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#Lecture 8: 1917 – 1930

::  C  O  N  S  T  R  U  C  T  I  V  I  S  M  ::

Constructivism was an artistic and architectural movement that originated in Russia in 1919 and rejected the idea of “art for art’s sake”.

The movement refers to the ‘non-representational releif construction’, sculpture, kinetics and painting.  It was a time where abstract ideas were transformed into realistic, and in turn designers tried to materialise art into something more real, structural.  Art was combined with architecture and machine production.

One of the key iconic architects of this movement was Vladimir Tatlin, and from the lecture I was very interested with his work.  During his journey to Paris he bacame interested in the works by Picasso and Braque.  On his return to Russia he started making sculptures out of found objects being composited together.   This therefore did not take on any subject reference or particular concepts, thus adopted the Constructivism movement.

The structure above, “The Monument to the Third International” was one of the most famous icon pieces the Tatlin designed, also known as “Tatlin’s Tower”.   The tower was desined in 1920 and was proposed to be made out of iron, glass and steel and be 1,300 feet in height.  There are two features of this piece of architecture that really inspires me.  Firstly, the materials seem really harsh and industrial yet it does have this fragility about it. I really like the compostional contrast between the formation of the building and the material choice.  At the same time it seems to celebrate a robotic element.

It’s structure embodies twin spirals which appear in three bloccks and is tappered upwards into a tower.  The three parts of the building would have a particular function, and simultaneously rotate at different speeds.  The first, a cube was proposed to rotate and complete 360˚ after 365 days.  The second part, a pyramid would complete a full 360˚ rotation every month.  And finally, at the top, a cylinder which would complete it’s rotation after 24 hours.  The structure was never built due to expenses and also for the fact that it was too vast.

The second aspect that impresses me is that the sky was not the limit in this instance.   For the top of the building was designed to be an infomation centre, issuing a daily journal in the form of telegrams which were to be transmitted over and beyond the clouds.  Personally, this really amazes me, the thought behind the design was so advanced and it is somewhat extraordinary for this period.

Tatlin and this Tower really does encourage me to design within my allocated platform.  Platform 8, “Drawing” has been urging me to think and design in a conceptual way.  Tutors have allowed us the freedom to design beyond limits and not to be afraid if the design is not possible to be actualised and built.  Tatlin’s design, in this instance seems that it was never built as it may have been too complicated or the technology needed was not as advanced at the time, however this did not hinder his design.   He seems to have not abided to any limits.  In my platform over the last term, logic has dominated my thought process in my work, and so I believe my work has been somewhat at a  disadvantage.  I have not used the freedom given.  I realise within design, things sometimes cannot be made at that particular time, and may not even be possible however if it is at least persued, one may find that it may be tangible.  I realise the best designs are the most innovative and Tatlin was never discouraged by the extent of his thoughts.


#Lecture 7

Frederick Kiesler (1890 – 1965)

Frederick Kiesler first gained recognition in 1925 when he designed City in Space.  It was a large grid like construction for the International Exposition of Decorative Arts in Paris.  “Its straight lines and flat planes joined at right angles embodied the utopian belief that simple geometric forms in art would help facilitate a more rational and egalitarian society.” 

A hanging suspension of space really does exploit steel construction.  It is panels suspended and beams without supports…Kiesler described it as “…System of tension in open space”.  Through this exhibition Kiesler was able to express his ideas on ‘mega city’ visionary:

“The country city: the division of city and country will be abolished
The time city: time is the measure of organisation of its space
The space city: it floats freely in space in a de-centralised federation
dictated by the ground formation
The automatic city: the processes of daily life are mechanised.
[…] we want:
1. Transformation of the surrounding area of space into cities.
2. Liberation from the ground, abolition of the static axis.
3. No walls, no foundations.
4. A system of spans (tension) in free space.
5. Creation of new kinds of living, and, through them, the demands which will remould society.”

[From: Frederick Kiesler, Vitalbau-Raumstadt-Funktionelle Architektur, typescript]



Maison De Verre 1928 – 1932

Maison De Verre was designed by three architects, Pierre Chareau who was known for furniture and interior design, Bernard Bijvoet, an Dutch architect and Louis Dalbet who was a craftsman metalworker.  What is most striking about this house is the facade and the material choice.  It is very dominantly made up of translucent glass blocks, seemingly stacked up upon one another forming the a wall.  Of course some selected areas are just clear.

The location of this site, what that of between structures which did block natural light which is why the facade transparency is to this degree.  Orriginally, the building which stood before was a much older building which was initially meant to be destroyed, however there was already an occupying tenant living on the top floor.  So it was in the best interest of all parties to completely demolish the bottom floors to create the Maison De Verre whilst simultaneously keeping the top floor in tact.  This is another story I find really interesting!!

On the interior, it is spatially divided up with the use of sliding, folding or rotating screens in glass, perforated metal.  This is seen below in the photograph where a concrete sliding door seperates the living space to the domestic study.  There is somethings quite mechanical about these materials, and with this we start to get a sense of the technical aspects to the house.   Other mechanical devices, as they can only be described, are features such as, a retracting stair from the private sitting room to the elderly tennant’s, Dalsace’s bedroom and many complex fixtures.


One things that I truly find ironically quite tasteful is the fact that the materials are raw.  In the sense that they are not plastered over, or have any varnishings or finishing touches applied to them, they just are what they are… and maybe this is what gives them a real industrial feel…?   I feel this peice of architecture really celebrates this feature.

#Lecture 6

Pavilion De L’Esprit Nouveau, Le Corbusier – Paris, 1925

“…Described as a “machine for living in” and compared to similar descriptions of automobiles as “machines for transportation” and airplanes as “machines for flying,”  Le Corbusier’s Pavillon de l’esprit nouveau suggested that the basis of a design for modern living was to be found in the efficiency and economy of the office rather than in the luxury and individuality of the traditional home or apartment, and relied more upon the skills of the engineer than those of the artist.”

Pavilion of the New Spirit 

And indeed there is a new influence here, purism starts to take over with this cubic geometric structure.  As World War I ended three artistss formed an art movement that incoorporated the new and the classical.  It combined traditional detailing yet also included clean geometrical features, whilst  accomodating new technologies, new materials, and the machine aesthetic. 

What I particularly found humorous was the story or background infomation leading up to the design of Pavilion de L’Esprit Nouveau.  It is rarely discussed therefore very interesting to understand his thought process?!  Le Corbusier’s design demonstrates his frusration which is why I believe this design is very bold.  It whispers a sense of confrontation and I feel acts as a statement.

Geometry runs right throughout the pavilion.   In the photograph above we see concrete stone which acts as a veranda looking onto the living room.  the living room is some what atrium like.  The double height space really exagerates the spatial potential. Everything is geometrical and angular, down to the furniture.  With is arm chairs strongly resembling cubic forms, the furniture is placed so formally.   “..uncomprimising vission of modernism: less playful, more severe, more demanding in its adherence to the dominating presence of pure form”.

It has a aura to it which seems quite still but a cold atmosphere fills it.  Maybe it is this large void, this empty box-like space?!  There seems to be an industrial quality to the house, with its horizontal and vertical grid-like space, not forgetting being predominantly made out of steel and concrete, yet simultaneously something which strikes me as elegant and tranquil.  It is quite an open and cold place but at the same time, concealed within itself, maybe this was the juxtaposition he also was trying to illustrate.. it does brings out the curiosity in me…!!


#Lecture 5: 1916 – 1924

Barcelona Pavilion, 1929

This was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe whom I studied briefely last year as part of my History and Theory presentation.  This work always gives me great enthusiam!  As a designer and with many of his works, I became utterly inspired.  What really shocks me is how in such an early stage of the century design could be so modern.  I find it extremely interesting to compare it to Skyhouse, designed by Graham Phillips in Buckinghamshire.  Seeing the strong links just shows that Mies’ work and created features is what lends itself to us today!

Barcelona Pavilion was an important building in the history of modern architecture and is an iconic example of simple form and extravagant materials.   Originally it was the German Pavilion for the International Exposition 1929.  The commissioner, Georg von Schnitzler wanted it to give “voice to the spirit of the new era”.  Since Art Nouveau had disappeared, the “new era” was very much here!  Free plan and Floating room was the main concepts adopted in the design of this sructure.

The plan of the house is open and you have a sense of true freedom and movement within it.

“…The roof rested on walls, or more properly wall planes, placed asymmetrically but always in parallels or perpendiculars, so that they appeared to slide past each other in a space through which the viewer could walk more or less endlessly, without ever being stopped within a cubical area.” – Cannot put it any better myself!

The roof plates, relatively small, are supported by the chrome-clad, cruciform columns which again gives the illusion of a suspended roof.  The entire building rests on a plinth of tavertine and the floor slabs project and reflects out on the pool and the building really does apear to float. The building has a strong perception of inside and outside space being as one.  I feel this is for many reasons and clever co-ordination.   Mies desired a place of tranquility and indeed he succeeded!!  He wanted a free plan where visitors were not forced around the building but merely encouraged to move.    He designed space which in turn directed people’s movements.. this was achieved by walls being displaced, running along side or simply altering the spaces in between.

As we see above, the materials the Mies chose to use were extremely clean cut and minimal!  Apart from tavertine as mentioned earlier, marble is very prominent.  However he also used a huge amount of glass.  Some tranlucent and others tinted in white, grey and green.  Coming back to this feature of inside and outside space, the glass plays a significant role when inside the building.  The full length windows which act as walls allows one to feel as though they are outside.  Looking out on the pool it does feel you are linked to nature.  This is where the inside and outside realms are diminished.

#Lecture 4: From Industrialization to Industrialization of War

Bruno Taut – Glass House 1914

Bruno Taut (1880-1938) was a German architect, urban planner and author during the Weimar period.  The Glass Pavilion was built in 1914.  It was a prism-like structure at the Cologne Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition.  The structure was built using concrete and glass.  The concrete had coloured glass plates almost embedded in it.  This gave the facade a reflected quality and it almost acted as mirrors.  Bruno described the pavilion as…


“…reflections of light whose colors began at the base with a dark blue and rose up through moss green and golden yellow to culminate at the top in a luminous pale yellow.”

…pineapple-shaped multi-faceted polygonal designed rhombic structure..

This was built in association with the German Glass industry specifically for this event.  It was considered a house of art.  It was made when expressionism was most active in Germany.  I found this peice of architecture fascinating… I love the concept of it being colourful and it strikes me as being a dazzling sculpture, I can only imagine it was a crystal with all the colours blinding onlookers.  It is really fustrating that only black and white photographs  were taken when colour was its utmost brightest feature.  Today, resorting to archives and imagination is the only way I can begin to depict this mysterious structure, colours for all its richness.  Since the building was more of a temporary structure solely for exhibition purposes, the pavilion was deconstructed shortly after the event was over.

The Interior…

The staircases seen above lead to the upper projection room that show a kaleidoscope of colours, the tread of the stairs were made out of glass.  Right down the middle between each staircase was a seven tiered waterfall, which I feel is very reminisent of stairs as well, and gives me the impression of it being somewhat shrine-like.  There was underwater lighting added to this feature.  Again I get the sense that this, like the exterior was probably very beautiful inside… and definately a sight for sore eyes!  With the interior containing prisms which enables the sunlight from outside to pass through into the dome, producing coloured rays.  With this overpowering sense of colour, some may argue that it is ‘too much’, and although that may have been the case I feel there is something quite exquisite and divine about it. 

Moreover, from the picture, the embellishment of the walls and ceiling are shown to be covered in a mosaic of coloured class.  It is truly impossible to begin to imagine what this would have been like.  Personally, it sounds magical!!

#Lecture 3: 1905 – 1910

The Vienna Secession

What I found most interesting about this period was how features had slightly changed.  I was really compelled by Adolf Loos, (1870-1933).  he was a Czech-born Austrian architect and really encouraged Modern architecture in Europe.  he refused to recognise the Vienna Succession (Art Nouveau).  One of his first and major works included Villa Karma at Montreux, on Switzerland’s lake Geneva, 1904-1906.  What intrigues me the most about this peice of Architecture, is the contrast with modernism while still showing some regard to finer traditional details.

Villa Karma, Geneva – 1906

Adolf was only thirty-three years old when he was asked to transform an old structure into a modern country house.  He chose to plaster the exterior in completely white.  the entrace was a two storey high oval hole.  he abandoned ornament of any kind, which is why this change was so abrupt and radical at the time.

It does have a rectangular element, wich is very cubic and appears extremely solid, and cubic.  There is a strong sence of modern style with its defined ridgid structure and outlines.  There is also a tendency in this work where he aopts a horizontal approach to inmense the vertical space.

As one enters the house, materials are radically changed.  Here we aee how he pays attention to detail.   The door is engraved with a ying yang symbol. There are guilded tiles.  And also geometric black and white tiles on the floor, which in turn reinforces the oval shape.  The skylight also floods through wich adds to the intensity of the space.  What amazes me about this house is that the detaiing of the interior is magnificent.  Each feature never disappoints.  Each room is filled with richness.  Below is a photograph of what I believe to be the most breath taking room of the house… The master bathroom.

The use of marble allows this room to make a true statement!! And black marble really does exagerate the richness to this room.   It is not shown in this photo, however the entrance to the bathroom is made out of bronze and it’s surface studded.

#Lecture 2: 1900

:: Undulating :: Exotic :: Dreamlike ::

I did a project on Art Nouveau a couple years ago as part of my A-levels in Art.  I guess I wasn’t studying the right application, because I remember finding the style negatively busy and I failed to see the beauty, elegance and sophistication of the design.  In my lecture, I immediately became so enticed by this piece of design…it reminded me of the much more interesting features of the movement and allowed me to see how it can be applied to interior spaces and how the transformation can lead to such brilliance.

Victor, Baron Horta (1861 – 1947) was a Belgian architect and designer, once described as “undoubtedly the key European Art Nouveau architect.” Hotel Tassel located in Brussels (1892-3) demonstrated one of the first pieces of architecture that introduced Art Nouveau to architecure from the decorative arts.  His designs went on to inspire many designers who encouraged this style into their work.

Victor Horta

The style richly ornamental featuring the classic whiplash curve.  Strongly resembling plant life with its fluidity, floral and decorative elements. Slightly erotic its elements seem to unfold with the design throughout the house. The stairs treads seem to open up and thrust out upon the landing giving a sense of movement and not forgetting allowing light to flood through.  Horta really gave an incredible amount of attention to detail throughout, e.g. the banister, handrails, light fixtures and graphic elements, to name a few.  Just looking at the pictures is dream-like and exotic.

Victor Horta

Victor Horta

“Dynamic, undulating, flowing forms”

Moreover the use of hyperbolas and parabolas in windows, arches, and doors is another characteristic that Horta implicated within his design.  Even the most conventional features of any house, here was made with the utmost intricacy with its curved and scalped plant-derived forms, even designed down to the doorbell itself.

Victor Horta

Horta really made evident that the study of the plant can be applied to art, in such a harmony thus creating a careful yet pure design.

#Lecture 2: 1900

:: 4rt Nouveau ::

“The terrifying and edible beauty of Art Nouveau Architecture…” Salvador Dali

Art Nouveau was an international movement of art and architecture.  It particularly peaked at the turn of the 20th Century (1890-1905).  Art Nouveau, French for ‘New Art’ is also known as Jugendstil, German for ‘Youth Art’.

The movement was strongly encouraged by Alphonse Mucha.  Mucha was commissioned to produce a poster which advertised a play ‘Gismonda’, starring Sarah Bernhardt.  In a short time this poster declared a new style and movement known as Mucha, later on known as Art Nouveau.  It is a very unique and easily distinguishable style of art, featured by its organic design, especially floral and plant-life inspired images, not forgetting its flowing lines and whiplash curves.  Art Nouveau inspired man designers who applied it to art, architecture, furniture, typography and even wall paper designs.

Poster for play "Gismonda", starring Sarah Bernhardt

Hello world!

So here is my little box of treasures… it contains my interests,  aspirations and future dreams…

The world is my oyster =)