin is placed much earlier, modern town planning and housing are also
brought into the range. Others see technological and engineering
developments as key to the rise of Modern architecture. Hence the usage of
new materials such as iron, steel, concrete and glass is ascribed an
important place, with the Crystal Palace by Joseph Paxton to house the Great
Exhibition of 1851 or the apartment building by Auguste Perret serving as
important examples. Some historians see the rise of Modern architecture as a
reaction to the Eclectism and poor taste of the Victorian Era fuelled by the
possibilities of theIndustrial Revolution. Here precursor movements such as
the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Art Nouveau are brought in to bridge
the gap. Yet others cite modern art movements such as Cubism and De Stijl as
fundamentally altering the way in which buildings are designed by bringing
in qualities of art into architecture.
All these reasons are equally valid.
Finally Modern Architecture is characterised by the way in which it
* attempts to express function, materials and technology in an honest way
* works to provide functional buildings to all people with an economy of
* employs art as a means of ordering form
* rejects historical precedent.
* explicitly attempts to express all the above in its building
Some morphological characteristics of buildings under this style -free plan,
universal space, walls freed from the function of load bearing, cantilevers,
glass at corners of buildings, use of concrete.
Modern architecture was disseminated through individuals( Le Corbusier, Mies
van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright), movements (De Stijl, Art Nouveau) and
schools (Bauhaus). The Bauhaus, the architecture school in Germany started
in 1919, was the most influential school and under various directors the
ideology differed slightly. However, the fundamental aim was to unite art
and technolgy to produce good design. With the rise of the Nazis, the
important people associated with the school, and hence its ideas, shifted to
the United States. Modern architecture began to be called the International
Style after the exhibition conducted in the Museum of Modern Art, New York,
United States, showcasing works of Modern Architecture.
A criticism of Modern Architecture began from the 1960s on the grounds that
it was universal,sterile, elitist and lacked meaning. The rise of
Postmodernism is attributed to the general disenchantment with Modern
Some catch phrases of Modern Architecture
"Form Follows Function"- first used by sculptor Horatio Greenough, more
popularly by Louis Sullivan
"Ornament is a crime"- Adolf Loos
"Less is more"- Mies van der Rohe