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.


Source: 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

The International Style which was developed in the 1920’s and 30’s grew out of three phenomena which confronted architects towards the end of the nineteenth century and into the 20th century. These were the need for economic creation of large scale office buildings and other commercial, residential and civic buildings to serve a rapidly industrializing society, the development of new building technologies based on the use of iron and steel, reinforced concrete and glass and finally the architectural professions increasing annoyance at the continued use of stylistically eclectic buildings which used elements from various periods and styles and bore no logical connection to the buildings purpose or function.

From these three phenomena a new architecture which was honest, economical and utilitarian was sought. This new architecture needed to make use of the new materials and satisfy society’s new building needs while still appealing to aesthetic taste. The International Style was born of these needs.

The International Style was formed under the dictate that the form and appearance of modern buildings should naturally grow out of and express the potential of their materials and engineering. A harmony between artistic expression, function and technology would thereby be attained. Basically the International style grew out of the machine aesthetic. Where the idea of mass producible objects was expressed in an international architecture.

A good example of the International style is le Corbusiers Ville Savoye.

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