Deconstructivism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Deconstructivism in architecture, also called deconstruction, is a development of postmodern architecture that began in the late 1980s. It is characterized by ideas of fragmentation, an interest in manipulating ideas of a structure's surface or skin, non-rectilinear shapes which serve to distort and dislocate some of the elements of architecture, such as structure and envelope. The finished visual appearance of buildings that exhibit the many deconstructivist "styles" is characterised by a stimulating unpredictability and a controlled chaos.

Important events in the history of the deconstructivist movement include the 1982 Parc de la Villette architectural design competition (especially the entry from Jacques Derrida and Peter Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi's winning entry), the Museum of Modern Art’s 1988 Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition in New York, organized by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley, and the 1989 opening of the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, designed by Peter Eisenman. The New York exhibition featured works by Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelb(l)au, and Bernard Tschumi. Since the exhibition, many of the architects who were associated with Deconstructivism have distanced themselves from the term. Nonetheless, the term has stuck and has now, in fact, come to embrace a general trend within contemporary architecture.

Originally, some of the architects known as Deconstructivists were influenced by the ideas of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. Eisenman developed a personal relationship with Derrida, but even so his approach to architectural design was developed long before he became a Deconstructivist. For him Deconstructivism should be considered an extension of his interest in radical formalism. Some practitioners of deconstructivism were also influenced by the formal experimentation and geometric imbalances of Russian constructivism. There are additional references in deconstructivism to 20th-century movements: the modernism/postmodernism interplay, expressionism, cubism, minimalism and contemporary art. The attempt in deconstructivism throughout is to move architecture away from what its practitioners see as the constricting 'rules' of modernism such as "form follows function," "purity of form," and "truth to materials."

Contemporary art

Two strains of modern art, minimalism and cubism, have had an influence on deconstructivism. Analytical cubism had a sure effect on deconstructivism, as forms and content are dissected and viewed from different perspectives simultaneously. A synchronicity of disjoined space is evident in many of the works of Frank Gehry and Bernard Tschumi. Synthetic cubism, with its application of found art, is not as great an influence on deconstructivism as Analytical cubism, but is still found in the earlier and more vernacular works of Frank Gehry. Deconstructivism also shares with minimalism a disconnection from cultural references. It also often shares with minimalism notions of conceptual art.

With its tendency toward deformation and dislocation, there is also an aspect of expressionism and expressionist architecture associated with deconstructivism. At times deconstructivism mirrors varieties of expressionism, neo-expressionism, and abstract expressionism as well. The angular forms of the Ufa Cinema Center by Coop Himmelb(l)au recall the abstract geometries of the numbered paintings of Franz Kline, in their unadorned masses. The UFA Cinema Center also would make a likely setting for the angular figures depicted in urban German street scenes by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. The work of Wassily Kandinsky also bears similarities to deconstructivist architecture. His movement into abstract expressionism and away from figurative work, is in the same spirit as the deconstructivist rejection of ornament for geometries.

Several artists in the 1980s and 1990s contributed work that influenced or took part in deconstructivism. Maya Lin and Rachel Whiteread are two examples. Lin's 1982 project for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with its granite slabs severing the ground plane, is one. Its shard-like form and reduction of content to a minimalist text influenced deconstructivism, with its sense of fragmentation and emphasis on reading the monument. Lin also contributed work for Eisenman's Wexner Center. Rachel Whiteread's cast architectural spaces are another instance where contemporary art is confluent with architecture. Ghost (1990), an entire living space cast in plaster, solidifying the void, alludes to Derrida's notion of architectural presence. Gordon Matta-Clark's Building cuts were deconstructed sections of buildings exhibited in art galleries.

See also




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