ARC 331: Modernisms

quiz 3

Maison Horta, Brussels (1898)

general: Art Nouveau; specific: Coup de Fouet

1. This is a common design with the "whiplash" in Belgium or Paris (only 200 miles apart). 500 miles away in Barcelona, the general style would still be shown in unique decorative arts looking at establishing a new identity different from tradition. However, use of trencadis and other colorful ceramics that are tied to regional crafts make their specific modernisme look very differnet.

2. Art Nouveau was "new art" and specific to each culture or region. As such the style in Spain would be dramatically different, as seen in Casa Vicens or the Palau de la Musica ... each style was meant to define and show each cultural identity.

Goetheanum, Dornach, Switzerland (Rudolf Steiner: 1924)

This building's unique shape reminds me of the Einstein Tower. The material similarly is concrete which was able to capture the cohesive volumes of this building The colored stairwell reminds of of the description of the glass pavilions interior that was full of color.

This building is Expressionist because of the similarities accounted in the first paragraph Also, the unique form that was attained by reinforced concrete and its color prompts an emotional response.

Marquette Building, Chicago (Holabird & Roche, 1895)

It shows terra cotta ornament, preseumably a steel frame, developed to protect from fire. Three-part Chicago windows, with one fixed pane and two operable. Cornice is usual of Chicago at this time. This building has a curtain wall of terra cotta and wide glass windows. Steel structure.

Note also: overall grid-like quality of facade, flat roof, and three-part Classical design. Also, lots of you pegged this as Sullivan but I invite you to reconsider: compare the Marquette's highly Classicizing ornament with something more Sullivanesque. 

Finally, review the aesthetic variety in the lesson and see there is no "Chicago style" except for this.

Biltmore House, Asheville NC (Richard Morris Hunt, 1895, for George Washington Vanderbilt II)

Gilded Age (/American Renaissance)

1. He most likely sought to learn from l'ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. This school did not set style boundaries but emphaszied symmetry, axes and functions as we can see in this interior. The atttempt to communicate welath with the exaggerated fireplace and the  amount of decoration that seem to be from different places makes me think this architect worked for a wealthy family during the Gilded Age.

2. Many Gilded-Age architects, like Hunt, had training in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, this can seen in the axiality fo the room, and its "approved historical precedent" , for ex. in the large frieze on the fireplace. The whole thing looks like a medieval court.

week of

March 22-27


How has the debate between handcraft and machine work continued to play out in a world that appears to be only increasingly dependent on technology?

The war brought mass devastation to populations and settlements alike. The destruction to city centers with new airborne machines of war led some architects and planners (Frank Lloyd Wright among them) to declare cities obsolete and suggest that other new mechanical inventions, like personal automobiles, could effect a positive change by allowing people to build decentralized cities connected by long highways. In the midst of these theoretical ideals about inherently new ways to plan cities (which would see plenty of application in suburban sprawl within a few decades), architects rebuilt cities destroyed by war and extended them with new options in housing, which were sorely needed after the cessation of hostilities. Due to the political nature of most European states, government agencies became a prime client of architecture and, in an era that heralded scientific certainty as a way forward for humankind, embraced architects who could claim hygiene and rationalism as important values in their work. Even without such alleged scientific approaches to design, self-consciously modern architects following different paths (notably, Expressionism), created memorable projects as well. The building type is ripe for the continued conversation between traditions of hand and craft vs. the art of the machine.

learning objectives

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

  • Identify main modern monuments in the period by name, date, designer/client and location (KNOWLEDGE)
  • Define terminology specific to technique, style and structure (KNOWLEDGE)
  • Describe integration of technology (material and non-material) in individual monuments (KNOWLEDGE)
  • Explain stylistic/technical changes in design as they relate to cultural context (COMPREHENSION)
  • Summarize the main concepts in important works of theory by key writers, especially those surrounding the Deutscher Werkbund (COMPREHENSION)
  • Explain the development of the vocation/profession of building designers, especially considering the role of women in architectural practice (comprehension)
  • Visually analyze buildings from this period to suggest date, place, and designer (ANALYSIS)
  • Evaluate different theoretical and design approaches and defend personal preference for one or more (EVALUATE)

part 1

Coming Home

One of the most interesting stories in the history of housing unfolded in the Netherlands, which had a particularly well-organized approach, both through government policy and private agency, to build residential units at great scale. Also interesting is that the Netherlands was home to two very different schools of thought regarding architectural design, and which represent competing theoretical/aesthetic views right after the war.

  • Read: Gelernter, chap. 8
  • Read: Colquhoun: chap. 7 & 8

Materials are certainly a part of this story. For another perspective on two of the most important (or at least common) materials in the early twentieth century, and which were used by some architects for particular expressive goals, scan these two websites:


part 2


Of the many -isms covered in the last lesson and that characterize the many modernisms in the early twentieth century, Expressionism took the greatest hold, especially in northern Europe.


Germans embraced Expressionism in multiple media, including film, fine art, and architecture. Primary among them was the group who in 1907 founded the Deutscher Werkbund in Munich. Enthused by the Arts and Crafts movement, they sought to follow its ideals but also integrate developments in German industry. Their ill-timed exhibition in Cologne, which opened in 1914 (and closed sooner than expected, for reasons that should be obvious), had a great collection of buildings, many of them based in Expressionist points of view. See this decent collection of images to get a taste of the great variety.

Germany is home to one of the great monuments of Expressionism, which you can visit here:

The Amsterdam School

The ideals of Expressionism were embraced by the Amsterdam School, a collection of architects who embraced vernacular massing and historical qualities of Dutch detail along with the prevalent use of such traditional materials as brick and tile, while complicating all of it with undulating and imaginative forms, ornament, art glass, ironwork, integrated sculpture, and anything else that was somewhat recognizable, still fairly modern, and overall highly engaging and humane in scale.

The most famous of housing projects are the three that J. Michel de Klerk completed on the  Spaarndammerplantsoen in Amsterdam (1913, 1914, and, the most famous part, 1919). Watch this Dutch video with subtitles:

part 3

The Neues Bauen

Expressionism was more closely aligned with traditions of artistry, emotion, and individuality that emerged from the Art Nouveau. The shift that we see, generally in the avant garde, from this approach to the more abstract and universal elements of the Neues Bauen did not happen easily. It took the form of a rather formalized argument within one of Europe's most important alliances of designers.

Deutscher Werkbund

Soon after its founding, the Werkbund membership began to argue over the ultimate place of handwork, individual creativity, mechanization, and factory production, in design. The central arguments are represented by its two leaders:

  • Henry Van de Velde (theory excerpt coming soon)
  • Hermann Muthesius (theory excerpt coming soon)

The Werkbund's ultimate rejection of his ideas led Van de Velde to part ways with the group. In apparently short order, the ideals of abstraction and industry swept Europe's avant-garde, and are particularly evident in two major projects tied to a small group of influential designers who drew inspiration from the reductive, efficient work of engineers and the building materials that seemed perfected after the War.

The Bauhaus

The formation of the Bauhaus from two pre-existing institutions--a fine arts academy, and a craft school--was accompanied by Walter Gropius' manifesto of 1919.

The frontispiece of the manifesto was illustrated as you see to the left, with a woodcut called "Cathedral" by Lyonel Feininger, head of the printmaking workshop at the Bauhaus. It reveals the continued influence of Expressionism at the establishment of the Bauhaus--for aesthetic and restorative reasons, Expressionism was still seen as a Utopian ideal.

In 1922, a new logo was adopted, this one by painter, designer, choreographer and sculptor Oskar Schlemmer. Drawn from the influence of de Stijl and Russian Constructivism, the new logo was more abstract, industrial, and mechanistic--showing the shifting tide of avant-garde taste and influence of the Werkbund.

The Weissenhofsiedlung

These prevailing ideals of abstraction took over the Deutscher Werkbund's 1927 exhibition, which was dedicated to housing. Drawing on the talents of twenty-one European architects, the project put forward an idea for new housing to be efficient, rectilinear, with flat roofs and no ornament, making extensive use of what at least looked like industrial materials.

Like the Columbian Exposition before it, the 1927 exhibition in Stuttgart required a single mind to organize the work of dozens of other architects. This time, it was Mies van der Rohe. Although he was 40, Mies had not yet committed to the Neues Bauen/International Style architecture that we know him for. This video illustrates how Mies, whom we so often think as one of the great Modernists, embodied the shifting and varied tides of theory and aesthetics in the early decades of the century.


  • How many different phases did Mies pass through? What "residue" or imprint did they leave on Mies' mature work?
  • Rate this project

part 4

Women and the Modernist Movements

Looking at post-war architecture in the Netherlands brings up another point about the growth of the profession. It had been a few decades since university programs were founded in the US and Europe for the education of architects. More so than the traditions of architects emerging from the building trades, this opened the door for women to enter the profession--at least, that's what one might assume. Gender bias hung about the profession in more or less obvious ways. Read this short blogpost to be introduced to the first woman to become a professional architect in the Netherlands, Margaret Staal-Kropholler, who designed apartment blocks and artist cottages, and her educational/professional hurdles and opportunities. Further, watch this trailer for a documentary on her life and work:

Staal-Kropholler could be called a trailblazer, although few were able to follow in her footsteps--at least, right away. Issues of social decorum and social standing hindered women who might aspire to architecture.

The same was true in the other main camp among the avant-garde in Europe. Although the Deutscher Werkbund had a woman director by 1920, it could not be described as being overall encouraging to women. Nor  was the Bauhaus. In spite of Gropius' policy that women would be admitted alongside male students, there also remained quotas that ensured more men than women could enroll. Moreover, Gropius believed in prevailing "science" that purported that the weakness of the female brain could be proven by data such as its typically smaller size than men's brains (as well as a connection between cognitive activity and grip strength, which has likewise since been proven tosh). Since he was in charge, Gropius could control the enrollment of women in the Bauhaus, and steered them toward the more "feminine" crafts of weaving, pretty much forbidding them from architecture. Even work in the metals studio was suspect, although the super work of Marianne Brandt--designer of the single-most sought-after product of the Bauhaus, ever--shows what kind of great talent could be pursued in these settings. Makes one wonder what might have happened if she was allowed to work in architecture.

In spite of these challenges, many women did succeed in the profession of architecture, and in different realms. The first woman at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts was Julia Morgan; Marion Mahoney-Griffei was equal partner with her husband on the design of the Australian capital. Margarete “Grete” Schütte-Lihotzky worked alongside Loos and is famous for her scientifically-derived prefabricated kitchen design, intended to increase the time women could spend outside of the house. Amaza Lee Meredith ignored all kinds of bias to establish a practice in homebuilding in the South as a mixed-race woman. Jane Drew collaborated with Le Corbusier while Eileen Gray pretty much killed him with this house of 1926.

part 5

Essay 2


Spanning the Red House and the Bauhaus, the debate of handcraft vs. machine work and individual inspiration vs. universal principles remains a lingering issue in a profession founded millennia ago in traditions of craft and sustaining itself through rising tides of industrialization, through the twentieth century and beyond. This messy history speaks precisely to the issue of technological determinism: To what extent are architects beholden to technology? Are they its master or its servant? How does this historical period, roughly from 1850-1950, help you think about your future in the profession?

For your second essay for ARC 331, you will reflect on the historical context of this argument (from the British Arts and Crafts movement, through its many "Arts Nouveaux" iterations, through the Deutscher Werkbund and emergence of the Neues Bauen and into the middle of the twentieth century) as a way to consider your own future. In short, your essay should address:

  1. Historical context of the issue, drawing from the many materials provided in the several lessons that span this timeframe (the lesson text on webpages, textbooks, videos, and theory excerpts), including a small number of pertinent examples. This is a lengthy and varied history; you will need to be selective, focused, and critical in the way you tell this history.
  2. Based on analysis and evidence, your personal evaluation and defense of your stance. In short, which of the architects or schools of thought within this timeframe represent what you think is the good and proper way for architects to pursue their work?
  3. Important: this is a historical critique, and like any historical work will be guided by your perceptions and preferences. Be aware of how the latter inform the former: the historical critique is the focus of this paper; it is not a personal reflection (note that "EVALUATION" is just one of five objectives listed below).


This assignment addresses fundamental learning objectives of the course, especially your ability to:

  • Display your familiarity with main modern monuments, designers, and terminology specific to technique, style and structure (KNOWLEDGE)
  • Describe the integration of technology, both material and non-material, in different buildings and in the work of different architects (KNOWLEDGE)
  • Explain stylistic/technical differences among designs as they relate to cultural context (COMPREHENSION)
  • Summarize the main concepts in important works of theory (COMPREHENSION)
  • Evaluate different theoretical and design approaches and defend personal preference for one or more (EVALUATE)

Essays shall be no more than 1,000 words long. In lieu of a cover sheet, simply include your name, the course number and date in a header. Provide a title for your essay that indicates its thesis. For foot/end-notes, use the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style and use the “Notes and Bibliography” format. Illustrations, which should be numbered/labeled and referred to within the text with parenthetical notation [e.g., "(fig. 1)"] should be included on an additional sheet.

  • DRAFT due: Tues., April 2 at 1 PM. Email your paper, as an attachment in Word, to Dr. Amundson and your peer reviewer(s) .  You can organize this review however you like. In future, you'll be asked how this process helped your writing process.
  • Use this rubric  as you develop your paper to make sure that you have addressed the requirements of the assignment.
  • FINAL due: Monday., April 15 at 1 PM. Email your paper, as an attachment in Word, to Dr. Amundson. In the body of your email, briefly explain how the review and rewriting phase helped your writing process.

additional resources

Additional Resources

The German Pavilion in Barcelona

The Bauhaus

additional material

De Stijl

Just as the third and final part of the Spaarndammerplantsoen project was underway, a competing school was gaining popularity through a new publication and related artworks that would eventually inform a great swath of modernist thinking and architecture. De Stijl takes its name from its mouthpiece, a journal first published in 1917. The concept of De Stjil was as starkly opposed to Expressionism/the Amsterdam School as possible, based on values of impersonal, universal design of pure abstraction comprising forms reduced to the essentials of flat geometries and pure colors.

The primary monument is Truss Schroder's House in Utrecht:

Hard to really achieve in three dimensions (unlike paintings, architecture has a requirement to seal its corners), De Stijl principles were adopted by architects far outside of the Netherlands. Consider the disposition of planes to only vaguely define space in the German Pavilion in Barcelona; in particular, compare its plan with a Mondrian drawing and you'll see the comparison easily.

While De Stjil imposed certain limits of realistic building, it also offered many ideals for abstraction of form and the application of industrial materials to architecture in a way that was more compelling and useful than the only other significant theory that seemed to embrace the new industrial world head-on, Russian Constructivism, and to embrace the universal approach to design that rejected the kind of personal, willful and individualist qualities that some saw as a problem with Expressionism.