From Constructivism to Modernism

This article stands as a defense of the statement ‘Modernism nearly exclusively defined architecture of the 20th Century ‘It shows how modern architecture was the major shift in the architectural world which carried on for the years to come. A history of how modernism culminated to become what it it today has been is outlined. The forefather of modernism which is explored is the Russian constructivists. They played a considerable role in modernism and its ideals. After finally coming together with other avant-garde artist movements namely Bauhaus and De Stijl a new style was born. 
Keywords: Russian Constructivism, Modernism, 20th Century Architecture

From Constructivism to Modernsim
A developement of Modern Architecture

Modernism is the expression of forward thought that draws on many different sources for the inspiration of what is to be.
Modernism in architecture is generally accepted to be a simplification of the buildings form and creating ornament not through flourishes and acanthus but from the simplified form. Other characteristics includes the mantra of form following function and emphasis of horizontal and vertical lines.

Modernism is not culture specific, it has been developing and spreading across countries and continents and it has many fathers. Some will say the Bauhaus, Some say the Russians, some will say De Stijl .I say all of them but the movement being explored here is the Russian Constructivists.

History of Constructivism.

Constructivist architecture began from the movement of constructivist art. This art movement had several factions. The purists on one spectrum such as Naum Gabo and those who followed his realist manifesto and the more socialist oriented artists who wanted the art to be integrated in production and industrialism-The productivists led by Vladimir Tatlin .Additionaly there were those moved by Naum Gabo’s Realistic Manifesto.

The main ideas of Naums Manifesto are that it should define space by using space and kinetic rhythm. The art style was a rejection of naturalism which is the school of art interested in depicting real objects in a real setting Hence we can see why constructivist art was its antipode. It depicted unreal objects or sometimes experiences or even the absence of object in an abstract manner. Major artists of the genre are Naum Gabo,Kasmir Malech, Vladimir Tatlin and Antoine Pevsner. 

However not everyone agreed with the purer aesthetics of Gabo and they were accused of ‘formalism’ , being ‘elitist’ and creating art that had no relation to socialist.Submitting would have forced the anti-naturalists to turn their backs on their ideals. At this point there was schism, Tatlin and Malech remained, conforming to Marxist ‘guidelines’ while Pevsner and Gabo left Russia as outlaw artists after their license was revoked.

Eventually constructivism was ousted completely in favour of the more socialist art, and the constructivists were forced to emigrate to various parts of Europe and the U.S where some joined with prominent De Stijl artists and Bauhaus artists worldwide. They were not shunned as an idea even if their style died out.
The shift

Constructivist architectureIt makes common use of angular lines, .Oorthogonal planes and kinetic trails in the articulation of elements. A geometric shape in relation to certain colours was also a common practice hinting at some relation to cubism. It was spawned from the belief that the machine could reform the lives of the people and how the machine could push mother Russia to new heights. Art and architecture wedas to be for the people .The machine aesthetic is the most identifiable characteristic of this constructivist movement as stated by H. Read “We cannot continue making inventing machines, constructing machines , using machines without in some degree being mentally affected by machines” and it is this effect seen in constructivism

Some of the tangible works of constructivism are the Schukov Tower - a hyperboloid broadcasting tower, Tatlin’s Tower – Scaled Replica (Above) and The Zuyev Workers Club

The medium in constructivism was to be steel and any other material that was the current technological development similar to modernism.

This architectural style began ended in the mid 1930’s but lingered on as a composite style known as post-constructivism.
Reading list 
Colquhoun, A. (2002). Modern Architecture. Oxford Press. 
Habermas, J. (1987). Critical Theory and Public Life : Modern and Postmodern Architecture. MIT Press. 
Read, H. (1945). Five European Sculptors. New York: Arno Press. 
Overy, P. (1991). De Stijl , Thames and Read 
Gold, J. R. (1997) The experience of modernism , E & FN SPON Press 
Ray S.(2005) The Wright Architecture 
Read H. (2002) Skyscrapers 
Steele, J. (2001) Architecture Today , Phaidon Press 
Ccurtis, W. (2002) , Architecture since 1900 , Phaidon Press
www.quazen.com - Suprematism vs Constructivism


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