September 27, 2016

Architecture from The Bauhaus to Deconstructivism

Bauhaus building in Dessau 2003, Copyright Wikipedia

At the end of World War I, a cultural relaxation in Germany led to a radical experimentation in the arts and architecture.  The left wing in the arts were affected by Russian Constructivism…. “art as a practice for social purposes.”  Walter Gropius founded a school of the arts in Weimar where all the arts would be brought together as a total.  (1)

Zuev Workers' Club, 1928.  A. V. Shchusev State Research Museum of Architecture; Moscow.
Unlike the Russian politicalizing of the arts, Gropius stated that the Bauhaus was totally apolitical.  “The design innovations commonly associated with Gropius and the Bauhaus—the radically simplified forms, the rationality and functionality, and the idea that mass-production was reconcilable with the individual artistic spirit”….were begun in 1907 to influence mass production. (2)  Later the Bauhaus teachings influenced everything from type fonts to fabrics as well as architecture.

AEG Turbine Factory, Peter Behrens, 2008, Photo: Doris Antony, Berlin - put it under the GFDL and CC-BY-SA-3.0

While the Bauhaus style was becoming, “one of the most influential currents in modern design, and Modernist and architectural education,”(1) Hitler was rising to power.  The school was closed by its leaders in 1933 after pressure by the Nazis.  Most of the instructors fled overseas and continued to spread the Bauhaus theories of design world wide.

After World War II, Bauhaus Modernism evolved into what we call now, the International Style.  This “major architectural style…emerged in the 1920s and 1930s, …defined by Americans Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson in 1932.” (3)  The was emphasis more on architectural style, form and aesthetics than the social aspects of the modern movement in Europe.”(3)


The Barcelona Pavilion, photographed By Ashley Pomeroy at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,

The International Style was known for its common characteristics of “i. rectilinear forms; ii. light, taut plane surfaces that have been completely stripped of applied ornamentation and decoration; iii. open interior spaces; iv. a visually weightless quality engendered by the use of cantilever construction. Glass and steel, in combination with usually less visible reinforced concrete, are the characteristic materials of the construction. (3)


Seagram Building, New York, 

Brutalism grew out of the international style.  It’s a heavy adaptation of this earlier movement, and “flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. …The term originates from the French word for "raw" …used by Le Corbusier to describe his choice of material béton brut (raw concrete.” (4)  In the 1980’s, institutional architects eagerly moved to Brutalism, and in many cities today we find these bulky buildings representing safety and security in the minds of the average citizen.


The Hubert Humphrey Building designed by Breuer, Photographed By 'Matthew G. Bisanz, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Growing out of the International style and Postmodernist architecture, Deconstructivism… began in the late 1950s.  It is influenced by the theory of "Deconstruction", which is a form of semioticanalysis. It is characterized by fragmentation, an interest in manipulating a structure's surface, skin, non-rectilinear shapes which appear to distort and dislocate elements of architecture, such as structure and envelope. The finished visual appearance of buildings that exhibit deconstructivist "styles" is characterized by unpredictability and controlled chaos. (5)

East face of the Imperial War Museum North by the Salford Quays.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Previous Articles in this Abbreviation on Western Architecture:



  1. I've never cared for the Brutalism style. Chicago has some really interesting architecture as well.

    1. Chicago was where the skyscraper was born. It was very exciting to see this first buildings when I toured the city five years ago.

  2. Interesting that the Nazi's cared anything about architectural art/design--that they cared enough to force a closure of the art building.

    1. They didn't like modern art or architecture, and in this case, they closed a school.

  3. I don't like Brutalism, either. I do like the current minimalism style though, and some aspects of mid-century modern. :)

    Thanks for the architecture history lesson! Very cool!

  4. Have you read The Paris ARchitect? It is not too much about architecture but about an architect trying to work during the Nazi invasion and having to work for them. What is all that crazy architecture that is in Orlando and Las Vegas called? Carnival?

    1. No, but I will look for it. No too, I don't think it has a name.


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