Tag Archives: modernist architecture

Form and Function

When we start the design process for a custom home, we try to integrate form and functionality. We believe that form is supposed to follow function and not merely serve as an ornament. In fact, “form follows function” is a phrase coined by American architect Louis Sullivan in his article The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered from 1896. He argued that the shape of a building should not be fashioned after some aesthetic tradition, but rather should be determined by the purpose of the building.

Louis Sullivan architect

Louis Sullivan c. 1895

In the early 20th century, influential architect and Sullivan mentee Frank Lloyd Wright adapted and further developed this approach to architectural design, which he termed “organic architecture.” Similarly to Sullivan, Wright argued that “form and function are one.” Organic architecture seeks to integrate space into a unified whole. The style of a building should grow naturally from its environment.

More specifically, “organic architecture” doesn’t mean the imitation of nature’s forms, rather a reinterpretation of nature’s principles. This includes respect for the properties of the materials and for the harmonious relationship between form and function of a certain building. Furthermore, organic architecture strives to incorporate the spaces into a coherent whole where site and structure come together harmoniously. According to Wright, architecture should have an inherent relationship with both its site and its time.

"Falling Water" by Frank Lloyd Wright

“Falling Water” by Frank Lloyd Wright

After World War II, architects like Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or Le Corbusier applied the idea of integrating form and function in a markedly ascetic fashion, which is referred to as modernist architecture. For example, Mies van der Rohe’s “skin and bone” concept emphasized open and transparent surfaces that would make the building appear immaterial and weightless. He also eschewed any decoration that would paste the inherent elegance of the used basic materials. “Less is more” was Mies van der Rohe’s credo.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House

Farnsworth House c. 1951 by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Even though the continuity of form and function lies at the core of modernist architecture, the style’s implications varied greatly across the pond. While European architects also considered themselves as social engineers who would give millions of people an economical living space after the war, American modernist architecture gravitated towards standardized industrial skyscrapers that came to symbolize the growing anonymity within the corporate workspace.

Nowadays, we moved away from the rigid stylistic rules of modernist architecture and include “extravagant” elements like ornament, complexity, and playfulness that appeal to basic human needs. Nevertheless, we believe that no feature of a residential structure should be superfluous. October Five seeks to design and build an aesthetically pleasing, yet efficiently working custom home for you.