History has often been taught in a linear way. This way of teaching has often left out grand historical narratives, and focused primarily on the occidental world.
Situated throughout Brussels, Victor Horta's architecture ranges from innocuous to avant-garde. While many of his buildings were completed in the traditional Beaux Arts style, it is Horta’s Art Nouveau works—most of them built as townhouses for the Belgian elite—that are most beloved. Emerging from the decorative arts tradition and, in some ways, anticipating the coming onslaught of modernism, Horta’s Art Nouveau buildings were erected during a fleeting decade: roughly 1893 to 1903.
Though some may now know him only as the father of Eero Saarinen, Eliel Saarinen (August 20, 1873 – July 1, 1950) was an accomplished and style-defining architect in his own right. His pioneering form of stripped down, vernacular Art Nouveau coincided with stirring Finnish nationalism and a corresponding appetite for a romantic national style and consciousness; his Helsinki Central Station became part of the Finnish identity along with Finnish language theaters and literature. Later moving to America, his city planning and Art Deco designs resonated through western cities in the first half of the 20th century.
Scattered throughout the streets of Paris, the elegant Art Nouveau entrances to the Métropolitain (Métro) subway system stand as a collective monument to the city’s Belle Époque of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. With their sinuous ironwork patterned after stylized plants, the Métro entrances now count among the most celebrated architectural emblems of the city; however, due to the city’s wariness in the face of industrialization and architect Hector Guimard’s decision to utilize a then-novel architectural aesthetic, it would take decades before the entrances would earn the illustrious reputation that they now enjoy.
To the contemporary observer, the flowing lines and naturalistic ornamentation of Art Nouveau do not appear particularly radical. To some, Art Nouveau may even seem to be the dying gasp of 19th Century Classicism just before the unmistakably modern Art Deco and International Styles supplanted it as the design modes of choice. The Hôtel van Eetvelde, designed in 1897 by Victor Horta—the architect considered to be the father of Art Nouveau—suggests a different story. With its innovative spatial strategy and expressive use of new industrial materials, the Hôtel van Eetvelde is a testament to the novelty of the “New Art.”
Welcome to the fourth installment of The Long(ish) Read: an AD feature which presents texts written by notable essayists that resonate with contemporary architecture, interior architecture, urbanism or landscape design. Ornament and Crime began as a lecture delivered by Adolf Loos in 1910 in response to a time (the late 19th and early 20th Centuries) and a place (Vienna), in which Art Nouveau was the status quo.
Loos used the essay as a vehicle to explain his distain of "ornament" in favour of "smooth and previous surfaces," partly because the former, to him, caused objects and buildings to become unfashionable sooner, and therefore obsolete. This—the effort wasted in designing and creating superfluous ornament, that is—he saw as nothing short of a "crime." The ideas embodied in this essay were forerunners to the Modern movement, including practices that would eventually be at core of the Bauhaus in Weimar.
Designed by Antonio Gaudí in Barcelona when he was 30, and designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005, Casa Vicens will be converted into a museum and open its doors to the public during the second half of 2016.
Built between 1883 and 1889, Casa Vicens was the first house designed by Gaudí. The building’s current owner, a subsidiary of the financial group Mora Banc Grup, is currently working on its restoration and the museum planning. “The mission of Casa Vicens as a house museum is to present the first Gaudí house, presenting it as an essential work to understand his unique architectural language and the development of Art Nouveau in Barcelona,” explained the executive manager of the project, Mercedes Mora, in a recent interview with Iconic Houses.
Learn more after the break.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh is considered to be one of the most influential artists and architects of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and earlier this year his work was displayed in an exhibition at the Royal Institute for British Architects (RIBA), following a five-year research project by the University of Glasgow. Among the exhibition of over 60 original drawings, watercolors and perspectives spanning the entirety of his career, highlights included models of his unbuilt work and original designs for the Glasgow School of Art. Watch the short documentary above on the five-year research process by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), who funded the University of Glasgow's work.