Modernism I
23. August 2011 - Eli Støa
AAR 4812 / Theory and History of housing
Modernism I
23. August 2011 / Eli Støa
Weissenhofsiedlung (1926-27), Stuttgart. apartmentbuilding, Mies van der Rohe Foto: Kirsch, 1989
Historical and social context
• Background
– Industrialisation, urbanisation, speculation, poor housing
conditions for workers 1860 – 1900
– Housing reform movement
• First world war
– Inflation, unemployment, housing shortage
• The second industrial revolution
– Organisation, management and increasing efficiency of
production processes (Taylorism)
The second industrial revolution
• Organisation, management and increasing efficiency
of production processes (Taylorism)
• Distributions of work and specialisation
• Private cars
• Electrification of homes
• New consumer commodities
”Ford fixed in our minds the reciprocal concepts of mass
production and mass consumption” (Rowe, 1993:9)
Norge 1900-1920
•Glødelampen (1905)
•Bad og wc installert på slottet i
Kristiania (1906)
•Første elektriske støvsugere,
vaskemaskiner og kjøleskap (ca. 1910)
•Sentralvarme vanlig i borgerskapets
villaer (1915-20)
•Ca. 10.000 biler i Norge i 1920
•64 % av befolkningen bor i hus med
elektrisk strøm (1920) (mot 37 % i
USA og 17 % i bl.a. Sverige)
•Første dypfryste matvarer (1928)
•Første norskproduserte elektriske
komfyr (1920-tallet)
Ideological basis
• Break with history
• A rational approach to architecture
• Social agenda
• Standardisation / mass production
• Functionalism: a new aesthetic
What is Modern?
“The current, the new and the transient: all three
levels of meaning refer to the peculiar importance
that is ascribed to the present in the concept of
modernity. Modernity is what gives the present the
specific quality that makes it different from the past
and points the way towards the future. Modernity is
also described as being a break with tradition, and as
typifying everything that rejects the inheritance of
the past”
(Heynen, 1999:9)
A new era
”modern man, who no longer dresses in
historical garments but wears modern clothes,
… needs a modern (architecture) appropriate
to him and his time”
(W. Gropius in Conrads, 1964:95)
A new era
A new comprehension of the home:
• From an increasing ’homecentredness’ after
… to the avant gardists dissociation with the
introversion of the bourgeouis home sphere’s
Foto: Rolness, 1995
A new comprehension of the home
• Le Corbusier wanted to replace: “(the) sentimental
hysteria surrounding the cult of the home”, with a
more rational approach to dwellings as “machines
for living”
• ”The modernist aesthetic is quite antagonistic to the
idea of the home as a ”refuge of privacy and an
assertion of individual – or family – identity”
expressed in the knick knacks on the shelves, the
antimacassars on the airmchairs, the filmy curtains
at the windows, the screen before the fireplace.”
A rational approach
”Nature was known by its parts, but not as a
whole. Similarly, urban functions could be
identified and improved, according to the
management principles of Ford and Taylor,
and then effectively reorganized in time and
(Rowe, 1993:162)
Le Corbusier(1932):
”Biological unit” (cell)
14 m2
Christine Frederick used Taylors principles when designing the
dwelling in ”Scientific Mangement of the Home” (1912)
”Die neue sachlichkeit”
•Blocks of flats oriented
north-south in order to have
similar and optimal and
similar sunlight conditions for
•Rational production
•”Scientific functionalism”
(Ill. T. Brantenberg, 1996)
Scientific basis for architecture
”Architecture was to have a firm scientific
basis, but more than that, it was to take its
inspiration from the rationalism and
experimentation of sciences” (Rowe, 1993:45)
Scientific basis for architecture
”Functionalism was one of the most alarming
aspects of the modernist agenda in the early
twentieth-century because architects who
adhered to it had confidence in a ’science’ that
cannot be validated scientifically and believed
that the user was predictable and obedient”
(Jonathan Hill, 2003:17)
Social agenda
• Improved living conditions for the working class
• Universal criteria for housing quality
– Physiological, psychological, social medicin
• The minimum dwelling: ”wohnung für das
existenzminimum” (CIAM 1929)
Universal housing norms
• Physiological needs: thermal comfort, light, air, recreation
• Psychological needs: privacy, aesthetics satisfaction, attending
‘social standards
• Social medicine: protection against pollution, public security,
crime prevention..
(Rowe, 1993)
The minimum
”…was seen as a social
tool indispensable to
the new era (…) it
embodied ”an appeal
for scientific certainty
to overcome customs of
(Le Corbusier, 1964 i Rowe,
Standardisation / mass production
Le Corbusier’s Domino-structure (1914)
Standardisation / mass production
Le Corbusiers Citrohan module (1920)
Standardisation / mass production
Le Corbusiers Citrohan module (1920)
Standardisation / mass production
”Quartier Modernes Fruges”, Pessac, Le Corbusier (1923)
Standardisation / mass production
”Quartier Modernes Fruges”, Pessac, Le Corbusier (1923)
Standardisation / mass production
Functionalism – a new aesthetic
”Man snakket om en ny tidsånd, og
funksjonalismen passet inn i lengselen etter å
virkeliggjøre ”drømmen om det gode liv”. Som en
reaksjon på første verdenskrigs kaos, kunne den
forenklede rene stilen tilby en etterlengtet orden.
Idealet var klare arkitektoniske rammer med
praktisk, funksjonell form, og et interiør med
møbler som formalt var i harmoni med huset”
(Findal, 2007:24)
Functionalism – a new aesthetic
”De fysiske omgivelsenes presise, enhetlige form
understøttet ideene om en moderne måte å leve
på, og var et uttrykk for ”hverdagens
(Findal, 2007:24)
Le Corbusier and Pierre
Jeanneret: Villa La Roche,
Paris 1925
(Foto: Findal, 2007)
Foto: Davies, 2006
Foto: Findal, 2007
Foto: Findal, 2007
Foto: Davies, 2006
The functionalist doctrine
4 elements:
• Integrity and usability of materials
• Expression of new construction technology and
production methods
• Efficient use and organising of buildings
• Propagation of a new spatial order – free from
references to the past
(Rowe, 1993:43)
..a new spatiality
• Adolf Loos: a new open and vertical organisation in
which the rooms were connected by a centrally
located staircase
• Le Corbusier: ”promenade architecturale” – an
architectural walk through the house, ”det å kunne
bevege seg opp gjennom etasjene, ha skiftende utsyn
og innblikk i husets forskjellige sone”
(Findal, 2007:28)
A. Loos: Moller Haus, Wien, 1928
Plan 1.etg
A. Loos: Moller Haus, Wien, 1928
(Siktlinjer og foto: Colomina, 2005)
A. Loos: Müller house,
Prague (1930)
Fotos: Colomina, 2005 og Davies, 2006
A new aesthetic
• the inherent logic of new materials and construction
• avoid all unnecessary and superficial elements
(absence of decoration)
• Simple lines, primary colors, clear geometrical forms
– contrast to the surrounding nature (abstraction)
Le Corbusier’s five
principles for a new
• Pilotis
• Roof terrasses
• Open plans
• Open fasades
• Horisontal window
…made possible by help av new construction
Eksempel på åpen plan:
Villa Tugendhat, Brno (1928-30)
Mies van der Rohe
Foto: Davies, 2006

modernism I