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The International style was a major architectural style that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, the formative decades of Modernist architecture. The term had its origin from the name of a book by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson written to record the International Exhibition of Modern Architecture held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1932 which identified, categorized and expanded upon characteristics common to Modernism across the world. As a result, the focus was more on the stylistic aspects of Modernism. Hitchcock's and Johnson's aims were to define a style of the time, which would encapsulate this modern architecture. They identified three different principles: the expression of volume rather than mass, balance rather than preconceived symmetry and the expulsion of applied ornament. All the works which were displayed as part of the exhibition were carefully selected, as only works which strictly followed the set of rules were displayed.[1] Previous uses of the term in the same context can be attributed to Walter Gropius in Internationale Architektur, and Ludwig Hilberseimer in Internationale neue Baukunst.[2]

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Europe

Around 1900 a number of architects around the world began developing new architectural solutions to integrate traditional precedents with new social demands and technological possibilities. The work of Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde in Brussels, Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, Otto Wagner in Vienna and Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow, among many others, can be seen as a common struggle between old and new.

The international style as such blossomed in 1920s Western Europe. Researchers find significant contemporary common ground among the Dutch de Stijl movement, the work of visionary French/Swiss architect Le Corbusier and various German efforts to industrialize craft traditions, which resulted in the formation of the Deutscher Werkbund, large civic worker-housing projects in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, and, most famously, the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus was one of a number of European schools and associations concerned with reconciling craft tradition and industrial technology.

Villa Savoye, by Le Corbusier

By the 1920s the most important figures in modern architecture had established their reputations. The big three are commonly recognized as Le Corbusier in France, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius in Germany. The common characteristics of the International style include: a radical simplification of form, a rejection of ornament, and adoption of glass, steel and concrete as preferred materials. Further, the transparency of buildings, construction (called the honest expression of structure), and acceptance of industrialized mass-production techniques contributed to the international style's design philosophy. Finally, the machine aesthetic, and logical design decisions leading to support building function were used by the International architect to create buildings reaching beyond historicism.

The ideals of the style are commonly summed up in four slogans: ornament is a crime, truth to materials, form follows function, and Le Corbusier's description of houses as "machines for living".

In 1927, one of the first and most defining manifestations of the International Style was the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart, built as a component of the exhibition "Die Wohnung," organized by the Deutscher Werkbund, and overseen by Mies van der Rohe. The fifteen contributing architects included Mies, and other names most associated with the movement: Peter Behrens, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, J.J.P. Oud, Mart Stam, and Bruno Taut. The exhibition was enormously popular, with thousands of daily visitors.

The Glass Palace, a celebration of transparency, in Heerlen, The Netherlands (1935)

The town of Portolago (now Lakki) in the Greek Dodecanese island of Leros represents some of the most interesting urban planning from the fascist regime in the Dodecanese; an extraordinary example of city takeover in the International style known as Italian rationalist. The symbolism of the shapes is reflected with exemplary effectiveness in the buildings of Lakki: the administration building, the metaphysical tower of the market, the cinema-theatre, the Hotel Roma (now Hotel Leros), the church of San Francisco and the hospital are fine examples of the style. Many of its ideas and ideals were formalized by the 1928 Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne.

The residential area of Södra Ängby in western Stockholm, Sweden, blended an international or functionalist style with garden city ideals. Encompassing more than 500 buildings, it remains the largest coherent functionalistic villa area in Sweden and possibly the world, still well-preserved more than a half-century after its construction 1933–40 and protected as a national cultural heritage.[3]

North America

The Philadelphia Saving Fund Society Building

Prior to use of the term 'international style', the same striving towards simplification, honesty and clarity are identifiable in US architects, notably in the work of Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, as well as the west-coast residences of Irving Gill. Frank Lloyd Wright's Wasmuth Portfolio influenced the work of European modernists, and his travels there probably influenced his own work, although he refused to be categorized with them. In 1922, the competition for the Tribune Tower and its famous second-place entry by Eliel Saarinen gave a clear indication of what was to come.

The term International Style came from the 1932 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, organized by Philip Johnson, and from the title of the exhibition catalog for that exhibit, written by Johnson and Henry Russell Hitchcock. It addressed building from 1922 through 1932. Johnson named, codified, promoted and subtly re-defined the whole movement by his inclusion of certain architects, and his description of their motives and values. Many Modernists disliked the term, believing that they had arrived at an approach to architecture that transcended "style," along with any national or regional or continental identity. The British architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner commented, "to me what had been achieved in 1914 was the style of the century. It never occurred to me to look beyond. Here was the one and only style which fitted all those aspects which mattered, aspects of economics and sociology, of materials and function. It seems folly to think that anybody would wish to abandon it.[4]

Johnson also defined the modern movement as an aesthetic style, rather than a matter of political statement. This was a departure from the functionalist principles of some of the original Weissenhof architects, particularly the Dutch, and especially J.J.P. Oud, with whom Johnson maintained a prickly correspondence on the topic. The same year that Johnson coined the term International Style, saw the completion of the world's first International Style skyscraper: Philadelphia's PSFS Building. Designed by the truly "international" team of architects, George Howe and William Lescaze, the PSFS Building has become an integral element of the Philadelphia skyline.

Research facilities at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, part of the Hanford Site nuclear complex, dating from the early Cold War

Frank Lloyd Wright's work was considered a formative to the international style, but he was considered not to have kept up with more recent developments. His work was included in the exhibition, but not the catalog. This provoked Wright to quip in response to Hitchcock and Johnson "...having a good start, not only do I fully intend to be the greatest architect who has yet lived, but fully intend to be the greatest architect who will ever live". His buildings of the 1920s and 1930s clearly changed his style as an architect, but in a different direction than the international style.

The gradual rise of the National Socialist regime in Weimar Germany in the 1930s, and the Nazi's rejection of modern architecture, meant that an entire generation of architects were forced out of Europe. When Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer fled Germany, they both arrived at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in an excellent position to extend their influence and promote the Bauhaus as the primary source of architectural modernism. When Mies fled in 1936, he came to Chicago, and solidified his reputation as the prototypical modern architect.

Three of the Toronto-Dominion Centre's five towers (left to right): the Ernst & Young Tower, the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower, and the Royal Trust Tower.

After World War II, the International Style matured, HOK and SOM perfected the corporate practice, and it became the dominant approach for decades. Perhaps its most famous/notorious manifestations include the United Nations headquarters and the Seagram Building in New York, and the Toronto-Dominion Centre in Toronto. Further examples can be found in mid-century institutional buildings throughout North America.

In Canada, this period coincided with a major building boom and few restrictions on massive building projects. International Style skyscrapers came to dominate many of Canada's major cities, especially Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto. While these glass boxes were at first unique and interesting, the idea was soon repeated to the point of ubiquity. Architects attempted to put new twists into such towers, such as the Toronto City Hall. By the 1970s a backlash was under way against modernism, and Canada was one of its centres — prominent anti-modernists such as Jane Jacobs and George Baird were based in Toronto.

The typical International Style high-rise usually consists of the following:

  1. Square or rectangular footprint
  2. Simple cubic "extruded rectangle" form
  3. Windows running in broken horizontal rows forming a grid
  4. All facade angles are 90 degrees.

Israel - Tel Aviv

In July 2003, UNESCO proclaimed the White City of Tel Aviv a World Heritage Site, describing the city as "a synthesis of outstanding significance of the various trends of the Modern Movement in architecture and town planning in the early part of the 20th century".[5]

Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 by European Jewish settlers, who erected the first buildings on sand dunes outside the ancient Arab town of Jaffa.[6] A large proportion of the buildings built in the International Style can be found in the area planned by Patrick Geddes, north of Tel Aviv's main historical commercial center. Geddes laid out the streets and decided on block size and utilization. His plan was to create a garden city [7]. He did not prescribe an architectural style for the buildings in the new city. The impetus for large-scale construction in the new style came from the rapid influx of European Jewish immigrants (who grew in numbers from about 2,000 in 1914 to about 150,000 in 1937)[8]. In the 1930s, new architects and architectural ideas were to converge on Tel Aviv to satisfy a burgeoning, relatively prosperous population with European tastes.

Esther Theater, now the Cinema Hotel, by architect Jehuda Magidovitch[9]

By 1933 many Jewish architects of the German Bauhaus school, which was closed down on the orders of the Nazi Party, fled to the British Mandate of Palestine.[10] The residential and public buildings were designed by these architects, who took advantage of the absence of established architectural conventions to put the principles of modern architecture into practice. The Bauhaus principles, with their emphasis on functionality and inexpensive building materials, were perceived as ideal in Tel Aviv. The architects fleeing Europe combined their Bauhaus ideas with the architectural ideals of Le Corbusier. Among notable architects were Erich Mendelsohn, who belonged to the Expressionist school and who was active in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the 1930s, Carl Rubin, an architect originally from Mendelsohn's office.[11], and Arieh Sharon, who made important contributions in the International style[12].

In 1984, in celebration of Tel Aviv's 75th year,[13] an exhibition was held at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art entitled White City, International Style Architecture in Israel, Portrait of an Era. In 1994, a conference took place at the UNESCO headquarters, entitled World Conference on the International Style in Architecture. In 1996, Tel Aviv's White City was listed as a World Monuments Fund endangered site.[14] In 2003, UNESCO named Tel Aviv a World Heritage Site for its treasure of modern architecture.[15]

Other countries

One of the strengths of the International Style was that the design solutions were indifferent to location, site, and climate. This was one of the reasons it was called 'international'; the style made no reference to local history or national vernacular. (Later this was identified as one of the style's primary weaknesses.)

American anti-Communist politics after the war and Philip Johnson's influential rejection of functionalism have tended to mask the fact that many of the important contributors to the original Weissenhof project fled to the east. This group also tended to be far more concerned with functionalism. Bruno Taut, Mart Stam, the second Bauhaus director Hannes Meyer, Ernst May and other important figures of the International Style went to the Soviet Union in 1930 to undertake huge, ambitious, idealistic urban planning projects, building entire cities from scratch. This Soviet effort was doomed to failure, and these architects became stateless persons in 1936 when Stalin ordered them out of the country and Hitler would not allow them back into Germany.

In the late 1930s this group and their students were dispersed to Turkey, France, Mexico, Venezuela, Kenya and India, adding up to a truly international influence. In India, Geocentric Construction and Architect, an ISO firm, has played a vital role in different types of architectural work.

In 2000, UNESCO, proclaimed Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas in Caracas, Venezuela, as World Cultural Heritage site, describing it as "a masterpiece of modern city planning, architecture and art, created by the Venezuelan architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and a group of distinguished avant-garde artists" being the only university campus designed in the 20th century that has received such recognition by UNESCO.

Also the UNESCO proclaimed in June 2007 Ciudad Universitaria of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), in Mexico City, a World Cultural Heritage site due to its relevance and contribution in terms of international style movement (as well as cultural - alma mater of 3 noble prizes and most Mexican presidents). It was designed in the late 1940s and built in the mid 1950's based upon a masterplan created by a then student, later draughtsman of Le Corbusier, now very recognized architect: Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon. His original and visionary idea was enriched by other students, teachers, and diverse professionals of several disciplines. In the place there can be seen mural paintings by Diego Rivera, Juan O'Gorman, etc. as well as Olympic Stadium (1968). Also in his first years of practice, Pritzker Prize winner and remarkable Mexican architect, Luis Barragan designed upon international style, later evolving to a more traditional local architecture. Other notable Mexican architects of the international or modern period are Carlos Obregón Santacilia, Augusto H. Alvarez, Mario Pani, Federico Mariscal, Vladimir Kaspé, Enrique del Moral, Juan Sordo Madaleno, Max Cetto, among many others.

In Brasil Oscar Niemeyer proposed a more organic and sensual International Style. He designed the political landmarks (headquarters of the 3 state powers) of the artificially created new capital Brasilia. The masterplan for the city was proposed by Lucio Costa.

Criticism of International style

The stark, unornamented appearance of the International style met with contemporaneous criticism and continues to be criticized today by many. Especially in larger and more public buildings, the style is commonly subject to disparagement as ugly[16], inhuman[17], sterile[18], and elitist[19]. Such criticism gained momentum in the latter half of the 20th Century, from academics such as Hugo Kükelhaus to best-selling American author Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House, and contributed to the rise of such counter-movements as postmodernism. The negative reaction to internationalist modernism has been linked to public antipathy to development overall.[20][21]

International style today

Although it was conceived as a movement that transcended style, the International Style was largely superseded in the era of Postmodern architecture that started in the 1960s. In 2006, Hugh Pearlman, the architectural critic of The Times, observed that those using the style today are simply "another species of revivalist," noting the irony.[4]

Examples

The 1932 MOMA exhibition

Important buildings in the 1932 MOMA exhibition include:

Other examples

Architects

References

  1. ^ Henry Russell Hitchcock, Philip Johnson. The International Style. W. W. Norton & Company, 1997. ISBN 0393315185
  2. ^ Panayotis Tournikiotis. The Historiography of Modern Architecture. MIT Press, 1999. ISBN 0262700859
  3. ^ Detailed references listed in the article on Södra Ängby.
  4. ^ a b Gabion: Modernism - or should that be Modernwasm?
  5. ^ UNESCO. White City of Tel-Aviv -- the Modern Movement. Accessed 3 November 2007.
  6. ^ Jewish Virtual Library. The Founding of Tel Aviv. Accessed 25 February 2010.
  7. ^ The New York Times. A City Reinvents Itself Beyond Conflict. Accessed 25 February 2010.
  8. ^ Jewish Virtual Library. From Spring Hill to Independence. Accessed 25 February 2010.
  9. ^ Cinema Treasures, Esther Cinema, Tel Aviv Israel, Accessed 1 March 2010
  10. ^ Ina Rottscheidt, Kate Bowen, Jewish refugees put their own twist on Bauhaus homes in Israel, Deutsche Welle, 1 April 2009
  11. ^ UNESCO, Advisory Body Evaluation: Tel Aviv (Israel) No 1096, p. 57, retrieved 14 September 2009
  12. ^ Sharon Architects, Three Generations of Sharon Architects – A Historical Summary accessed 29 March 2009
  13. ^ Goel Pinto, Taking to the streets - all night long, Haaretz, 29 June 2007
  14. ^ World Monuments Fund, World Monuments Watch 1996-2006, retrieved 16 September 2009
  15. ^ UNESCO, White City of Tel-Aviv -- the Modern Movement World Heritage Centre, retrieved 14 September 2009
  16. ^ Philip S. Gutis, It's Ugly, And So Is The Fight To Save It, New York Times, February 7, 1987, accessed 02-17-2008
  17. ^ E.g., C. Thau & K. Vindum, Jacobsen, 2002, ISBN 87-7407-230-8, at 65 (referring to reaction to internationalism as "A Horror of the Traceless, Inhuman Industrial Look")
  18. ^ A History of Architecture, New Internationalist issue 202 - December 1989
  19. ^ T. Wolfe, From Bauhaus to Our House, Farrar Straus Giroux (1981) ISBN 9780374158927 ISBN 0374158924
  20. ^ Herbert Muschamp, Fear, Hope and the Changing of the Guard, New York Times, November 14, 1993, accessed 02-17-2008 ("the preservation movement . . . was a tool directed against real estate development, but inevitably it was turned against architecture. Its particular target was modern architecture")
  21. ^ R. Jobst, Charm is not an antiquated notion, FFWD Weekly: March 31, 2005 ("At the root of the public's apprehension about new development is that we've been getting screwed for 60 years by brutal, soulless and downright crappy architecture that arrogantly dismisses the human requirement for beauty")

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