The first project we were given at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Art's Architectural School, is part of our first themed study - History and Theory of Modern Architecture. We were divided in groups of five and were dealt different project subjects within the main theme of modern architecture. My group was given the subject "Rationalism", which, as the name implies, focuses on rationalistic architecture. The main assignment within the subject, was to make an A0 sized poster, which includes major historic rationalistic architectural works, examples of modern rationalism, and information on the background (and future) of rationalism within architecture. The result of our two week work, is the poster below (The poster is in Danish).
Our poster begins with a short description of the term "Rationalism" and some background information on the architectural and philosophical history on the subject. It then proceeds towards information on our two historical examples - the unbuilt Plan Voisin in Paris and Unité d'Habitation in Marseilles, both by the infamous Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier. The reason for choosing these two examples, is that they both illustrate Le Corbusiers fascination of order - A feat that is rather common in rationalistic architecture. They furthermore illustrate pre-fabricated architecture on a large scale, and structures of great residential density, which yet again are examples of typical rationalistic architecture.
For our modern-day rationalistic architectural examples, we chose Ørestad Gymnasium in Copenhagen, designed by Danish 3XN Architects and the Swiss-Re building in London, by Norman Foster and Partners. The first building we chose due to its simple exterior, but mostly due to its interior, which like the two examples of Le Corbusier, is also planned in different zones. The different zones in this high school building separate the different types of educational orientations. Furthermore, the building also uses pre-fabricated components, like various rationalistic buildings. Our final architectural example, Norman Foster's Swiss-Re skyscraper, we mainly chose to illustrate how modern technology and industry affect modern architecture, the same way early rationalist architecture was strongly affected by and even dependent on the technologies of the industrial age.
Finally, our last example, was not architectural, but rather an example of modern sculptural art. Our final example were examples of a Dutch sculpture artist Theo Jansen's fascinating moving life-like sculptural animals. These enormous sculptural creatures move like organic beings, and are driven solely by the strong winds at the coasts of Holland. We have chosen these moving sculptures as one of our examples, because they so well illustrate a successful fusion between art and engineering - Yet another characteristic of rational architecture: A great symbiosis between architecture and engineering.
A quick conclusion we made in my group, is that rationalism in architecture has failed the trials and tribulations of time, but it seems that it is on the road to popularity once again in our modern day society. Take for example the incredible success of Apple. Their products all feature an extremely minimalistic look - One that features only the absolutely basic needs. This tendency of minimal design can be directly linked to rationality, since it features only the absolute minimal. Since Apple's success with their minimal designs, vast numbers of other products of all types have followed this neo-rationalistic minimalistic wave of design, that is growing ever so popular. Another case of growing popularity of rationalism in modern society, is linked to the world's ever-growing awareness of environmental issues. With the new global environmental awareness, the term "rationalism" is everchanging, to adept to the needs of the modern environmentally-friendly society. Architecture is beginning to adept itself to environmental standards, rather than focusing on fine aesthetics, the world of industrial design is changing production to more environmentally-friendly materials and designs that require less resources. One could say that rationalism is alive and thriving once again, this time not to rebuild a world that has been scarred from wars, but rather to heal a world that is suffering from pollution.
- Andy Minchev