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Styles & Periods
20th Century Architecture

Twentieth century architecture, like other art forms, was charged with formulating a response to the technologies and tensions of the industrial age. The first response came from the Art Nouveau movement, which self-consciously sought to synthesize all the arts into an art form based on nature that could be mass-produced. This yen for synthesis was shared by the Bauhaus. Art Nouveau architects like Victor Horta and Antonio Gaudi, rendered the twining shapes of foliage in cast iron, and created an organic environment in which each element related to and depended on the rest. Modernist architecture’s clean lines and spare aspects bear little resemblance to the somewhat extravagant style, but both styles demonstrate an interest in pure form, geometry and the organic whole. They also both rely on "new" materials. The various branches of Modernism – America’s Frank Lloyd Wright, Holland’s De Stijl, Germany’s Bauhaus and the International Style - added purity to the top of their list of concerns. Architects wanted to purge buildings of their traditional trappings in order to reveal the underlying forms and structures, but within modernism was a tension between the organic and the geometric. For the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, this concern with purity was wedded with a deep commitment toward integrating buildings with nature. He deplored the "box" shape that would come to dominate the world’s horizons. Prominent Modernist architects, who brought that geometry to the fore, include László Moholy-Nagy, Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Postmodernism in architecture arose in the latter part of the 20th century as a reaction against the perceived rigidity or over-formalism of Modernism. Postmodern architecture returns to historicism, drawing boldly from various ornamental styles. Charles Moore, Robert Venturi, Philip Johnson and Michael Graves are postmodern architects who create building with a conglomerate of styles, often to controversial effect.


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