Known as Lajkó to his friends, Marcel Lajos Breuer (21 May 1902 – 1 July 1981) helped define first the interior contents, then the form, of the modernist house for millions; his influential approach to housing was one of the first to demonstrate modernism on a domestic, practical level. Beginning as a furniture designer at the height of Bauhaus, Breuer was hailed as one of the most innovative designers working in the 1930s, before moving to architecture and helping define the modernist vernacular.
One of the most highly regarded architects of the 20th century, Walter Gropius (18 May 1883 – 5 July 1969) was one of the founding fathers of Modernism, and the founder of the Bauhaus, the German “School of Building” that embraced elements of art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography in its design, development and production.
On display until May 31st, the Vitra Design Museum’s “Architecture of Independence – African Modernism” exhibition displays a cross-section of Africa’s experimental architecture from the post-colonial years of the 1960s. Covering more than 80 projects in Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal, the exhibition aims to shed light on this little-known period of architecture history, and challenge Western notions of African countries. In this interview, originally published by Metropolis Magazine as “Q&A: Curator Manuel Herz on Africa’s ‘Grandiose’ Modern Architecture,” Curator Manuel Herz reveals the origins of the exhibition and shares his thoughts light on some of the buildings which the exhibition highlights.
Clare Dowdy: What triggered your interest in the post-colonial architecture of Central and Sub-Saharan Africa?
Manuel Herz: I was in Nairobi a couple of times around 2007 and noticed the architecture of that period was of outstanding quality but virtually unknown outside Kenya. This triggered an interest to research the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. I found that the political urgency that existed at the time of the independence process is embodied in the architecture.
Eleven buildings have been announced as winners of Docomomo US‘ 2015 Modernism in America Awards (#ModernismAwards), of which includes the Frederick Dunn-designed Lewis and Clark Branch Library that is currently scheduled to be demolished. Each awarded project is “emblematic of the work going on all over the country and represent buildings and building typologies of postwar society in the United States.” It is hoped that these awards will shed light on the importance of preserving modern architecture. Take a look at the winners, after the break.
British architect and Pritzker Laureate Sir James Stirling (22 April 1926 – 25 June 1992) grew up in Liverpool, one of the two industrial powerhouses of the British North West, and began his career subverting the compositional and theoretical ideas behind the 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.
With Lisbon now bouncing back from the 2008 recession, its estimated 12,000 buildings in decay offer plenty of opportunities to bring the city’s buildings more in line with its new economic structure. In this article, originally published by Curbed as “What Could Be Next for a Noted Lisbon Modernist Relic?” Lisbon’s Subvert Studio presents a speculative proposal for one of the city’s most notable – and visible – modernist ruins.
Views from the balcony of what was once the Panoramic Restaurant of Monsanto show a band of green treetops, a stretch of white cityscape that spans Lisbon‘s old and new quarters, and a glimmering slice of the Tagus river beyond, mouthing toward the Atlantic. Bracketing the view is blue: a blue sky above, and below, a blue smash of broken glass, reflecting and refracting the sky’s color. Wherever there is a vista at the Panoramic Restaurant of Monsanto, wherever there are windows—and the view is the focal point of the space—there is broken glass.
Last used as a club at the top of a 2,400-acre city park, the modernist structure has slipped ever further into riotous abandon since the mid-1990s. Windows have collapsed, graffiti long ago joined the reliefs by Portuguese ceramic muralist Querubim Lapa on the walls and the stained glass sculpture at the entry, chunks of ceiling have tumbled to the ground. And in recent months, a discussion has emerged: what to do with this city-owned modernist relic, which some estimate will require 20 million Euros to fix?
If asked to name buildings by German architect and designer Peter Behrens (14 April 1868 – 27 February 1940), few people would be able to answer with anything other than his AEG Turbine Factory in Berlin. His style was not one that lends itself easily to canonization; indeed, even the Turbine Factory itself is difficult to appreciate without an understanding of its historical context. Despite this, Behrens’ achievements are not to be underestimated, and his importance to the development of architecture might best be understood by looking at three young architects who worked in his studio around 1910: Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius.
Though Modernism is sometimes criticized for imposing universal rules on different people and areas, but it was Richard J. Neutra‘s (April 8, 1892 – April 16, 1970) intense client focus that won him acclaim. His personalized and flexible version of modernism created a series of private homes that were and are highly sought after, and make him one of the United States’ most significant mid century modernists. His architecture of simple geometry and airy steel and glass became the subject of the iconic photographs of Julius Schulman, and came to stand for an entire era of American design.
Described by Richard Meier as an architect whose “groundbreaking ideas” have “had a major impact on the thinking of designers and architects,” Austrian artist, architect, designer, theoretician and Pritzker Prize laureate Hans Hollein worked in all aspects of design, from architecture to furniture, jewelry, glasses, lamps – even door handles. Known in particular for his museum designs, from the Abteiberg Museum in Mönchengladbach to the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt to Vienna’s Haas House, Hollein’s work manifests a unique, fascinating take on 1950s Modernism.
Around the globe, the post-war years were a period of optimism and extreme experimentation. On both sides of the cold war’s ideological divide, this optimism found its greatest expression, architecturally speaking, in modernism - but of course, the particular circumstances of each city offered a unique spin on the modernist project. According to the curators of “Superstructure,” an exhibition presented at Kiev’s Visual Culture Research Center from January 28th to February 28th, the utopian architectural works of Kiev represented ”an attempt to transform the city into the environment for materialization of artistic thinking – in contrast to the strict unification of city space by typical construction and residential blocks.” Architects such as Edward Bilsky and Florian Yuriyev, often working in collaboration with artists such as Ada Rybachuk and Volodymyr Melnychenko attempted to create projects that were a complete synthesis of architecture and art – an approach to design that often didn’t sit well with the Ukrainian authorities of the time.
Featuring research by Alex Bykov, Oleksandr Burlaka and Oleksiy Radynski, “Superstructure” examined the projects which were typical of this particular cultural moment in Kiev. After the break, we present this research, and a selection of images from the exhibition.
Brazilian planner, preservationist and modernist thinker Lucio Costa (27 Feburary 1902 – 13 June 1998) is best known for his 1957 plan of Brasília that shaped the Brazilian capital into a monument to utopian modernism. A resolute and often controversial figure in the Brazilian establishment, Costa’s contributions to Brazilian architecture helped to shape the distinctive modernism that was practically Brazil’s official style until the 1980s.
From February 20 the Vitra Design Museum will host “Architecture of Independence – African Modernism,” an exhibition curated by architect and author Manuel Herz. Featuring numerous photographic contributions by Iwan Baan, “Architecture of Independence” explores the experimental and futuristic architecture produced in 1960s Central and Sub-Saharan Africa during the region’s period of newfound independence.
Held in 1933 on a ship in the Mediterranian, the fourth CIAM congress and Le Corbusier’s subsequent Athens Charter (La Charte d’Athenes) are widely regarded as a defining period in Modernist urban planning, a moment when architects came to an agreement on what the future of our cities should look like. But how correct is this interpretation? Edited by Evelien van Es, Gregor Harbusch, Bruno Maurer, Muriel Perez, Kees Somer and Daniel Weiss, a significant new 480-page book, “Atlas of the Functional City - CIAM 4 and Comparative Urban Analysis” examines the congress in depth. In the following excerpt from the book’s introduction, Daniel Weiss, Gregor Harbusch and Bruno Maurer examine the commonly accepted history of the congress, finding that support for the underlying principles of Modernism was perhaps not so unanimous after all.
To celebrate the start of 2015, Xinran Ma, a New York-based architectural designer and illustrator, has created this brutalist-inspired greetings card. Based on his work illustrating over 50 of the classic projects of modernist and brutalist architecture, this card features pieces of these recognizable buildings, remixed and adapted to create a typeface.
Xinran says that the buildings he illustrates all have one unfortunate thing in common: “they are extremely attractive and inspiring to me,” he says, but ”ironically they have been somehow gradually forgotten.” As a result, the illustrations he produces are not just a hobby, but part of an obligation he feels “to defend, memorize and deliver the classics that I believe are immortal.” Xinran has shared 18 of these illustrations with ArchDaily to spread the word about these buildings; check them out after the break, and click on the images to find out more about each one.
Ray Eames (December 15, 1912-August 1988) is best known for her personal and artistic collaboration with Charles Eames, and together, their innovative designs shaped the course of modernism. Although Charles often gave the firm its public face (particularly in the male-oriented world of mid-century design), the two designers are almost always discussed as a couple and every project that their office pursued was in fact a team effort. When asked about any particular piece of furniture, for example, Ray always maintained that she contributed to the details of the design in a “million ways” and considered the overall form of each project in a critical fashion, emphasizing the collaborative nature of not just their partnership, but their entire office.
In this lecture, Leon Krier expounds upon his decades-long critique of modernist urbanism and design. Using his experiences planning and building the town of Poundbury, England as a lens for viewing contemporary planning practice, he compares modernist and classicist theory in their approaches to zoning and building construction.
This article by Pedro Gadanho was originally published in Homeland: News From Portugal, the project created for Portugal’s national representation at the 2014 Venice Biennale.
Nobody doubts that, in large measures, 20th century modernity has been brought to one’s living room by the media. Sure, toasters and mass-produced carpets have offered a sense of domestic modernity fostered by ever-more accessible technologies. But newspapers, the radio, and TV sets have delivered the sense that one was immersed in the long revolution happening outside. Drawing from popular media, Martha Rosler’s “House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home” series (1967-1972) gave this idea a poignant visual expression. If newspapers carried home modernity’s many conflicts and tensions, life-style magazines completed the picture with alluring visions of how to make yourself and your environment become “modern.”