Sunday, September 25, 2005

International Style / Organicist

Jeffrey B Baker
Architecture Theory I
Dr. Carpenter
September 24, 2005

International Style / Organicist
The international style and the organicist movement were two among many modern architectural studies. The international style movement reacted to early twentieth century modern architectural practices that were loose and resulted in numerous approaches that differentiated from place to place. Within this new movement various architects in multiple countries tried to create an approach to design in which one ‘style’ typology could be successfully placed anywhere in any culture. Philip Johnson and the Museum of Modern Art in New York were at the forefront of promoting this style and played a key role in connecting these various European Architects and marketing them to the American Public through the Modern Architecture International Exhibition in 1932. Organicism, in contrast, connected Architecture and Nature, the uniqueness of each site was the basis for this movement. Key figures in the Organist movement are Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler, Richard Neutra, and Fay Jones.
The City Employment Office by Walter Gropius is a prime example of the International Style, representing all three of its basic principles. First, the enclosure of space is defined by volume created by planar surface tension, thus escaping the need to use mass to create space. Second, its asymmetry expresses the functions of the building. Third, the materials, their structural composition, proportion, and technical perfection, create the detail instead of applied ornament.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House illustrates the principles of the organicist movement. Within the organicist movement interpretation was more natural and practices could be more personal than the international style allowed. Wright developed eight guidelines in the creation of the prairie homes: 1) reduce the parts to a minimum; 2) keep the house off the best land; 3) eliminate walls; 4) pull the basement up off the ground; 5) make all the openings in and out of the house have a human proportion; 6) use natural materials and unify them throughout the project; 7) incorporate the mechanical and electrical systems into the design scheme; and 8) eliminate decoration.
The international style and the organicist movement are similar in that they both revolve around simplified design principles. Both express an interest in the honest use of materials and detail develops as a result of technical and proportional perfection. The international style, however, aimed at creating a singular architecture that could work within any condition while forgetting specific site analysis. The organicist movement in contrast relied heavily on the uniqueness of each project location. The international style eventually died out, rejected even by its founders as they acknowledged its weaknesses. The organist movement is still in practice today because of its sensitivity to uniqueness and natural use of the local materials and conditions.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Johnson Proposal

Jeffrey B. Baker
Dr. Carpenter
Arch. Theory I
August 30, 2005

Philip Johnson

Reflecting on projects completed over the last three years, I have reached the apprehensive conclusion that my process has stopped developing. In short, I had become too comfortable with my design approach. With this realization in mind, I began photographing places and buildings I found of interest, reflecting on why I liked them, and determining what made these buildings successful. During this period of assessment I had the opportunities to visit both New York and San Francisco. Through these travels I discovered that one of my favorite buildings in NY and one of my favorite buildings in San Francisco where coincidently by the same architect. These two projects were also incredibly different from each other. The first of these two buildings is the AT&T Corporate Headquarters, located at the corner of Madison Avenue and 56th Street in New York. The second building is the 101 California tower placed on the block formed by Davis, Pine, Front, and California streets in San Francisco. Both buildings were created by Philip Johnson during his partnership with John Burge.
Philip Johnson had practiced architecture for sixty-two years before he passed away in late January 2005, at the age of 98. With over sixty years of architectural practice and previous work as an Architectural director at MOMA, it is natural to assume that his approach would develop and change and it did. He had a number of different partners through his career and to some degree his work can be categorized according to each specific partnership. Conversely, the diversity found in Johnson’s work within one partnership rather than merely the diversity apparent across partnerships is distinctive. The AT&T building in NY and the 101 California tower in San Francisco differ immensely, for example. Initially, I assumed that the NY project would have been near the beginning of his career and that the CA project to be near the end. Both projects, however, were developed within the same partnership during the late 1970’s and into the early 1980’s. Johnson’s diversity throughout his entire portfolio has inspired me to further study his work. As Paul Goldberger, in his introduction to Philip Johnson/ Alan Ritchie Architects, notes, “[Johnson’s] defining characteristic as an architect has always been his instinctive ability to sense new directions [1],” and a new direction is what I hope to acquire from this exploration.
End Notes
1. Goldberger, Paul. Philip Johnson/ Alan Ritchie Architects. The Monacelli Press, New York 2002.

Proposed Research List

· Jacobus, John. Philip Johnson. George Braziller Inc, New York, 1962.

· Knight, Carleton. Philip Johnson/ John Burgee Architecture 1979-1985. Rizzoli Press, New York, 1985.

· Miller, Nory. Johnson/ Burgee: Architecture. Random House, New York, 1979.

· Noble, Charles. Philip Johnson. Library of Contemporary Architects. Simon and Schuster, New York,