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||[Sep. 30th, 2006|01:17 am]
With the on bearing collapse of aristocracies in Europe following the demise of World War I, thus came a widespread movement in revolutionary ideas of knowledge following the shambled traditions of past ideas once so prevalent in society. The sector of art and architecture also became impacted by this movement from historical precedence and therefore furthered in its value system. However different in their stances on the means by which are derived of architecture and art, designers of the period were not dissimilar in their definition of a new approach to the matter. A group of these designers, known as the de Stijl, questioned architecture to arrive at the basis of the elemental forms which, intuitively eliminates form all together. “Elimination of all concept of form in the sense of the fixed type is essential to the healthy development of architecture and art.” (Conrads, 78). |
The Bauhaus, a German school of arts directed by Hannes Meyer, strove to revolutionize architecture by not destroying form, but instead by promoting an architecture that was derived from the needs of the outer world. Meyers looked at the basis of form as result of the function within the structure. If the building was organically satisfying through its functional elements of a deliberate organization to the process of life, Meyers was satisfied in that the building held justification. Both theories look enthusiastically forwards to the future scientifically and ideally without boundaries, however the de Stijl began anew with a course of rules while Meyer introduced a theory of rules which promoted greater productivity and organization throughout the current architecture.
The de Stijl, coerced by speculative leaders Theo Van Doesburg and Gerrit Rietveld, claimed that the solution to architecture can be derived by starting from the basic principles or in essence, anew. “The architecture is formless and yet exactly defined , that is to say, it is not fixed to any aesthetic formal type. It has no mould...” (Conrads, 78). With proposing that the new architecture had no fixed type of form, the de Stijl were directing focus towards a non-objectionable architecture.
The de Stijl claimed that architecture based in functionalism became more economic, especially by its means through construction and material. “The new architecture is functional; that is to say it develops out of the exact determination of the political demands which it contains within clear outlines” (Conrads, 78) Or, as stated, “ The new architecture is economic; that is to say it employs its elemental means as effectively and thriftily as possible...(Conrads, 78) An emphasis was placed in functionality and thus, moved away from objective architecture towards a universal depiction by eliminating individuality. “The functional space is strictly divided into rectangular surfaces having no individuality of their own.” (Conrads, 78)
The emphasis became to eliminate individuality to Van Doesburg, as others, by leaving past ideas of repetition and symmetry. “The new architecture has eliminated both monotonous repetition and the stiff equality of two halves- the mirror image symmetry.” (Conrads, 79). In following these new laws of design the de Stijl were able to bring about a new building typology by eliminating frontality and formality which erased any basis for speculation. The overall and collective sum of a building defined its parts as a whole. “In place of symmetry the new architecture offers a balanced relationship of unequal parts; that is to say of parts that differ from each other by virtue of their functional characteristics as regards position, size, proportion, and situation.” (Conrads 80).
With their innately defined methods and set of rules, the de Stijl progressed to eliminate form. Shared with this idea, the de Stijl believed that art and architecture should also coincide just as easily. The designers believed that in order to create non-objective architecture, it must blend with art. “We have given color its rightful place in architecture and we assert that painting separated from the architechtonic construction has no right to exist.” (Conrads, 66). The de Stijl believed art to have no meaning if it was not connected with architecture. “We have to realize that art and life are no larger separate domains,” (Conrads, 67). With the union of architecture and art, a unity is created that substantiates a new architecture. “We have examined the laws of color and space and time and have established that the mutual harmonization of these elements produce a new and positive unity.” (Conrads, 66). In this proclamation of unity, we see an address describing a seamless binding of the arts. The individual concept or opinion becomes obsolete when the element of form is lost, thus the merge of art and architecture through such specific ideals.
However similar the theories of the head of the Bauhaus, Hannes Meyer, are through ideas of reference in modernity to those of the de Stijl movement, Meyer would be disinclined to agree the basis of which the de Stijl movement stands. The de Stijl sought to change architecture by creating anti-form. Meyer believed however that form should be influenced by organization of the outer world forces. His argument was digested within the idea of construction and attesting that it became the basis and personality of new forms in architecture. Myers believed that function possessed in space leads to purity in construction. “This functional biological interpretation of architecture as giving shape to the functions of life, logically leads to architecture.” (Conrads 119). Based on a system of unequal parts, the de Stijl created an architecture based on the means of and idea more closely to related to form. Hannes Meyer formed his theory on the biological process more so than the aesthetic as stated in the afore
Forefrontly, Meyer believed that the main theme represented in architecture should be innately concerned with ratio of the building to its occupants involving the outside world. This was a drastic step away from the theory instilled within the de Stijl, that one should begin from nothing to design. “Building is a biological process, building is not an aesthetic process.” (Conrad 117) Instilling means of function as related to its occupants were hand in hand to the principles of ideals that Meyer set forth in his manifestos. “The functional diagram and the economic program are the determining principles of the building project.” (Conrads, 120) Meyer became immersed in the organization of the plan involving the functions of daily life. The de Stijl were more concerned with the ideals of construction and codes implied within their thesis of modernity to eliminate form throughout, something Meyer would not attest to based on his belief system.
“Building is nothing but organization: social, technical, economical, psychological organization.” (Conrad, 120). Within the boundaries of color, the de Stijl believed that art, in essence, was dead, asserting that they had given such means its rightful place by eliminating it. Meyer however, believed that color could become a coding system, or perhaps a means by which to define areas or as in some cases to provide a purely functional operation as a protective coating or light refractor. “Colour to us is merely a means for intentional psychological influence or a means of orientation” (Conrads, 119).
The de Stijl believed color and its preemptive meaning to be obsolete because of its culturally defined definition of what color represented and therefore could not be implied within architecture successfully. To the de Stijl, color could only exist if it expressed the means of construction. To Meyer, color was symbolic of direction and meaning and thus should be used to define space in certain cases.
In the essence of modernity within these two heavily characterized theories, a comparison implies that the process of design that the de Stijl takes is more of a modern theme for its disregard of what was known in the art world to historically be, art and architecture. A total rebirth of thought patterns in design and redefining the meaning of elements due to a scrapping of historical ideas became a priority within the work of the de Stijl. This leaves precedents to their most minute nature, a recapturing of the essence of that which architecture is and what it means. Meyers theory of architecture uses continuation of the past to create a tradition. Meyers does not reject the past, he lightly embraces it, not particularly taking it fully into perspective and use, but allowing it to affect his work in such ways as to make it a precedence in a way that sets a tone with his values and belief system. “Architecture is a continuation of the traditions of building’ means being carried along by the history of architecture.” (Conrads, 119)
However auspicious the theories of these powers in the world of art, the designers that certainly took an increasingly modern approach would become the de Stijl for their radical notions of wiping the slate clean and starting anew. Meyer, no matter how enthused with the preconception of modern architecture, could never break away from the understood notion of history and the process of organic language it provided .
Tim Benton, ed., Form and Function (1975) pg.95
De Stijl Manifesto, in Ulrich Conrad, Programs and Manifestos on 20th Century Architecture (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2002) p.64-67
Hannes Meyer: Building, in Ulrich Conrad, Programs and Manifestos on 20th Century Architecture (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2002) p.117-120