A major trend in architecture in the 1920s and '30s, which began in Europe with the teachings of the Bauhaus in Germany and spread worldwide. In the wake of the Nazis' rise to power, the stars of the Bauhaus migrated to the United States. The style was geometric and asymmetrical and featured such modern materials as concrete, steel, and glass.
The style arose out of the desire of such architects as the Germans Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and the Swiss-French Le Corbusier to break with architectural tradition and to design simple, unadorned buildings that served the basic needs of their users. Functional, logical floor plans and simple unornamented walls of glass and concrete were emphasized. The strongest contributions in the style were made in the design of skyscrapers, factories, and public housing. The International Exhibition of Modern Architecture in 1932 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City spread the ideals of the style, and it became the dominant worldwide architectural vocabulary of the mid-20th century. The underlying premise of the International Style (sheerness, flatness, smoothness, unornamental plainness) is laden with difficulties. Weathering and maintenance make it difficult to attain the ideal of a flawless architecture of pure geometric forms. Yet, striking examples of this style are familiar sights in cities all over the world.
The most famous example of the style is the Seagram Building, a rectilinear glass and bronze Manhattan tower. The building was designed by Mies van der Rohe, former head of the Bauhaus, and his American disciple, Philip Johnson. The name actually came from a 1932 Henry-Russell Hitchock and Philip Johnson book, "The International Style"; which in turn came from a book, International Architecture by Walter Gropius.
Whitford, Frank, "Bauhaus", Thames and Hudson, London, 1984
>Kostelanetz, Richard, "Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes", Schirmer Books, New York, 2000
Last Updated 05.12.04