If we define deconstructivism, it literally translates to the breaking down, or demolishing of a constructed structure, whether it being for structural reasons or just an act of rebellion. It is perhaps for this reason that many misunderstand the Deconstructivist movement.
Deconstructivism is, in fact, not a new architecture style, nor is it an avant-garde movement against architecture or society. It does not follow “rules” or acquire specific aesthetics, nor is it a rebellion against a social dilemma. It is the unleashing of infinite possibilities of playing around with forms and volumes.
Whether built, written or drawn, the work of American architect, theorist and educator Peter Eisenman (born 11th August 1932) is characterized by Deconstructivism, with an interest in signs, symbols and the processes of making meaning always at the foreground.
Modernism could be described as one of the most optimistic styles in architectural history, drawing from notions of utopia, innovation, and the reimagination of how humans would live, work, and interact. As we reflected in our AD Essentials Guide to Modernism, the philosophy of Modernism still dominates much of architectural discourse today, even if the world that gave rise to Modernism has changed utterly.
As we say goodbye to 2019, a year that saw the centenary of the Bauhaus, we have collated a list of key architectural styles that defined Modernism in architecture. This tool for understanding the development of 20th-century design is complete with examples of each style, showcasing the practice of Modernism that lay behind the theory.
This article was originally published on April 27, 2017. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.
Even at the Vitra Campus in Weil-am-Rhein—a collection of furniture factories, offices, showrooms, and galleries, many of which are the products of iconic architects—the Vitra Design Museum stands out as exceptional. With its sculptural form composed of interconnected curving volumes, the museum is the unmistakable work of Frank Gehry – an architect who has built a legacy for himself upon such structures. What may not be immediately apparent is the crossroads that this serene white building represents: it was in this project at the southwestern corner of Germany (close to the Swiss border) that Gehry first realized a structure in the vein of his now signature style.
When Philip Johnson curated the Museum of Modern Arts’ (MoMA) 1932 “International Exhibition of Modern Architecture,” he did so with the explicit intention of defining the International Style. As a guest curator at the same institution in 1988 alongside Mark Wigley (now Dean Emeritus of the Columbia GSAPP), Johnson took the opposite approach: rather than present architecture derived from a rigidly uniform set of design principles, he gathered a collection of work by architects whose similar (but not identical) approaches had yielded similar results. The designers he selected—Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi, and the firm Coop Himmelblau (led by Wolf Prix)—would prove to be some of the most influential architects of the late 20th Century to the present day.[1,2]
This reconstruction is primarily of language. The architects draw from archives—mental, digital or printed on paper—distant from the typical parametric and highly schematic rationales that characterized the last thirty years of design in architecture. Within the theoretical system that drives architectural composition, these archives inevitably become homages, references, and quotes.
We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In Chapter 13, Salingaros begins to conclude his argument by discussing its counterpart, explaining how post-modern theorists such as Peter Eisenman came to eclipse the ideas of Christopher Alexander – and why Eisenman’s theoretical hegemony is not based upon sound architectural thinking. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.
Natural and Unnatural Form Languages
The concept of living structure, and the support for the theory offered by both direct experienceand science, offers a basis for designing and understanding architecture. This platform is a sensible way of approaching design and building, because it is beholden neither to ideology, nor to individual agendas. Moreover, it should be contrasted to the irrationality of other schemes that currently appear in and seem to drive architectural discourse.
In this extended interview between Bernard Tschumi and The Architectural Review's Paul Finch, the pre-eminent Swiss-born architect discusses his education, writing, design and wider critical position. Speaking candidly, Tschumi explains how a visit to Chicago when he was seventeen years old sparked a life-long passion for architectural design - something that had been somewhat repressed due to his father who was, at that time, one of the world's most highly respected architects. His friendship with British architect and theorist Cedric Price led to the start of a career that saw his proposals for Paris's Parc de la Villette foreshadow the age of Deconstructivism. Ending with his take on the future of the profession, Tschumi also offers advice to students and young practices looking to make their mark.