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What Is So Good About Modernism?

Modernism has laid the way for the minimalist clean lines and open plan living that is still the dominant style of new buildings and interiors today. Why have the ideas of modernism had such an enduring influence?

In the early 20th century there were sweeping changes in technology and society. With continuing industrialisation and the rise of a more liberal society - artists, designers and thinkers led the break away from the traditional ways of perceiving and participating in the world.

rietveld_red-blue_chair

This radical chair by Gerrit Rietveld, the Red Blue Chair, 1917, discards all ornament, stripped back to the barest and most utilitarian form. It doesn't look too comfortable does it, but it was a pivotal design in the move towards more minimal, functional design.

The ornate decoration of the previous eras were seen as excessive and a waste of effort and material. Modernism was all about exploring new materials, simplifying forms and utilising production techniques whilst maintaining a high level of craftsmanship.

Probably the most important ideal that made modernism so enduring is the idea that ‘form follows function’.The belief that true beauty would be determined by the rational use of materials, quality craftsmanship and keeping functionalism as a priority. The essential function and structure of a design dictated the shape, leading to the clean minimalistic style we still find so appealing.

Industrial production also allowed a more ‘democratic’ access to well designed everyday objects. The Scandinavian designers reconciled the coldness of Bauhaus modernism with a more human, natural aesthetic. Due to the climate in this region and the emphasis on indoor life, they understood the importance of a warm and inviting interior and ensuring practicality and comfort within the home.

Not just for the designers but for most Scandinavian people, good design is considered an essential part of everyday life.

Hans Wegner chair in Pompidou, Paris

Hans Wegner took the same principle of stripping back a design to a pure form but created a warmer, more inviting design by using organic shapes and beautiful natural materials.

Drawer and cupboard handles are designed to smoothly and seamlessly integrate rather than stand out ostentatiously. Sideboard and sofas are lifted off the ground on slimline legs to create an uninterrupted floor space. Natural materials are able to speak for themselves.

Attention to detail in design and craftsmanship have made the designs not only stand the test of time aesthetically but also made them durable, allowing us to enjoy the same 50 year old pieces today. Whether it is the original pieces from the 50’s and 60’s that still look great in today’s interiors or the minimalistic architect designed interiors of today. Modernist design prevails today because it is beautiful and it makes sense.

21/04/2011
Design

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