Thursday, December 9, 2010

Point: Explorations

The Explorations unit summarized the design revolutions that masked the twentieth century with periods heavily oriented towards expressionism and the breaking away from classical ideals. With traditional characteristics becoming commonplace and dull, designers desperately clung to any style that was entirely original and without familiarity. Because Art Nouveau and Art Deco provided a way of bringing about new eccentric, artistic designs veiled in theatrics, buildings like Maison & Atelier, Grand Palais, and the Casa Batllo were conceived. Not only did these styles provide a new approach towards design, they sought to incorporate art into everyday life. These styles celebrated any irrational avenue of design that turned away from the classics, using reflective metallic surfaces, asymmetrical proportions, and the unconventional use of curvilinear forms to achieve this purpose. However, the movement lost its momentum with the arrival of the modernist styles.
As people became disenchanted with the irrationality of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements, the International style quickly became its successor. Seeking to find harmony through functionality and minimalistic design, the style sought to satisfy the needs of everyone. Unfortunately, the style dismissed its human attributes and made no attempt to comfort those whom it catered to. As such, modernism began to adopt more expressive styles to become less passionless. With buildings like the JFK Terminal and the Sydney Opera House, design took to styles that turned architecture into living bodies of art, having inhabitants recognize beauty through movement and guidance. However, the style disregarded the functional aspect of its designs, producing works of art unsuitable for the reasons for which they were originally created.
With the arrival of Postmodernism, the functional and formalized aspects of the modernist movement were replaced by divers aesthetics, with colliding styles, spontaneous form, and new narratives concerning interior spaces and styles. Also, architecture stemming from the postmodern movement made attempts of tributing design to traditional roots, with references and ornament returning to the facade, replacing the minimalistic trait of the modern styles. Instead of producing "one size fit all" type designs, buildings were specifically created with surrounding environments kept in mind. By focusing on regional materials and styles, designs were capable of adopting identities that characterized its inhabitants. Whereas modernism made true use of material as well as the absence of ornament, postmodernism embraced the the complete opposite, rejecting the strict rules set by its predecessor. By seeking meaning and expression through form and stylistic reference, postmodernism sought to give architecture souls (LeCorbusier's "machines for living").
Although short-lived, these modern styles served to reflect periods of instability and desperation. Looking to find new creative outlets that broke from traditional roots, these periods quickly came and went as popular belief evolved. With communication becoming faster and more readily available, the lifespan of design periods are quickly collapsing. Ripples in design are now quickly felt by the entire world with responses spanning the industry within the blink of an eye. Although beneficial in some ways, design has lost much of its luster, quickly disregarding qualitative aspects for the ability to increase output and responsiveness.

Like the image above, truly successful design periods take time and effort to develop. However, with modern times becoming more capable of producing design periods at whim, the quality of said design styles has quickly diminished.

Counterpoint: Machine

Hopefully I'll be able to upload a better quality picture soon. I decided to go with the Sydney Opera House for my machine counterpoint. The material is represented by the steel girders held by the cranes, the people are included near the building (albeit extremely small), the symbol is embedded in the curtains and the building itself (which has become a symbol for the city), and nature is included through the use of the water. The theme of machine is present through the cranes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reading Comp #7

"Four Male Dancers" by Paul Cadmus (diagram)

The rise of the Postmodernism movement established with it stylistic changes that moved to break all notions of objective truth and narrative to emphasize motivation and subjective truth, "the accent placed on process rather than form" (Massey, pg 216). As such, Postmodernism rejected the ideas of its predecessor, Modernism, criticizing the period's definition of appropriate design as being contradictory to it's self-proclaimed theme of subjectivity. Instead, the movement sought to enrich expressionism while achieving ideal perfection throughout design, seeking to discover harmony through form and function. In the work called "Four Male Dancers" by Paul Cadmus, the drawing illustrates this perceived notion of expressive, yet definitive, form. Not only does Cadmus orient the dancers in organic positions with fluid movement in between them, he emphasizes the expressive aspect of the piece through the use of lines. Instead of using realism to define his subjects, Cadmus uses multiple lines running in unison to effectively bring about the presence of the dancers in subtle form. Respecting the theme of Postmodernism, Cadmus pulls away from the minimalistic ideals of the Modernistic style, manipulating his illustration to compliment negative space to create a highly integrated/complex composition.
The evolution of this period ultimately begins to shatter the unity of Modernism, prompting designers to "challenge, reassess, and reinvent its principles and practices [to] address the complexity, diversity, and plurality of their time" (Harwood, pg 806). From this we begin to see customization, identity, and design stemming from the individual. As seen in Kathe Kollwitz's "Selbstbildnis Von Vorn" (self portrait from the front), emphasis on the individual becomes a common characteristic of Postmodernism. Like the work of Cadmus, Kollwitz manipulates the the patterning of lines to create an image, her individualistic identity permeating throughout the entire piece. The importance of discovering this subjective truth "means burrowing deep, to find out what unconscious premise a text is based on and what the blind in the author's eye cannot see" (Roth, pg 600).
With Postmodernism taking foothold throughout the world in the latter part of the twentieth century, everything from the design of furniture to the design of a metropolitan city-layout meant finding harmony between form and function while nurturing their expressive characteristics beholden to the new-found importance of the individual.

"Selbstbildnis Von Vorn" by Kathe Kollwitz

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Reading Comp # 6

[1] A common theme of the early twentieth century found in Roth, Harwood, and Massey set the tone for an understanding of styles in architecture and design influenced by fine art. Selecting either Arts + Crafts or Art Nouveau, TRACE the influences of the selected style in more than two nations. In your answer, you should include evidence from the readings and at least two annotated images as support for your analysis of influences. [15 POINTS POSSIBLE]

An international movement comprised of various styles found throughout the world, Art Nouveau and its rejection of traditional design adopts a new visual form that amplifies dynamic and individualistic qualities. In France, Spain, and the United States, where an organic, curvilinear form of Art Nouveau is adopted, naturalistic forms are reduced to basic elements in an attempt to help convey force, energy, and organic growth. According to Harwood, the underlying concept behind the manipulation of line and form is "the desire to create a new style divorced from those of the past, that expresses a modern urbanized, commercial society."

In France and the United States, natural and organic motifs riddled with whiplash curves and plant-like movements are commonplace. Concerning France, influences from Art Nouveau can be seen in the work of Hector Guimard. Challenging traditional notions of design, Guimard created furniture pieces that conveyed vigor and free-flowing characteristics through asymmetrical form and organic curves. Clearly present in his 1899 cabinet piece, the use of natural motifs in conjunction with reinforced, curvilinear panels and drawers creates a fluid composition that emphasizes the relationship between space and form. However, in the United States, influences stemming from Art Nouveau can be seen through the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany. An American glass designer, Tiffany used opalescent glass to create glass lamp shades illustrating natural elements.

In Spain, where Arte Moderno is recognized, sculptural, eccentric, and idiosyncratic elements characterize the work of Antonio Gauidi Cornet. Widely recognized for his creative originality, his designs have permeated throughout Barcelona and Catalonia in the form of furniture, tiles, buildings, and ironwork. Often manipulating materials to create natural "renditions of flowers, trees, vegetables, and waves to create a surreal sense of place" (Harwood), Gaudi firmly joins individually designed pieces into a cohesive whole. As seen in the curving facade of Gaudi's Casa Mila in Barcelona, Spain, harmony found throughout vertical and horizontal expressions ultimately form a dynamic, fluid expression that makes use of curvilinear shapes to emphasize the separation of stories and their subsequent reflections of the sky and ground.

[2] Originating at the Bauhaus and in the work of LeCorbusier, the so-called Modern movement deeply influenced design and architecture of the twentieth century. The great debate raised by this new approach to design involved the presence of the machine in the design process and final products. SPECULATE about the implications of “machines for living” and the famous dictum “less is more” on design today. Use at least one ARTIFACT, SPACE, or BUILDING in your answer, providing a salient image (cited) and annotation to help bolster your argument. [10 POINTS POSSIBLE]

With the arrival of the Modern movement, design came to amplify and suggest the importance of utilitarian aspects and the native aesthetic appeal that stemmed from simple, purposed design. The implications of Le Corbusier's "machines for living" fronts an ideology that supports the manipulation of space , light, and order to create designs inherently machine-like. To Corbusier, expanding the utilitarian purposes of architecture to levels of aesthetic appeal allowed the expression of various features within a building to come together as inhabitants explored its interiors. Extremely related to the "less is more" dictum today, by limiting superficial design implementations, emphasis on a building's purpose and form evolves into an identity- a logical, functional design that breaks from traditional architecture and pushes for the removal of excess decoration.

The Bailey House, Case Study House #21

[3] From the assigned pages in Roth, Harwood, and Massey, SELECT an image that you believe explodes the notion that Modern interiors and objects were black and white. Fully RENDER your own design exploration of that image through color, material, and light and appropriately annotate and cite the image to prove this point. [5 POINTS POSSIBLE]

Richard Neutra: Staircase, Lovell House (Massey page 83)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Reflections Summary

For the reflections unit, I decided to review the posts belonging to Caitlyn Lyle, Cassie Bradfield, and Blakeni Delyn. Acknowledging the significance of change throughout design, each post made a conscience effort to define appropriate conditions necessary for transitional periods and revolution.
Concerning Caitlyn's post, heavy emphasis was placed on revivalism and it's influence on American architecture. According to Caityln, with the arrival of new materials and building techniques and their subsequent design changes, the revolutions occurring throughout Europe made their way across the Atlantic, finding solace within American cities. Aside from questioning periods of stifled creativity, she attempts to define the nature of revolution: that sufficient means for change originate from the gradual, yet persistent, changes that occur within the culture of a society. Well written and thought out, her post, unlike many others, helps explain the unit's historical impact on American architecture.
Cassie's post, which factors in Eastern trade and its effect on Western design, explores the idea of manipulated assimilation throughout various cultures. What deviated from the cultural norms of European society quickly become the forefront of revolution and change, taking with it the celebrations and past acceptances of traditional design. She touches upon the influences of the Industrial Revolution and its impact on modern architecture. Thoroughly expanding examples to further perpetuate her commentary, she reinforces and solidifies her knowledge of the unit.
Blakeni's post argues that transitional periods of design are inherently in conflict with time; that it attempts to find justification within the past and the present. Although she structures her post to explore the effects of various design periods, she ultimately questions the artistic validity of using machines in conjunction with design. Her post, which supplements historical references with modern examples, translates into a well written post; her focus on time calling attention to the impressionable nature of design.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Alternatives Summary

Concerning the alternatives unit, I enjoyed reading the blogs belonging to Kelly Harris, Abigail Buchanan, and Daniel Salgado. All three commentaries, which uniquely describe the alternatives unit as a whole, cohesively blend the origins of historical examples with subsequent trends and design styles.
Throughout Kelly's point, personal examples were often used to stress the importance of the material reviewed in the unit. Mentioning the significance of trial and error relative to transitional periods of design, she spearheaded her argument with a series of historical examples (front fa├žade of the Ospedale Innoconti by Brunelleschi) and personal experiences (folding paper) that helped reinforce her understanding of the unit. Because her passion for design is subtly integrated throughout her blog, I found it easy to understand and absorb, taking with me a new perspective on how modern architecture serves to reflect and embody the past.
Abigail approached the alternatives unit directly, defining points of interest that served to represent the unit as a whole. Segueing from the Gothic era to the Renaissance, Abigail provided solid examples of each design period that visually expressed the main focus of their respective time periods (Chateau Chambord, Villa Capra , etc.). Easy to understand, her personal input throughout the commentary helped reinforce the meaning of each topic without diluting the factual aspect of her post.
Daniel's post was unique in that it stressed the details of each design period with the underlying tenet that they represented architectural "bending of the rules". Defining the characteristics of each period with thorough examples and explanations, I discovered new things about the various design periods covered. The presence of "classical language" in the Gothic era and Renaissance were related in the traditional purposes that they served to mold and interpret. However, with the Baroque period, artistic endeavors found new freedom within the theatricality of the period and lack of set boundaries. As such, the insight found throughout Daniel's post was easy to pick up and absorb.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


For clock, I decided to go with paragraph and place. Using Washington, D.C. as my place, I manipulated the paragraph portion to become a visual element while maintaining its literary purpose.