|rem koolhaas' casa de musica and le corbusier's ronchamp|
images from oma.eu and wikipedia.com
By 1900 CE, systematic colonial expansion had disempowered entire nations throughout the southern hemisphere and brought extreme wealth to a few select European countries. England became the undisputed world power and the Victorian era saw the emergence of many new urban building types such as railway stations, museums and government buildings, which were composed from a mix of historical styles later known as eclecticism. In reaction to England’s urban expansion and industrialization, a group of artists and designers led by William Morris worked against what they called the dehumanization of industrial life and created the Arts and Crafts movement, which explored hand-crafted, “authentic” design that continues to influence residential design both in Europe and abroad.
Philosophers and scientists such as Karl Marx and Charles Darwin were challenging conventions, shedding light on the inner workings of capitalism and natural selection while urban planners like Ebenezer Howard called for the design of smaller cities based on a more human scale. In Napoleon’s France, Paris was completely rebuilt with wide boulevards, bourgeois apartments and monumentally placed buildings, which inspired the City Beautiful movement in the U.S.
By the turn of the 20th century, an architectural exploration of organic form and rich materials known as Art Nouveau flourished in Spain and Belgium primarily through the work of Antoni Gaudi and Victor Horta, who developed a modern style that embraced both the industrial and natural world. This balance, along with the spatial innovations of Frank Lloyd Wright and new materials such as steel and concrete set the scene for the Expressionist movement, which later informed the Bauhaus in Germany, De Stijl in Holland and the Constructivists in the Soviet Union. It was at this point in time, that Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius began to make their mark on modernism through books (Corbusier’s vers une architecture) exhibitions (Mies’ Barcelona International exhibit) and education (Gropius’ new school for design The Bauhaus). Like so many other great thinkers and designers, Mies and Gropius fled Europe during World War II and found positions teaching in the U.S. where they greatly influenced American architecture.
By the mid 1900s, large American architecture firms were established, first with McKim, Mead and White (who designed Pennsylvania Station) and later with Skidmore Owings and Merrill (responsible for the Seagram Building). By the 1960s, other experimental architecture movements were challenging the conventions of modernism and its anti-contextual aesthetic. These new movements included Brutalism marked by large scales and simple forms, Archigram influenced by Pop Art/youth culture, and Postmodernism, which expressed irony and parody through exaggerated forms and a heightened awareness of context. At the end of the 20th century, avant-garde architecture embraced computer aided design and new technologies to create dynamic buildings such as Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum, and Peter Cook and Colin Fournier’s Kunsthaus.
Today, BIM technology, increased globalization, environmental sustainability, relief/aid, preservation, and “starchitects” are all influencing architecture, which is re-inventing itself at an ever-increasing rate. As the cost of petroleum rises along with the amount of people living in city slums (this figure is estimated to be 1 in 3 by 2020), notions of commodity, firmness and delight and good design for all seem more relevant than ever.