part seven: less is a bore

Vanna Venturi House, Chestnut Hill PA (Robert Venturi, 1962)

introduction

purity & complexity

Purity and complexity are two of the most common competing interests in architectural design. In very general terms, we see public and professional opinion slide between these two end points on a spectrum of architectural design. Oftentimes, changing tastes lead to the disparagement by one generation of those who were considered geniuses in previous ones

  • Presentation: divergent reactions to Classicism (Wright, Baroque, Chicago office buildings, churches, Otto Wagner, Corbusier, Venturi)

Second only to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in term of its reach and influence, the Bauhaus was a surprisingly short-lived institution, considering its long legacy. Founded in 1919 by the merger of two existing fine-arts schools, its notoriety is connected with the years under Walter Gropius, when the school was housed in buildings of his design in Dessau, Germany completed in 1925.

Under Gropius, the Bauhaus crystalized the ideals of European Modernism that are also broadly on display at the Weissenhofsiedlung, an exhibition of modern home design created by the Deutscher Werkbund in 1927, and codified as the "five points" in Le Corbusier's important book, Vers une Architecture (1923). This approach to architecture, growing out of the earlier "factory style" and calls for objectivity and pure functionalism, emblemized modernity, cleanliness, and rationality to a new generation of architects and patrons. Schools followed suit by privileging architecture as a matter of "problem-solving" and aligning architecture schools increasingly with engineering programs.

For several decades, this kind of European Modernism reigned as the preferred cutting-edge of architectural design, although traditional styles remained very popular among many places and by many people. The conflict between these two modes--first aesthetic, but also sociological--burst into the public sphere and gained greater voice in the academy in the 1960s. In that decade, the historic preservation movement in America grew in significant ways; the federal government instituted regulations and programs to protect and celebrate America's built heritage, and an architect from Philadelphia published. book that, with Le Corbusier's, represents the two most important written works on architecture of the twentieth century. Although its author eschews the connection, Complexity and Contradiction (1966) launched the movement we call Post-Modernism, which has had an important impact on architectural education and practice through the present day.

From a Christian perspective...

learning objectives

At the conclusion of this part of the course, you should be able to:

  • xxxxx (REMEMBER--recall facts and basic concepts) define, duplicate, list, memorize, repeat, state
  • xxxxx (UNDERSTAND--explain ideas and concepts) classify, describe, discuss, explain, identify, locate, recognize, report, select
  • xxxxx (APPLY--use information in new situations) execute, implement, solve, use, demonstrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch
  • xxxxx (ANALYZE--draw connections among ideas) differentiate, organize, relate, compare, contrast, distinguish, examine, experiment, question, test
  • xxxxx (EVALUATE--justify a stand) appraise, argue, defend, judge, select, support, critique, weigh
  • xxxxxx (CREATE--produce new or original work) design, assemble, conjecture, develop, formulate, investigate

for Thursday (11 PM)

the Bauhaus

Actually drawing its primary inspiration from the Arts and Crafts movement, the Bauhaus ostensibly joined studies in the crafts and architecture. Learn more about this important school by watching this video:

[VIDEO]

Now take the quiz.

for Monday (11 AM)

twentieth-century theory

One of the most influential architects of the Modernist movement was Le Corbusier (born Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, 1887-1965). Born in Switzerland, he later became a French citizen. He was deeply involved in many Modernist developments in the early twentieth century, is famous for many important buildings, and also urban plans later in his career--the latter of which are the most contentious projects of his work. In addition to architectural design, Le Corbusier is known for his writings, including Vers une Architecture (1923; translated as Towards A New Architecture in 1927).

  • Read an excerpt from Le Corbusier here.

Reluctant mouthpiece of early Post-Modernism, Robert Venturi (1925-2018) gained his architectural education at Princeton before founding his Philadelphia-based practice. With his partner and wife, Denise Scott Brown (b. 1931), he  built an international practice that included many significant buildings and books, including Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966) and Learning from Las Vegas (1972).  In all of his work, Venturi challenged the alleged purity of "orthodox Modernism" with architecture that he argued was more meaningful and appropriate to modern life.

  • Read an excerpt from Venturi here.

Application

Need a project for Venturi & Corb.

for Tuesday: on campus

red yellow blue

Discussions

  • Goldberger
  • Le Corbusier & Venturi

Presentation & Reflection

  • Group work reading plans

Guest 

  • Betsy Littrel

for Tuesday: online

red yellow blue

Discussions

  • Goldberger
  • Le Corbusier & Venturi

Presentation & Reflection

  • Group work reading plans

Guest 

  • Betsy Littrel
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