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Cubism

II. Architecture

Source: Oxford University Press

Architectural interest in Cubism centred on the dissolution and reconstitution of the individual characteristics of three-dimensional form, using simplified geometrical shapes, juxtaposed without resort to the illusions of perspective. To the architect, Cubist paintings suggested that elements of form could be superimposed, made transparent or penetrate each other, while retaining the essence of their unique spatial relationships and context. By 1912 Cubism had become a predisposing factor in the development of the Modern Movement in architecture. While the nature of this influence may be in dispute, Cubism developed in parallel with the work of architects of the early Modern Movement such as Peter Behrens (AEG Turbine Factory, Berlin, 1908–9) and Walter Gropius (Fagus factory at Alfeld, Germany, 1911–13), and thus with the simplification of building forms, the use of components appropriate to industrial production, and the increased use of glass.

Cubist conventions were found relevant to an architecture seeking a non-rhetorical manner appropriate to an increasingly industrialized society, and promised an architectural style that need not refer to the past. Attempts at the direct application of Cubism to architecture and interior design by members of the Puteaux group were superficial, however, and Banham (1960, p. 203) suggested that ‘…it is only in conjunction with Futurist ideas that Cubism was able to make any significant contribution to the mainstream…’. Although the ideology and subject-matter of the Italian Futurist painters and sculptors predated their visit in 1911 to Paris, their representational techniques were effectively transformed by it and are reflected in the dynamic brilliance of Antonio Sant’Elia. Thus, what had become a revolution in painting was applied, as Banham puts it, as part of ‘a profound reorientation towards a changed world’. The Cubo-Futurist ideas, widely propagated by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, coloured aesthetic attitudes in the architectural avant-garde. For example, the influential De Stijl movement (formed 1917) espoused the formal rigours of Neo-plasticism developed by Piet Mondrian under Cubist influence in Paris, and De Stijl was also linked by the classicizing tendencies of Gino Severini to Cubist theory through the writings of, for example, Albert Gleizes. The linking of elementary geometrical forms with inherent beauty as well as with ease of industrial production, however, which had been foreshadowed from 1914 by the art-objects of Marcel Duchamp and pragmatically codified by Hermann Muthesius, was left to the founders of Purism (1918), Amédée Ozenfant and Charles Edouard Jeanneret who in the same year exhibited paintings together in Paris and published Après le cubisme (1918).

Christopher Green
From Grove Art Online

© 2009 Oxford University Press

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