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.


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