The International Style and Houses in the Style

“House is a machine for living.”

                                                                                  Le Corbusier

International Style, as an architectural style, is a trend that has been influential from the 1920s until 1950s. When “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition” was held in 1932, the foundation of modern architecture was laid in this period, it was an important key point for International Style. With this exhibition, Philip Johnson and Henry – Russell Hitchcock published an article entitled “The International Style: Architecture since 1922”. This article has the same name as the beginning of the current, which is why it is important. This style was one of the most preferred styles of modern architects. After the World War I, the United States first started and then spread rapidly and, architecture is now an art form that requires innovation. The International Style, which has emerged as a new and pure style after the abandonment of the old and historical styles, has been spread and adopted so easily for me. One of the major reasons for preference was the fact that there were some architectural repetitions and discontent about the pursuit of the old architecture (1). The general goals of this style are: the use of smooth geometric lines, flat roofs, open spaces, concrete-glass-steel and the reinforced concrete, in short, the idea of exploiting new materials, avoiding ornaments and using the material technology and benefiting from the developing technology of the period (1). As a structural system, they support the free plan by the column system instead of the load bearing walls. One of the major reasons why the modern style of the International Style is regarded as the basis is actually these structural preferences. Besides these, architects who follow this style are very much interested in the formation of white color and the principle of “form follows function”. The traces of this trend will be discussed later in detail in architects and houses. Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are among the architects who have applied this tendency to their designs. These architects applied the style to their own designs, and at the same time developed some of their own principles. It is possible that we can see Le Corbusier’s white houses and houses in which he built the ideology of 5 Point Architecture based on this style. We can see the traces of this style and its own “Mies Formula” in homes designed by Mies van der Rohe from another important architect of this age. In addition, the use of light is also an important design problem for this style and Walter Gropius is one of the leading architects who employ importance to this idea.

In this part of the paper I will analyse and  interpret the leading houses and architects of the modern architecture and the International Style. These architects and their houses can be listed as follows; Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye in terms of its form, spatial quality is created by plan of the house which is open and used material in the house, Double House is also known as Weissenhofsiedlung Villa No.1 and No.2 in terms of The Five Points of Architecture of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe’s Tugendhat House and Fransworth House in terms of material that are specific for the van der Rohe, spatial features and. First of all, Tugendhat House is designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1928-30 to reflect the styling of the International Style with its architectural features. The villa is designed by sitting on a rather sloping site and towards to the south (3, p.60, para.1, Weston, R., 2010). The house consists of two floor. House is a structure composed of visually dominant volumes of white color when viewed from the outside. It feels us that the parts made up of closed spaces are offered a privacy. The layout of the facades of more common spaces also differs naturally. Facade openings of more general spaces with more specific spaces are increasingly increasing in particular. In addition to these, there is no training on the roof. The use of white color, the prismatic massive structure is clearly one of the general architectural characteristics of the International Style. From the moment we entered the living room, the simple, sideways, continuous glass front offers us a wide vista. I think the slope in this vista is quite an effect. Moreover, it is based on the International Style, which is totally purely purified, and the righteousness which is to be rehearsed. Besides the fact that the facade is a glass from the side, it is a space designed according to the more than one or two users. Also, before entering this living room, this staircase comes out with the help of a staircase. This floor has a curtain mechanism designed to open and close as needed in terms of privacy, while the living room, which has an interior and a glass façade, welcomes us from a small patio (3, p.60, para.2, Weston, R., 2010). If the house’s plan is to be interpreted as a reference, the scale of the house rooms is neither too small nor too large, in an acceptable scale. When we look at the plan the gridal sheme of the plan shows us that Mies van der Rohe has maintained the International Style’s open plan principle instead of using load bearing wall. This is another indication, that the house is built according to the International Style. From the standpoint of interior architecture, the furniture of the house is designed by Mies van der Rohe again. I did not find any detailed information about furniture in terms of the International Style, but I think that furniture design can also be an influence of International Style. Because we think that we should get the house as a whole in terms of architecture and we can mention at least as modern as home modernity in furniture. According to book name is Key Buildings of the 20th Century by Richard Weston, the materials which are used for the construction part and the interior design is expensive (3, p.60, Weston, R., 2010). In that point, I thought that in this era after the World War I, generally architects lead to sociological problems. Therefore, they felt over bakwards to the housing. The result I try to get out of here is that when they designed a single dwelling house, they usually do these things to rich and respectable families, so overall there is a luxury in the houses built by following this style. Also, another design problem that attracts attention is that always trying to establish a relationship between home and nature, the house is trying to work with nature. The situation I am trying to talk about here is also with Villa Savoye, which I will mention in a moment.

Secondly, Villa Savoye was designed by Le Corbusier as a house, which has been attached to the rural area  for the Savoye family who want to escape from the city life on the weekend and is now considered the pioneer of the modern movement in 1928-30. <<The pristine white box expresses the industrial machine aesthetic often associated with the modernist movement, and the house is raised on pilotis, freeing the ground floor for vehicular access.>> ( 2, p.144, Park, S., 2012) This quote is dedicated to Le Corbusier’s saying which is “House is a machine for living.” As we have seen here, as in International Style, industry and industrial products were in demand at the time. In fact, for me, the other goal of the International Movement was to utilize this industry effectively. So Villa Savoye is one of the houses and works that express it best. Also, functionalism is very closely related to this word. Because, in this movement, the design of the structure according to its function has already been adopted by the architects who adopt this movement. In order to examine the structural features of the house; the house is a house that reflects Le Corbusier’s philosophy of the Five Points of Architecture: by raising it from the house level with fine pilotis, by designing the house again on the roof terrace and by not using the supporting wall at the same time, by offering a framework to the surroundings nature with using continuous glass strip windows and, by making a free plan with the help of these pilotis. Although the idea of raising with pilotis this house is detached from the nature, the roof terrace idea is attached to the nature to the house. So, we are still trying to establish a relationship between home and nature. In Tugendhat House I have also talked about the relationship with this nature from a different angle. Even if the method changes, the goal is always the same. Besides these, it can be said that massive structure like Tugendhat House is, and it can be said that white color is completely dominant in these massive volumes. Tugendhat House and Villa Savoye are great examples for the International Style. Because these structures are the first examples of the International Style. Thus, the colors, architectural elements and materials used with their structures clearly reflect this style. One thing that caught my attention in the design of Villa Savoye was the open space, when the masses were completely closed and the house was raised. I think that the implementation of the free plan allows this. Thirdly, Farnsworth House designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in post-war period 1946-50 (3, p.92, Weston, R., 2010). At first glance, Farnsworth House has been upgraded with pilots, is white in color and uses industry-specific materials; Steel and glass structure sinking. In addition to this, the house  builds a relationship with the linear structure of the opposite of the vertical trees around it while trying to adapt to the nature. It is positioned on a land that has a low profile. This, I think, supports the house to be horizontal and linear. <<The house has been widely quoted and inspired Philip Johnson’s Glass House.>> (4, p.50, – Baird, I., 2009) This quotation also clearly shows that the house reflects this movement as it is made by quoting from a house made in accordance with the International Style. In this regard, it reminds me of our ‘House in Reference’ project in this semester. In Villa Savoye the purpose of the pilotis use was to circulation of moving things unlike Farnsworth House. At Farnsworth House, the house is intended to be protected from floods due to the Fox River near the site of raising the ground  (4, p.50,  Baird, I., 2009). << As the ultimate example of International Style minimalism to domestic living…>> (4, p.50, Baird, I., 2009). The house, which consists of a single volume, has a glass facade. This continuing glass façade completes the connection between home and nature without disturbing the view between home and nature. A similar feature to this one was also found in the work of Tugendhat House by Mies van der Rohe. I mentioned that above. I think that Mies’s homes relate to nature through the ongoing glass facade. The effective use of steel and glass again gives us a great deal of attention to industrial products. In addition, the house is so minimal that Mies van der Rohe’s “Less is more.” It reflects the word well. Even the use of the  partition wall inside the house is minimal. At the same time it creates the feeling of a single space within a single volume. I did not try to use a partition wall in my own project; to give the feeling of single space. It is another way to give this sense to people. I mentioned privacy in Tugendhat House about the use of glass facade. This house is also provided with a privacy curtain system, the same system. In short, the Farnsworth House is minimal and refined, as well as a design that defines the International Style at the same time. Double House was designed by Le Corbusier and  Pierre Jeanneret in 1927. Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret designed the Weissenhofsiedlung Villa No.1 and No.2, also known as Double House, based on International Movement. In addition, this one-piece two-piece houses clearly reflect Le Corbusier’s The Five Points of Architecture manifesto. Outside the house again white color dominates and strip windows along with the enclosed spaces are noteworthy. Mies van der Rohe was one of the most influential events in the construction of these houses and invited Le Corbusier. Mies van der Rohe has the same International Modern Style as Le Corbusier. For this reason, it is possible to see the traces of this style in these houses. ( 2, p.124, Park, S., 2012). In some parts of the house, pilotis were used to carry the volumes. At the same time, as in Villa Savoye, the volume boosted by these pilotis created a new and open circulation space. It is also quite possible to see the roof terrace of Le Corbusier. It is not difficult to understand that once we look at the façade it is the work of Le Corbusier. Because his five points manifestos are immediately noticeable. In the Villa No.1, besides the circulation provided by the pilotis outside the house, the circulation within the house is given importance. This circulation is especially concentrated on vertical circulation because the vertical circulation element in the house is noticed in the stairs, the sections of the house. From here I can deduce that; I have provided horizontal circulation with pilotis, and vertical circulation has been given importance in the house. In Villa No.2, the house has risen naturally due to the slope of the land. For this reason, apart from the house, as a vertical circulation element, stairs were used to connect the difference of elevation, unlike Villa No.1, no pilotis was used. In terms of the International Style, it is designed to be voluminous according to the function of the house, again white color dominates, the materials used are: glass, steel, concrete etc. and are acceptable design practices. At present, these two villas support this modern movement as it is designed according to Corbusier’s The Five Points of Architecture principles.

International Style_LeCorbusier

To sum up, towards the last years of the International Style, architectural understanding began to get tired of some of the rules of this style. Especially from these solid forms. Post-modernism, however, has begun to emerge to against these strict rules. I am taking advantage of the presentations made by Aslı Gürcan within the scope of 12th  week in Arch222 course; The old history of International Style, the lack of ornamentation, the use of rigid forms has influenced the birth of post-modernism (5, p.12). In fact, Post-modern Architecture is aimed at improving and improving the shortcomings that it has seen instead of entirely against the international style. << A vivid example of this new approach was that Postmodernism saw the comeback of columns and other elements of premodern designs, sometimes adapting classical Greek and Roman examples (but not simply recreating them, as was done in neoclassical architecture).>> (6) Post-modernism is also a bit related to the modern revival of the old historical architecture. In addition, the International Style was highly valued by industry and technology. In post-modernist architecture, art is also important. Robert Venturi, one of the pioneers of postmodernist architecture, said in his book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture that Mies van der Rohe’s “Less is more” versus “Less is bore”. << In the opinion of the creator of Less is a Bore, the idea of less is more is suitable only for architects, not for people.>> (7) As I mentioned in the introduction, Mies van der Rohe is one of the pioneers of International Style. Lastly, as I look at it from my point of view, I think that the International Modern Movement is a solid foundation for today’s modern architecture. On the other side, I also think that the causes of postmodernism, which are at the same time the reasons for the lack of the International Style, are justified. Architecture is intended to be done freely, but some rules become International Style. I think post-modernism architecture makes sense if it can be more useful in the scope of be free in architecture if  these rules  that come from the International Style are broken down a bit more. From my point of view, Mies van der Rohe’s “Less is more” promise is very closely related to the works of Mies van der Rohe, especially Farnsworth House, as they foresee the architecture of the Native Style. Because the International Style wants a refinement and this refined minimalist architecture is clearly present at the Farnsworth House. However, I would like to emphasize the importance of capturing a complexity in architecture by starting from the name of Architect’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture book, as Robert Venturi’s opposite saying “Less is bore”. Because a certain relational density is important, not confusion in architecture. Maybe it is not appropriate for Robert Venturi to do that with less than a few things.



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