Good architecture has always been the result of strong personal convictions drawn from philosophy, history and a deep understanding of the nature of society. As such, architecture can be rightly called a true mirror of its time.
An exploration of this nature of architecture brought us to a discussion on expressionism and its significance in architecture.
From Gustave Eiffel to Eero Saarinen to Frank O’ Gehry, a quick glance on the time line shows buildings that stand apart with respect to their massing, or use of novel materials and technology to invoke a strong emotion in observers.
Our discussion began with Eero Saarinen’s Yale Hockey Rink. As he describes it himself.
““…the concept of the building was arrived at as a completely logical consequence of the problem. There was the site, an open location…it seemed a place where one could express the special nature of this absolutely independent building and could express its structure freely.”
The roof form of the building is dramatic and evokes in the user a sense of fluidity and freedom in the viewer while it stands proudly in conversation in nature.
Expressionism finds a different form in Frank’O’genhry’s Weisman Art museum in Minnesota. The building which can only be described as a collection of abstract and seemingly arbitrary cuboid and curvaceous forms has a sculptural quality. While it blows away a casual visitor with its enigmatic grandeur, an architect walks away wondering about the thought process that went into creating the sculpture clad in brushed steel.
Yet another master of Expressionalism was Antonio Gaudi with his Casa Batilo in Barcelona serving as a good example. The master architect found inspiration in the wonderful diversity of sealife and has created a spectacular rendition which , like all good art , has lent itself to a million interpretations. The absolute lack of straight lines , the very organic – feel of every feature of the building makes it stand apart and lends it an expression that changes with every eye that falls on it.
Unlike these examples, expressionism can be symbolic as in the case of Airforce Academy Chapel by Walter Netsch. The chapel , Massed like a phalanx of fighter jets shooting up into the sky , provides a feeling of loftiness that one often associates with religion while emphasizing the location and context of the building.
One finds the spark of the divine in the quiet spirituality of the expressionism in Corbusier’s Ronchamp Chapel or feel the tinkling of the river when one looks at the FL Wright’s famous Falling Waters.
Expressionism, it is obvious, is a quality that permeates all the styles of architecture, rather than a style in itself. All work of art and architecture is primarily a carrier of the expression of its creator’s concepts…and all works of beauty are those that evokes in the observer, even an inkling of the thoughts that motivated its creator.
Expressionism , after all , is what brings the world alive.