Friday, November 26, 2010

Expressionist Architecture, The Bauhaus, and International Modernism

Bruno Taut, Glass Pavillion, Cologne, destroyed, Expressionist Architecture

Erich Mendelsohn, Einstein Tower, Potsdam, Expressionist Architecture

Walter Gropius, The Fagus Shoe Factory

Lionel Feininger, Cathedral, woodcut from the Bauhaus Manifesto

The Bauhaus Basic Course, Josef Albers with students, 1928

Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Photogram, Bauhaus

Herbert Bayer, design for a news kiosk, Bauhaus

Marcel Breuer, Wassily Chair, Bauhaus

Marianne Brandt, tea set, Bauhaus

Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Electric Table Lamp, Bauhaus

Gunta Stözl, Wall Hanging, Bauhaus

Faculty Apartment for Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, Bauhaus campus, Dessau, photographed in 1927

Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus faculty, Bauhaus Campus, Dessau, Bauhaus

Paul Klee, Ad Parnassum, Bauhaus

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, proposed glass office building for the Friedrichstrasse, Berlin, International Modernism.

Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, German Pavillion at the 1929 Barcelona Exhibition

Le Corbusier, Villa Savoye, International Modernism

Le Corbusier, Unite d'Habitation, Marseilles, International Modernism

Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, Bear Run, PA


Expressionist Architecture
--Bruno Taut
--Erich Mendelsohn
The Bauhaus
--Walter Gropius
--Johannes Itten
--Lazlo Moholy-Nagy
--Bauhaus Basic Course
International Modernism
--Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe
--Le Corbusier
-----The Radiant City
Frank Lloyd Wright

The Original Futurama

Before it became the namesake of a show on Comedy Central, the Futurama was an enormous series of dioramas in the General Motors pavilion at the 1939 - 1940 World's Fair in New York City (Corona Park in Queens).  Designed by Norman Bel Geddes, this huge diorama series was built to be a glimpse 20 years into the future as imagined by General Motors.  This was the most popular exhibit at the fair.  Visitors stood in line for hours to ride the moving chairs with the speakers telling them all about the wonders of things to come in 1960.

The General Motors Pavilion at the 1939-1940 New York World's Fair; note the long lines waiting to get in.

People riding the mobile chairs looking at the dioramas designed by Norman Bel Geddes

Part of Norman Bel Geddes' diorama showing a huge highway intersection flanked by 4 quarter of a mile high skyscrapers in the future, in 1960.

Here is a film about the Futurama produced by General Motors in 1940, To New Horizons. It starts out in black and white, but the Futurama itself is all filmed in Technicolor.

The USA was still going through the Great Depression during the 1939 - 1940 Fair. This vision of a brighter, more spacious, and more hopeful future filled with opportunity thrilled audiences living in the bleak and cramped world of the 1930s. This is the future as imagined by a major car manufacturer with lots of emphasis on roads and transportation. After World War II, the United States and almost all of its major cities would be completely rebuilt to accommodate the automobile. Some of Bel Geddes' design is still praised for being so far-sighted, especially in his extensive use of continuous park space in cities and along river fronts. Other aspects might have been just a little too sweeping. There's no room in any of it for historical preservation or for mass transit.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Architecture and Design Between the Wars: Russia and The Netherlands

Russia: Suprematism and Constructivism

"Then and Now!" anonymous poster

Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, Suprematism

First Suprematist Exhibition in Saint Petersburg, 1915, featuring Malevich's Black Square hanging in the corner.

Kazimir Malevich, White on White, Suprematism

Vladimir Tatlin, Wall Relief, Constructivism (destroyed, photographed in 1921)

Vladimir Tatlin, Proposed Monument to the Third International, model photographed in 1920 (destroyed), Constructivism

A model of Tatlin's proposed Monument on parade for May Day in Saint Petersburg, 1920

Aleksandr Rodchenko, Books!, poster, Constructivism

Aleksandr Rodchenko, cover for LEF magazine, Constructivism

El Lissitzky, PROUN Composition, Constructivism

El Lissitzky, "Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge!" poster, Constructivism

El Lissitzky, proposed speaker's tribune for Lenin, Constructivism

The Netherlands: De Stijl

Theo Van Doesburg, Color Construction, De Stijl

Gerrit Rietveld, Schroder House, Utrecht, The Netherlands, De Stijl

Gerrit Rietveld, Schroder House, interior

Gerrit Rietveld, table and chair for the Schroder House, De Stijl

Piet Mondrian, Red Tree, De Stijl

Piet Mondrian, Pier and Ocean, De Stijl

Piet Mondrian, Red, Yellow, and Blue, De Stijl

Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, DeStijl



The Russian Revolution
--Anatoly Lunacharsky
--Kazimir Malevich
--Vladimir Tatlin
--Aleksandr Rodchenko
--El Lissitzky

The Netherlands

De Stijl
--Theo Van Doesburg
--Gerrit Rietveld
--Piet Mondrian

Metropolis was the very first science fiction blockbuster, the direct ancestor of the big budget sci fi epics released almost every summer in the mall cineplexes these days. Directed by Fritz Lang and based on a novel written by his wife, Thea von Harbou, it was released in 1927. The movie shows a huge city in the year 2026. It is a very ambivalent vision of a future where technology creates enormous powers to do great good and great evil, where the elite live in splendid palaces in the sky, while the toiling masses live underground. The machines and the architecture can be amazing to look at, inspired by Sant'Elia's visions of a Futurist city. Those same machines can devour the very people who service them.

Below is Kino Video's trailer for their latest restoration of Metropolis. They now own the rights to it and have been cracking down on YouTube posts from the movie (which continues to have a huge and enthusiastic international cult following). That's alright because you get a good glimpse at most of the really cool parts.

Metropolis was a huge hit with the public across Europe, but it was so expensive to make with its colossal sets, dazzling special effects (all before computer animation and still amazing after 80 years), and casts of thousands, that there was no way to break even let alone make a profit on ticket sales. The movie proved to be so costly that it bankrupted the production company.
It is interesting to see what it does and does not predict. It does predict television (just invented that year in the USA), but it does not predict computers or anything like the internet.
Science fiction writers of the day hated this movie, especially HG Wells, author of War of the Worlds. But some architects loved it. Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, was a fan of this movie. A veteran of the First World War, he shared the movie's ambivalent view of technology.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Architecture and Design Between the Wars: New York

Cass Gilbert, The Woolworth Building, New York

Hugh Ferris, Maximum Mass Permitted by the 1916 New York Zoning Law #4, charcoal drawing.

William Van Alen, the Chrysler Building, New York

Shreve, Harmon, and Lamb, The Empire State Building, New York

Raymond Hood and many others, Rockefeller Center, New York

Walter Harrison, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, New York


New York
--Art Deco
--1916 Zoning Laws
--Hugh Ferris
--William Van Alen
--Raymond Hood

Getting Around New York

The traffic on Lower Broadway in 1903; mostly foot and horse traffic, and a lot of it

Getting around New York in 1928 featuring Harold Lloyd and Babe Ruth. With the introduction of the automobile, traveling around the city became a lot more exciting.