21.5.11

The Machine Age: Modern Architecture


Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer, Fagus Factory, Elfeld, Germany, 1911-13. The animated fluctuation in height, the change between horizontal structure and vertical rhythms, heavy closed volumes and light dissolved fabrics, are indicators of an approach that deliberately utilized contrasts while arriving at a harmony of opposites in a manner best expressed as a pictorial or visual structure created from the perspective of the railroad tracks (Annemarie Jaeggi, Fagus: Industrial Culture from Werkbund to Bauhaus, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000).

Machine Aesthetic. Architecture that suggests something machine-made, acknowledging industrialization and mass-production. It is inspaired by demands for honesty and truth in architecture, particularly in its structure.

Modern Design and Machine Aesthetic. Coupled with an influx of avant-garde art, the machine challenged design in a period of experimentation and invention. Electricity powered machines in the home, automobiles changed the shapes of cities and homes, radio and cinema redefined leisure, and telephones closed the distances between people.

The machine was valued for its service. Its aesthetic was promoted by those who saw a beauty in the machine--beauty in appearance and function. The machine aesthetic was assumed by all sorts of objects.

Gropius champions what he calls Rationalization, arguing that "the vagaries of mere architectural caprice" are to be replaced by "the dictates of structural logic."

In the rational normative, all design decisions are based on function and utility. Subjectivity, individualization, and the artist architect give way to objectivity and standardization.

Functionalism opposes Art Deco. The prevalent opinion is that an object's form and appearance should be determined by its purposes. Modern style becomes thus simple, practical, convenient, economic and sanitary.

Last but not least, Le Corbusier understands the house as "a machine for living in."

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