The early 1900s saw a boom of industry in the United States, embodied most notably by Henry Ford’s development of assembly line manufacturing. North America’s sprawling factory complexes and monumental grain silos transfixed a rising generation of European architects, sparking a revolution in architecture and design now known as the Modern Movement.
German architect Walter Gropius compared US industrial architecture to the Egyptian pyramids; Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier would later describe these buildings as “the first fruits of a new age.” Alongside others like the German American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, they rejected ornament and created a new architectural language based on the form and function of machines and the industrial buildings that housed them. Modern architects embraced materials like steel, glass, and reinforced concrete, whose widespread use was facilitated by mass production. This same technology also transformed the field of industrial design, shaping the look and style of a new era of everyday, factory-produced objects.
Organized by Mallory Cohen, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design, and Martino Stierli, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design.