Do You Like Modern Architecture?
You can thank Adolf Franz Karl Viktor Maria Loos (December 10, 1870 – August 23, 1933).
Adolf Loos was an Austrian and Czech architect and influential European theorist of modern architecture. His essay Ornament and Crime advocated smooth and clear surfaces in contrast to the lavish decorations of the fin de siècle and also to the more modern aesthetic principles of the Vienna Secession, exemplified in his design of Looshaus, Vienna. Loos became a pioneer of modern architecture and contributed a body of theory and criticism of Modernism in architecture and design and developed the “Raumplan” (literally spatial plan) method of arranging interior spaces, exemplified in Villa Müller in Prague.
At age 23, Loos traveled to the United States and stayed there for three years from 1893–96. While in the United States, he mainly lived with relatives in the Philadelphia area, supported himself with odd jobs and also visited other cities such as the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, St. Louis and New York. Loos returned to Vienna in 1896 and made it his permanent residence. He was a prominent figure in the city and a friend of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Arnold Schönberg, Peter Altenberg and Karl Kraus.
Inspired by his years in the New World he devoted himself to architecture. After briefly associating himself with the Vienna Secession in 1896, he rejected the style and advocated a new, plain, unadorned architecture. A utilitarian approach to use the entire floor plan completed his concept. Loos’s early commissions consisted of interior designs for shops and cafés in Vienna.
Modern architecture is a group of styles of architecture which emerged in the first half of the 20th century and became dominant after World War II. It was based upon new technologies of construction, particularly the use of glass, steel and reinforced concrete; and upon a rejection of the traditional neoclassical architecture and Beaux-Arts styles that were popular in the 19th century. They also rejected embellishments.
Modern architecture continued to be the dominant architectural style for institutional and corporate buildings into 1980s, when it was largely deposed by postmodernism.
Notable architects important to the history and development of the modernist movement include Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Konstantin Melnikov, Erich Mendelsohn, Richard Neutra, Louis Sullivan, Gerrit Rietveld, Bruno Taut, Gunnar Asplund, Arne Jacobsen, Oscar Niemeyer and Alvar Aalto.
Adolf Loos’ lamentation Ornament and Crime made a lasting impression on le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and left behind a body of attractive commercial and domestic work blending simplicity and great material warmth.
As noted by The Australian in the article Looking at Adolf Loos, modern architecture as it evolved through the middle decades of the 20th century, might have been better – more individualistic, humanistic and warmer in tone – if it had been more deeply attuned to the quirky legacy of Adolf Loos than the rigidities of Bauhaus-inspired internationalism. If Adolf Loos is our contemporary, it is not before time.
Collier Ward is a registered Architect, an aspiring novel and short story writer, an acknowledged construction industry influencer, and a follower of Jesus, who thrives on communication and community.
“One of my long-term career goals is to see more books, movies, and television shows about architects and architecture. For years I have said “Architecture Holds a Thousand Stories” and it remains an untapped source for dramatic content. If you are in charge of story development in the entertainment industry I would be glad to discuss the comedy and drama embedded in my profession. If you have interest in any of these subjects, I’d be pleased to connect with you.” -Collier Ward
When and why did you decide to become an Architect?
As a child, I’m not even sure how old I was, I saw my older brother drawing a floor plan. I didn’t understand the series of rectangles and asked him what it was. He informed me that it was our house. To me, a house was depicted by the archetypal image of a simple box with a door, a sloped roof, and a chimney with a swirl of smoke. I told him it was an awful drawing. He explained that it was what we’d see from above if we took the roof off and looked in from above. Then I saw it! The bedrooms, the kitchen, the carport were just as they should be. Although I considered art teacher, artist, cartoonist, and ad man as possible careers, this childhood revelation of architecture proved to be my origin story.
What were some of the challenges of achieving your dream?
Other than a few financial struggles and loan debts (which don’t even compare to today’s students’) my schooling and internship were fairly typical. From the first day I walked on campus (Auburn University, 1979) to the day I became registered in North Carolina was just under a decade.
Any memorable clients or project highlights?
As an intern, I worked on the College of Architecture building at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The design architect was Gwathmey Siegel (I worked for the local firm that produced the Construction Documents.) I had the pleasure of detailing the three monumental stairs in the main gallery, based on concepts by Charles Gwathmy. Since then I’ve worked with many Architects who climbed those stairs and pulled all-nighters in those studios.
How does your family support what you do?
My wife and I were married in my third year of school. If there were awards for architects’ spouses Celese would have several by now. She has supported, humored, and encouraged me to this day.
Who is your favorite Architect? Why?
As a student, I had two architects (one past, one current) that inspired and influenced me most; both for their writings as well as their designs. I think it’s interesting that both Alvar Aalto and Robert Venturi practiced with their wives.
What is your favorite modern (contemporary) project? Why?
Having grown up in St. Louis, MO, the Gateway Arch (as much sculpture as a building) has always been a favorite landmark for me. It was a source of pride – we took visitors up when they came to town. It was also a link to my fascination with Finnish architecture.
Where do you see the profession going over the next few decades?
Our profession has transformed very little over the past three decades. Groups within the profession push for change (improved education, environmental sustainability, employment diversity, etc,) but to the rank and file architect (and the clients we serve) I’m not sure much has changed. Nevertheless, I have hope for future.
What does Architecture mean to you?
“True Architecture exists only where man stands in the center, his comedy and tragedy both,” said Alvar Aalto. When all is said and done, architecture is the stage upon which we live the stories of our lives.
If you could not be an Architect, what would you be?
This is my favorite question. I will always be an architect, but I hope to reach more people with my other passion – writing. For years I have said, “Architecture holds a thousand stories.” Our profession is a closed book to most people. I believe well-written stories will reveal to the population at large what Architects can do. Every other profession has its TV shows, books, and movies; why not Architecture?
What is your dream project?
Per my previous answer, I would like to be the story consultant for a movie or TV series that accurately portrays what architects do – and can do – for our society. I want a wide audience to know the joy and drama that is embedded in every work of architecture.
Final Thoughts on How to Be Successful?
As cliché as it sounds, hard work is essential. But not hard work and long hours for the sake of fulfilling a stereotype; hard work toward a personal goal. I quote Daniel Burnham; “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work…”
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Fuller published more than 30 books, inventing and popularizing terms such as “Spaceship Earth“, ephemeralization, and synergetic. He also developed numerous inventions, mainly architectural designs, the best known of which is the geodesic dome. Carbon molecules known as fullerenes were later named by scientists for their resemblance to geodesic spheres. R. Buckminster Fuller was a renowned 20th century inventor and visionary born in Milton, Massachusetts on July 12, 1895. Dedicating his life to making the world work for all of humanity, Fuller operated as a practical philosopher who demonstrated his ideas as inventions that he called “artifacts.” Fuller did not limit himself to one field but worked as a ‘comprehensive anticipatory design scientist’ to solve global problems surrounding housing, shelter, transportation, education, energy, ecological destruction, and poverty. Throughout the course of his life Fuller held 28 patents, authored 28 books, received 47 honorary degrees. And while his most well know artifact, the geodesic dome, has been produced over 300,000 times worldwide, Fuller’s true impact on the world today can be found in his continued influence upon generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a more sustainable planet.
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