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International Modern

International Modern or International style. C20 architectural style which began just before the 1914–18 war. The term appears to have been coined by Alfred H. Barr (1902–81— Director of MoMA), later publicized by H. -R. Hitchcock and Philip Johnson c.1932. It is generally accepted as having originated in Germany with the work of W. Gropius and others, and, because its image was free from Historicism and indeed from most allusions to the past, it was eagerly embraced by the avant-garde after 1918, first in Central Europe, then elsewhere. Its main themes were asymmetry; severe, blocky, cubic shapes; smooth flat plain undecorated surfaces (often painted white); the complete elimination of all mouldings and ornament; ‘flat’ roofs; large expanses of glass held in steel frames (often in the form of long horizontal bands or curtain-walling); and very free planning made possible by the adoption of steel-framed or reinforced-concrete post-and-slab construction (with a series of flat slab-floors and a flat roof-slab carried on concrete columns or posts) thus enabling partitions to be erected where desired as they played no part in the structure.

Paradigms of the International Modern style include Gropius's Bauhaus building, Dessau (1925–6), Le Corbusier's Salvation Army Hostel (from 1929) and Pavillon Suisse (1930–2), both in Paris, and Mies van der Rohe's housing-blocks at the Weissenhofsiedlung, Stuttgart, Germany (1926–7). Regarded as indicative of progressive, Leftist ideologies, its so-called Machine Aesthetic was used in both the Fascist head-quarters by Terragni at Como, Italy, and the Soviet Union in the 1920s. It was adopted universally after 1945, especially in Western Europe, Britain, and the USA.


Hitchcock (1993);
Hitchcock & and Johnson (1995);
Khan (ed.) (1998);
Korn (1967)

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