Thursday, January 1, 2015

Modernism Word of the Day; 11 -20


As we commence our march through the "isms", I thought you all might benefit from an explanation. The etymological root of 'modern' comes from a Latin root meaning 'just now' whereas '-ism' comes directly from Greek and originally was only used as a suffix for words of Greek origin. In the 20th century the use of -ism expanded to form names of ideologies expressing belief in the superiority of their class or pattern of behavior by said group members.

Modernism at its essence is the cult of the 'just now', ever changing fashion as an ideological system of belief that condescends anything that comes before.


The early 20th century art movement analyzed, disassembled then reassembled objects is an abstracted form in an effort to provide multiple simultaneous viewpoints. Supposedly, Le Corbusier's Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut in Ronchamp attempts to do this as a Cubist representation of the Parthenon and Acropolis, the church as a Cubist ruin. Oddly, his interpretation results, in the opinion of many, to an unmistakably vaginal form.


The credo "form must ever follow function" quoted from Louis Sullivan was taken as divine inspiration for a movement that held up function as the leading principle of design; initially as an exploration of its meaning. It quickly focused on the elimination of ornament, ostensibly to remove any distraction from the practical purpose of the building, leading the movement into function as an aesthetic ideal. 

Essentially, bald is beautiful.


Rising to prominence in the years following World War I, the futurist aesthetic was all about dynamism as expressed through long, unbroken lines conveying motion and speed as well as the glorification of technology.


Modernism's return to the Classical...sort of. The theory goes that the underlying forms of the Classical had been lost in all the enrichment and decoration, essentially making the work transparent. Stripping the structure bare, the architectonic essence would be freed and we could relish in the opacity of pure geometry.


An early Soviet architectural movement which focused on a hard geometric aspect by means of factory, industrialized production utilizing the properties of modern materials, particularly glass and steel.

The Narkomfin housing project was one of the first to feature the now all pervasive layer cake effect of the long horizontal emphasis with continuous windows. This beauty is number one on UNESCO's list of modernist buildings to save worldwide.

Although generally characterized by distortion, fragmentation and violent emotion, as the name implies these ideals are subservient to personal expression. For example, the National Museum of the American Indian is all about the singular, individual statement of the architect, Douglas Cardinal.


A ratio is quite simply the relationship to two numbers. Early modernist attempts to rationalize architecture stuck with the simplest ratio, the relationship of a number to itself, 1:1. The one to one ratio generates the square, the grid, the cube, the orthogonal spatial matrix, the epitome of monotony, the metaphorical techno music of architecture: boom, boom, boom, boom...


I have a layman's familiarity with structuralism as a tool of literary analysis and linguistic interpretation. However, I am totally lost in the explanations I've read relating to architecture (although I have a good sense of what type of buildings are produced). I'll let you divine some sort of meaning for yourself:..


A mid-century Japanese movement in architecture that although drawing inspiration from biological processes, employed them in an admittedly artificial, unnatural manner. Concepts included a "sustainable" architecture of factory produced concrete, glass and steel cells or capsules for human containment that could serve as a catalyst for an every expanding megastructure.

Contributed by Patrick Webb

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