chapter  6
23 Pages

Early Modern (1910–1930)

This period, approximately 1910 to 1930, was architecturally very fertile in anticipation of the modernist movement. The relatively small and localized movements of expressionism, futurism/Nuove Tendenze, the Amsterdam School and De Stijl, the Bauhaus, and constructivism each contributed to the roots of modernism in Europe. Although many of the included architects lived and practiced well into the twentieth century, their architectural legacies have been identified with this era and these movements. Their sketches are indicative of these associations, and more specifically the sketches’ techniques were infused with ideology in anticipation of modernism. They advocated destruction of the ruling class and the tight control of the academy, as was evidenced by the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The world was enjoying the benefits of the Industrial Revolution and found hope in the power of the machine. Early modern architects encouraged a departure from the past and traditional architecture, encouraging a near total abandonment of ornament. All were utopian and idealistic, promoting architecture as a vehicle to advance a new social agenda. Some may even be viewed as revolutionary, placing their faith in the worker and supporting the craftsman, and the replacement of established conventions. Whether because of ideology or political/economic circumstances, as a whole they built little. Each of these groups depended on visual communication to disseminate their movement’s ideology. They used media to assist in the conception of new approaches to architectural design. These drawings and sketches could represent an idealistic future in the case of Antonio Sant’Elia’s Città Nuova, whose sleek, dynamic images of industrial architecture spoke of a mechanized future. Sketches by Erich Mendelsohn embrace the fast lines and movement of the machine age by describing a plasticity of materials. Gustave Eiffel explored innovative uses for steel and glass, designing bridges and temporary structures. Michel de Klerk and Gerrit Rietveld, the most successful in seeing architecture through to construction, exercised extreme control over their images. Their sketches revealed the considered use of media to explore form and articulate details. El Lissitzky and Vladimir Tatlin moved easily between art and architecture, thereby enhancing their sketching skills. Julia Morgan, with her extensive practice, found the need to conceptualize through quick sketches and rely on her employees to translate her ideas into construction drawings. In contrast, Hermann Finsterlin chose sketches as a means to explore and disseminate theories of expressionism, using sketches as polemical dialogue. To elaborate on the uses of sketches by these architects it is important to place them in the context of their belief systems.