Functionalism of Marcus Essay

Functionalism of Marcus

It is known that functionalism was firstly mentioned in England in the middle of the 18th century, though it wasn’t recognized until the beginning of the 20th century. As it is mentioned, functionalism is “a style that is spent”. (Marcus 1995) It has vanished, simply because the designers preferred to work with ornamentalism and referential design. Over the last century functionalism was rejected, though over half a century it was dominating style used in architectural design. (Marcus 1995)

Herbert Read and Nikolaus Pevsner were the first to mention the term “functionalism” in their works “Art and Industry” (1934), “Pioneers of the Modern Movement” (1936). Actually, the concepts of functionalism were the fundamentals of their notions, ideas and literary works. It was Pevsner who “viewed it triumph as inevitable, the genuine and legitimate style of our century”. Thus, the works of Pevsner remain the basic text about the history of early design. (Marcus 1995)

Actually, the term “functionalism” refers to the word “function” meaning that the form of the objective should be determined by use and the object is considered beautiful if it is made according to the function. Functionalist style is treated as a Platonic ideal of a satisfying type charted by the designer by involving functions and use of the object. (Marcus 1995) Therefore, functionalism is more symbolic compared with functional architecture. It means that functionalism represent the function instead of resulting fro it. Function is known to be the vital component of the architectural practices in the early 20th century. The function image of buildings was the result of explicit and automatic expression of structure. (Marcus 1995)

Speaking about Pevsner’s functionalism, it is necessary to outline that he promoted the idea of industrial architecture called “teleological approach”. Functionalism was likened to “the biological concept of the adaptation of form of to function and environment”, as Fiske Kimpbell claimed. (Marcus 1995) The idea of the style was to link the forms of individual members and structural duties i.e. to unite use and purpose. Nevertheless, the style is characterized by high expressiveness due to distinguished elements of modern national culture. The mentioned characteristics were the basic of the early 20th century architectural design. However, functionalism remained indifferent to everything new and unconventional. (Marcus 1995)

In several years the concept of functionalism was narrowed to a particular style of building – made of reinforced concrete and equipped with flat roofs and strip windows along with liberal use of glass. Thus, new application of functionalism was revealed. Despite the fact that many different objects were considered functionalist due to their efficiency and utility, functionalism worked only with objects sharing particular modernist look. In the 1920-30s new designs, such as iconic tubular-steel furniture, appeared on the scale, though the history of functionalism didn’t stop there. Much of functionalism was filtered and new aesthetic vision was added to the style in the 1930s. (Marcus 1995)

Functionalism of postwar period is characterized by formulaic and conceptual rigidity as well as by chaste spirit.  The revival was seen in the postwar buildings, though the style was narrowly propagated by a few individuals having enormous influence. For example, Mies van der Hohe set the standards for buildings: emulated style and extreme refinement.  Wolfe promoted the ideas of solid wooden furniture i.e. soft upholstered sofas and chairs. Famous American architect Louis Sullivan suggested that functionalism “is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman”. (Marcus 1995) Apparently, lots of ideas and thoughts existed and it is impossible to distinguish one functionalist trend. As Scott Brown said, functionalist architecture was right, because function is the primary issues of each culture. (Marcus 1995)

References

 Marcus, George. (1995). Functionalist Design: Ongoing History. New York: Prestel-Verlag.