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Modern Architecture

Modern Architecture is the term given to the range of approaches in

architecture, first appearing at the beginning of the 20th century, that rejected
historic precedent as a source of architectural inspiration and considered function
as the prime generator of form, employing materials and technology in a honest

This short definition is to a certain extent inadequate because there are a range
of interpretations as to the origin and rise of Modern Architecture, and what
constitutes Modern Architecture itself, depending on the frame of reference of the

Some historians see the evolution of Modern Architecture as closely tied to the
Project of Modernity and hence to the Enlightenment, the Social/ Political
revolutions, general progress of mankind, and so on. Here the origin is placed
much earlier, modern town planning and housing are also brought into the range.
Others see technological and engineering developments as key to the rise of
Modern architecture. Hence the usage of new materials such as iron, steel,
concrete and glass is ascribed an important place, with the Crystal Palace by
Joseph Paxton to house the Great Exhibition of 1851 or the apartment building
by Auguste Perret serving as important examples. Some historians see the rise
of Modern architecture as a reaction to the Eclectism and poor taste of the
Victorian Era fuelled by the possibilities of theIndustrial Revolution. Here
precursor movements such as the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Art
Nouveau are brought in to bridge the gap. Yet others cite modern art movements
such as Cubism and De Stijl as fundamentally altering the way in which buildings
are designed by bringing in qualities of art into architecture.

All these reasons are equally valid.

Finally Modern Architecture is characterised by the way in which it

• attempts to express function, materials and technology in an honest way

• works to provide functional buildings to all people with an economy of
• employs art as a means of ordering form
• rejects historical precedent.
• explicitly attempts to express all the above in its building manifestations.

Some morphological characteristics of buildings under this style -free plan,

universal space, walls freed from the function of load bearing, cantilevers, glass
at corners of buildings, use of concrete.
Modern architecture was disseminated through individuals( Le Corbusier, Mies
van der Rohe, Frank Lloyd Wright), movements (De Stijl, Art Nouveau) and
schools (Bauhaus). The Bauhaus, the architecture school in Germany started in
1919, was the most influential school and under various directors the ideology
differed slightly. However, the fundamental aim was to unite art and technolgy to
produce good design. With the rise of the Nazis, the important people associated
with the school, and hence its ideas, shifted to the United States. Modern
architecture began to be called the International style after the exhibition
conducted in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, United States, showcasing
works of Modern Architecture.

A criticism of Modern Architecture began from the 1960s on the grounds that it
was universal,sterile, elitist and lacked meaning. The rise of Postmodernism is
attributed to the general disenchantment with Modern architecture.

Some catch phrases of Modern Architecture

"Form Follows Function"- first used by sculptor Horatio Greenough, more

popularly by Louis Sullivan

"Ornament is a crime"- Adolf Loos

"Less is more"- Mies van der Rohe

"Less is more only when more is too much"- Frank Lloyd Wright
Modernity is a type, mode, or stage of society, initially confined to the recent
history of West European countries from the Renaissance to the rise of mass
media, and characterized by a larger-scale integration of formerly isolated local
communities and departure from tradition and religion toward individualism,
rational or scientific organization of society, and egalitarianism. A society in the
state of modernity is called a modern society. The process of a society becoming
a modern society is called modernization. The most defining events in the
modern period include:

• Rise of the nation state,

• Industrialization,
• Rise of capitalism,
• Emergence of socialist countries,
• Rise of representative democracy,
• Increasing role of science and technology,
• Urbanization,
• Proliferation of mass media,

The more particular events in the West European history include:

• The Age of Discovery

• The Renaissance
• The Enlightenment
• The Reformation and Counter Reformation
• The French Revolution
• The American Revolution
• The Industrial Revolution

It is usually suggested that some or most of these events led to the more
complete realization of modern society in Europe.
Table of contents
1 Defining Characteristics of Modernity
2 Modernity as hope, modernity as doom
3 Modernity and the contemporary society
Defining Characteristics of Modernity

There have been numerous attempts, particularly in the field of sociology, to

understand what modernity is. A wide variety of terms are used to describe the
society, social life, driving force, symptomatic mentality, or some other defining
aspects of modernity. They include: Bureaucracy, Disenchantment of the world,
Rationalization, Secularization, Alienation, Commodification, Decontexutalization,
Individualism, Subjectivism, Linear-progression, Objectivism, Universalism,
Reductionism, Chaos, Mass society, Industrial society, Homogenization,
Unification, Hybridization, Diversification, Democratization, Centralization,
Hierarchical organization, Mechanization, Totalitarian, and so on.

Modernity is often characterized by comparing modern societies to premodern or

postmodern ones, and the understanding of those non-modern social statuses is,
again, far from a settled issue. To an extent, it is reasonable to doubt the very
possibility of a descriptive concept that can adequately capture diverse realities
of societies of various historical contexts, especially non-European ones, let
alone a three-stage model of social evolution from premodernity to

However, in terms of social structure, many of the defining events and

characteristics listed above stem from a transition from relatively isolated local
communities to a more integrated large-scale society. Understood this way,
modernization might be a general, abstract process which can be found in many
different parts of histories, rather than a unique event in Europe.

In general, large-scale integration involves:

• Increased movement of goods, capital, people, and information among formerly separate
areas, and increased influence that reaches beyond a local area.
• Increased formalization of those mobile elements, development of 'circuits' on which
those elements and influences travel, and standardization of many aspects of the society
in general that is conducive to the mobility.
• Increased specialization of different segments of society, such as the division of labor,
and interdependency among areas.

Seemingly contradictory characteristics ascribed to modernity are often different

aspects of this process. For example, unique local culture is invaded and lost by
the increased mobility of cultural elements, such as recipes, folktales, and hit
songs, resulting in a cultural homogenization across localities, but the repertoire
of available recipes and songs increases within a area because of the increased
interlocal movement, resulting in a diversification within each locality. (This is
manifest especially in large metropolises where there are many mobile
elements). Centralized bureaucracy and hierarchical organization of
governments and firms grows in scale and power in an unprecedented manner,
leading some to lament the stifling, cold, rationalist or totalitarian nature of
modern society. Yet individuals, often as replaceable components, may be able
to move in those social subsystems, creating a sense of liberty, dynamic
competition and individualism for others. This is especially the case when a
modern society is compared with premodern societies, in which the family and
social class one is born into shapes one's lifecourse to a greater extent.

These social changes are somewhat common to many different levels of social
integration, and not limited to what happened to the West European societies in a
specific time period. For example, these changes might happen when formerly
separate virtual communities merge. Similarly, when two human beings develop
a close relationship, communication, convention, and increased division of roles
tend to emerge. Another example can be found in ongoing globalization - the
increased international flows changing the landscape for many. In other words,
while modernity has been characterized in many seemingly contradictory ways,
many of those characterizations can be reduced to a relatively simple set of
concepts of social change.

At the same time, however, such an understanding of modernity is certainly not

satisfactory to many, because it fails to explain the global influence of West
European and American societies since the Renaissance. Mere large-scale
integration of local communities, seen in the Macedonia of Alexander the Great
or the Mongolia of the Khans, would not necessarily result in the same
magnitude of influence as the West European modernization. What has made
Western Europe so special?

There have been two major answers to this question. First, an internal factor is
that only in Europe, through the Renaissance humanists and early modern
philosophers and scientists, rational thinking came to replace many intellectual
activities that had been under heavy influence of convention, superstition, and
religion. This line of answer is most frequently associated with Max Weber, a
sociologist who is known to have pursued the answer to the above question.

Second, an external factor is that colonization, starting as early as the Age of

Discovery, created exploitative relations between European countries and their
colonies. This view has notably been explored by the world systems theory of
Emanuel Wallerstein.

It is also notable that such commonly-observed features of many modern

societies as the nuclear family, slavery, gender roles, and nation states do not
necessarily fit well with the idea of rational social organization in which
components such as people are treated equally. While many of these features
have been dissolving, histories seem to suggest those features may not be mere
exceptions to the essential characteristics of modernization, but necessary parts
of it.
Modernity as hope, modernity as doom

Modernization brought a series of seemingly undisputable benefits to people.

Lower infant mortality rate, decreased death from starvation, eradication of some
of the fatal diseases, more equal treatment of people with different backgrounds
and incomes, and so on. To some, this is an indication of the potential of
modernity, perhaps yet to be fully realized. In general, rational, scientific
approach to problems and the pursuit of economic wealth seems still to many a
reasonable way of understanding good social development.

At the same time, there are a number of dark sides of modernity pointed out by
sociologists and others.

Technological development occurred not only in the medical and agricultural

fields, but also in the military. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki during World War II, and the following nuclear arms race in the post-
war era, are considered by some as symbols of the danger of technologies that
humans may or may not be able to handle wisely.

Stalin's Great Purges and the Holocaust (or Shoah) are considered by some as
indications that rational thinking and rational organization of a society might
involve exclusion, or extermination, of non-standard elements. It is pointed out by
some that homosexuals, criminals, and the mentally ill are also among the
excluded in the modern society.

Environmental problems comprise another category in the dark side of

modernity. Pollution is perhaps the least controversial of these, but one may
include decreasing biodiversity and climate change as results of development.
The development of biotechnology and genetic engineering are creating what
some consider sources of unknown risks.

Besides these obvious incidents, many critics point out psychological and moral
hazards of modern life - alienation, feeling of rootlessness, loss of strong bonds
and common values, hedonism, and so on. This is often accompanied by a re-
evaluation of pre-modern communities, though such criticism may slip into a
nostalgia for an idealized past.

Modernity and the contemporary society

There is an ongoing debate about the relationship between modernity and present societies. The
debate has two dimensions. First, there is an empirical question of whether some of the present
societies can be understood as a variation of modernity (such as hyper-modernity) or as a
distinctive type, such as postmodernity. Second, there is a judgement of whether modernization
has been, and is, desirable for a society. Seemingly new phenomena such as globalization, the
end of the Cold War, ethnic conflicts, and the proliferation of information technologies are taken
by some as reasons to adopt a new vision to navigate social development.
The Enlightenment
In the period known as The Age of Enlightenment, Eighteenth-century Europe
saw remarkable cultural changes characterized by a loss of faith in traditional
religious sources of authority and a turn toward human rights, science, rational
thoughts and the replacement of theocracies and autocracies with democratic

One of the influences on the Enlightenment consisted of reports of Catholic

priests in China which served as a model for a secular enlightened despot.

The upheavals of the Enlightenment led directly to the American Revolutionary

War as well as the French Revolution and significantly influenced the Industrial
Revolution. Enlightenment ideas were also strongly influential in the Constitution
of the United States.

The Enlightenment was also marked by the rise of capitalism and the wide
availability of printeded materials. The French encyclopedia (L'Encyclopédie)
combined free-thinking articles with technological information.

One important response to the Enlightenment within the European Jewish

community was the Haskalah movement.

The concept of a single, Europe-wide movement may of course be challenged in

detail: it reflects a cultural dominance of French thought. One may also pursue
the German, Scottish and other national movements.

Important figures of the Enlightenment era include:

• Thomas Paine
• Jean le Rond d'Alembert
• Denis Diderot
• Edward Gibbon
• David Hume
• Thomas Jefferson
• Gotthold Lessing
• John Locke
• Montesquieu
• Isaac Newton
• Adam Smith
• Benedict Spinoza
• Voltaire

See also French materialism, Protestant Reformation, enlightened absolutism

Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period of the 18th century marked by social
and technological change in which manufacturing began to rely on steam power,
fueled primarily by coal, rather than on animal labor, or on water or wind power;
and by a shift from artisans who made complete products to factories in which
each worker completed a single stage in the manufacturing process.
Improvements in transportation encouraged the rapid pace of change.

The causes of the Industrial Revolution remain a topic for debate with some
historians seeing it as an outgrowth from the social changes of the Enlightenment
and the colonial expansion of the 17th century.

The Industrial Revolution began in the English Midlands and spread throughout
England and into continental Europe and the northern United States in the 19th
century. Before the improvements made to the pre-existing steam engine by
James Watt and others, all manufacturing had to rely for power on wind or water
mills or muscle power produced by animals or humans. But with the ability to
translate the potential energy of steam into mechanical force, a factory could be
built away from streams and rivers, and many tasks that had been done by hand
in the past could be mechanized. If, for example, a lumber mill had been limited
in the number of logs it could cut in a day due to the amount of water and
pressure available to turn the wheels, the steam engine eliminated that
dependence. Grain mills, thread and clothing mills, and wind driven water pumps
could all be converted to steam power as well.

Shortly after the steam engine was developed, a steam locomotive called The
Rocket was invented by Robert Stephenson, and the first steam-powered ship
was invented by Robert Fulton. These inventions, and the fact that machines
were not taxed as much as people, caused large social upheavals, as small mills
and cottage industries that depended on a stream or a group of people putting
energy into a product could not compete with the energy derived from steam.
With locomotives and steamships, goods could now be transferred very quickly
across a country or ocean, and within a reasonably predictable time, since the
steam plants provided consistent power, unlike transportation relying on wind or
animal power.

One question that has been of active interest to historians is why the Industrial
Revolution occurred in Europe and not in other parts of the world, particularly
China. Numerous factors have been suggested including ecology, government,
and culture. Benjamin Elman argues that China was in a high level equilibrium
trap in which the non-industrial methods were efficient enough to prevent use of
industrial methods with high capital costs. Kenneth Pommeranz in the Great
Divergence argues that Europe and China were remarkably similar in 1700 and
that the crucial differences which created the Industrial Revolution in Europe
were sources of coal near manufacturing centers and raw materials such as food
and wood from the New World which allowed Europe to economically expand in
a way that China could not.

The debate around the concept of the initial startup of the Industrial revolution
also concerns the 100 year lead Great Britain had over the other European
countries. While some have stressed the importance of natural or financial
ressources, others have looked at the social aspects and theorized that the
British advance was due to the presence of an entrepreneurial class which
believed in progress, technology and hard work. The existence of this class is
often linked to the Protestant work ethic and the particular status of dissenting
protestant sects that had flourished with the English revolution.

The dissenters found themselves barred or discouraged from some public offices
when the restoration of the monarchy took place and membership in the official
Anglican church became once more an important advantage. Historians
sometimes consider this social factor to be extremely important along with the
nature of the national economies involved. While members of these sects were
excluded from certain circles of the government they were considered as fellow
protestants to a limited extent by many groups of the middle class, such as
traditional financiers or other businessmen. Given this relative tolerance and the
supply of capital the natural outlet for the more enterprising members of these
sects would be to seek new opportunities in the technologies created in the wake
of the Scientific revolution of the 17th century.

This argument has on the whole tended to neglect the fact that several inventors
and entrepreneurs were rational free thinkers or "Philosophers" typical of a
certain class of British intellectuals in the late 18th century, and were thus not
considered as good Anglicans. Examples of these free thinkers were the Lunar
Society of Birmingham (flourished 1765-1809). Its members were exceptional in
that they were among the very few who were conscious that an industrial
revolution was taking place in Great Britain. They actively worked as a group to
encourage it, not least by investing in it and conducting scientific experiments
which led to innovative products.

The transition to industrialisation was not wholly smooth, for in England the
Luddites - workers who saw their livelihoods threatened - protested against the
process and sometimes sabotaged factories.

Industrialisation also led to the creation of the factory, and was largely
responsible for the rise of the modern city, as workers migrated into the cities in
search of employment in the factories.
Arts and Crafts movement
The Arts and Crafts Movement is the name given to a reformist movement at
first inspired by the writings of John Ruskin that was at its height ca 1880-1910.
The movement influenced British decorative arts, architecture, furniture design,
crafts and even the 'cottage' garden designs of William Robinson or Gertrude
Jekyll. Its main publicists were William Morris, Charles Robert Ashbee and
Walter Crane. Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and artists in the Pre-Raphaelite
movement. The Arts and Crafts movement was part of the major English
aesthetic movement of the last years of the 19th century.

The Arts and Crafts Movement began primarily as a search for authentic and
meaningful styles for the 19th century and as a reaction to the eclectic historicism
of the Victorian era and to 'soulless' machine-made production aided by the
Industrial Revolution. Considering the machine to be the root cause of all evils,
the protagonists of this movement turned completely away from the use of
machines and towards handcraft, which tended to concentrate their productions
in the hands of sensitive but well-heeled patrons. Though the spontaneous
personality of the designer became more central than the historical 'style' of a
design, certain tendencies stood out: reformist Gothic influences, rustic and
'cottagey' surfaces, repeating designs, vertical and elongated forms. In order to
express the beauty inherent in craft, some of the products were deliberately left
slightly unfinished, resulting in a certain rustic and robust effect. There were also
sentimental Socialist undertones to this movement in that another primary aim
was for people to derive satisfaction from what they do. This satisfaction, the
proponents of this movement felt, was totally denied in compartmentalised
machine production.

The Red House, Bexleyheath, London (1859), by architect Philip Webb for
William Morris himself, is a work exemplary of this movement. There is a
deliberate attempt at expressing surface textures of ordinary materials such as
stone, tiles, etc., with an asymmetrical and quaint building composition. William
Morris formed the Kelmscott Press and also had a shop where he designed and
sold products such as wall paper, textiles, furniture etc.

Widely exhibited in Europe, the Arts and Crafts Movement's qualities of simplicity
and truthful expression negating historicism inspired designers like Henry van de
Velde and movements such as Art Nouveau, the Dutch De Stijl group, Viennese
Secessionstil and eventually the Bauhaus.

In the United States, it spawned complimentary and sympathetic movements

such as the 'Mission' furniture of Gustave Stickley, the 'Prairie School' architects
and designers round the youthful Frank Lloyd Wright, and Craftsman style studio
pottery, exemplified by Rookwood pottery emphasized the craftsman's touch.
Art Nouveau
Daum, Nancy circa 1900
Art Nouveau is an art and design style that peaked in popularity at the turn of
the 20th century. At the time it was often simply referred to as Modern style, as
was the Rococo style in its own time. Other, more localized terms for the cluster
of self-consciously radical, somewhat mannered reformist chic that formed a
prelude to 20th-century Modernism, included Jugendstil in Germany, named for
the snappy avant-garde periodical Jugend ('Youth'), Sezessionstil in Vienna,
where forward-looking artists and designers seceded from the mainstream salon
exhibitions, to exhibit on their own in more congenial surroundings. In Italy, Stile
Liberty was named for the London shop that had been distributing good modern
design emanating from the Arts and Crafts movement, a sign both of the Art
Nouveau's commercial aspect and the 'imported' character it always retained in

Art Nouveau started in the 1880s and had its climax in years 1892-1902. The
name 'Art Nouveau' derived from the name of a shop in Paris, run by Samuel
Bing, who showcased some objects that followed this approach to design.

One of the most important characteristics of the style is a dynamic, undulating

and flowing, curved 'whiplash' line of syncopated rhythm. Conventional moldings
seem to spring to life and 'grow' into plant-derived forms.

As an art movement it has certain affinities with the Pre-Raphaelites and the
Symbolist painters, and certain figures like Aubrey Beardsley. Alfons Mucha,
Edward Burne-Jones, Gustav Klimt, and Jan Toorop could be classed in more
than one of these styles. Unlike Symbolist painting, however, Art Nouveau had a
distinctive visual look of its own; and unlike the backwards-looking Pre-
Raphaelites, Art Nouveau was not shy about the use of new materials, machined
surfaces, and abstraction in the service of pure design.

Glass making was an area in which the style found tremendous expression— for
example, the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany in New York and Emile Gallé in
Nancy, France.

Art Nouveau in architecture and interior design eschewed the eclectic historicism
of the Victorian era. Though Art Nouveau designers did select and 'modernize'
some of the more abstract elements of Rococo style, such as flame and shell
textures, in place of the historically-derived and basically tectonic or realistic
naturalistic ornament of High Victorian styles, Art Nouveau advocated the use of
highly-stylized Nature as the source of inspiration and expanded the 'natural'
repertory to embrace seaweed, grasses, insects. Correspondingly organic forms,
curved lines, especially floral or vegetal, etc., began to be used. Japanese wood-
block prints with their curved lines, patterned surfaces and contrasting voids, and
flatness of their picture-plane, also inspired Art Nouveau. Some line and curve
patterns became graphic clichés that were later found in works of artists from all
parts of the world. An important fact is that Art Nouveau did not negate the
machine as other movements such as the Arts and Crafts Movement but used it
to its advantage. In terms of material usage, the principal ones employed were
glass and wrought iron, leading to a very sculpturesque quality even in

Art Nouveau at its best is considered a total style, meaning that it encompasses
a hierarchy of scales in design— architecture, interior design, furniture and textile
design, utensils and art objects, lighting, etc.

A high point in the evolution of Art Nouveau was the Universal Exposition of 1900
in Paris, in which the 'Modern Style' triumphed in every medium. In the following
decade, the new style was so rapidly commercialized in trivial mass-production
that Art Nouveau was looked down upon after about 1907, and the term was
ascribed a pejorative meaning.

The principal centers of the style were :

• London
• Paris
• Brussels
• Nancy
• Chicago
• New York
• Glasgow
• Barcelona
• Amsterdam
• Darmstadt
• Munich
• Berlin
• Vienna
• Ålesund
• Oslo
• Riga
Among the most remarkable artists of Art Nouveau are:

• Architecture
o August Endel
o Antoni Gaudi
o Victor Horta
o Josef Hoffman
o Hector Guimard
o Charles Mackintosh
o Louis Sullivan
o Otto Wagner
• Drawing, Graphics
o Aubrey Beardsley
o Gaston Gerard
o Alfons Mucha
o Edvard Munch
o Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
o Pierre Bonnard
• Furniture
o Carlo Bugatti
o Eugène Gaillard
o Louis Majorelle
o Henry van de Velde
• Glassware
o Daum Frères
o Emile Gallé
o René Lalique
o Louis Comfort Tiffany
• Other decorative arts
o Charles R. Ashbee
o Samuel Bing
o William Bradley
o Jules Brunfaut
o Hermann Obrist
o Philippe Wolfers
• Murals and mosaics
o Gustav Klimt

Nowadays Art Nouveau is viewed as a forerunner of the most innovative cultural

movements of the 20th century like expressionism, cubism, surrealism, and Art

External link

• L'art nouveau à Bruxelles : cfr EuroBRU.(French)