“The Biennale reveals that modernism was never a style. It was a cultural, political, and social practice,” says Sarah Williams Goldhagen in her recent article for New Republic, The Great Architect Rebellion of 2014. This year, the Venice Biennale dissects the notion of modernism by providing a hefty cross-section of architectural history in the central pavilion. However contrary to Koolhaas‘ prescriptive brief, the 65 national pavilions show modernism was not just a movement, but a socially-driven, culturally attuned reaction to the “exigencies of life in a rapidly changing and developing world.” Unexpected moments define the 2014 Venice Biennale: from Niemeyer‘s desire to launch Brazil into the first world through architectural creation, to South Korea‘s unveiling of a deep modernist tradition with influence across the nation. This Biennale proved to be truly rebellious – read Goldhagen’s article from New Republic here to find out why.
“Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014 is an invitation to the national pavilions to show, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies.” In this article, originally published on Metropolis Magazine as “Whose Modernity?“, Avinash Rajagopal investigates the conflict this mandated theme at the 2014 Venice Biennale unintentionally created between the Northern and Southern pavilions - with Northern pavilions tending to declare sole ownership over Modernism and many Southern pavilions denying that their countries were passive recipients of the North’s globalization. For more on how the Southern pavilions challenged the typical conveyance of architectural history, continue reading after the break.
As modernist architects broke free from vernacular architecture and developed a homogenized international style, many created sterile spaces and places out of touch with the decorative warmth of historical forms of human inhabitation. Negative reactions to the brutality of Modernist spaces encouraged architectural movements such as post-modernism and deconstructivism, but these never managed to usurp the rational modernist box as a dominant architectural paradigm.
However, the intended machine-like precision of these buildings has often become unintentionally humanized over time, through the addition of curtains, coloring, or even through accidental breakage and imperfect repairs or alterations. I believe that building on the successes and failures of modernism has spawned a new and previously unclassified architectural style: Pixelism. Find out what this new phenomenon is after the break.
As a student of architecture, the formative years of study are a period of wild experimentation, bizarre use of materials, and most importantly, a time to make mistakes. Work from this period in the life of an architect rarely floats to the surface – unless you’re Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry, that is. A treasure trove of early architectural drawings from the world’s leading architects has recently been unearthed from the private collection of former Architectural Association Chairman Alvin Boyarsky. The collection is slated to be shown at the Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, as a part of the exhibition Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association from September 12th to January 4th, 2015.
Take a look at the complete set of architects and drawings for the exhibition after the break.
Five of history’s most iconic modern houses are re-created as illustrations in this two-minute video created by Matteo Muci. Set to the tune of cleverly timed, light-hearted music, the animation constructs the houses piece-by-piece on playful pastel backgrounds. The five homes featured in the short but sweet video are Le Courbusier’s Villa Savoye, Gerrit Rietveld’s Rietveld Schröder House, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, Philip Johnson’s Glass House and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.
Although construction was never completed, “El Helicoide” (“The Helix”) in Caracas is one of the most important relics of the Modern movement in Venezuela. The 73,000 square meter project – designed in 1955 by Jorge Romero Gutiérrez, Peter Neuberger and Dirk Bornhorst – takes the form of a double spiral topped by a large geodesic dome designed by Buckminster Fuller. It was characterized by a series of ascending and descending ramps meant to carry visitors to its variety of programmatic spaces - including 320 shops, a 5 star hotel, offices, a playground, a television studio and a space for events and conventions.
Today, Proyecto Helicoide (Project Helix) seeks to rescue the urban history and memory of the building through a series of exhibitions, publications and educational activities. More details on the initiative, after the break.
Fifty years ago Churchill College Cambridge opened its doors. In contrast to the historic Colleges, with their medieval Gothic and Neo-Classical buildings corralled behind high walls, this was in an almost rural setting on the outskirts of the city, modern in design, and Brutalist in detail.
The 1959 competition that brought the College into being is considered by many to be a watershed moment in British Post War architectural history. It brought together 20 names, young and old, all practicing in Britain, all working in the Modernist and more specifically the nascent Brutalist style. It was a “who’s who” of British architecture at the time, including the Smithsons, Hungarian-born Erno Goldfinger, Lasdun (then in partnership with Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew & Lindsay Drake, and formerly with Russian émigré Lubetkin), Lyons Israel Ellis and Robert Matthew (one half of the Royal Festival Hall team, who teamed up with Johnson Marshall). None of these made the shortlist of four.
Sheffield born Alison Gill, later to be known as Alison Smithson, was one half of one of the most influential Brutalist architectural partnerships in history. On the day that she would be celebrating her 86th birthday we take a look at how the impact of her and Peter Smithson’s architecture still resonates well into the 21st century, most notably in the British Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale. With London’s Robin Hood Gardens, one of their most well known and large scale social housing projects, facing imminent demolition how might their style, hailed by Reyner Banham in 1955 as the ”new brutalism”, hold the key for future housing projects?
In one of his final interviews, Knud Lonberg-Holm quipped, “I’ve always been annoyed by rummaging through the past; the future interests me much more.” Not one to promote himself, the modernist architect all but disappeared after retirement, seemingly taking his contributions to architecture with him. After years of neglect, investigative research has finally unearthed just how influential Lonberg-Holm was. To learn about how he shaped information design (among many other things), continue reading Paul Makovsky’s exclusive article on Metropolis Magazine.
Today Charles Eames – the taller half of modernism’s greatest power couple, Charles & Ray Eames - would have turned 107. Although perhaps best known for their furniture design (particularly the Eames Lounge & Shell Chairs), the couple is well known in architectural circles for the home they designed in 1945 and subsequently lived in: the Eames House (or Case Study House No. 8, as it was part of the Arts & Architecture magazine’s “Case Study” program).
In honor of Charles Eames’ birthday, we’ve rounded up some fantastic videos: produced by the Eames themselves, HOUSE (a tour of their home) and Powers of Ten (their 1977 exploration of the universe’s magnitudes), this 1956 clip of the pair’s first TV appearance, a video of the construction of the Shell Chair and, at the Vitra Campus, the Eames Lounge, the TED Talk delivered by the pair’s grandson, and the trailer to The Architect & The Painter (the must-watch documentary on the pair’s lives). See all the videos after the break!
This year’s Venice Biennale, curated by OMA’s Rem Koolhaas, is “interested in the banal”. In an article in the Financial Times’, Edwin Heathcote discusses the paradox between exploring generic modernism at an event which celebrates the individual. Heathcote raises interesting questions about the extent to which world architecture has developed in modernity, ultimately arguing that, “in a way, architecture is over.” You can read the article, which neatly investigates the curatorial rationale behind this year’s Biennale, in full here.
Who is Knud Lonberg-Holm? An overlooked modernist architect, photographer, author, researcher, and teacher praised by the likes of Buckminster Fuller – one of his good friends and biggest advocates. To learn about the architect’s unsung accomplishments and the people determined to preserve his memory, check out Metropolis Magazine‘s article by clicking here.
Venice Biennale 2014: NRJA to Establish First-Ever Database of Latvian Post-War Modernist Architecture
The architects of NRJA have been chosen to curate Latvia’s participation at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Based on the assertion that “there is (no) modernism in Latvia,” the pavilion’s exhibition Unwritten will confront the lack of research and evaluation of Latvian post-war modernist architecture.
“What makes us New Zealanders different from, say, Australians?” William Toomath, the late modernist architect, asked himself this question at the onset of his career. In this article published by the Australian Design Review, Jack Davies takes a look at Toomath’s work and how he helped define New Zealand architecture. To keep reading, click here.
The Edinburgh-based firm Reiach and Hall will be representing Scotland at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. The show will showcase Scotland’s rich modernist heritage, featuring buildings such as Gillespie, Kidd & Coia’s St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross and the church designs of Reiach and Hall’s founder Alan Reiach, focusing on the positive aspects of these buildings which are often seen negatively by the Scottish public. “Certainly buildings from that period get a difficult press – the stories about the Red Road flats and so on don’t really help that – but we hope to explain and examine the real optimism of that period” said Neil Gillespie, Director of Reiach and Hall.
Scotland’s contribution at the biennale will be based in the UK pavilion for a month-long residency, as well as a show and presentations at other locations around Venice.
On what would have been his birthday today, we celebrate and look back on British architect and Pritzker Laureate Sir James Stirling, who died aged 66 in 1992. Stirling, who grew up in Liverpool, one of the two industrial powerhouses of the British North West, began his career subverting the compositional and theoretical ideas behind the first Modern Movement. Citing a wide-range of influences – from Colin Rowe, a forefather of Contextualism, to Le Corbusier, from architects of the Italian Renaissance to the Russian Constructivist movement – Stirling forged a unique set of architectural beliefs that manifest themselves in his works. Indeed, his architecture, commonly described as “non-comformist”, consistently caused annoyance in conventional circles.
According to Rowan Moore, Stirling also “designed some of the most notoriously malfunctioning buildings of modern time.” Yet, for all the “veiled accusations of incompetence”, as Reyner Banham put it, Stirling produced a selection of the world’s most interesting and groundbreaking buildings. Notably, the Royal Institute of British Architects’ highest award, the Stirling Prize, was named after him in 1996.
The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) has announced that a replica of Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House will be constructed at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida. It is hoped the iconic, 24′ x 24′ vacation cottage will be opened to the public by 2015, after which it will be disassembled and transported to select museums around the country.
More information about the Walker Guest House, after the break…