Functionalism and machine aesthetic for modern movement Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:06:56
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Category: Dysfunctional

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Functionalism in Architecture was a movement during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Defined to have stripped architecture of existence of ornamentation so that a structure simply expressed its purpose or function. This movement was an influential factor for modern architecture. Both in the United States and in Europe, functionalism and machine aesthetics became existent due to the development of the era. During the 1920s and early 1930s in the United States, there was a growing machine-driven culture. The machines influence on art and architecture reflected the machines proliferation as a valuable form of aesthetic.

Both Functionalism and machine aesthetics held its own influence in modern architecture. By utilizing these aspects, the ornamentation and excessive forms of designs were obliterated and instead replaced by a more plain but functional look. Despite the growing movement of functionalism and machine aesthetics during the early 20th century, there still lie the differences and comparisons between the utilizations, views, and ideas about them from America and Europe. The difference of the two places somehow manifested various approaches towards the topic.


The functionalist movement was a product of one American architect, who coined the term form follows function, Louis Henri Sullivan. His works reflected the essence of functionalism. He believed that the exterior of an office building should reflect its interior structure and its interior functions. Ornament must be inspired from Nature, instead of from the pasts classical architecture. One of these works that would count as much as any other building would probably be the Wrainwright Building. The transition of American architecture was not that difficult because of the Americans openness with regards to new ideas.

Functionalism and Machine aesthetics was embraced by the country leading towards a more modern approach of architecture. EUROPEAN One European architect, German to be exact, but practiced in America, also coined one term that reflects the essence of the movement of functionalism. Less is more. Mies came up with this phrase attesting to the functional views about modern architecture. During the year 1923 he worked in Weimar, Germany and started his career of producing revolutionary simplified detailed structures that met with Sullivans goal of implicit architectural beauty.

His work on the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments which were named as Glass House Apartments exemplified beauty and simplicity, the essentials of functionalism. During the late-1920s Germany served as the most important source of influential development, but the ideas for Functionalistic structures and housing developments were too advanced that time for the political and social climate in Finland. Many other European countries later on supported Functionalism but it was never easy due to the more traditionalist views of Europeans.

CONCLUSION The American approach towards functionalism and machine aesthetics were much free than in Europe. Europeans traditionalist views and their take on classicism somehow undermined the overall utilization of functionalism and machine aesthetics. In America, the skyscrapers were eventually accepted and the simplicity of design was taken into wide consideration. This simple and functional approach towards design spearheaded the modernist movement, almost completely erasing traditionalist and classicist architecture.

This movement that was headed by Sullivan and carried on by the likes of Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe and other architects, has become a controversial topic until today. Arguments still arise with regards to the concept of function over design.


Lewis, Michael. Louis Sullivan after Functionalism. New Criterion, 20, 1, 2001. Jones, Cranston. Architecture Today and Tomorrow. New York: Mcgraw-Hill, 1961. Whittick, Arnold. European Architecture in the Twentieth Century. Volume: 2. London: Crosby Lockwood & Son, 1953.

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