Technological Progress as a Basis for Modern Architecture
Edited book, 2019
Early 20th-century modern architecture is a product of the Industrial Revolution. According to established historiography, it is not only inspired by avantgarde art, but also draws on engineering and the “anonymous ethos” of modern mass-society—it is architecture for the “machine age”.
The theme of this Special Issue is to investigate the significance of technological progress for the emergence and development of modern architecture. One key question is, how new materials (iron, glass, concrete), new concepts (standardization, modularization, mass production), constructions (curtain wall glass facades, flat roofs) and the mechanization of buildings evolve parallel to the modernization of architecture and how they change architectural thinking and the built form.
Many exemplary designs convey an aesthetic promise of progress and are designed according to functional, rational or utilitarian principles—with a new tectonic expression and a machine aesthetic with attributes such as transparent facades, a modular order and without ornaments.
We want to examine, how architects deal with technological progress: Are they are only recipients, adapting innovations to achieve a new architectural expression? Or are they active protagonists of technological progress, and the desire for a new architecture precedes or promotes the development of corresponding technological innovations? And how do their buildings in reality and on a material level live up to the aesthetic promise of progress? In this context the relationship between architect and engineer is of importance, as it is often engineers who are the protagonists of the Industrial Revolution.
The interaction between art and technology may help to trace the mechanisms of technological vs. architectural progress and to illuminate their role in modern architecture. The goal is to complement its historiography with the hitherto largely missing aspect of technology. Not least, contemporary global changes driven by technology suggest also a correspondingly aligned questioning of modern architecture’s historiography.