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Essay: Modernism in architecture

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  • Published: 12 September 2015*
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Modernism in Architecture began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It has made a movement that revolutionized the shape of our environment. The evolution of modern architecture has started just after the evolution of building materials in 19th century and it has inspired many architects to take a chance of a new way of thinking.
An architect Reese Rowland said: ‘Architecture is the only art form that is functional.’ thats why it has such a powerful impact on our lives. Its where we live, where we work and thats how we can express our personalities and values. All of our relationships, our dreams and memories are surrounded by the shapes of architecture.The buildings started to have a completely different meaning in early 30s and began to express not only the outside but also the inside of the building.
The basics in architectural design before and after the modernism, has always been the same such as space making, space defining or looking how the light falls within the space. The only thing that has changed was the use and the connection of materials. In late 18th century when the High Baroque style appeard it was very popular for architects to use smooth, light-coloured surfaces, occasionally curved, and extensive areas of glass (windows and mirrors). Then the modernism started, and the look of roof design became flat and simple. There were also some changes in the material category. Glass towers, steel frames or reinforced concrete became to be the main aspects of architectural life.
One of the most famous buildings in 20th century, modern architecture was the Bauhaus placed in Germany. It was designed by an architect called Walter Adolf Georg Gropius in 1919. ‘Gropius was the first to state question in modern terms. The conflict had arisen because of the warring possibilities of the quality of craftsmanship and the quantity made possible by industry’.
The Bauhaus was mainly used for exhibitions, concerts and theatrical performences but was also used for educational purposes. ‘In the first year, students learnt the basic elements and principles of design,colour theory, plus experimented with a range of materials and processes’. Bauhas inspired architects from other countries and continents to create a place where people would share with their similar interests and knowledge. This was a perfect place for people that were creative and admired art in every meaning.
‘The structure of the Bauhaus reflected a pragmatic approach to integrating theory and application’. The Bauhaus movement transformed the design and production of modern architecture and has used steel frames and glass walls and windows. Gropius used a big amount of glass to make the building feel like an open space. Open space suggests that he wanted to make people feel free and independent. The amazing structure of the Bauhaus gives an incredible impression particularly at night time when the lights highlight the beauty and freedom of glass walls.
Architecture became modern when the revolution of materials and technology appeared in 20th century. You can perceive Modernism when you look at buildings like Burj Al Arab in Dubai by Tom Wright, Le Grand Louvre in Paris by Ieoh Ming Pei or Frank Lloyd Wright???s greatest works: Guggenheim and Fallingwater. These famous modern designs are mainly made out of glass. In modern Architecture glass is almost like a principle of modernism. Another feature of modernism is non symmertrical windows and roofs. Sharp and clear lines used sa simplicity are the main key ideas in modernism. Another important thing and how you can recognise modernism is when you see open spaces with a lot of light coming through different shaped and angled windows.
One of the precursors to Modernism is Roman Architecture. The building that I choose is called Pantheon that was built in Rome in 125AD and it was rebuilt by the emperor Hadrain. This building was a combination of classical and modern styles. The architect who designed Pantheon has not been discovered and no records have been made so the architect remained unknown. Until now the building remains the best preserved in Roman Architecture. The Pantheon is one of the best achievements in the worlds history of architecture because of its astonishing construction and size.
As the architect of the Pantheon was unknown people didnt know what was the purpose of the building. Its enourmous space inside has given people idea that the possible mean of Pantheon could be a temple to all gods because of its open space and a whole in the dome. This is a perfect place for others to take a rest and sooth their thoughts. Another possible purpose of this design was to ‘express the Roman Mastery of the world’. They wanted to show this by building a massive dome from concrete. It was very hard and risky to design a dome that would be 44 meters long without any concrete reinforcment as it would presumably collapse under its own weight. However the engineers ventured to build the design and it came out as one of the most famous buildings in the world.
A very interesting central feature in the Pantheaon is a Latin appellation ‘oculus’ which could be translated as an ‘eye’. This is placed in the centre of the dome and its a whole that is ten meters wide. The fantastic open space was very important in this design because this helped the light come through and illuminate the whole dark space inside as there is no electrical lighting involved.
The front construction of the building is supported by sixteen of the finest columns made from Egyptian granite. The next very eye catching feature is the huge bronze front door that are seven meter tall and are opening to a cercular area. The moment you walk in the only thing you can think of is the space around you. The engineers have made the dome out of concrete and came up with an idea of rings of collars around the dome to make reduce its weight and the pressure. They have made the dome very thick at the bottom and the concrete was lighter within each layer. To reduce the weight of the concrete dome architects came up with an idea to cut out symmetrical and characteristic square shapes on the inside of the dome which also decorated the interior in unusual way.
The construction materials that have been used when making the Pantheon are heavy concrete and limestone blocks which was very popular in Rome at that time and used in almost every Roman Architectural design. The second level just under the dome was made out of bricks. Inbetween the layers the architects have hidden series of complicated arches which also helped with reducing the weight.
The building that I have choose for Modern Architecture is Swiss Re. The Swiss Re is a modern architectural design and was started to built in 1997 and finished in 2004. the colours that have been arranged within the building are colours of sea ??? blue green and silver. These are cold colours so they perfectly emphasised the shades of sea water. The look of the building contrasts with the rest of the background as it is an enormous and unique cigar shape. The colour that dominates the whole building is dark green, which stands out from the rest of the colours that have been used in the design this is because the green elements are glass which reflects the light.
The design of the work has been determined by the spiral elements shape going from the bottom to the top of the building. Another shape that has been standing out is ‘an eternal diagonal grid of steel beams stiffed by horizontal hoops’. The building has a very smooth shape even though the patterns combined are much more epressive as it shows the individuality.
The subject matter of the modern architecture piece is the idea of an environmental sustainabilty based on nature. This architectural design is about how the ‘shape ameliorates the wind flow, just as the sea-sponge’s shape helps water flow round it’.The work has been based on direct observation that has been reworked into a building design. The intention of the design was to deliberate exaggeration in order to make the work unique. In the building there are hidden aspects od the design which were inspired by natural organisms.
The Swiss Re is a 600-foot glass tower which was designed with a metal and glass to demonstrate the natural look of the sea-sponge. The architectural building was designed to reduce greenhouse gases. This is done by the flow of winds from street level and open windows along its spiral body which funnels through the buildings offices naturally. ‘In nature, every organism has to be as efficient as possible wiith its use of resources. There’s no way that an organism can use more energy than it produces’, said Alexis Karolides, an architect with the Rocky Mountain Institute in Boulder. I have visited Swiss Re also called by people The Gherkin and I think that this classis building sculpture design stands out from the architecture around it because of its tremendous size and unusual bullet shape.
Many people visit the building mainl to see the difference between a photograph and building in real live. People are fascinated by the huge size of the building which suprises almost everyone. This simple but interesting design is surrounded by architects who admire the unique structure and combination. The Gherkin began to be an example of modern architecture which encouraged other architects to create unique shapes designs with different materials.
The techniques and the process that Norman Foster used to produce the work are sketches od natural organisms and informations about how they work.it was then developed into an architectural design. Norman Foster has commenced the work which he then establlished into professional sketches. In my opinion this architect has made his idea of combining architecture and nature rapidly, but the natural ventilation system was arranged over a long period of time. This is because the design was influenced by sea-sponges feeding system.
This work has affected me as it has shown me an interesting side of composition between modern and old architecture. The emotions that I have experienced when seeing Swiss Re was misleading as it differed from the buildings around. It is also capturing the feelings about life and nature which has been submitted in the final appearance of this architectural design. The architect’s feelings when producing this work were to introduce more nature into today’s society. The work is soothing but at the same time disturbing comparing with old architecture in the background. The inherent qualities that affected me in this work are the distinguishing shapes and initial ideas compared to its final appearance. The building fits into London’s city scape as the design stands out. The scale of The Gherkin is almost twice as big as the architecture around it.
The design of Pantheon and Swiss Ree are completely opposite such as the materials like concrete,limestone and bricks in Pantheon and in Swiss Re glass and metal. Also the massive difference between the two buildings are the shapes and the overall appearance. In the ancient Architecture, architects used columns,archs and parthenons that have been inspired by Greeks.
In the 20th century people started to have a different understanding of Architecture. During designing Ancient Architecture everything was drwan by hand with just paper and pencil.
Then the technology appeared and has drastically changed and Architecture became to have more possibilities in designing with different materials and unique shapes. During designing Ancient Architecture everything was drwan by hand and people only used paper and pencil. They never thought that technology could be more accurate than hand drwaing. People no lonegr have to spend hours on drawing the designs on paper because we now have the programmes that help Architects save their time at developing each design at any time. Another revolution in the world of Architecture are the methods of building. A huge amount of details is no lonegr a problem as everything can be done, produced and be ready to put into a ready design. Nowadays, its easier and quicker to design and then produce a piece of Architecture. The first photo represents one of the first modern architecture design which is The Bauhaus. On the photograph you can see a long, glass wall with black,metal elements. This adds more decoration and stability to the wall. The colours used in Bauhaus are grey and white which were very popular to use in modernism in early 20th century. The lines are clear and the overall shape is simple. The next diagrams show three different ideas of the Bauhaus area. In the first two diagrams the shapes that have been used are squares and rectangles. Both designs are then combined together to make one piece of architecture. The building is elongated in three different directions and because of that it has a feeling of three separate spaces.This photograph represents the Pantheon in Rome. The photograph shows the moment when the natural light is coming through the ten meters whole on the top of the dome. The light is giving a very interesting impression and it highlights only some of the historical details that are in the building. It also highlighs the dull colours that have been used to create the inside. In the first diagram it is notible that the Pantheon is a symmetrical architectural design. It also shows how much open space there is within the interior. Black markings demonstrate the thick walls of the dome and the front entracnce. In the last sketches you can see the ideas and all the details that have been arranged in this design. The main aspect of those sketches are the columns in the front of the pantheon. They give a mysterious feeling as you cant see what is hidden behind them.
In the photograph you can see The Swiss Re in London. It stands out from the rest of the buildings with its shape, size and materials. The buildings shape is comparable to a bullet which also suggests the force and power of the design. The buildings mainly made out of glass which reflects the light and highlights the colours of the sea. The photograph shows the spiral features which makes people drag their eys from the bottom to the top of the Swiss Re. The diagram shows the process of how the wind flows in and out of the building. It also demonstartes how natural organisms work. The sketch represnts part of details that the whole building is made out of. The triangular shapes resemble husks as the main idea of the design was to show natural sea life through Architecture.

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