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What Neuroscience Says About Modern Architecture Approach

This article was originally published on Common Edge as "The Mental Disorders that Gave Us Modern Architecture".

How did modern architecture happen? How did we evolve so quickly from architecture that had ornament and detail, to buildings that were often blank and devoid of detail? Why did the look and feel of buildings shift so dramatically in the early 20th century? History holds that modernism was the idealistic impulse that emerged out of the physical, moral and spiritual wreckage of the First World War. While there were other factors at work as well, this explanation, though undoubtedly true, tells an incomplete picture.

Spotlight: Walter Gropius

Bauhaus, 1925. Image ©  Thomas Lewandovski
Bauhaus, 1925. Image © Thomas Lewandovski

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.

Spotlight: Peter Behrens

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.

Spotlight: Richard Neutra

Though Modernism is sometimes criticized for imposing universal rules on different people and areas, 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 still are—highly sought after, making 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.

Miller House, 1938. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/28238346@N00/338006894/'>Flickr user IK's World Trip</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/'>CC BY 2.0</a>Cyclorama, Gettsyburg. Image © <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gettysburg_Cyclorama_Neutra_PA3.jpg'>Wikimedia user Acroterion</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>Lovell House, 1929. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/aseles/6149131597'>Flickr user aseles</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/'>CC BY-ND 2.0</a>Kaufmann House, 1947. Image © Barbara Alfors 2000 <a href='https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kaufman_House_Palm_Springs.jpg'>via Wikimedia</a? licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en'>CC BY-SA 3.0</a>+ 7

AD Classics: Gallaratese Quarter / Aldo Rossi & Carlo Aymonino

As the dust settled following the Second World War much of Europe was left with a crippling shortage of housing. In Milan, a series of plans were drafted in response to the crisis, laying out satellite communities for the northern Italian city which would each house between 50,000 to 130,000 people. Construction the first of these communities began in 1946, one year after the end of the conflict; ten years later in 1956, the adoption of Il Piano Regolatore Generale—a new master plan—set the stage for the development of the second, known as 'Gallaratese'. The site of the new community was split into parts 1 and 2, the latter of which was owned by the Monte Amiata Società Mineraria per Azioni. When the plan allowed for private development of Gallaratese 2 in late 1967, the commission for the project was given to Studio Ayde and, in particular, its partner Carlo Aymonino. Two months later Aymonino would invite Aldo Rossi to design a building for the complex and the two Italians set about realizing their respective visions for the ideal microcosmic community.[1]

© Gili Merin© Gili Merin© Gili Merin© Gili Merin+ 22

Brutalist Beirut: Showcasing a Forgotten Modern Heritage

In recent years, people started to regain interest in a movement that dates back to the last century; a movement, first introduced during the 1940s and 1950s, through the works of Le Corbusier and Alison and Peter Smithson. With monolithic structures, modular shapes, and impressive massing, Brutalism highlights architectural integrity. This movement is highly characterized by rough, raw, and pure surfaces that underline the essence of the substances in question. Spread across the globe, architects have adopted and developed their own vision of this modern movement, creating contextual variations.

In the midst of all the chaos currently taking place in the city of Beirut, we look back on the Lebanese capital’s hidden Brutalist gems. To shed the light on a movement that's often neglected and forgotten, Architect Hadi Mroue created a series of images that highlight the Lebanese Brutalism movement as well as its evolution as an important part of the Lebanese modern heritage.

Lisbon City Guide: 24 Places to See in Portugal’s Capital

Selected the European Capital of Culture in 1994 and Ibero-American Capital of Culture 2017, Lisbon has been the destiny of tourists from many parts of the world over the past years. With thriving cultural programming, the city hosts important events related to art, music, movies and architecture. The Lisbon Architecture Trienniale and the Open House – event that coordinates free guided tours to remarkable buildings in cities around the world – are some of these relevant events in the architectural field, responsible to disseminate, discuss and reflect on issues of the area.

The Strange House that Niemeyer Designed for Himself

Oscar Niemeyer was a revolutionary of modernism, with an architectural language characterized by audacious curves and elaborated structures. The Brazilian architect established an architectural vision of a future utopian Brazil, one that ultimately has not come to pass. While public attention is often drawn to his masterpieces in Brasília, somewhat hidden from the architectural discourse is a house that Niemeyer designed for himself; a colonial-style scheme offering a radical departure from the expressive forms of his more noted works. 

Spotlight: Le Corbusier

Born in the small Swiss city of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris—better known by his pseudonym Le Corbusier (October 6, 1887 – August 27, 1965)—is widely regarded as the most important architect of the 20th century. As a gifted architect, provocative writer, divisive urban planner, talented painter, and unparalleled polemicist, Le Corbusier was able to influence some of the world’s most powerful figures, leaving an indelible mark on architecture that can be seen in almost any city worldwide.

Palace of the Assembly at Chandigarh. Image © <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/70608042@N00/1321525329'>Flickr user chiara_facchetti</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>CC BY-SA 2.0</a>Villa Savoye. Image © Flavio BragaiaChurch at Firminy. Image © Richard WeilSwiss Pavilion. Image Courtesy of Samuel Ludwig+ 25

Terrazzo is Back: Production, Installation, and Samples in Architecture

Focal Length / RENESA Architecture Design Interiors Studio. Image © Suryan//Dang
Focal Length / RENESA Architecture Design Interiors Studio. Image © Suryan//Dang

Terrazzo is made by combining a cement base (sand, water, and cement) with a mixture of ground minerals - like marble, granite, and quartz - and can be applied to almost any surface, vertical or horizontal. The technique, produced using a completely hand-crafted method, was used worldwide in the construction of modern buildings and is noted for its durability, resistance (to water and abrasion), and easy maintenance. This made it a go-to material in the creation of flooring for houses and the common areas of residential and office buildings.  

Today, terrazzo is experiencing a revival as one of the key trends in contemporary architecture. Here, we will discuss the whats and hows of terrazzo and illustrate some of its uses in current projects. 

Focal Length / RENESA Architecture Design Interiors Studio. Image © Suryan//DangCasa Salmen / Office S&M. Image © French + TyeApartamento Copan / Sabiá Arquitetos. Image © Pedro VannucchiParisienne / Miriam Barrio Estudio. Image © Maria Pujol+ 24

Discover Pritzker Prize Laureate Gottfried Böhm's Brutalist Church in Brazil

Gottfried Böhm is a German architect who was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 1986. His father, Dominikus Böhm and his grandfather Alois Böhm were both architects, as well as three of his sons, among them, Peter Böhm. Few people know that he has two projects erected in Brazil, in Brusque and Blumenau - two cities highly influenced by German culture. Photographer Ronaldo Azambuja shared with us his series of photographs of the mother church Igreja Matriz São Luiz Gonzaga in Brusque. The text was written by Angelina Wittmann, architect, and researcher.

© Ronaldo Azambuja© Ronaldo Azambuja© Ronaldo Azambuja© Ronaldo Azambuja+ 38

Architectour Guide London: The Urban Explorer's Guide/2018

The new series of city guides for architects by Architectour brings to life the lost essence of travel and discovery. A compilation of exciting places – known and not so known – arranged in an innovative way: a continuous scenic itinerary, which is fun to follow and is full of quirks and surprises along the way. Hand-drawn sketches by architect and author Virginia Duran are the personal touch of the book, revealing the essential without spoiling what is a traveling delight: our first impression of a place.

An Architectural Guide to Guatemala City

© Andrés Asturias
© Andrés Asturias

This guide is not a catalog. It is an open invitation to walk around the city and learn more about the architecture in Guatemala City.

The Guide to Modern Architecture in Guatemala City was written by Raúl Monterroso, Gemma Gil, and photographed by Andrés Asturias. In partnership with The Cultural Center of Spain in Guatemala, the guide addresses a descriptive analysis of 35 buildings, structured in five different routes, with the aim of not only synthesizing a series of physical characteristics but to provoke a reflexive, analytical and critical observation of the environment.

As Raúl Monterroso points out, while he shares five sites that every architect must visit, the goal is to introduce people to Guatemala's modern movement. It is an invitation to walk through the city and identify it with a different built heritage, however one that also shapes the landscape and fits into the urban context. Learn more about modern architecture in Latin America, below.

Material and Immaterial Poetry: The Work of Lina Bo Bardi

Italian-born architect Lina Bo Bardi is one of the most important figures of Brazilian design. Her ability to blend architecture, politics and popular culture made her an icon throughout the country and world, while her relentlessness to break from traditionalisms made Brazil the ideal location for her work.

Bo Bardi's architecture incorporates both materiality and culture. In addition to the concrete and solidified elements, she designed pieces based on cultural factors and intense political discussions. She wished to break the barriers between intellectuals and everyday people.

Guide for the Ultimate Mid-Century Modern Architecture Road Trip

The following excerpt from Sam Lubell's Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: East Coast USA—with excellent photos by Darren Bradley—provides an introduction to the revelatory and inspiring charm of the East Coast's Mid-Century Modern masterpieces. The book includes over 250 unique projects and serves as record of one of the USA’s most important architectural movements.

Few experiences are as wedged into our psyches as the Great American Road Trip—a rite of passage chronicled by luminaries from Alexis de Tocqueville to Jack Kerouac. The Great American Mid-Century Modern Architecture Road Trip? Not famous. But that’s one of the many reasons it’s so appealing. Discovery, in this global, digital age, when few corners are mysterious, has become a rare commodity. And discovery on the East Coast of America—in the context of one of the finest collections of Modern design in the world—is that much sweeter.

AD Classics: Master Plan for Chandigarh / Le Corbusier

On August 15, 1947, on the eve of India’s independence from the United Kingdom, came a directive which would transform the subcontinent for the next six decades. In order to safeguard the country’s Muslim population from the Hindu majority, the departing colonial leaders set aside the northwestern and eastern portions of the territory for their use. Many of the approximately 100 million Muslims living scattered throughout India were given little more than 73 days to relocate to these territories, the modern-day nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. As the borders for the new countries were drawn by Sir Cyril Radcliffe (an Englishman whose ignorance of Indian history and culture was perceived, by the colonial government, as an assurance of his impartiality), the state of Punjab was bisected between India and Pakistan, the latter of which retained ownership of the state capital of Lahore.[1] It was in the wake of this loss that Punjab would found a new state capital: one which would not only serve the logistical requirements of the state, but make an unequivocal statement to the entire world that a new India—modernized, prosperous, and independent—had arrived.

© Laurian Ghinitoiu © Laurian Ghinitoiu © Laurian Ghinitoiu © Laurian Ghinitoiu + 59