International Style, 1923–1970 – Old House Journal Magazine

Illustration by Rob Leanna

It’s the purest, actually probably the most austere, assertion of the modernist constructing ideas that began with such architects as Charles Rennie Waterproof coat and Frank Lloyd Wright. Trendy structure gelled as a motion at Germany’s Bauhaus Faculty (1919–1933), and would unfold by way of Europe and past. After Bauhaus luminaries—together with Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe—emigrated to America, Worldwide Fashion turned the head of city constructing, particularly for skyscrapers and purposeful public buildings resembling hospitals and colleges.

Worldwide Fashion acquired its identify from the 1932 exhibition at New York’s Museum of Trendy Artwork. The exhibit was curated by structure critic Henry–Russell Hitchcock and the younger architect Philip Johnson. The catalog recognized Bauhaus rules: expressing quantity of area moderately than mass; stability moderately than symmetry; and the tip of utilized decoration. Worldwide Fashion is radically simplified structure.

 In 1943, City and Nation journal headlined a narrative about this Massachusetts home “Mutiny within the Berkshires.”  Photograph: Ruce Martin

Design restlessness had began even earlier than the Nineteen Twenties. In Europe and the U.S., architects have been experimenting with a brand new, trendy structure, one not primarily based on historic types, which might foster egalitarianism by way of its use of simpli-city and trendy supplies. Wars, urbanization, and altering social theories have been the backdrop to a brand new period.  “Structure is the desire of an epoch translated into area,” wrote Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the final director of the German Bauhaus faculty, earlier than its wartime closure. 

Within the U.S., Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Irving Gill spoke of type following operate, simplification, and honesty in the usage of supplies. Wright had moved to Germany in 1909; his “Wasmuth Portfolio” was revealed there and exhibited in Europe, influencing the work of modernists. In France, the chief was the Swiss–French architect Charles–Edouard Jeanneret, who in 1920 took the identify Le Corbusier. Co-founder of the journal L’Esprit Nouveau, he advocated for a brand new urbanism primarily based on well-planned cities.

But the Worldwide Fashion might have been born on the Bauhaus. Director Walter Gropius’s 1925 design for the varsity broke all guidelines. After the rise of the Nazis, faculty leaders emigrated, many to the U.S., between 1937 and 1941. They influenced the instructing of structure, the event of American modernism by way of the Nineteen Fifties and ’60s, and the very face of cities.

Though the aesthetic, if that’s the phrase, was adopted for public housing, Worldwide Fashion hardly ever was used for residences. “The austere modernism of the Bauhaus faculty . . . proved to be extra beloved for skyscrapers than for houses,” wrote Virginia Savage McAlester, in her Discipline Information to American Homes. Architects within the U.S. who did produce ground-breaking residences embody Wright, Rudolph Schindler and Richard Neutra (each émigrés from Austria), Charles and Ray Eames, and Philip Johnson.

Stepped-back skyscrapers offered a design motif for vacuum cleaners and cocktail shakers; the truth is, modernism had extra affect on interiors and furnishings. New supplies took maintain: Masonite, Plexiglas and Lucite, plywood, vinyl, plate glass, aluminum. Window partitions and open plans have been widespread in Up to date homes, like these of Joseph Eichler in California. Modernism had been integrated into much less extreme, typically eclectic, postwar suburban housing.

At Johnson’s Glass Home, furnishings designed by Mies van der Rohe. Photograph: Paul Rocheleau

The Hallmarks of Worldwide Fashion

The general massing could also be easy—a field—or include intersecting bins. Often a rounded finish or tower is current. Roofs are flat.

Framed glass and grid-like repetition take the place of decoration and even texture. That is probably the most austere of Twentieth-century Trendy types.

Such machine-age development supplies as metal, concrete, and glass lend themselves to sameness of type and lack of decoration.

In such excessive examples as Philip Johnson’s Glass Home, the constructing is just about clear. Window partitions, ribbon home windows, and repetitive grids of glazing are discovered.

Not solely the structure but additionally inside areas are uncluttered, easy, and glossy. Indoors and open air merge with patios, naked home windows, indoor vegetation.

Partitions got here down, particularly in public areas of a home, with areas for varied features flowing one into the subsequent.

Necessary Worldwide Fashion Residences

Gropius Home in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Photograph: Wikipedia Commons

Maison de Verre, Paris, 1927–32: Pierre Chareau 

Villa Savoye, Paris, 1928–31: Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret

Villa Tugendhat, Brno, Czech Republic, 1930: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich 

Gropius Home, Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1938: Walter Gropius

Rauh Home, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1938: John Becker

Farnsworth Home, Plano, lllinois, 1945–51: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Glass Home, New Canaan, Connecticut, 1949: Philip Johnson

Iconic Furnishings

 Within the July 1961 challenge, Playboy journal profiled designers George Nelson, Edward Wormley, Eero Saarinen, Harry Bertoia, Charles Eames, and Jens Risom. Photograph: Marvin Koner & Daniel Rubin for Playboy

Though few residences have been in-built Worldwide Fashion, interiors have been affected by the flip towards industrial supplies and furnishings. Traced to 1946 (in an experiment with a machine that molded plywood with warmth and a bicycle pump), Charles and Ray Eames’ LCW Lounge Chair of molded plywood turned a staple for the fashionable residence.

The Eames molded Plywood Lounge Chair

Different classics embody Knoll’s Barcelona Chair, its “much less is extra” development making it one of many interval’s most recognizable furnishings, as standard in the present day as when it was launched by architect Mies van der Rohe in 1929 for the Barcelona Exhibition.

Barcelona daybed sofa by Mies

Owners curled up in Arne Jacobsen’s biomorphic Egg Chair, whereas a Isamu Noguchi glass and wooden espresso desk offered a sculptural accent.

Nelson’s Marshmallow Couch for Herman Miller.

The Marshmallow Couch, by George Nelson for Herman Miller, has an “atomistic” design “exploding” the piece into separate foam discs coated in leather-based or vinyl. It’s nonetheless being made, as are many interval classics, making it simple to furnish a house in Modernist fashion.

Le Corbusier LC4 chaise.

Look to Herman Miller ( and Knoll ( for reissues.  Design Inside Attain ( brings trendy procuring on-line with reproductions of furnishings by Eames, Noguchi, and Saarinen. —Brian D. Coleman

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