‘The avant-garde understands itself as invading unknown territory, exposing itself to the dangers of sudden, shocking encounters, conquering an as yet unoccupied future ... The avant-garde must find a direction in a landscape into which no one seems to have yet ventured.’
JURGEN HABERMAS, "Modernity versus Postmodernity," Modernity: Critical Concepts
Using the quote by Habermas as a starting point, select up to two buildings designed in the twentieth century and examine what ‘sudden, shocking encounters’ they have encountered, or created. Analyse the building’s meanings as a demonstration of an avant-garde, or potentially arriere-garde, position.
It is the new decade after the end of world war two and modernism is a well-established practice. Its pioneers and spearheads are prevalent figures looming over the new architects and designers who are trying to make their mark in the shadows of such historically influential people. With new technologies and materials emerging from the world wars the next era of modernism had started to evolved, bringing with it philosophies and ideas which seemed far removed from those of the pioneers of modernism “What emerged in the late 1940s and 1950s was an expanding synthesis of questions utterly removed from the confident statements of the pioneers.”(Spade 1971,10) Two significant buildings were designed in the 50's, both of them for educational institutes and to house students of architecture, there were both designed in completely different styles and methods. The first is Ludwig Mies van der Rohes' Crown Hall, finished in 1956 and designed as a part of a campus master plan for the Illinois Institute of technology in Chicago. Mies' design for Crown Hall is one of his most realised expressions of his philosophies on architecture, pushing the ideas of the timeless space within transparency and steel. The second is the Yale's Art and Architecture Building, designed in 1958 by architect Paul Rudolph. This building was an exploration of scale and space, bringing the urban and site context to the forefront of the architect. Using light and dynamic texturing of the facades to deliver a building that may have been before its time.
Mies van der Rohe is one of the most prominent figures in modernist architectural history, the man who popularised some of the most influential phrases of the era, e.g. “less is more”, and strove to push his ideas and philosophies, not just on what he thought a building should be, but of what he thought architecture itself was. He changed the cityscape of America, showing the world a style that was simple and elegant, with such a controlled palette of expressions that shone through in its geometric beauty.
Before him American cities were solid, clad in heavy masonry, thick set with shoulders as broad as American footballers. After Mies they rose up elegantly, their still gleaming glass transparent. They looked like bits of the ideal future, flawless in their geometry. (Hughes 2008)