Architecture – Building Culture

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Architecture has predominantly swayed the world in the Prism of its own unique style and patterns depicting the erstwhile social and cultural life and bestowing Nations with the ornaments of crowning glory and Pride. The word ‘architect’ itself is most probably derived from the Greek word Arkhitekton, simply means ‘chief builder’ having born in Ancient Egypt. The Medieval cathedrals speak volumes of the enduring Master masons who gave us the unique gifts of Architecture styles in heritage. (Parkelees Architect Ltd.). Since Centuries thereafter there was very little alternation in the traditions of Architectural skills but as soon as there was an advent of Industrial revolution, the technology witnessed continuous change, and the foundation stone of what we called as a Modern Architecture was laid.

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         Modern architecture implies to the art of building styles with absolutely same characteristics  basically having the simplification of form and without ornaments. It was all started in.the year 1900, and by 1940, these styles were grouped under one Umbrella, called as International style and became the most popular among architects in whole twentieth century, specifically used in institutional and corporate buildings. Modernism was a beginning of a new era in the world of Architect. (Wikipedia, encyclopedia on Modern Architecture). The advent of Modernism was the sign of new Enlightenment paving the wave of whole new development and glory. Many view Modernism as the product of Industral development, as the new materials like iron, steel, concrete and glass began to be available, Architectures started driving new techniques to come out with the exclusive style of buildings. In 1796, it was a mill owner Shrewsbury Charles Bage who was the first one to use design that was fireproof.

In 1907, an Association of Architects, designers and Industrialists with the name of  Deutscher Werkbund (German Work Federation), was formed which prooved to be a most important organization in the history of Modern Architect. It was formed due to the effort of  Herman Muthesius, who wrote three volumes of “The English House” in 1905. This association exerted a considerable influence all through 1934, and reestablised after World War 11 in 1950 . Muthesius was known as a cultural ambassador, or industrial spy between Germany and England.(Wikipedia, Encyclopedia). Another great known Architecture and founder of Deutscher Werkbund was Peter Behrens. (Oxborrow Kelly,  But the real roots of Modernism is found in the works of Berthold Luberkon (1901-1990). He was a Russian architect but lived in London and formed a group called Tecton. This group followed scientific and analytical methods to design the buildings laying particular importance to function, meeting the specific needs rather then merely emulating nature. (John Allan, 2003). He was greatly influenced by Le Corbusier. The characteristic features of his designs were geometric figures, technical ingenuity and a vision of modernism. (John Allan, 2003).

HIGHPOINT I In North London in 1935,

Photo: Morley von Sternberg

And this vision of Modernism was clearly visible in the Highpoint in North London which was constructed in 1935. Even Le Corbusier remarked profoundly,

Highpoint I “is an achievement of the first rank, and a milestone which will be useful to everybody.”(John Allan, 2003). The beautiful gardens, tennis court, children play areas, squash court etc. were the ornaments of the area. The architect grace was enshrined with the ground floor arranged freely around the grid of piloti, supporting the rectilinear carcass. In the narrow sit frontage has a longitudinal development and the entrance has an oblique axis coming at the opposite to the center of the building. The ground floor is arranged in a double cruciform with four apartments emerging from staircases.  (Allan John, 2002).

The current that swayed the modern architecture in its stream is nonetheless the Bauhaus movement. It is a German word, which is formed by “bauen” meaning to build and “haus” meaning house, known as Staatliches Bauhaus, which is an art and circus training school in Germany, which survived between the years 1919 to 1933 and in the United States from 1937 to 1938. In 1925, the Bauhaus shifted to Dessau, and then finally in 1932 to Berlin, which was the last place. In the early stages it used expressionist art, design and architecture, but later developed the functional architecture and started experimenting with the different types of building materials. His main directors were Gropius (1919-28), Hannes Meyer (1928-30), and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1930-33). (Oxborrow Kelly).

In 1927, Deutscher Werkbund in Stuttgart organized the exhibition “Die Wohnung” (“The Dwelling”) and the major component of the exhibition was Weissenhof Siedlung, a settlement or housing project.(Bauhaus, last modified 2006).  Gropiues exerted a tremendous influence on this Bauhaus movement.  The most exclusive outputs were:  The Sommerfeld house and Otte House in Berlin, the Aurbach house in Jena, the competition design for the Chicago Tribune Tower etc.(Wikipedia, Encycolpedia). After two years, Hannes Meyer, shifted the focus towards Functionality. Meyer emphasised on the necessity and scientifically design the buildings according to the customers needs and aspirations, but there were certain commissions: One was developed for the city of Dessau like Lubenganghauser( apartment buiding with access to balcony). And another was built for the head quarters for the Federal School of the German Trade Union in Bernau bei Berlin. (apartment buiding with access to balcony)

In the year 1930, Gropeus, Breuer and Nagy worked on ISKON Project etc. One of the main aims of Bauhaus was to join  art, craft and technology.(Wikipedia, Encyclopedia) Machines were being used. Vorkurs was taught in the Architectural Schools. Yet another contribution of Bauhaus School was modern furniture design, but under the political pressure of Nazi regime, Bauhaus was closed on 11th April 1933. The whole twentieth century saw the opposition of Bauhaus moment, subsequently many Weissenhof artists fled to Russia.. (Wikipedia, Encyclopedia)

The popular conception was that Bauhaus was the source of Weymer era Working Housing Project, but neither Gropius not Meyers intended to pursue on the Working Housing project in Dessau and Torten but these were Bruno Taut, Hans Paulzig and Earnst May, the city architects of Berlin, Dresdon and Frankfurt who conceptualized the projects of developing thousands of housing units built in Weimer Germany. (Wikipedia, Encyclopedia)

Bauhaus is a German word originating in the two words “bauen” (to build) and “haus” (house). (Bauhaus, last modified 2006).But this School of thought did not get on well with the public, and its books were also not very popular. With Hannes Meyer as director, the Bauhaus saw considerable commercial success. During the Weimar period, Bahaus took on mythical proportions of Itten, a moment when the fundamentals of the Architectural grammer was digged deep from the ancient forms.(Miller Abbot, Lupten Allen, Excerpt J Abbot Miller,   The ABC’s of Bauhaus, The Bauhaus and Design Theory). Later Theo van Doesberg with his teaching and criticism in his armour of Architecture introduced De Stijl in 1917 moving away from Expressionism to give a touch to propound in its style the touch of Art and Industry. (Bauhaus, the designencyclopedia).

De Stijl literally means ‘Dutch For The Style’. In the group were also included Mondrian, the Sculptor Vantongerloo, the architect J.J.P Oud and the designer and architect Rietveld. They formed a new aesthetic consciousness and an objective art with clear vision. They devoted themselves in the work and research of the fine arts, city and town planning, the applied arts and philosophy.( Kenneth Chia Loy Theng, 1999)
Their philosophy was functionalism, emphasizing on the doctrinaire insistence on the rectilinear of the planes, which slides across one another like sliding panels. All decoration on the surface except colours was removed allowing only pure primary hues, plus black and white colours. The most prominent aspect of this group was their unique ideas. The most exceptional house by this group was Gerrit Rietveld’s Schroeder House, a pure symbol of the de Stijl aesthetic planned by Rietveld. (Art, Design and Visual Thinking, Dstijl).   They got the ideas from DaDa notions with the ostentatious design aesthetics of the pre war era. Some of the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, which was published in Europe in 1910, influenced them about form. They were also influenced by Japanese sources. (Art, Design and Visual Thinking, Dstijl). They also published a Magazine in 1917 named De Stijl which described their work and their theoretical foundations. (Leomine, 1987, p. 29).

Gerrit Rietveld’s Schroeder House, 1923, Utrechit, The Netherlands.

            In 1918, Dstijl published its first manifesto. This manifesto radically broke the old traditions to bring forth the importance of the individual stands in the way of the new consciousness. The first point of the manifesto is:

“There is an old and a new consciousness of the age. The old one is directed towards the individual. The new one is directed towards the universal. The conflict of the individual and the universal is reflected in the world war as well as in art today”. (Kenneth Chia Loy Theng, 1999)

            Piet Mondrain, along with van Doesburg were among the first to adopt De Stijl’s artistic theory, which was known as nieuwe beelding, meaning a new forming. Mondrain was influenced by the philosophy of the mathematician Matthieu H.J. Schoenmaekers, Schoenmaeker drawn the theories from Frank Lloyd Wright and also Hendrik Petrus Berlarge.  Mondrain simplifies composition and colour, exposed the basic principles that underling the appearances. He emphasized that art should depict the universal absolutes under which lies the reality and then came up at his own perception of Neo-plasticism.( Kenneth Chia Loy Theng, 1999).

J.J.P. Oud was considered to be a true representative of the movement. His work had a symmetrical sense, which can be seen in his Purmersand Factory project of 1919, in which asymmetrical elements had been displayed in a symmetrical façade, but in 1921, he left the movement, but it was also said that it was Rietveld who really developed De Stijl in the architectural way. The year 1925 to 1931 was the last phase of the period, whereby the style started deteriorating and their style became less attractive giving way for post-neoplastic development. They started being criticized for their inconsistency. Their signs of deterioration began to be seen when Mondrain resigned from his post due to confrontation with Theo Van Doesburg. Even Rietveld also separated himself with Van Doesburg after 1925. He shifted from the “elementarism” of his Schroder House, for  arriving at the ‘objective’ solutions arising out of the new  techniques. The house he constructed in 1927 had very little of De Stijl’s aesthetics. This house had steel frame and concrete panels painted in black instead of primary colours and the surfaces were painted over with a grid of white squares. This house was influenced with technique rather than universal form. The most important factor that contributed towards the downfall of the movement was the development of modern science and technology and the impact of the European political development.  The last work of the period was The Strasbourg Cafe L’Aubette , in 1928, which was considered as the last Neoplastic architectural work of the movement. It was designed by Van Doesburg, Hans Arp and Sophie Tauber. (Kenneth Chia Loy Theng, 1999).

Just at the end of the century, the most crucial tenet of Modernism was the utter necessity to break the throngs of the past, to come out with the architecture of the contemporary society.  Hegel’s philosophy was abstractly viewed as a mirror of the particular period in which the buildings were constructed, and therefore they espouses distinctness from previous age or styles. Advocating the voice, the Architects Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Otto Wagner, says that any resemblance to historical would be ignored.

As the twentieth century begins, there was an arrival of Futuristic trend with the sole characteristic feature of anti-historicism, with long horizontal lines having speed, motion and urgency. The main themes that was associated with Futurist architecture was both Technology as well as Violence. It was Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who took this revolutionary stand by introducing his first Manifesto, the Manifesto of Futurism in 1909. This movement was attracted by the poets, musicians as well as artists as Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero and Enrico Prampolini etc. We cannot consider Futurism as a style but an innovative and open trend towards Architecture. The best example of this form of Architecture is Googie Architecture in 1950 of California and depicts striking shapes, dynamic lines, strong contrasts and use of advanced materials. (Pieter van Wesemael, 2001)

In the field of Art and Architecture, the enthusiastics architectures too looked upon the Constructivism. It is defined as a term which is totally Abstract that is non-representative. This theory was derived from Supermatism in Russia, De Stijl in Holland and the Bauhaus in Germany. The theory’s first Manifesto started in 1921 when the First Working Group of conservatists were formed, with their key artists Vladimir Tatlin, Kasmir Malevich, Liubov Popova, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Vavara Stepanova, Vasily Kandinsky, Naum Gabo, Antoine Pevsner, El Lissitzky etc.

Léon Krier, an intellectual godfather of the New Urbanism movement in America, severely criticized the Modernism movement. He says that Modernism believes in totalitarian ideology which, is based on improvable assumptions and cannot  tolerate opposition or any sort of contradictions. He openly declared that Modernism opposition against traditions does not just rejects obsolete traditions but the knowledge which ignores the vision of humanity, history, technology, politics, and economy. It blocks the individuals’ capacity to provide the Individual’s thinking capacity and Individuality, but it is unfortunate that millions have become victimized in this so called Modernistic power. (Salingaros Nikos, 2001).

            The reason of the Success of Modernism as implied by Francis Heylighen involves certain set of rules that is a basic characteristic of Modernism. These are Simplicity, Novelty, Utility, and Formality and they formed the basic core of the spread of modernism. According to Heylighen Simplicity means a simple idea which is easier to reproduce but are in a competition ideas that are difficult and do not impose too much burden on the system. Therefore, an architectural style which is simpler will be more popular than which is difficult  For e.g. the use of  geometrical emptiness with enormous explicative power by the early modernists with the plain, featureless surfaces in a flat geometry of cubes and rectangles eliminates substructure; borders; contrast and color thus keeping the buildings purely simple. Then Novelty which became typical of Modernists initially looked strange to people but was soon adopted. And it was Le Corbusier who propagated modernist memes through the journal L’Esprit Nouveau, which he controlled. Another main feature is Utility. It was emphasized that a minimalist structure is more efficient or better adapted but one thing is lacking and that many modernist buildings are dysfunctional because their imposed form and materials poses hindrance to the activities of humans.

These modernistic buildings were criticized on the grounds that their materials cannot control the temperature effectively in a glass-walled structure; and if there is an attempt to that then there can occur the waste in energy in a closed building;

These modernistic buildings are also not lacking in the wind shear created on the ground by smooth-faced skyscrapers that could be dangerous, the leakage in flat roofs, the cracking of plain surfaces; then the problem with the joints when connective interfaces are eliminated in the interests of style e.t.c (Salingaros, Nikos, Mikiten Terry, 2002).  There is no doubt that there are certain drawbacks in the Modernistic approach that the great Architects have emphasized but for the construction Industry the Modernism have been useful for they can  construct cheap, minimalist box-like structures without worrying for quality, accommodating human physiological and psychological needs. Thus, a very simple architectural style is advantageous and is major contributing factor for its popularity.  These Modernist themes became very popular after the Second World War, when there was an utmost necessity to construct the buildings in very large numbers and at a very low cost. Philip Johnson was the first American architect to adopt the modernism.


1. Allan John , Architecture Week, building Culture, Lubetkin’s High Point, Page C1.1. 09 April 2003 ( This article is excerpted from Berthold Lubetkin by John Allan, with permission of Merrell Publishers Limited ) as referred on 27 January,2007 from

2.Mikiten Terry, Department of Physiology, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences,
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio,San Antonio, Texas 78284, USA. &  Salingaros Nikos (The University of Texas at San Antonio,
San Antonio, Texas 78249, USA), Darwinian Processes and Memes in Architecture: A
Memetic Theory of Modernism

3. Oxborrow Kelly , The Bauhaus, modernism & domestic architecture, as referred on 27 January,2007 from

4. Parkes Lees Architects Limited, Architecture & Conservation, An Introduction to Professional Services in Architecture & Historic Building Conservation as referred on 27 January,2007 from

5. Salingaros Nikos: Interview with Leon Krier, The Future Of Cities: The Absurdity of Modernism ( 5 November 2001-12:00 am) as referred on 27 January,2007 from

6. Stroik Duncan, The Roots of Modernist Church Architecture , Adoremus Bulletin,
Online Edition – Vol. III, No. 7: October 1997

7. The Design Encyclopedia , Bauhaus, ( Last modified: 2006/12/03 07:29 by armin )
as referred on 27 January,2007 from

8. Theng Loy Chia Kenneth , Discuss the influence of De Stilj ideas on 20th century, Copywright 1999  (Datian Partnership ). All rights reserved. Revised: October 10th 1999. University Of Melbourne, Faculty Of  Architecture Building And Planning, 702-232 Modern Architecture B as referred on 27 January,2007 from

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