Design and form

Design and form

The very best example from architectural history is perhaps the Cénotaphe à Newton, designed by Etienne-Louis Boullée in 1783 in honour of Isaac Newton, the originator of the theory of gravity. This design, a sphere supported by two cylinders, is a utopian idea that defies the laws of gravity. However it is not only the genius of Newton that is celebrated in this design; it is equally a stimulus to architects not to be satisfied simply with earthly and everyday things. Only the sublime is good enough. Gaudí developed his revolutionary ‘language of shapes’ from a completely different angle. His guiding principle was actually the ultimate earthliness. The laws of gravity are investigated by means of a system of chains. In order to investigate the lines of force of his constructions, he stretched wires within a framework. The result was the Sagrada Familia. The first stone was laid in 1882. Due to the innovative construction and use of materials, finishing the church has become an interesting adventure. 

THE FREEDOM OF FORM

Those possibilities grew at a rapid pace from the 1970s onwards. Architects grabbed those opportunities with both hands. The festive use of the latest technical possibilities was the great strength of postmodernism. Instead of the austere ‘less is more’ philosophy of modernism, postmodernists preach ‘less is a bore’. The tiresomeness of the minimalistic forms is combated with a richness of forms. Forms can create the impression that a building is lighter or heavier, softer or harder, larger or smaller. These impressions are closely connected with the materials used. Walls made of natural stone appear heavier than those made of bricks, and aluminium frames appear lighter than wooden ones. Different materials made more op-tions possible, and the domination of white was interrupted by other colours. The form reigned triumphantly over the function of a building. Square white boxes made way for brightlycoloured buildings, poking fun at the historic construction styles. This is in stark contrast with Boullée and Kahn, who took the temple architecture of ancient Greece very seriously. The fact that these buildings did not make a direct connection with their environs was of lesser importance.