Europe has seen major changes in the way architecture has generally evolved up to today. Modernism has been one of the major contributors to these changes and it has been perceived to come with its effects. Most of these effects have been the key contributors to the modern architecture. Those who are concerned with establishing the effects of modernism in architecture are faced with difficulties of finding the point in time at which to start the analysis. As noted by Sharp this is because of the rapidly changing ideas, fashions and tastes which is associated with modern architecture (pg. 4)1. Sharp outlined that the architecture of twentieth century was different from the previous architecture (pg. 4)2.
Sharp continues to say that ‘architectural modernism can be stretched to include the tangled progress of many revivals which include: neo-Barque, neo-liberty and the idiosyncrasies of inconsistent designers’ (pg.4)3. Therefore from his findings we can assert that modernism had both negative and positive effects in architecture in Europe. Sharp also noted that every manifestation of architecture favors the growth of a new definition theory of architecture.
On the other hand the nineteenth century was an age which saw rapid growth and unprecedented expansion in virtually every field of human endeavors including architecture (Sharp pg .4)4. This growth as outlined by Sharp was also transformed to architecture which was characterized by an ever increasing knowledge of past styles in which buildings no longer had to conform to established patterns or to the dictates of a patron or a particular region (pg. 4)5. This was one of the positive effects of modernism in architecture in Europe.
Modernist architecture is not dead. This is because although it had positive effects, there was a huge demand in Europe for complexity in the new ‘ways of building railways stations, hospitals, universities and other educational buildings as well as mass housing for industry’s and new settlements’ (Sharp pg. 4)6. This complexity made the architects to become confused as established by Sharp over the matters of style, status and method (p. 4)7. Therefore he established that a liberation of ideas and a common revolutionary feeling characterized by the second stage of modernism at the end of the nineteenth century. He thus said that there was a conviction that whatever came after the battle had been won represented a new order, aesthetic, sensibility and hope of a new world.
Woods says that architecture was one of the first areas in which the subject of post-modernism was debated and defined, partly because buildings have a highly visible public profile affecting most people’s lives (pg. 89)8. He thus said that the debate concerning lived space also involved commitments by geographers, collaborations with philosophers, critiques from urban sociologists and town planners, and arguments from cultural theorists.
According to Woods ‘post modernism in architecture emerged as a series of architects reactions against what was increasingly perceived to be the stultifying effects of the modernist interest in functionalism’ (pg. 89)9. The rise of modernism according to Woods has over the time been associated with the most influential modernist architects who were Walter Gropius (1883-1969), Le Corbusier (born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, 1887-1965) and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886- 1969). Woods thus says that all these people formed the main theoretical exponents of the Bauhaus School (pg. 90)10.
Le Corbusier as noted by Woods was an architect, town planner and designer developed the central tenets of modernist architecture in a series of trenchant manifestos of which were very influential and was known as Toward New Architecture (pg. 90)11. Woods found out that this manifesto proclaimed that utility and functionalism were to used as the presiding features of modern architecture with some assertions such as ‘ The great problems of modern construction must have geometrical solution’ (pg. 90)12. Another assertion associated with this manifesto as noted by Woods was that ‘Without plan we have the sensation, so insupportable to man of shapelessness, of poverty, of disorder of willfulness’ (pg. 90)13
In his further studies on postmodernism Woods says that the very universal nature of the International Styles application led to designs which failed to recognize the different functions of various buildings (pg. 95)14. He thus gave examples of housings, offices and cultural institutions all looked similar and this stylistic uniformity was criticized for its inability to add anything to their environment. In this context Woods says that the evisceration of historical reference demanded by the Internal Style was recognized as stylistically restrictive, rootless and meaningless. This thus resulted in the rejection of modernist architecture along with an explicit adoption of what was called ‘pop’ styles, hence historical traditions became the source of contemporary quotation and imitation (pg. 95)15.
Post modernism in architecture as established by Woods can be seen to date from the late 1950s with the developments of the Italian Neo-Liberty architectures like Luigi Moretti, Franco Albini and Paolo Portoghesi. It was thus observed that all their buildings demonstrated traits of vague or repressed historical allusions to Roman, medieval or Baroque styles (pg. 95)16. This historical ambivalence was one of the main features of postmodernist architecture as established by Woods.
In his further studies Woods said that it addressed other architects and a concerned minority who care specifically about architectural meanings. He also says that it addressed the public at large or the local inhabitants who care about issues of comfort and a way of life (pg. 99)17. Woods also outlined that this was what Jencks termed as Postmodernism dual-coding or double-coding which amounted to what was seen as architectural irony.
Hutcheon commented that postmodernism in architecture have deep roots in the present human condition (pg.22)18. Hutcheon thus said that the modern city has thus been accused of been a product of an alliance between bureaucracy and totalitarianism and singles out the great error of modern architecture in the break of historical continuity. Hutcheon also found out that the architecture of the 1970s and 1980s has been marked by a deliberate challenge to the conventions and underlying assumptions (pg. 25)19. It is also a typically postmodern and self-conscious challenge offered from within those very conventions and assumptions as noted by (pg. 25)20.
In addition Hutcheon indicated that modernism in architecture had begun as a heroic attempt after the Great War and the Russian Revolution. This was because it was geared toward the rebuilding the ravaged Europe in the image of the new, and to make building a vital part of the envisioned renewal of the society. He continues to say that ‘postmodernist architecture allowed for that which was rejected as uncontrollable and deceitful by both modernism and its life conditioner which were ambiguity and irony’ (pg.30)21.
Post Modern architecture is seen as a major architectural movement or a momentary fashionable flash in the pan. This is because according to Drolet, Jencks ideas on postmodern architecture matured throughout the 1980s (pg. 12)22. This was because Jencks came to periodise postmodernism into three distinct stages which include pluralist, eclectic and classical. The emergence of this consensus was a good proof of postmodern architectures success in exposing the shortcomings of modern architecture and thus presenting itself as a better alternative. Drolet mentioned that due to post- modern’s capability to fulfill the need for a universal language or a public language it allowed it to supplement modernism as the universal idiom of architecture and art (pg. 12)23.
Architects saw themselves as no longer above or outside the experience of the users of their buildings because of those ambiguities. Hutcheon says that to ‘disregard the collective memory of architecture was to risk making the mistakes of modernism and its ideology of the myth of social reform through purity of structure’ (pg. 30)24. He also established that postmodernism did not completely ignore modernism. What postmodernism did was to critically interpret modernism for its glories and errors.
Postmodernism according to Hutcheon attempted to be historically aware, hybrid and inclusive of all modernism ideologies. He thus says just as modernist techniques and forms became debased by dilution and commercialization, so the same happened to the postmodern. Therefore he was noted that post modernism failed to break completely with modernism. As a result postmodernism had a direct link with what most people called modernism. Hutcheon says that this was because it was seen as a period connected concept whose function was to correlate the emergence of new formal feature in culture with the emergence of a new form of social life and a new economic order in Europe (pg.37)25.
Drolet noted that due to complexity and contradiction venture it was argued that modern architecture could not accommodate modern life’s richness and complexity (pg. 10)26. He therefore established that ‘only a new form of architecture could take account of the diversity of human experience and facilitate its expression through new ideas about design and planning’ (pg. 10) 27. Drolet further noted that ‘Venturi and his co-authors Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour claimed that modern architecture suppressed individuality and enforced social conformity’ (pg. 10)28.
One of main causes of failure of postmodern as noted by Drolet was that that postmodern architecture lost its ability to communicate with general populace because it used language that was self assured, intimidating and elitist. As a result it was noted that its language reinforced its tendency towards hermeticism, formalization and dimensionality. Therefore Drolet outlined that the result was that modern architecture looked to itself alone for inspiration and thereby lost all its vitality. Postmodern architecture could only return to its pre-modern tradition of iconology if it looked at other disciplines for inspiration and integrate them into its own medium and different art forms (pg. 11)29.
Modern canon according to Treib research indicated that it represented the symmetrical and axial composition of plans which represented an abrogation of the free planning principles (pg. 30)30. These principles as outlined by Treib advocated for the inclusion of mechanical features and materials associated with modern technologies. Treib continues to outline that modernist canon was also rigorously self referential and objectified (pg. 30)31. For example Treib says that the materials of the landscape such as water, plants and such architectural elements as the walls and raised beds were treated as materials for art making.
In modern canon as indicated by Treib the design places put more emphasis on dazzling visual effects of color, light and perspective than on the kinesthetic experience of plastic and fluid, volumetric space that was an obsessive concern of the early modernist architects. Gaonkar established that buildings that were designed using modern canon lost their newness not only because of their material erosion but also due to the fragmentation of the modernist national ethos that shaped them (pg. 331)32. Gaonkar continues to say that the modernist canon ‘ruin condenses the contradictions of how the objects of modernity, while positing them as the new beard their own demise and yet they denied their aging process’ (pg.331)33.
Woods established that British architects had leading lights in the development of postmodern architecture (pg.102)34. This was because the some building echoes which Venturis ghosted buildings embraced high-tech materials and symbolic ornamentation and gestures to popular culture. Woods found out that further development in postmodern architecture was the use of metaphor and similes in buildings (pg. 103)35. He also said that the aspect of conceiving of architecture as a literal language and its capability of encoding parts of the body, the outlines of animal forms and other physical features into the building.
The critical and reflexive attitude as indicated by Magnani and Nersessian towards post modern architecture was created within many narratives whereby fallibility assessments were made as to the value of the social orientation offered by each narrative (pg. 254)36. On the other hand Balkema & Slager commented that super-modernism can be described as sensitivity to the neutral, the undefined, the implicit and as a new spatial sensibility (pg. 79)37. Deconstructivism was defined after the explicitly looking into postmodernism which was the old modernist ideal of boundless and undefined space (pg. 79)38. Balkema & Slager said that in these conditions of post modernism that is Critical or Reflexive, Deconstructivism and Super-Modernism there has been a great transformation whereby certain modernist typologies or inventions are continuously applied, recycled and reinvented. They therefore said that all these conditions of postmodernism were aspects of modernization and were the only viable architectural strategy (pg. 79)39.
Sustainability was very important in development of modern designs in architecture. Wheeler in his studies said that although ecological architecture is usually thought of as the exclusive terrain of architecture, building design has enormous implications for sustainability planning (pg. 224)40. Wheeler continues to say that using ecological architecture ‘green building design employs many of the same principles as ecological site design and in particular letting natural water, air, and energy flows influence the architecture, rooting architectural design in the characteristic of specific places and landscapes’ (pg. 224)41. The other important considerations included the need of building users and potential future users and the long term environmental and social costs of building materials.
Ecological architecture was aimed at preserving the traditional forms and characteristics of the local landscape. This accomplished by taking into consideration for example the flow of natural air, water and energy Wheeler (pg. 223)42. All this was done to reflect the ecological factors. In Europe for example ecological architecture was attained by ‘taking natural air, water and energy flows into account which involved a more scientific or experimental process of studying the characteristics of each site and determining how the architects could mesh site design with sun, wind, slope soils and vegetation’ (pg.224)43. Wheeler outlined that in 1970s era solar architecture was often associated with a modernist design aesthetic and green building practices were also incorporated into virtually any ecological architectural style.
Vernacular building is a valid part of a contemporary architecture. This is because vernacular architecture as indicated by Wheeler used the local building traditions that have evolved over centuries in response to a particular place and climate (pg. 224)44. Vernacular architecture according to Wheeler ‘is often a rich source of ideas for ecological buildings. He also said that Vernacular design elements help root buildings within particular natural and cultural landscapes and they also reflect local history and tradition. Vernacular architecture uses local materials and skills and is often more energy efficient and flexible than generic modern design as indicated by Wheeler (pg. 225)45. Wheeler also says that these designs insulate buildings and their inhabitants from the local environment.
The computerisation of architecture transformed its practice for the better nowadays as it has simplified the design process. As noted by Kolarevic this is because of the crucial efficiency considerations which include the vast number of operations that must be executed to physically produce a given (pg. 113)46. Secondly he noted that computerisation and hi-tech in architecture has enabled a raise in speed with which each operation can be completed. This therefore implies that as the time taken to execute an operation decrease, the number of operations that can be executed at a given time also increases.
Kolarevic also outlined that in recent years the availability of fast Hi-Tech architectural devices has opened up new geometric possibilities to architects. Kolarevic therefore commented that today architects are increasingly able to take advantage of accumulated investment in CAD/CAM which encompasses investment in code and fast computers which support complex derivation processes (pg. 113)47. Architects have also to invest in CAD/CAM fabrication machines that make them capable of producing digital information.
Lightweight architectural design on the other hand have resulted in better performing sustainable buildings capable of adapting to Climate change than heavily thermally massed buildings. MacDonald in his studies established that light weight structures are simple to construct however they have relatively low strength. MacDonald thus says that technical considerations dictate which type of structures to use either light or heavy weight structures (pg. 90)48. This variation results from the need to achieve a long span or a very lightweight structure.
The future of architecture is Hi-Tech as indicated by researchers. Borden & Rendell says ‘that the contemporary fashion for presenting hi-tech buildings as computer rendered nocturnal images brings with it a covert sense of these buildings and their technologies’ (pg. 287)49. They also said technology of Hi-Tech architecture is used to control time when it comes to linear time of history. Unlike the traditionalists who look for the instant lost age Borden & Rendell said that the Hi-Tech movement tells about the summoning up an instant of the immediate future (pg. 288)50. Borden & Rendell continue to indicate that ‘hi-tech architecture is one of the historicist lineages of progress, a determinist series of discrete moments which assumes to express a gesture of formal and technological progression’ (pg.288)51.
The Spirit of Place or Genius Loci is still relevant to contemporary architecture today. This is because according to Motloch ‘since ancient times the spirit of place or genius loci has been recognized as the concrete reality which man has to face and come to terms with in his daily life’ (pg. 57)52. Another argument why the spirit of place is still relevant today is because architecture means to visualize the genius loci and hence the task of the architect is to create meaningful places where he or she can orient him within and identify him with an environment Motloch (pg. 57)53. Landscape design as noted by Motloch should concentrate the genius loci of the place, concentrate meaning and increase placeness (pg. 57)54
Motloch also said that the spirit of place occurs when the characteristics of a specific location are read as an interactive synthesis (pg.58)55. In order to maintain the spirit of a place Motloch noted that is to keep the aspects of the existing natural environment such as land form and topography, vegetation, climate and the presence of water (pg. 58)56. Cultural expressions such as bridges, forts or hilltop churches which are a reaction to landscape, social history, physical location, human activities and place as a cultural artifact. All this factors are essential for maintaining the genius loci of a place. The other important aspects in the spirit of place are unity and diversity. They both indicate that a place has some key interests and it is worthy to be conserved.
The architecture of resistance and critical regionalism are focused on combining grounded place based knowledge with a scientific understanding. Cole & Lorch found out that a re-articulation of critical regionalism could begin to provide the possibility of architecture of resistance that is sustainably aware (pg. 122)57. A successful ‘critical regional architecture should not just act as a portal for the flow of information between localities but it should simultaneously operate as a bastion for the defense of significantly important local economic, environmental and cultural differences’ (Cole & Lorch pg.122)58.
In conclusion Sharp commented that the last decade according to has seen an immense strides in architecture and in the design and construction of social, educational and cultural buildings (pg. 414) 59. These changes have resulted from the emergence and advancement of technologies which include among others computerization. Another major contribution is from the fundamental political changes that have occurred over the time. Sharp thus said these political transformations encouraged democratic processes and therefore resulted to more public involvement in the evolution of architecture (pg. 415)60.
With the recent developments in architecture computerization and other technologies such as Hi-Tech, CAD/ CAM are the key contributors to the recent innovations in architecture. Modernism and post modernism are also the other drivers which have helped in the evolution of the current architectures. Political, cultural and economic developments can not be overlooked when exploring the effects of modernism in Europe. This is because through them architecture has taken the current shape and direction hence preserving important aspects such spirit of place and vernacular architecture.