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Literature Review for Special Research Project, entitled: The Utopian Fantasies of Modern Architecture

Literature Review for Special Research Project, entitled: The Utopian Fantasies of Modern Architecture

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Christopher Falconer. Originally submitted for B.A. Arts at University College Cork, with lecturer Sabine Kriebel in the category of Historical Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Christopher Falconer. Originally submitted for B.A. Arts at University College Cork, with lecturer Sabine Kriebel in the category of Historical Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
 
Date: 29/01/10Course Code: HA3013(U.C.C.)Literature Review Title: The Utopian Fantasies of ModernArchitecture
Word Count: 2,600
 
 Consulting the
Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms
1
 ,
Modern Architecture is noted as a broadterm and movement, tracing its origins to the turn of the 19
th
and into the early 20
th
century. Somecritics may argue that it can, on occasion, be an architectural style which possesses an anonymousaesthetic. However
 –
in what way does this apparent anonymous aesthetic
 –
as well as other factorswhich lend themselves to the characteristics of Modernist Architecture - remain subject to utopianaspirations of their designers? For what reasons was architecture so susceptible to this reactionarytheme contemporary to the time
 –
which resulted in such hopes being assimilated into this branchof architecture - charging it with utopian aims? How significant were the arrays of relatively newmaterials, production, and technological developments, in opening of the minds of ModernistArchitects? Once inspired with these social-conscious views, how did the likes of Le Corbusier, Taut,and other visionary practitioners approach the matter of creating environments of utopia? These arecentral question I keep in mind, as I approach this review. I shall examine relevant argumentsoffered by a small, but wide variety of key authors - whom traverse various disciplines of scholarshipincluding backgrounds in Architecture, Philosophy, Sociology, and Art and Architectural History. Inmy research, I hope to gain a greater understanding of both Modern Architecture, and the idea(myth?) of the utopia
 –
and those moments when the two meet.Beginning my research by selecting sources with a wide survey of the origins and history of Modern Architecture, I consulted Ni
kolaus Pevsner’s 1968 work entitled “
The Sources of ModernArchitecture and Design". One of the older sources which I consulted in my research, Pevsner,though German-born, places a large emphasis on British works, while offering insights into theworkings and origins of Modern Architecture. This bias aside, what stands
as testament to Pevsner’s
style is the accessibility of his language, approaching the subject in a very jargon free writing-style,which is coupled with an eagerness for inclusion of illustrations, sketch schemes, and photographicevidence
 –
as the 198 spread throughout the course of the book highlight his belief in the
1
 
Michael Clarke,
Concise Dictionary of Art Terms
, Oxford University Press, 2001, 155.
 
 
 importance of visual and stylistic analysis when approaching the discipline. Building on anaccumulation of details to make an overall summary, Pevsner tends not to focus on the social-situation at large, but on the factual elements in his historical discourse of the subject. This mannerof focus on material technology, and aesthetics leads him down the path of discussion regarding therelevancy of industry. Elaborating further, he addresses the theme of the Ideal Industrial Town
 –
 bringing to my attention, this turn-of-the-century tendency for a kind of proto-utopian idea inarchitecture
 –
an example of which is Tony Garni
er’s plans for a large
-scale Industrial town. Thisdesign gravitates around a plan which hoped to supply simple, convenient housing for workers, withthe
“aims to work in the interests of those who live and work there
.
2
However, rather thandivulging too heavily into the social results of such a project
 –
Pevsner returns to his penchant formaterial and stylistic discussion
 –
highlighting reinforced concrete - the nature of which
“combined
[the]
material’s structural and aesthetic advantages
3
 
 –
such is Pevsner style of discourse.Continuing with industrial architecture, he goes on to reference (like many others in my research
 –
 such as Curtis
4
) the Fargus Factory
 –
and the relevancy of the architect Walter Gropius also in theprocess.
5
Praising
Gropius’
Classical influences in his work,
Pevsner also raises the matter of Gropius’
 influence upon Frank Lloyd Wright
6
, whose visions of the new house raise for me, the issue of architecture which promotes utopian ideologies, not on city-wide scales
 –
but in the microcosm of the home. Later, Pevsner notes briefly the American school of Modern Architecture
7
, with shortdiscussion also to Futurist Architecture - with
names such as Sant ‘Elia
arising, noting their emphasison a commitment to the city
 –
which has potential relevancy to my research.
8
 
2
 
Nikolaus Pevsner,
The Sources of Modern Architecture and Design,
156
3
 
Ibid. 159 
4
 
William Curtis,
Modern Architecture Since 1900.
 
5
 
Ibid. 176 
6
 
Ibid. 179 
7
 
Ibid. 180 
8
 
Ibid. 194 

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