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The Origins And Myths Of Modern Architecture

The Origins And Myths Of Modern Architecture

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The Origins And Myths Of Modern Architecture

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Lançado em:
Jul 12, 2011


Modern Architecture began with the advent of electric power; once harnessed the power of electricity produced steel for structure, drives to operate elevators, and even telephones to comunicate specifications instantly. With electric power modern architecture was free to separate from classical architecture as clearly defined by Rushkin who claimed that: "... once metal touches stone it is no longer classic architecture." No definition has ever been concieved to describe what modern architecture should look like, yet styles have been invented to represent one building from another. Historians lacking architectural intelligence have controlled the media conception of what is modern architecture. These so Called architectural historians created the confusion and mythology that surrounds modern architecture up to the present time.

Lançado em:
Jul 12, 2011

Sobre o autor

Charles Dennis Rushing was born in Chicago, Illinois on July 14, 1930.He served in the USAF during the Korean war. Educated at UC Berkeley at the COED Architecture in 1966. Licensed as an Architect, he worked in San Francisco as lead Design Architect from 1966 to 1990: retired in 2010. His authorship includes: "The International Wakefield Cup 1911 to 2011", "Lefty Purveyor of Crisis-unpublished", and "The Origins And Myths Of Modern Architecture."

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The Origins And Myths Of Modern Architecture - Charles Rushing



Charles Dennis Rushing


Published by:

Charles Dennis Rushing at Smashwords

Copyright (c) TXu 1-721-952, 2011 by Charles Dennis Rushing


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Table of Contents





Chapter 4-Le CORBUSIER

Chapter 5-MoMA: What is Modern Architecture?

Chapter 6-Louis Isadore Kahn

Chapter 7-Frank Owen Gehry

Chapter 8-THEORIES of ARCHITECTURE a comparative review




[return to top]


Before The Term Modern Architecture was adopted in the early twentieth century, current architecture was referred to as the New Architecture. Before a New Architecture could be developed, new theories and principles had to be created; only then could a new architecture displace an Old Architecture called Classical Architecture. But this displacement has never occurred.

Beginning in Athens, Greece on top of the Acropolis, Greek Architect’s fashioned a building so perfect, that it remains the single most perfect example of classical architecture in the world. This building is of course the Parthenon. Constructed between 447-432 B.C. in the Doric Order, the system of theoretical principles created by the classical Greek Architect’s Ictinus and Callicrates, the Parthenon represents the epitome of Classical Architecture.

Classical Greek Architecture was the model for Roman Architecture that lasted from 300B.C. to 365 A.D. Both the theories and principles of Greek and Roman Architecture were revived during the period called the Early Renaissance in the fifteenth century, and sustained during the High Renaissance in the sixteenth century. While still Classical Architecture, Baroque Architecture predominated throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Classical Architecture remains a fixture in Architectural design throughout the world to the present day. Beginning in 1806 in Paris, France the Ecole des Beaux-Arts became the curator of Classical Architecture. Coupled with the French Academy in Rome (1725) the competition or Prix de Rome, is still awarded for architectural design excellence. The challenge to the French Academic system of theoretical principles began in 1864 with the publication of the collected works of Karl Friedrich Schinkel: Aus Schinkel Nachlass: Reisetagebucher, Brief und Aphorismen.

This document represented the Theoretical Architectural Principles of Schinkel that he had collected in personal papers over his lifetime. These principles of the New Architecture, were assembled and modified by his son-in-law, Alfred Freiherr von Wologen, after Schinkel’ death in 1864. 2

With his publications: Discourses on Architecture, vol. 1&2 between 1858 and 1877 the French Architect Viollet-le-Duc challenged the academic approach of Classical Architecture taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Taking his challenge into the French Academy itself, Viollet-le-Duc though jeered and heckled by the students of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, persevered until he became recognized as the academic theorist of the New Architecture.

The definition between Classical and the New Architecture was drawn by John Ruskin in 1848 when writing in his book: Stones of Venice…the moment that iron in the least degree takes the place of stone, the building ceases to be true architecture.

John Ruskin was writing in offence to the repair and reconstruction of classic French buildings by Viollet-le-Duc, and others at the time. Without realizing it, John Ruskin had drawn the line in the sand that forever distinguished the difference between Classical Architecture, and the New Architecture. Without question this distinction between Classical buildings constructed of stone, and those that had a metal (iron or steel) superstructure, should have ushered in the theories of Viollet-le-Duc who wrote: …all architecture proceeds from structure, and the first condition at which to aim is to make the outward form accord with that structure.

The final characteristic that distinguishes the New Architecture from Classical Architecture is the form of the building. Viollet-le-Duc in his: Organic Architectural Theories wrote: Form will emerge from Architectural principle, not from a preconceived repertoire of classical forms.

A building designed within Viollet-le-Duc’ Organic Architecture theories and principles, constructed with a metal (iron or steel) superstructure, owing nothing to Classical Architectural form, and powered by electricity clearly should have been considered a new kind of Architecture. But such was not the case with the St. Louis Wainwright Building designed by Adler and Sullivan, in 1891. This building should stand alone as the First Modern office building, because it is a prototypical skyscraper. The Wainwright Building was like nothing ever conceived anywhere else in the world up to this time; owing nothing to Classic Architecture.

The city of St. Louis wanting to be perceived as a new city of the twentieth century introduced Edison’s latest electrical power systems to establish itself into the twentieth century in preparation for its World Fair of 1900. The Architect Louis Sullivan, was a disciple of Viollet-le-Duc who adhered strictly to his principles of Organic Architecture, designed the Wainwright Building to conform with those principles. Together Louis Sullivan, and his partner Dankmar Adler, fashioned the most up-to-date skyscraper ever conceived in 1891.Beginning with isolated reinforced concrete foundations, sixteen feet deep supporting the riveted steel superstructure that rose up eleven stories to its projecting copper cornice, 135 feet above the sidewalk. All of the steel structure was encased in fire-proof tile. Four Edison electric powered motor-sets drove the Crane Co. elevators between the basement and the roof. The exterior form was like no other building ever seen before anywhere in the world. The Wainwright Building was completely designed as a testament to the New Architecture. Because of this distinction the Wainwright Building is prototypical, the first of its kind. Louis Sullivan addressing the baffling architectural problems that the Wainwright Building presented to him said:It is my belief that it is of the very essence of every problem that it contains and suggests its own solution. This I believe to be natural law.9

In his book Pioneers of the Modern Movement (1936) Nikolas Pevsner mentioned the Wainwright Building, but he called it:Sullivanian Art Nouveau…

This was a classic error, misplacing a complete era of pure art with a work of Architecture, an applied art. Art Nouveau devoted to pure art, began only after 1895. This architectural myth gained acceptance with many European art history critics, even though Louis Sullivan’s architectonic decoration dates back fifteen years earlier to the 1880 Borden Block Building in Chicago. This rather unfortunate, but totally ignored oversight allowed Nikolas Pevsner and others to claim that the Viennese Architect Adolf Loos was the first Architect to design a building in the manner of the New Architecture. Adolf Loos himself now claimed that he alone was the: …first Modern Architect!

Adolf Loos also condemned any form of decoration, making the statement:"…decoration is an Architectural sin."Adolf Loos’ condemnation was aimed not only at Louis Sullivan, but at his contemporaries in the Vienna Secession, Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser. The terminology of architecture became even more confusing after 1914 when the term New Architecture began to be referred to as Modern Architecture. By changing the preposition from New to Modern historians and critics now claimed that they had ushered in a new Architectural movement. World War One had caused the stoppage of most new building construction between 1914 and 1918. Due to this lack of construction, the war also created a pause in the development of any new architectural theoretical principles and movements. Only by 1922 did a new architectural journal appear; it was published in Paris, it was called:L’Esprit Nouveau published by: Le Corbusier-Saugnier.

The publisher’s were painters who claimed that they had invented a new art movement that they called Purism in opposition to Cubism. Purism consisted only of the work of Charles -Edouard Jenneret-Griss, who called himself Le Corbusier, and Amedee Ozenfant who called himself Saugnier. Cubism, by now a diminishing movement, eventually won out over Purism.

But the Journal L’Esprit Nouveau thrived for twenty -eight editions until 1925. Fig 11&12Le Corbusier used the journal to self-publish his own work. Although his work seemed to bear a strong resemblance to the work of his friend in Vienna, Adolf Loos, Le Corbusier never gave credit to Loos. Le Corbusier also published his theoretical architectural principles in this journal:Vers une Architecture (Towards an Architecture)

Without acknowledging the actual originator of these theories, Le Corbusier (still an amateur architect in 1922) was given full credit for the theoretical principles of the Master French Architect Viollet-le-Duc. The problem with this mythology is that it gained specious credibility. In 1932 MoMA created a new architecture show called:The International Style, architecture since 1922

Not only was a new mythological architectural style contrived, just for this show, but the date for the beginning of modern architecture was purposely selected to obfuscate the work of any Architect whose work is dated before 1922: for instance: Louis Henry Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Adolf Loos, and many other modern architect’s. Hugh Morrison wrote in his book: Louis Sullivan prophet of Modern Architecture9: he was the first modern architect. Lewis Mumford has said of him: ‘Sullivan’s was perhaps the first mind in American architecture that had come itself with any fullness in relation to its soil, its period, its civilization, and had been able to absorb fully all the many lessons of the century.9 Of course Le Corbusier was chosen as one of twenty-five International style architect’s who’s work corresponded to the contrived definitions MoMA included in its catalog, unfortunately until the MoMA show opened in 1932, no one had ever heard of the:


The entire style was a mythical contrivance, not an architectural movement! The creators of MoMA 1932 show were not architects; only one had experience as an architectural critic: Lewis Mumford, but not in modern architecture. The MoMA curator Alfred Barr Jr. hired a student with a bachelor degree from Harvard, Phillip C. Johnson to be the head of MoMA’ Architecture Department. At about the same time Barr also hired an art critic who had never written anything more than his thesis for his masters of art degree from Harvard, Henry-Russell Hitchcock. These two amateurs were assigned by Barr to work out the major and minor-details of the show. To organize the show Barr hired Louis Mumford who was not a modern architecture historian. To these four pure-art critic’s should have gone the most momentous awards for causing: the confusion, the misrepresentation, and the mythological historical distortion that surrounds all Modern Architectural History.

Mention must also be made of what is considered to be the difference between a true architectural movement, and a movement that is a dead end leading nowhere. A true architectural movement is the: Classical Architecture period from 447 B.C. to the present time, called the Ecole des

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