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Modernism I. 23. August 2011 - Eli Støa. AAR 4812 / Theory and History of housing Modernism I 23. August 2011 / Eli Støa. Weissenhofsiedlung (1926-27), Stuttgart. apartmentbuilding, Mies van der Rohe Foto: Kirsch, 1989. Historical and social context. Background

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Modernism I

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Modernism I

23. August 2011 - Eli Støa

AAR 4812 / Theory and History of housingModernism I 23. August 2011 / Eli Støa

Weissenhofsiedlung (1926-27), Stuttgart. apartmentbuilding, Mies van der RoheFoto: Kirsch, 1989

Historical and social context

  • Background

    • Industrialisation, urbanisation, speculation, poor housing conditions for workers 1860 – 1900

    • Housing reform movement

  • First world war

    • Inflation, unemployment, housing shortage

  • The second industrial revolution

    • Organisation, management and increasing efficiency of production processes (Taylorism)

The second industrial revolution

  • Organisation, management and increasing efficiency of production processes (Taylorism)

  • Distributions of work and specialisation

  • Private cars

  • Electrification of homes

  • New consumer commodities

”Ford fixed in our minds the reciprocal concepts of mass production and mass consumption” (Rowe, 1993:9)

  • Norge 1900-1920

  • Glødelampen (1905)

  • Bad og wc installert på slottet i Kristiania (1906)

  • Første elektriske støvsugere, vaskemaskiner og kjøleskap (ca. 1910)

  • Sentralvarme vanlig i borgerskapets villaer (1915-20)

  • Ca. 10.000 biler i Norge i 1920

  • 64 % av befolkningen bor i hus med elektrisk strøm (1920) (mot 37 % i USA og 17 % i bl.a. Sverige)

  • Første dypfryste matvarer (1928)

  • Første norskproduserte elektriske komfyr (1920-tallet)

Ideological basis

  • Break with history

  • A rational approach to architecture

  • Social agenda

  • Standardisation / mass production

  • Functionalism: a new aesthetic

What is Modern?

“The current, the new and the transient: all three levels of meaning refer to the peculiar importance that is ascribed to the present in the concept of modernity. Modernity is what gives the present the specific quality that makes it different from the past and points the way towards the future. Modernity is also described as being a break with tradition, and as typifying everything that rejects the inheritance of the past”(Heynen, 1999:9)

A new era

”modern man, who no longer dresses in historical garments but wears modern clothes, … needs a modern (architecture) appropriate to him and his time”

(W. Gropius in Conrads, 1964:95)

A new era

A new comprehension of the home:

  • From an increasing ’homecentredness’ after industrialisation

    … to the avant gardists dissociation with the introversion of the bourgeouis home sphere’s

Foto: Rolness, 1995

A new comprehension of the home

  • Le Corbusier wanted to replace: “(the) sentimental hysteria surrounding the cult of the home”, with a more rational approach to dwellings as “machines for living”

  • ”The modernist aesthetic is quite antagonistic to the idea of the home as a ”refuge of privacy and an assertion of individual – or family – identity” expressed in the knick knacks on the shelves, the antimacassars on the airmchairs, the filmy curtains at the windows, the screen before the fireplace.” (Morley?)

A rational approach

”Nature was known by its parts, but not as a whole. Similarly, urban functions could be identified and improved, according to the management principles of Ford and Taylor, and then effectively reorganized in time and space”

(Rowe, 1993:162)


Le Corbusier(1932): ”Biological unit” (cell) 14 m2

Christine Frederick used Taylors principles when designing the dwelling in ”Scientific Mangement of the Home” (1912)

”Die neue sachlichkeit”

  • Blocks of flats oriented north-south in order to have similar and optimal and similar sunlight conditions for all

  • Rational production

  • ”Scientific functionalism”

(Ill. T. Brantenberg, 1996)

Scientific basis for architecture

”Architecture was to have a firm scientific basis, but more than that, it was to take its inspiration from the rationalism and experimentation of sciences” (Rowe, 1993:45)

Scientific basis for architecture

”Functionalism was one of the most alarming aspects of the modernist agenda in the early twentieth-century because architects who adhered to it had confidence in a ’science’ that cannot be validated scientifically and believed that the user was predictable and obedient”

(Jonathan Hill, 2003:17)

Social agenda

  • Improved living conditions for the working class

  • Universal criteria for housing quality

    • Physiological, psychological, social medicin

  • The minimum dwelling: ”wohnung für das existenzminimum” (CIAM 1929)

Universal housing norms

  • Physiological needs: thermal comfort, light, air, recreation

  • Psychological needs: privacy, aesthetics satisfaction, attending ‘social standards

  • Social medicine: protection against pollution, public security, crime prevention..

    (Rowe, 1993)

The minimum house”…was seen as a social tool indispensable to the new era (…) it embodied ”an appeal for scientific certainty to overcome customs of tradition””(Le Corbusier, 1964 i Rowe, 1993:57)

Standardisation / mass production

Le Corbusier’s Domino-structure (1914)

Standardisation / mass production

Le Corbusiers Citrohan module (1920)

Standardisation / mass production

Le Corbusiers Citrohan module (1920)

Standardisation / mass production

”Quartier Modernes Fruges”, Pessac, Le Corbusier (1923)

Standardisation / mass production

”Quartier Modernes Fruges”, Pessac, Le Corbusier (1923)

Standardisation / mass production

Functionalism – a new aesthetic

”Man snakket om en ny tidsånd, og funksjonalismen passet inn i lengselen etter å virkeliggjøre ”drømmen om det gode liv”. Som en reaksjon på første verdenskrigs kaos, kunne den forenklede rene stilen tilby en etterlengtet orden. Idealet var klare arkitektoniske rammer med praktisk, funksjonell form, og et interiør med møbler som formalt var i harmoni med huset”

(Findal, 2007:24)

Functionalism – a new aesthetic

”De fysiske omgivelsenes presise, enhetlige form understøttet ideene om en moderne måte å leve på, og var et uttrykk for ”hverdagens vidunderlighet””

(Findal, 2007:24)

Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret: Villa La Roche, Paris 1925

(Foto: Findal, 2007)

Foto: Davies, 2006

Foto: Findal, 2007

Foto: Findal, 2007

Foto: Davies, 2006

The functionalist doctrine

4 elements:

  • Integrity and usability of materials

  • Expression of new construction technology and production methods

  • Efficient use and organising of buildings

  • Propagation of a new spatial order – free from references to the past

    (Rowe, 1993:43)

..a new spatiality

Adolf Loos: a new open and vertical organisation in which the rooms were connected by a centrally located staircase

Le Corbusier: ”promenade architecturale” – an architectural walk through the house, ”det å kunne bevege seg opp gjennom etasjene, ha skiftende utsyn og innblikk i husets forskjellige sone”(Findal, 2007:28)

A. Loos: Moller Haus, Wien, 1928

Plan 1.etg

A. Loos: Moller Haus, Wien, 1928

(Siktlinjer og foto: Colomina, 2005)

A. Loos: Müller house, Prague (1930)

Fotos: Colomina, 2005 og Davies, 2006

A new aesthetic

  • the inherent logic of new materials and construction techniques

  • avoid all unnecessary and superficial elements (absence of decoration)

  • Simple lines, primary colors, clear geometrical forms – contrast to the surrounding nature (abstraction)

  • Le Corbusier’s five principles for a new architecture

    • Pilotis

    • Roof terrasses

    • Open plans

    • Open fasades

    • Horisontal window bands

…made possible by help av new construction techniques

Eksempel på åpen plan:

Villa Tugendhat, Brno (1928-30) Mies van der Rohe

Foto: Davies, 2006

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