Product Design Genre's from the
 19th Century until today

The following page is produced with the goal to help loudspeaker companies produce products with style which can increase sales. 

This page has overviews for each significant product design style since the beginning of mass manufactured products, in historical order.  Images illustrate each section.
An attempt is made to provide each genre's 
antecedents and influences on later genres. 

Product Design is a subset of VISUAL ARTS.  Thus the genre's listed are visual-arts genre's.  US Enclosure's viewpoint is that a product design decision is a loudspeaker company's decision based upon the preferences of target markets.  US Enclosure also believes that extending corporate image into product lines is a sensible idea that helps differentiate your products from the competition.  US Enclosure knows this can occur with manufacturing costs very similar to current costs and with cabinet walls that match the performance of your existing products.

Many of the Genre's and their time periods overlap.  This page uses the earliest occurrence for sorting order.  Content correction emails are encouraged for US Enclosure to produce and post more accurate representations.

The Genre's detailed are based upon the fact that many product and industrial designers also were architects as both fields are part of visual arts. 
"Today industrial design is functionally motivated and follows the same principles as modern architecture"The idea of accessible, mass-produced design that is affordable to anyone was not only applied to industrial mechanics, but also to the aesthetics of architecture and furniture.

US Enclosure desires that loudspeaker companies use this information as a reference and tool for creative product design.
When mass production with interchangeable parts was adopted, the prevalent design styles were:

Way Back, before 19th Century Mass Production, a product design style was prominent called Neo-Classicial ( think White House and US Capitol ). As a reaction a new style named Neo-Gothic occurred looking to regain the beauty of Gothic middle age designs. As a sidebar, Neo-Gothic was also a reaction to the Neo-Classic visual art’s subjective relationship with Democracy. A few designers using mass manufacturing saw a way to take Neo-Gothic, strip off it’s costly flourishes, and retain the basic design. Strangely enough, it was the basis of Arts and Crafts… which was a reaction to both Neo-Gothic and Neo-Classical with a tilt toward Neo-Gothic’s handmade feeling but without details hard to mass manufacture.

So this article starts in the time period between 1830 – 1860 when American Mass Manufacturing techniques, the American Shakers stripped-down design which also worked well for mass manufacturing, and the Arts and Crafts genre’s appreciation for handmade looking products coalesced.

Before Mass Manufacturing, product designers generally were also the company owner.

A noteworthy precursor to product design is the Pitkin Watch, a USA based 1830’s watch manufacturer.  The company owners were craftsman and designers that formulated a mass production method to produce watches.  Thus a design was carefully thought-out as the design was fixed for a production run.
A noteworthy foundational style is the USA Shaker Furniture Genre, which is very minimalistic instead of craftsman-ornate.  Either directly or indirectly, the Shaker style was also used as a basis by many of the genre's detailed in this article.
Shaker furniture is a distinctive style of furniture developed by 1818 by the Shakers, a religious sect that had guiding principles of simplicity, utility and honesty. Their beliefs were reflected in the
well-made furniture of minimalist designs.  Furniture was made thoughtfully, with functional form and proportion. Rather than using ornamentation — such as
inlays, carvings, metal pulls, or
veneers — which was seen as prideful or deceitful, they developed "creative solutions such as asymmetrical drawer arrangements and multipurpose forms to add visual interest.  By the 1860’s
a core business for the
Shaker community  was the production of well-made "ladder" back or turned post chairs. The minimalist design and woven seats were fast and easy to produce.  Arts and Crafts
in Europe beginning in the late 1800’s, Bauhaus in 1919 Germany, and Modernists in the 1920s and beyond all were working  the same principals the internationally well-known Shakers used 100 years
earlier in the USA.

Arts and Crafts (1860-1910) The first recognized global “Product Design movement” began around 1860 in the UK.  It’s roots were in part a reaction against the very common ornate Gothic revival design style and the predominant eclectic historical revival design styles.

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. (1861–1875) was a Arts and Crafts design and furnishings and decorative arts manufacturer and retailer founded by the artist and designer William Morris with friends.  Located in London, the company and it's successor Morris & Co. existed until 1940.           

Arts and Crafts Prairie School USA
Starting about 1892, An attempt at developing an indigenous North American style of visual arts that did not share design elements and aesthetic vocabulary with earlier styles of European classical visual arts.


The terms American Craftsman, Craftsman style and Prairie School are often used to denote the style of visual arts, interior design, and decorative arts that prevailed between the dominant eras of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in the USA, approximately the period from 1910 to 1925. The Prairie School visual artists influenced subsequent visual arts idioms, particularly the Minimalists (less is more) and Bauhaus (form follows function), which was a mixture of De Stijl (grid-based design) and Constructivism (which emphasized the structure itself and the building materials).

The most famous proponent of the style, Frank Lloyd Wright, promoted an idea of "organic visual arts", the primary tenet of which was that a structure should look as if it naturally grew from the site. Wright also felt that a horizontal orientation was a distinctly American design motif, in that the younger country had much more open, undeveloped land than found in most older, urbanized European nations.

Aesthetic  (1868-1890)

Aesthetic was a major contributor to the allied Anglo-Japanese or Modern English style.


Just 6 years after Arts and Crafts was born a different design genre started which needs to be mentioned as it profoundly influenced Arts and Crafts at the beginning of it's history and also was philosophically related to the Shakers Aesthetics's thinking was that the primary element of Visual Art is utility; Visual art must first have utility but may also be beautiful.

Production of Aesthetic style visual arts products was limited to approximately the late 19th century and is characterized by several common themes:  Ebonized wood with gilt highlights, Far Eastern influence, Prominent use of nature, especially flowers, birds, ginkgo leaves, and peacock feathers, Blue and white on porcelain and other fine china.

Art Nouveau (1890-1910)

The Child of Arts and Crafts Art Nouveau is an art style particularly for decorative arts.  Unlike Arts and Crafts, Art Nouveau artists readily used new materials, machined surfaces, and abstraction in the service of pure design.  Art Nouveau is considered a "total" art style, embracing visual arts, graphic art, interior design, etc as the fine arts. According to the philosophy of the style, art should be a way of life. For many well-off Europeans, it was possible to live in an Art Nouveau inspired house with Art Nouveau furniture, silverware, fabrics, ceramics including tableware, jewellery, cigarette cases, etc. Artists desired to combine the fine arts and applied arts, even for utilitarian objects.  Although Art Nouveau was replaced by 20th-century Modernist styles, it is now considered as an important transition between the eclectic historic revival styles of the 19th century and Modernism. One description described it as "sudden violent curves generated by the crack of a whip" with hyperbolas and parabolas with grow into plant-derived forms.

By the start of World War I, however, the stylized nature of Art Nouveau design—which was expensive to produce—began to be disused in favor of more streamlined, rectilinear Modernism, which was cheaper to produce and thought to be more faithful to the plainer industrial aesthetic that was the root of Art Deco.

An offshoot of Art Nouveau, with the earliest example dating to 1888, is Modernisme 
primarily with Catalonia and Barcelona, Spain.  Also known as the Plastic Arts.

Lizard sculpture dates from 1888 (Right)

Many Modernisme designs predating 20th Century Modernism seem to also preanticipate a 180 degree reaction to Modernism by using a modernized and extremely decorative Neo-Gothic design style.    View upward inside the Church pictured (above)

Deutscher Werkbund (1907-1938)

Founded in 1907, the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen) was a German association of artists, architects, designers, and industrialists. The Werkbund was to become an important event in the development of modern visual arts and industrial design, particularly in the later creation of the Bauhaus school of design. Its initial purpose was to establish a partnership of product manufacturers with design professionals to improve the competitiveness of German companies in global markets. The Werkbund was less an artistic movement than a state-sponsored effort to integrate traditional crafts and industrial mass-production techniques, to put Germany on a competitive footing with England and the United States.



The Werkbund, founded in 1907,  was to become an important event in the development of modern industrial design, particularly in the later creation of the Bauhaus school of design. Its initial purpose was to establish a partnership of product manufacturers with design professionals to improve the competitiveness of German companies in global markets.

FUNCTIONALISM and MODERNISM is not broken out separately in this Design Article as Functionalism and/or Modernism are an Element either de-emphasized or emphasized in all Product Designs.
   A Decent Functionalist
   Building Design
                                                                   Functionalist Loudspeaker Design 

Deutscher Werkbund and Architect Louis Sullivan ( the father of Modernism ) subscribed to the Design Concept named Form Follows Function, also the immediate theory underlying Modernism and Functionalism design, and historically the basis of most of design categories featured on this page.  Even Novelist Ann Rand took notice of Sullivan and based her novel The Fountainhead on Sullivan.
Want to read more of the Designer Louis Sullivan that created Modernism and Functionalism?   Sullivan, an American designer which literally,
since the 1880's, initialized the world's concept of Product Design .  Sullivan's details are located in
our American Product Design Webpage.

Expressionism (1905-1930)

Expressionism, a style abstract in nature and characterized by an early-modernist adoption of novel materials, formal innovation, and very unusual massing, sometimes inspired by natural biomorphic forms, sometimes by the new technical possibilities allowing expression of distortion, fragmentation or the communication of violent or overstressed emotion

Both Arts And Crafts and Art Nouveau influenced Expressionism.  The concurrent Futurist and Constructivist visual arts genre's, and the DADA anti-art style often contained similar features.  However, Futurism and Constructivism emphasized mechanization and urbanism

Expressionism features include:
1.    Distortion of form for an emotional effect.
2.    Subordination of realism to symbolic or stylistic expression of inner experience.
3.    An underlying effort at achieving the new, original, and visionary.
4.    Often hybrid solutions, irreducible to a single concept.
5.    Themes of natural romantic phenomena, such as caves, mountains, lightning, crystal and rock formations; thus it's more mineral and elemental than florid and organic
        characterized by its close contemporary Art Nouveau.
6.    Uses creative potential of artisan craftsmanship.
7.    Tendency more towards the gothic than the classical. Expressionist visual arts also tends more towards the romanesque and the rococo than the classical.
8.    Though a European genre, expressionism is as eastern as western. It draws as much from Moorish, Islamic, Egyptian, and Indian visual arts as from Roman or Greek.
9.    Conception of visual arts as a work of art.

The exploration of psychological effects of form and space was undertaken by visual artists in their project.  Expressionism focused on the Sublime form of the five primary aesthetic forms: the beautiful, the sublime, the tragic, the ugly, and the comic.  The experience of the sublime was supposed to involve a self-forgetfulness where personal fear is replaced by a sense of well-being and security when confronted with an object exhibiting superior might.

The New Objectivity genre arose in direct opposition to Expressionism. By 1925 most of the leading Expressionists had turned toward the New Objectivity genre, a more practical and matter-of-fact approach which rejected the emotional agitation of Expressionism.

Art Deco shares some characteristics of Expressionism and is likely to have been influenced directly by the Expressionist's - particularly via the activities of the Bauhaus.  United States examples of Art Deco can be seen as a Transatlantic equivalent of European Expressionism. The International style was influenced by Expressionism and an evident influence exists in Deconstructionism and the Organic genres.

In the post WW2 period, a variant of Expressionism named Brutalism had an honest approach to materials, that in its unadorned use of concrete. The designs of Le Corbusier took a turn for the Expressionist in his Brutalist phase.  Another mid-century modern architect that evoked Expressionism was Eero Saarinen such as his 1962 TWA Terminal at JFK International Airport with an Organic form.   More recently, the aesthetics and tactility of Expressionist visual arts have found echo in the works of Enric Miralles, most notability his Scottish Parliament building, Deconstructionist visual artists such as Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind, as well as Canadian Aboriginal visual artist Douglas Cardinal.

Futurism (1909-1930)

Futurism designates what the future world should be, not necessarily what the future world would be.  Futurism emphasized speed, technology, youth and violence and objects such as the car, the airplane and the industrial city; the technological triumph of humanity over nature.  Futurism also is characterized that the perceived world is in constant movement using by strong chromaticism, long dynamic lines, suggesting speed, motion, urgency and lyricism, and the use of technologically advanced materials.  Futurists practiced in every medium of visual art, including , industrial design, interior design, urban design,  fashion. 

Cubism contributed to the formation of Futurism's artistic style when founded in Italy.  To some extent Futurism influenced the visual arts with Art Deco, Constructivism, Surrealism, and DADA.

Click here to see an example of Futurism using Horn Shaped sound transmitters-- not loudspeakers.  Too offbeat to use on this page but guaranteed to raise a smile.

Nonetheless the ideals of Futurism remain as significant components of modern Western culture; the emphasis on youth, speed, power
and technology finding expression in much of modern commercial cinema and culture. Ridley Scott consciously evoked the designs of Sant'Elia in Blade Runner.
Echoes of Marinetti's thought, especially his "dreamt-of metallization of the human body", are still strongly prevalent in Japanese culture, and surface in manga/anime and the works of artists such as Shinya Tsukamoto, director of the "Tetsuo" (lit. "Ironman") films. Futurism has produced several reactions, including the literary genre of cyberpunk—in which technology was often treated with a critical eye—whilst visual artists who came to prominence during the first flush of the Internet, such as Stelarc and Mariko Mori, produce work which comments on Neo-Futurist ideals in which technology is considered a driver to a better quality of life and sustainability values.

After World War II, Futurism was considerably weakened and redefined itself thanks to the enthusiasm towards the Space Age, the Atomic Age, the car culture, and the wide use of plastic. For example, this trend is found in the visual arts of Googies in the 1950s in California.

In the early 21st century, Neo-Futurism has been launched by innovation designer Vito Di Bari with his vision of “cross-pollination of visual art and cutting edge technology for a better world” applied to the project of the city of Milan at the time of the Universal Expo 2015.

DADA (1915 - 1924)

The roots of DADA lay in pre World War 1 avant-garde. Cubism was a source as well as general abstractionism which detached the genre from the constraints of reality and convention.  The genre was heavily involved in the visual arts.  The beginning of DADA was, soon after arriving from France in 1915, Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia met American artist Man Ray. By 1924 in Paris, DADA was melding into Surrealism, and visual artists had gone on to other ideas  including Surrealism, Social Realism and other forms of Modernism. Some theorists argue that DADA was actually the beginning of Postmodern visual art.  This International-style  genre was begun by a group of visual artists and poets associated with the Cabaret Voltaire and DADA in Zurich.  DADA rejected reason and logic, prizing nonsense, irrationality and intuition. 

Surrealism (1915-1945)

Surrealism developed largely out of the DADA activities during World War I and the most important center of the style was Paris. From the 1920s onward, Surrealism spread around the globe, eventually affecting the visual arts of many countries.  The aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality."  Visual artists produced unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects.  Salvador Dalí is one of the best known surrealist artists.  During WW2 Abstract Expressionism itself grew directly out of the meeting of American (particularly New York) visual artists with European Surrealists self-exiled during the war.

De Stijl (1917-1931)

De Stijl-- "The Style" was a Dutch visual arts genre that advocated pure abstraction and universality by a reduction to the essentials of form and color by simplifying visual compositions to the vertical and horizontal directions, and used only primary colors along with black and white.

De Stijl was influenced by Cubist genre as well as by the mysticism and the ideas about "ideal" geometric forms (such as the Golden Rectangle and the "perfect straight line") found in the neoplatonic philosophy of mathematician M. H. J. Schoenmaekers. The De Stijl style was also influenced by Neopositivism.  The works of De Stijl would influence the Bauhaus style and the international style of visual arts as well as clothing and interior design.

Constructivism (1919-1932)
& Soviet (1930-1985)

Constructivism was a visual arts genre that originated in Russia beginning in 1919 and was in favor of visual art as a practice for social purposes. Constructivism had a great effect on visual art's Modern styles of the 20th century, influencing major trends such as the Bauhaus and De Stijl. Its influence was pervasive, with major impacts upon visual arts, graphic and industrial design.  Constructivism was a post-World War I development of Russian Futurism.  Constructivist s also showed a willingness to involve themselves in fashion and the mass market, which they tried to balance with their Communist beliefs.

Note:  The Soviets tended to, as shown above, poorly copy (without internationally recognized required legal compensation [ stealing]) products found in the west, both industrial, commercial, and consumer, thus the product design many times reflected the piece they took.  The Soviets designers were allowed to only use only time-tested, conservative western designs and did not dare change the product’s look.  Thus, with some exceptions, the best examples of Soviet product design are found in basic consumer goods such as kitchenware, furniture, etc. Socialism produces stagnant designs which at best like with Scandinavian Design are a positive refinement of existing ideas. 

Post Constructivism was a daughter genre was born by socialist terror and devolved into Stalinist neoclassical shapes without neoclassical detailingEarly Stalinism or Post Constructivism merged closely with Soviet adaptations of Art Deco. Some examples of Soviet Art Deco, like the 1934 Lenin Library by Vladimir Shchuko, may be mistaken for Post Constructivism. Stalinist visual design also referred to as Stalinist Empire style or Socialist Classicism, is a term given to visual arts of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, between 1933, when Boris Iofan's draft for Palace of the Soviets was officially approved, and 1955, when Nikita Khrushchev condemned "excesses" of the past decades and disbanded the Soviet Academy of visual arts.

Stalin rejected Constructivism.  Stalinist visual arts is associated with the Socialist Realism school of visual arts. The interaction of the state with the designers would prove to be one of the features of this time. The same product design could be declared a formalist blasphemy and then receive the greatest praise the next year.

              1949 Stalin Prize                                       Soviet version of Art Deco                                   Socialist Realism


Bauhaus (1919-1935)

The Bauhaus was first founded by Walter Gropius in Germany. In spite of its name, and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus during the first years of its existence did not have an visual arts department. Nonetheless, it was founded with the idea of creating a "total" work of art in which all arts, including visual arts, would eventually be brought together. The Bauhaus style later became one of the most influential currents in modern design, Modernist visual arts and art, design and visual arts education. The Bauhaus had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in visual arts, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.

Art Deco (1920-1942)

Originally known until nearly 1970 as "Art Moderne" and with it's streamlined forms was regarded as futuristic when it was popular during the 1920s and 1930s.  Art Deco has a huge debt to Futurism.

Art Deco is an influential visual arts design genre that first appeared in France just before World War I and began flourishing internationally in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s before its popularity waned after World War II.  Art Deco was heavily influenced by pre-modern art from around the world.  Artists and designers integrated motifs from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, Asia, Mesoamerica and Oceania with Machine Age elements.  Art Deco was also influenced by Cubism, Constructivism, Functionalism, Modernism, and Futurism.

Art Deco was globally popular and affected many areas of design. It was used widely in consumer products such as automobiles, furniture, cookware, china, textiles, jewelry, clocks, and electronic items such as radios, telephones, and jukeboxes. It also influenced visual arts, interior design, industrial design, fashion, graphic arts, and cinema.  During the 1930s, Art Deco was used extensively for public works projects, railway stations, ocean liners (including the Île de France, Queen Mary, and Normandie), movie palaces, and amusement parks.

It is an eclectic style that combines traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials. The genre is often characterized by rich colors, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation. Art Deco emphasizes geometric forms: spheres, polygons, rectangles, trapezoids, zigzags, chevrons, and sunburst motifs. Elements are often arranged in symmetrical patterns. Modern materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, Bakelite, chrome, and plastics are frequently used. Stained glass, inlays, and lacquer are also common. Colors tend to be vivid and high contrast.  One of its major attributes is an embrace of technology. This distinguishes Art Deco from the organic motifs favored by its predecessor Art NouveauDuring its heyday, Art Deco represented luxury, glamor, exuberance and faith in social and technological progress. 

Art Deco as "an assertively modern style [that] ran to symmetry rather than asymmetry, and to the rectilinear rather than the curvilinear; it responded to the demands of the machine and of new material [and] the requirements of mass production".

A style related to Art Deco is Streamline Moderne (detailed below) , which emerged during the mid-1930s. Streamline Moderne was influenced by modern aerodynamic principles developed for aviation and ballistics to reduce air friction at high velocities. Designers applied these principles to cars, trains, ships, and even objects not intended to move, such as refrigerators, gas pumps, and buildings.

One of the first production vehicles in this style was the Chrysler Airflow of 1933. It was unsuccessful commercially, but the beauty and functionality of its design set a precedent.

Streamlining quickly influenced automotive design and evolved the rectangular "horseless carriage" into sleek vehicles with aerodynamic lines, symmetry, and V-shapes. These designs continued to be popular after World War II.

New Objectivity  (1920-1933)

Rooted in Deutscher Werkbund, New Objectivity was a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, understood by Germans as intrinsically American. Many Bauhaus practitioners veered into and developed this genre. Leading up to World War II, much of the visual art professions were under the influence of Futurism and Expressionism, both of which abandoned any sense of order or commitment to objectivity or tradition.  Expressionism was in particular the dominant form of visual art in Germany, and it was represented in many different facets of public life—in dance, in theater, in painting, in visual arts, as well as in poetry and literature.

Expressionists abandoned nature and sought to express emotional experience, often centering their work around inner turmoil (angst), whether in reaction to the modern world, to alienation from society, or in the creation of personal identity.

Streamline Moderne

A style related to Art Deco is Streamline Moderne (or Streamline) or Art Moderne, is a late type of the Art Deco visual arts and design which emerged during the mid-1930s.   The first streamline visual arts evolved from the work of New Objectivity genre, a style connected to the German Werkbund.

The Streamline Moderne was both a reaction to Art Deco and a reflection of austere economic times; Sharp angles were replaced with simple, aerodynamic curves. Exotic woods and stone were replaced with cement and glass.  Americans saw a new aspect of Art Deco—i.e., streamlining, a concept first conceived by industrial designers who stripped Art Deco design of its ornament in favor of the aerodynamic pure-line concept of motion and speed developed from scientific thinking. Cylindrical forms and long horizontal windowing also may be influenced by ConstructivismStreamline Moderne was very influenced by modern aerodynamic principles developed for aviation and ballistics to reduce air friction at high velocities. Designers applied these principles to cars, trains, ships, and even objects not intended to move, such as clocks, radios, telephones, furniture, refrigerators and many other household appliances embraced the concept as well as gas pumps, and buildings. Its visual arts style emphasized curving forms, long horizontal lines, and sometimes nautical elements.  As a result, an array of designers quickly ultra-modernized and streamlined the designs of everyday objects.

Art Deco and Streamline Moderne were brother and sisters. Streamline Moderne buildings with a few Deco elements were not uncommon but the prime movers behind streamline design (Raymond Loewy, Walter Dorwin Teague, Gilbert Rohde, Norman Bel Geddes) all disliked Art Deco, seeing it as falsely modern—essentially a fraud.

Streamlining quickly influenced automotive design and evolved the rectangular "horseless carriage" into sleek vehicles with aerodynamic lines, symmetry, and V-shapes. These designs continued to be popular after World War II and in with auto design to this day.  One of the first production vehicles in this style was the Chrysler Airflow of 1933 which was unsuccessful commercially, but the beauty and functionality of its design set a precedent.

Common characteristics of Streamline Moderne

·      Horizontal orientation

·      Rounded edges, corner windows

·      Glass brick walls

·      Porthole windows

·      Chrome hardware

·      Smooth exterior wall surfaces, usually stucco (smooth plaster finish)

·      Flat roof with coping

·      Horizontal grooves or lines in walls

·      Subdued colors: base colors were typically light earth tones, off-whites, or beiges; and trim colors were typically dark colors (or bright metals) to contrast from the light base

Industrial design:  The style was applied to appliances such as electric clocks, sewing machines, small radio receivers and vacuum cleaners. Their manufacturing processes exploited developments in materials science including aluminum and Bakelite.  Compared to Europe, the United States in the 1930s had a stronger focus on design as a means to increase sales of consumer products. Streamlining was associated with prosperity and an exciting future. This hope resonated with the American middle class, the major market for consumer products. A wide range of goods from refrigerators to pencil sharpeners was produced in streamlined designs.

Streamlining became a widespread design practice for automobiles, railroad cars, buses, and other vehicles in the 1930s. Notable automobile examples include the previously noted 1934 Chrysler Airflow, the 1950 Nash Ambassador "Airflyte" sedan with its distinctive low fender lines, as well as Hudson's postwar cars, such as the Commodore, that "were distinctive streamliners—ponderous, massive automobiles with a style all their own".

Streamline style can be contrasted with Functionalism, which was a leading design style in Europe at the same time. One reason for the simple designs in Functionalism was to lower the production costs of the items, making them affordable to the large European working class. Streamlining and Functionalism represent two very different schools in Modernistic industrial design, but both reflecting the intended consumer.


PWA Moderne (or "P.W.A. Moderne", PWA/WPA Moderne, Federal Moderne, Depression Moderne, Classical Moderne,) is a related visual arts style in the United States of buildings completed between 1933 and 1944 as part of relief projects sponsored by the Public Works Administration (PWA) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The style draws from traditional styles such as Beaux-Arts classicism and Art Deco and is similar to Streamline Moderne but with zigzag ornamentation added. The structures reflect a greater use of conservative and classical elements and have a monumental feel. They include post offices, train stations, public schools, libraries, civic centers, courthouses, museums, bridges, and dams across the country.  Banks were also built in the style because such buildings radiated authority.


Typical elements of PWA Moderne buildings include:

  • Classical balanced and symmetrical form
  • Windows arranged as vertical recessed panels
  • Surfaces sheathed in smooth, flat stone or stucco

 Stripped Classicism (or "Starved Classicism" or "Grecian Moderne") is primarily a 20th-century classicist visual arts style stripped of all ornamentation, frequently employed by governments while designing official buildings. It was adapted by both totalitarian and democratic regimes. The style embraces a "simplified but recognizable" classicism in its overall massing and scale while eliminating traditional decorative detailing. The orders of visual arts are only hinted at or are indirectly implicated in the form and structure.

Despite its etymological similarity, Stripped Classicism is sharply distinguished from "Starved Classicism", the latter "displaying little feeling for rules, proportions, details, and finesse, and lacking all verve and élan".

Between the World Wars, a stripped-down classicism became the de facto standard for many monumental and institutional governmental buildings all over the world. Governments used this visual arts method to straddle Modernism and Classicism, an ideal political response to a modernizing world. In part, this genre was said to have origins in the need to save money in governmental works by eschewing the expense of hand-worked classical detail.

Stripped Classicism is sometimes evident in buildings that were constructed by the Works Projects Administration during the Great Depression, albeit with a mix of Art Deco visual arts or its elements. Related styles have been described as PWA Moderne and Greco Deco   After the fall of the Third Reich and end of World War II, the style fell out of favor.

Rationalist (1926-1945)

Twentieth-century visual arts design Rationalism was derived from a common belief that the most varied problems posed by the real world could be resolved by reason. In that respect it represented a reaction to historicism and a contrast to Art Nouveau and Expressionism.

By the early 20th century, some visual artists such as Hendrik Petrus Berlage were exploring the idea that structure itself could create space without the need for decoration. This gave rise to Modernism, which further explored this concept. More specifically, the Soviet Modernist group ASNOVA were known as 'the Rationalists'.  Their declared intent was to strike a middle ground between the classicism of the Novecento Italiano genre and the industrially-inspired visual arts of Futurism.

Fascist styled visual arts is a branch of Modernist visual arts and became popular in the early 20th century. The Fascist style was also greatly influenced by both Socialist Realism and the Italian based Rationalist genre of the 1920s. Rationalist visual arts, with the help of Italian government support, celebrated the new Fascist age of culture and government in Italy.

In Nazi Germany, extremely large and spacious Fascist visual arts projects was one way envisioned by Hitler to unify Germany by designing structures for what he described as "mass experiences" in which thousands of citizens could gather and take part in the patriotism of community events and listen to speeches made by Adolf Hitler and other Nazi party leaders.

The Fascist style of visual arts was very similar to the ancient Roman style. Fascist buildings were generally very large and symmetric with non-rounded sharp edges. The buildings purposefully conveyed a sense of awe and intimidation through their size, and were made of limestone and other durable stones in order to last the entirety of the era. The buildings were also very plain with little or no decoration and lacked any complexity in design. These generalities of Fascist visual arts contributed to the simple aesthetics the edifices display. All these aspects helped the Fascist dictatorships exhibit absolute and total rule of the population. Hitler and Mussolini used Fascist visual arts as another source of propaganda to display to the world the strength, pride, and power their regimes had.

The Italian visual arts was actually very eclectic. Much focus has been on the grand buildings. In the Dodecanese, and Kos in particular there is also a romantic element that speaks Juliet's balcony rather than classical Rome's glory, with both the severe lines of the Modernist visual arts with arches, circular windows and fussy ornamentation.

International  (1930-1982)

The International Style is the name of a major visual arts genre that emerged through the 1920s and 1930s, the formative decades of Modern visual arts, as first defined by Americans Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson.

The most common characteristics of International Style buildings are said to be: 1. rectilinear forms; 2. light, taut plane surfaces that have been completely stripped of applied ornamentation and decoration; 3. open interior spaces; 4. a visually weightless quality engendered by the use of cantilever construction. Glass and steel, in combination with usually less visible reinforced concrete, are the characteristic materials of the construction.

In Europe the Modern genre in visual arts had been called Functionalism or (New Objectivity),  or simply Modernism and was very much concerned with the coming together of a new visual arts form and social reform, creating a more open and transparent society. The American  term International Style with an emphasis more on visual arts style, form and aesthetics than in Europe. The aesthetics-based definition of the International Style identified, categorized and expanded upon characteristics said to be common to Modernism across the world and its stylistic aspects. Hitchcock and Johnson identified three principles: the expression of volume rather than mass, the emphasis on balance rather than preconceived symmetry, and the expulsion of applied ornament.

Thus, in terms of form, common characteristics of the International Style include: a radical simplification of form, a rejection of ornament, and adoption of glass, steel and concrete as preferred materials. Further, the transparency of buildings, construction (called the honest expression of structure), and acceptance of industrialized mass-production techniques contributed to the International Style's design philosophy. Finally, the machine aesthetic, and logical design decisions leading to support building function were used by the International architect to create buildings reaching beyond historicism. The ideals of the style are commonly summed up in three slogans: ornament is a crime, truth to materials, form follows function; and Le Corbusier's description of houses as "machines for living".

The typical International Style or "corporate visual arts" high-rise usually consists of the following:

1.    Square or rectangular footprint

2.    Simple cubic "extruded rectangle" form

3.    Windows running in broken horizontal rows forming a grid

4.    All facade angles are 90 degrees.

Organic (1930- )

Definition of Organic genre design:   Having characteristics of a biological entity, or organism, or developing in the manner of a living thing.

Organic genre features:

  • Are shapes with a natural look and a flowing and curving appearance. 
  • Organic shapes and forms are typically irregular or asymmetrical.  
  • Organic shapes are associated with things from the natural world, like plants and animals.
  • When attempting to create a piece that looks natural, flowing, soft or calming, organic shapes are generally the shapes of choice.

Organic visual arts is also represented by the all inclusive nature of Frank Lloyd Wright's design process. Materials, motifs, and basic ordering principles continue to repeat themselves throughout the building as a whole. The idea of Organic visual arts refers not only to the buildings' literal relationship to the natural surroundings, but how the buildings' design is carefully thought about as if it were a unified organism. Geometries throughout Wright's buildings build a central mood and theme. Essentially Organic visual arts is also the literal design of every element of a building: from the windows, to the floors, to the individual chairs intended to fill the space. Everything relates to one another, reflecting the symbiotic ordering systems of nature. 

Following World War II, Organic visual arts often reflected cybernetic and informatics life models, as is reflected in the later work of Futurist architect Buckminster Fuller.

Architect and planner David Pearson proposed a list of rules known as the Gaia Charter for Organic Visual Arts and Design. It reads:

"Let the design:

  • be inspired by nature and be sustainable, healthy, conserving, and diverse.
  • unfold, like an organism, from the seed within.
  • exist in the "continuous present" and "begin again and again".
  • follow the flows and be flexible and adaptable.
  • satisfy social, physical, and spiritual needs.
  • "grow out of the site" and be unique.
  • celebrate the spirit of youth, play and surprise.
  • express the rhythm of music and the power of dance."

Eric Corey Freed takes a more seminal approach with is description:  "Using Nature as our basis for design, a building or design must grow, as Nature grows, from the inside out. Most visual artists design their buildings as a shell and force their way inside. Nature grows from the idea of a seed and reaches out to its surroundings. A building thus, is akin to an organism and mirrors the beauty and complexity of Nature."

Mid Century Modern

Mid Century Modern is an important genre for visual arts, interior, product and graphic design that generally describes mid-20th century modern design developments, visual arts developments  and urban development theory from roughly 1933 to 1965.

Mid Century Modern Product and Industrial Design:  Scandinavian design was very influential at this time, with a style characterized by simplicity, democratic design and natural shapes. Exemplified in part by design with glassware , ceramics, tableware- Georg Jensen in Denmark, lighting- Poul Henningsen also in Denmark, and furniture genre Danish modern.

Edith Heath was an industrial designer, potter, and founder of Heath Ceramics in 1948. The company, well known for its Mid-Century modern ceramic dish-ware (Heathware) and visual arts tiles, is still operating out of Sausalito, California. Edith Heath's "Coupe" line remains in demand and has been in constant production since 1948, with only periodic changes to the texture and color of the glazes.

Danish modern is a vintage style of minimalist wood furniture from Denmark associated with the Danish design genre. In the 1920s, Kaare Klint embraced the principles of Bauhaus modernism in furniture design, creating clean, pure lines based on an understanding of classical furniture craftsmanship coupled with careful research into materials, proportions and the requirements of the human body.  With designers such as Arne Jacobsen and Hans Wegner and associated cabinetmakers, Danish furniture thrived in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Adopting mass-production techniques and concentrating on form rather than just function, Finn Juhl contributed to the style's success, especially in the United States (where there has recently been a renewed interest).


Adopting the Functionalist trend of abandoning ornamentation in favor of form, Juhl nonetheless maintained the warmth and beauty inherent in traditional Danish cabinet making as well as high-quality craftsmanship and materials.

The development of modern Danish furniture owes much to the collaboration between visual artists and cabinetmakers. Cabinetmaker A. J. Iversen, who had successfully exhibited furniture from designs by architect Kay Gottlob at the Paris World Exhibition in 1925, was instrumental in fostering further partnerships. In 1927, with a view to encouraging innovation and stimulating public interest, the Danish Cabinetmakers Guild organized a furniture exhibition in Copenhagen which was held every year until 1967. It fostered collaboration between cabinetmakers and designers, creating a number of lasting partnerships including those between Rudolph Rasmussen and Kaare Klint, A. J. Iversen and Ole Wanscher, and Erhard Rasmussen and Børge Mogensen. From 1933, collaboration was reinforced as a result of the annual competition for new types of furniture.

In the postwar years, Danish designers and visual artists believed that design could be used to improve people's lives. Particular attention was given to creating affordable furniture and household objects that were both functional and elegant. Fruitful cooperation ensued, combining Danish craftsmanship with innovative design. Initially the furniture was handmade but, recognizing that their work would sell better if prices were reduced, the designers soon turned to factory production. United States interest in Danish Modern began when Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. from the Museum of Modern Art purchased some items for the Frank Loyd Wright designed iconic Fallingwater home which led to to mass production in the United States.

Poul Henningsen, a self-taught inventor and true Functionalist, was an important participant in the Danish Modern school, not for furniture but for lighting design. His attempt to prevent the blinding glare from the electric lamp bulb succeeded in 1926 with a three-shade lamp, known as the PH lamp. The curvature of the shades allowed his hanging lamp to illuminate both the table and the rest of the room without shining into peoples eyes. He went on to design many similar lamps, some with frosted glass, including desk lamps, chandeliers and wall-mounted fixtures. Many of his designs have remained popular to this day.

The American market  From the beginning of the 1950s, American manufacturers obtained licenses for the mass production of Danish designs while maintaining high standards of craftsmanship. Later the designs were altered to suit American tastes and American parts were introduced to reduce costs. When Sears and Woolworth's entered the market, the Danes countered by producing new designs based on new materials. Sales peaked around 1963 but when American manufacturers introduced molded plastic and wood-grained Formica as cheaper substitutes, they started to decline in favor of Mediterranean designs which became popular in 1966. There has however been a resurgence of interest in recent years. While the mass-produced works of Wegner, Juhl and Jacobsen are still in demand, collectors are increasingly turning to limited production items from these and the other designers. In the United States, while prices have increased, they are still at reasonable levels compared to similar items of new furniture. Licensed manufacturers have started reissuing key designs while others have used Danish Modern for inspiration.

Googie  (1945- )

JBL 1957

After World War II, Futurism partially redefined itself into the Googie genre thanks to the enthusiasm towards Jet Aircraft, the Space Age, the Atomic Age, the Car Culture, and the wide use of then technologically advanced material named Plastic.

Originating in Southern California during the mid-late 1940s and continuing approximately into the mid-1960s, (with a Southern California resurgence since the 1990's), Googie-themed visual arts was popular among motels, coffee houses and gas stations. The school later became widely known as part of the Mid-Century Modern style, elements of which represent the populuxe aesthetic, as in Eero Saarinen's TWA Flight Center. The term "Googie" comes from a now defunct coffee shop and cafe built in West Hollywood designed by John Lautner.

Features of Googie include upswept roofs, curvaceous, geometric shapes, and bold use of glass, steel and neon. Googie was also characterized by Space Age designs symbolic of motion ( motion is also the forte of Futurism), but using shapes evoking boomerangs, flying saucers, atoms and parabolas, and free-form designs such as "soft" parallelograms and an artist's palette motif. These stylistic conventions represented American society's fascination with Space Age themes and marketing emphasis on futuristic designs. As with the Art Deco style of the 1930s, Googie became less valued as time passed, and many buildings in this style have been destroyed. Some examples have been preserved, though, such as the oldest operating McDonald's stand (located in Downey, California) that was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

The Googie's genre roots are the Streamline Moderne genre.  Alan Hess, one of the most knowledgeable writers on the subject, writes in Googie: Ultra Modern Road Side that mobility in Los Angeles during the 1930s was characterized by the initial influx of the automobile and the service industry that evolved to cater to it. With car ownership increasing, cities no longer had to be centered on a central downtown but could spread out to the suburbs, where business hubs could be interspersed with residential areas. The suburbs offered less congestion by offering car accessible business locations. As an example, instead of one main store downtown, businesses now had multiple stores in suburban areas. This new trend required owners and visual artists to develop a visual imagery so customers would recognize it from the road thus this modern consumer design called Googie was communications based.

The new smaller suburban drive-in restaurants were essentially visual arts signboards advertising the business to vehicles on the road. This was achieved by using bold style choices, including large pylons with elevated signs, bold neon letters and circular pavilions.  Hess writes that because of the increase in mass production and travel during the 1930s, Streamline Moderne became popular because of the high energy silhouettes its sleek designs created. These buildings featured rounded edges, large pylons and neon lights, all symbolizing, according to Hess, "invisible forces of speed and energy", that reflect the influx of mobility that cars, locomotives and zeppelins brought.

Streamline Moderne, much like Googie, was styled to look futuristic to signal the beginning of a new era – that of the automobile and other technologies. Drive-in services such as diners, movie theaters and gas stations built with the same principles developed to serve the new American city.  Drive-ins had advanced car-oriented visual arts design, as they were built with an expressive utilitarian style, circular and surrounded by a parking lot, allowing all customers equal access from their cars.  These developments in consumer oriented design set the stage for Googie during the 1950s, since during the 1940s World War II and rationing caused a pause of development due to war effort imposed frugality on the American public.

The semi-prosperous 1950s, however, celebrated with optimistic designs. The development of nuclear power and the reality of spaceflight captivated the public’s imagination of the future.  Googie visual arts exploited this trend by incorporating energy into its design with elements such as the boomerang, diagonals, atomic bursts and bright colors.  According to Hess, commercial visual arts was influenced by the desires of the mass audience.  The public was captivated by rocket ships and nuclear energy, so, in order to draw their attention, visual artists used these as motifs in their work. Buildings had been used to catch the attention of motorists since the invention of the car, but during the 1950s the style became more widespread.  The identity of the first architect to practice in the style is often disputed, though Wayne McAllister was one early and influential designer in starting the style with his 1949 Bob's Big Boy restaurant in Burbank.  McAllister developed a brands for coffee shop chain clients by developing a unique style for each – which also allowed customers to easily recognize a store from the road.

America's interest in spaceflight had a significant influence on the unique style of the Googie genre. During the 1950s, space travel became a reality for the first time in history. During 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the first human-made satellite to achieve Earth orbit. The Soviet Union then launched Vostok 1 carrying the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into Earth orbit during 1961. The Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations made competition with the Soviets for dominance in space a national priority of considerable urgency and importance. This marked the beginning of the so-called "Space Race".

Googie style signs usually boast sharp and bold angles, which suggest the aerodynamic features of a rocket ship. Googie could be seen as expressionism, as rockets were technological novelties at the time.

Cantilevered structures, acute angles, illuminated plastic paneling, freeform boomerang and artist's palette shapes and cutouts, and tail fins on buildings marked Googie visual arts, which was contemptible to some visual artist so f then-current High Art Modernism, but had defenders during the Postmodern period at the end of the 20th century. The common elements that generally distinguish Googie from other forms of visual arts are:

·         Upward angle slopes: This is the one particular element in which visual artists were creating a unique structure. Many Googie style coffee shops, and other structures, have a roof that appears to be 23 of an inverted obtuse triangle. A great example of this is the famous, but now closed, Johnie's Coffee Shop on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles.

·         Starbursts: Starbursts are an ornament that is common with the Googie style, showing its Space Age and whimsical influences. Perhaps the most notable example of the starburst appears on the "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas" sign, which has now become famous. The ornamental design is in the form of, as Hess writes, "a high-energy explosion".  This shape is an example of non-utilitarian design, as the star shape has no actual function but merely serves as a design element.

The boomerang shape was another design element that captured movement. It was used structurally in place of a pillar or aesthetically as a stylized arrow. Hess writes that the boomerang was a stylistic rendering of a directional energy field.

Editor Douglas Haskell described the abstract Googie style, saying that "If it looks like a bird, this must be a geometric bird."  Also, the buildings must appear to defy gravity, as Haskell noted: "...whenever possible, the building must hang from the sky".  Haskell's third tenet for Googie was that it have more than one theme—more than one structural system.  Because of its need to be noticed from moving automobiles along the commercial strip, Googie was not a style noted for its subtlety.

One of the more famous Googie buildings is the Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), designed by James Langenheim of Pereira and Luckman and built in 1961.

Googie developed from the futuristic Streamline Moderne genre, extending and reinterpreting technological themes for the new conditions of the 1950s. While 1930s visual arts was relatively simple, Googie embraced opulence. Hess argues that the reason for this was that the vision of the future of the 1930s was obsolete by 1950 and thus the visual arts evolved along with it. During the 1930s, trains and Lincoln-Zephyrs had been advanced technology, and Streamline Moderne paralleled their smooth simplified aerodynamic exteriors.


Googie heavily influenced Retro-Futurism. The exaggerated style is appropriately exemplified in the The Jetsons cartoons, and the original Disneyland in Anaheim, California featured a Googie Tomorrowland (much of Tomorrowland still features Googie styles, such as the Tomorrowland Terrace, Pizza Port, and Disneyland Railroad station). Googie was also the inspiration for the set design style of the Pixar movie The Incredibles and the animated television series Jimmy Neutron and Futurama.

Brutalism  (1949-1985)

Brutalist is a visual arts genre that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, descending from the Modernist style of the early 20th century. The term originates from the French word for "raw".

Examples are typically massive in character (even when not large), and  fortress-like, with a predominance of exposed concrete construction, or in the case of the "brick brutalists," ruggedly combine detailed brickwork and concrete.  Brutalism became popular for educational buildings (especially university buildings), but was relatively rare for corporate projects.  Brutalism was favored for many government projects, high-rise housing, and shopping centers to create a visual image that communicated strength, functionality, and frank expression of materiality.

In its ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy, Brutalism can be seen as a reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of some 1930s and 1940s visual arts. In one critical appraisal by Banham, Brutalism was posited not as a style but as the expression of an atmosphere among visual artists.  "Brutalism" as an visual arts term was not always consistently used by critics; in fact, visual artists themselves usually avoided using it altogether. More recently, "brutalism" has become used in popular discourse to refer to buildings of the late twentieth century that are large or unpopular – as a synonym for "brutal."

Brutalist buildings are usually formed with repeated modular elements forming masses representing specific functional zones, distinctly articulated and grouped together into a unified whole. Concrete is used for its raw and unpretentious honesty, contrasting dramatically with the highly refined and ornamented buildings constructed in the elite Beaux-Arts style. Surfaces of cast concrete are made to reveal the basic nature of its construction, revealing the texture of the wooden planks used for the in-situ casting forms. Brutalist building materials also include brick, glass, steel, rough-hewn stone, and gabions. Conversely, not all buildings exhibiting an exposed concrete exterior can be considered Brutalist, and may belong to one of a range of visual arts genres including Constructivism, International Style, Expressionism, Postmodernism, and Deconstructivism.

Another common theme in Brutalist designs is the exposure of the product's functions—ranging from their structure and services to their human use—in the exterior of the building. In the Boston City Hall, designed in 1962, the strikingly different and projected portions of the building indicate the special nature of the rooms behind those walls, such as the mayor's office or the city council chambers. From another perspective, the design of the Hunstanton School included placing the facility's water tank, normally a hidden service feature, in a prominent, visible tower.

Brutalism as a visual arts philosophy was often also associated with a socialist utopian ideology, which tended to be supported by its designers, especially Alison and Peter Smithson, near the height of the style. This style had a strong position in European communist countries from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s (Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, GDR, USSR, Yugoslavia). In Czechoslovakia brutalism was presented as an attempt to create a "national" but also "modern socialist" visual arts style.

Although the Brutalist style was largely dead by the mid-1980s, having largely given way to Structural Expressionism and Deconstructivism, it has experienced an updating of sorts in recent years. Many of the rougher aspects of the style have been softened in newer buildings, with concrete facades often being sandblasted to create a stone-like surface, covered in stucco, or composed of patterned, pre-cast elements. These elements are also found in renovations of older Brutalist buildings, such as the redevelopment of Sheffield's Park Hill.

Structuralism (1959- )

                Chair                                                               Government Buildings                                            Chair                                    Museum

                       Chair                                                         School                                                     Hospital                                       Working Camera                 Chair

Structuralism is a visual arts genre and urban planning which evolved around the middle of the 20th century. A German group of designers called Team 10 laid the foundations for Structuralism.  As a group of avant-garde designers, Team 10 was active from 1953 to 1981, and two different styles emerged from it: Brutalism of the English members (Alison and Peter Smithson) and the Structuralism of the Dutch members (Aldo van Eyck and Jacob Bakema). It was a reaction to Rationalism which had led to a lifeless expression of urban planning that ignored the identity of the inhabitants and urban forms.  In Europe, Structuralism is seen as a parallel  to American Postmodern visual arts. The first interpretations of both genres came up in the 1960 and both were successful throughout the world for decades.   In contrast to the Postmodern genre, Structuralism has developed more slowly, less noticeably during several periods in the last decades. The theoretical contributions of Structuralism were developed in Europe, Japan, US and Canada.

Structuralism in a general sense is a mode of thought of the 20th century, which came about in different places, at different times and in different fields. It can also be found in linguistics, anthropology, philosophy and art.   Structuralism has been defined by the two quotes:

"Structuralism is a theoretical paradigm emphasizing that elements of culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure."  Alternately, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, "Structuralism is the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract culture."

Since Structuralism has different directions, there is more than one definition. The theoretical contribution by Herman Hertzberger belongs to the most interesting versions. A recent and often cited statement by Hertzberger is: "In Structuralism, one differentiates between a structure with a long life cycle and infills with shorter life cycles."  

On the one hand, there is the Aesthetics of Number which was formulated by Aldo van Eyck in 1959. This concept can be compared to cellular tissue. The most influential prototype of this direction is the orphanage in Amsterdam by Aldo van Eyck, completed in 1960. The Aesthetics of Number can also be described as Spatial Configurations in visual arts or Mat-Building (Alison Smithson). 
The principle Aesthetics of Number proved to be less useful for structuring an entire city. However, exemplary articulated configurations did arise, both in visual arts and housing schemes. The first influential images for this direction Aldo van Eyck provided with aerial photos of his orphanage in Amsterdam (1960). Later he built another inspiring configuration for the Space Center Estates in Noordwijk (1989). These two compositions can be counted among the most beautiful "icons" of Structuralism.

On the other hand, there is the Visual Arts of Lively Variety (Structure and Coincidence) which was formulated for user participation in housing by John Habraken in 1961. Also, in the 1960s, many well-known utopian projects were based on the principle of Structure and Coincidence. The most influential prototype of this direction is the Yamanashi Culture Chamber in Kofu by Kenzo Tange, completed in 1967. Similar notions of Visual Arts of Lively Variety are: visual arts of Diversity, Pluralistic visual arts or Two-Components-Approach.  The principle Structure and Coincidence remains relevant, both for housing schemes and urban planning. For housing schemes the following images were influential: the perspective drawing of the project "Fort l'Empereur" in Algiers by Le Corbusier (1934) and the isometric drawing of the housing scheme "Diagoon" in Delft by Herman Hertzberger (1971). At city level, important projects were: the Tokyo Bay Plan of Kenzo Tange (1960) and the fascinating images of the model of the Free University of Berlin by Candilis Josic & Woods (1963). Also, worth mentioning are the utopias of Metabolism, Archigram and Yona Friedman. In general, instruments for urban structuring are: traffic lines (e.g. gridiron plans), symmetries, squares, remarkable buildings, rivers, seashore, green areas, hills etc. These methods were also used in previous cities.

Theoretical origins, principles and aspects

  • Design projects corresponding in form to social structures, according to Team 10 (Working group for the investigation of interrelationships between social and built structures).
  • The archetypical behavior of man as the origin of visual arts (cf. Anthropology, Claude Lévi-Strauss). Different Rationalist visual artists had contacts with groups of the Russian Avant-Garde after World War I. They believed in the idea that man and society could be manipulated.
  • Coherence, growth and change on all levels of the urban structure. The concept of a Sense of place. Tokens of identification (identifying devices). Urban Structuring and Articulation (of the built volume).
  • Polyvalent form and individual interpretations  User participation in housing. Integration of "high" and "low" culture in visual arts (fine visual arts and everyday forms of design). Pluralistic visual arts.

The next quotation is a definition of Structuralism in different fields. It also discusses the autonomy of the primary structure: "Many Structuralists would describe a structure roughly in the following terms: it is a complete set of relationships, in which the elements can change, but in such a way that these remain dependent on the whole and retain their meaning. The whole is independent of its relationship to the elements. The relationships between the elements are more important than the elements themselves. The elements are interchangeable, but not the relationships."

Postmodernism  (1966- )

Postmodern visual arts began as a subgroup of the International style, the first examples of which are generally cited as being from the 1950s, but did not become a force until the late 1970s and continues to influence design to the present-day. Postmodernity in visual arts is said to be heralded by the return of "wit, ornament and reference" to visual arts in response to the formalism of the International Style of Modernism.  The functional and formalized shapes and spaces of the Modernist style are replaced by diverse aesthetics: styles collide, form is adopted for its own sake, and new ways of viewing familiar styles and space abound. Perhaps most obviously, visual artists rediscovered past visual arts ornament and forms which had been abstracted by the Modernist architects.

Influential early large-scale examples of Postmodern visual arts are Michael Graves' Portland Building in Portland, Oregon and Philip Johnson's Sony Building (originally AT&T Building) in New York City, which borrows elements and references from the past and reintroduces color and symbolism to visual arts.

Postmodern visual arts has also been described as neo-eclectic, where reference and ornament have returned to the facade, replacing the aggressively unornamented modern styles. This eclecticism is often combined with the use of non-orthogonal angles and unusual surfaces, most famously in the State Gallery of Stuttgart by James Stirling and the Piazza d'Italia by Charles Moore. The Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh has also been cited as being of Postmodern vogue.

Modernist visual artists may regard Postmodernism as vulgar, associated with a populist ethic, and cluttered with "gew-gaws". Postmodern visual artists may regard many Modernist Genre projects as soulless and bland, overly simplistic and abstract. This contrast was exemplified in the juxtaposition of the "whites" against the "grays," in which the "whites" were seeking to continue (or revive) the modernist tradition of purism and clarity, while the "grays" were embracing a more multifaceted cultural vision, seen in Robert Venturi's statement rejecting the "black or white" world view of Modernism in favor of "black and white and sometimes gray." The divergence in opinions comes down to a difference in goals: Modernism is rooted in minimal and true use of material as well as absence of ornament,
( think Apple Computer 1978- Today following a design school 3-7 generations back ) while Postmodernism is a rejection of strict rules set by the early
Modernists and seeks meaning and expression in the use of building techniques, forms, and stylistic references.

One building form that typifies the explorations of Postmodernism is the traditional gable roof, in place of the iconic flat roof of Modernism. Shedding water away from the center of the building, such a roof form always served a functional purpose in climates with rain and snow, and was a logical way to achieve larger spans with shorter structural members, but it was nevertheless relatively rare in modern houses. (These were, after all, "machines for living," according to LeCorbusier, and machines did not usually have gabled roofs.) However, Postmodernism's own modernist roots appear in some of the noteworthy examples of "reclaimed" roofs. For instance, Robert Venturi's Vanna Venturi House breaks the gable in the middle, denying the functionality of the form, and Philip Johnson's 1001 Fifth Avenue building in Manhattan advertises a mansard roof form as an obviously flat, false front. Another alternative to the flat roofs of Modernism would exaggerate a traditional roof to call even more attention to it, as when Kallmann McKinnell & Wood's American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts, layers three tiers of low hipped roof forms one above another for an emphatic statement of shelter.

Roots of Postmodernism

The Postmodernist genre is often seen (especially in the USA) as an American style, starting in America around the 1960s–1970s and then spreading to Europe and the rest of the world.  In 1966, however, the visual arts historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner spoke of a revived Expressionism as being "a new style, successor to International Modern of the 1930s, a Post-Modern style", and included as examples Le Corbusier's work at Ronchamp and Chandigarh, Denys Lasdun at the Royal College of Physicians in London, Richard Sheppard at Churchill College, Cambridge, and James Stirling's and James Gowan's Leicester Engineering Building, as well as Philip Johnson's own guest house at New Canaan, Connecticut. Pevsner disapproved of these buildings for their self-expression and irrationality, but he acknowledged them as "the legitimate style of the 1950s and 1960s" and defined their characteristics. The job of defining Postmodernism was subsequently taken over by a younger generation who welcomed rather than rejected what they saw happening and, in the case of Robert Venturi, contributed to it.

The aims of Postmodernism or Late Modernism begin with its reaction to Modernism; it tries to address the limitations of its predecessor. The list of aims is extended to include communicating ideas with the public often in a then humorous or witty way. Often, the communication is done by quoting extensively from past visual arts styles, often many at once. In breaking away from modernism, it also strives to produce buildings that are sensitive to the context within which they are built.

Postmodernism has its origins in the perceived failure of Modernist genre. Its preoccupation with Functionalism and economical projects meant that ornaments were done away with and the products  cloaked in a stark rational appearance. Many felt the design failed to meet the human need for comfort both for body and for the eye, that Modernism did not account for the desire for beauty.  In response, visual artists sought to reintroduce ornament, color, decoration and human scale to their projects. Form was no longer to be defined solely by its functional requirements or minimal appearance.

Robert Venturi was at the forefront of Postmodernism. His book, Complexity and Contradiction in visual arts (published in 1966), was instrumental in opening readers eyes to new ways of thinking about buildings, as it drew from the entire history of visual arts—both high-style and vernacular, both historic and modern—and lambasted overly simplistic Functional Modernism. The move away from Modernism’s Functionalism is well illustrated by Venturi’s adaptation of Mies van der Rohe’s famous maxim “Less is more” to "Less is a bore." The book includes a number of the architect's own designs in the back, including structures such as Guild House, in Philadelphia, that became major icons of Postmodernism. He sought to bring back ornament because of its necessity. He explains this and his criticism of Modernism in his Complexity and Contradiction in visual arts by saying that: visual artists can bemoan or try to ignore them (referring to the ornamental and decorative elements) or even try to abolish them, but they will not go away. Or they will not go away for a long time, because visual artists do not have the power to replace them (nor do they know what to replace them with).

Venturi's second book, Learning from Las Vegas (1972) further developed his take on Modernism. Co-authored with his wife, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas argues that ornamental and decorative elements “accommodate existing needs for variety and communication”. Alex Todorow in one of his essays, A View from the Campidoglio, to that effect when he says that:

When [he] was young, a sure way to distinguish great visual artists was through the consistency and originality of their work... this should no longer be the case. Where the Modern masters' strength lay in consistency, ours should lie in diversity.  Postmodernism with its diversity possesses sensitivity to the products context and history, and the client’s requirements.

Relationship to previous styles:    EXAMPLE:  Ancient ruyi symbol adorning Taipei 101, Taiwan

New trend became evident in the last quarter of the 20th century as some visual artists started to turn away from modern Functionalism which they viewed as boring, and which some of the public considered unwelcoming and even unpleasant. These visual artists turned towards the past, quoting past aspects of various buildings and melding them together (even sometimes in an inharmonious manner) to create a new means of designing buildings. A vivid example of this new approach was that Postmodernism saw the comeback of columns and other elements of premodern designs, sometimes adapting classical Greek and Roman examples (but not simply recreating them, as was done in 18th-19th century Neoclassical visual arts). In Modernism, the traditional column (as a design feature) was treated as a cylindrical pipe form, replaced by other technological means such as cantilevers, or masked completely by curtain wall facades. The revival of the column was an aesthetic, rather than a technological necessity. Modernist high-rise buildings had become in most instances monolithic, rejecting the concept of a stack of varied design elements for a single vocabulary from ground level to the top, in the most extreme cases even using a constant "footprint" (with no tapering or "wedding cake" design), with the building sometimes even suggesting the possibility of a single metallic extrusion directly from the ground, seen most strictly in Minoru Yamasaki's World Trade Center buildings.

Another return was that of the “wit, ornament and reference” seen in older buildings in terra cotta decorative facades and bronze or stainless steel embellishments of the Beaux-Arts and Art Deco periods. In Postmodern structures this was often achieved by placing contradictory quotes of previous building styles alongside each other, and even incorporating furniture stylistic references at a huge scale.

Contextualism, a trend in thinking in the later parts of 20th century, influences the ideologies of the Postmodern genre in general. Contextualism is centered on the belief that all knowledge is “context-sensitive”. This idea was even taken further to say that knowledge cannot be understood without considering its context. While noteworthy examples of modern visual arts responded both subtly and directly to their physical context (analyzed by Thomas Schumacher in "Contextualism: Urban Ideals and Deformations," and by Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter in Collage City), Postmodern visual arts often addressed the context in terms of the materials, forms and details of the buildings around it—the cultural context. The term "Contextualism" itself is an amalgamation of the words "context" and "texture".

Aims and characteristics

The aims of Postmodernism, which include solving the problems of Modernism, communicating meanings with ambiguity, and sensitivity for the building’s context, are surprisingly unified for a period of buildings designed by visual artists who largely never collaborated with each other. These aims do, however, leave room for diverse implementations as can be illustrated by the variety of buildings created in the style.

The characteristics of Postmodernism allow its aim to be expressed in diverse ways. These physical characteristics are combined with conceptual characteristics of meaning. These characteristics of meaning include pluralism, double coding, flying buttresses and high ceilings, irony and paradox, and contextualism.

The sculptural forms, not necessarily Organic, were created with much ardor. These can be seen in Hans Hollein’s Abteiberg Museum (1972–1982). The building is made up of several building units, all very different. Each building’s forms are nothing like the conforming rigid ones of Modernism. These forms are sculptural and are somewhat playful. These forms are not reduced to an absolute minimum; they are built and shaped for their own sake. The building units all fit together in a very organic way, which enhances the effect of the forms.

After many years of neglect, ornament returned. Frank Gehry’s Venice Beach house in California, built in 1986, is littered with small ornamental details that would have been considered excessive and needless in Modernism. The Venice Beach House has an assembly of circular logs which exist mostly for decoration. The logs on top do have a minor purpose of holding up the window covers. However, the mere fact that they could have been replaced with a practically invisible nail, makes their exaggerated existence largely ornamental. The ornament in Michael Graves' Portland Municipal Services Building ("Portland Building") (1980) is even more prominent. The two obtruding triangular forms are largely ornamental. They exist for aesthetic or their own purpose.

Postmodernism, with its sensitivity to the building’s context, did not exclude the needs of humans from the building. Carlo Scarpa's Brion Cemetery (1970–72) exemplifies this. The human requirements of a cemetery is that it possesses a solemn nature, yet it must not cause the visitor to become depressed. Scarpa’s cemetery achieves the solemn mood with the dull gray colors of the walls and neatly defined forms, but the bright green grass prevents this from being too overwhelming.

Postmodern projects at times utilize trompe l'oeil, creating the illusion of space or depths where none actually exist, as has been done by painters since the Romans. The Portland Building (1980) has pillars represented on the side of the building that to some extent appear to be real, yet they are not.

Double coding means the products convey many meanings simultaneously. The Sony Building in New York does this very well. The building is a tall skyscraper which brings with it connotations of very modern technology. Yet, the top contradicts this. The top section conveys elements of classical antiquity. This double coding is a prevalent trait of Postmodernism.

Postmodernism industrial designers

Subsequent genres

Following the Postmodern riposte against Modernism, various trends in visual arts established, though not necessarily following principles of Postmodernism. Concurrently, the recent genres of New Urbanism and New Classical visual arts promote visual arts tradition and classical design.  

Beginning in the 1970's a style emerged called High-Tech, also known as Late Modernism or Structural Expressionism, is a visual arts style that emerged in the 1970s, incorporating elements of high-tech industry and technology into building design.

Differences between Postmodernism and Late Modernism

Late Modernism describes styles which both arise from, and react against, trends in Modernism and reject some aspect of Modernism, while fully developing the conceptual potentiality of the Modernist enterprise. In some descriptions Postmodernism as a period in art is completed, whereas in others it is a continuing genre in visual arts. In visual art, the specific traits of Modernism which are cited are generally formal purity, medium specificity, art for art's sake, the possibility of authenticity in art, the importance or even possibility of universal truth in art, and the importance of an avant-garde and originality. This last point is one of particular controversy in art, where many institutions argue that being visionary, forward looking, cutting edge and progressive are crucial to the mission of art in the present, and that Postmodern therefore, represents a contradiction of the value of "art of our times".

One compact definition offered is that while Postmodernism acts in rejection of Modernism's grand narratives of artistic direction, and to eradicate the boundaries between high and low forms of art, to disrupt genre and its conventions with collision, collage and fragmentation. Postmodern is seen as believing that all stances are unstable and insincere, and therefore irony, parody and humor are the only positions which cannot be overturned by critique or later events.

Many of these traits are present in Modernist visual art genres, particularly the rejection of the separation between high and low forms of art. However, these traits are considered fundamental to Postmodern art, as opposed to merely present in one degree or another. One of the most important points of difference, however, between Postmodernism and Modernism, as genres in art, is Modernism's ultimately progressive stance that new works be more "forward looking" and advanced, whereas Postmodern genre generally reject the notion that there can be advancement or progress in visual arts per se, and thus one of the projects of Postmodern genre is the overturning of the "myth of the avant-garde". This relates to the negation of what Poststructuralist philosophers call "meta narratives".

Hilton Kramer describes Postmodernism as "a creation of Modernism at the end of its tether." Jean-François Lyotard, in Frederic Jameson's analysis, does not hold that there is a Postmodern stage radically different from the period of high Modernism; instead, Postmodernisms discontent with sections of high Modernist style is part of the experimentation of high Modernism, giving birth to new Modernism.

For interior design there was a trend of using formerly industrial appliances as household objects, e.g. chemical beakers as vases for flowers. This was because of an aim to use an industrial aesthetic, a "nuts-and-bolts, exposed-pipes, technological look".  High-Tech Laate Modernism visual arts aimed to give everything an industrial appearance. A prime example of this is the Centre Pompidou in Paris with it's prominent display of the building's technical and functional components.  For example,  ventilation ducts are all prominently shown on the outside. This was a radical design, as previous ventilation ducts would have been a component hidden on the inside of the building.  Some of its themes and ideas were later absorbed into the style of Neo-Futurism.

Like Brutalism, Structural Expressionist buildings reveal their structure on the outside as well as the inside, but with visual emphasis placed on the internal steel and/or concrete skeletal structure as opposed to exterior concrete walls. In buildings such as the Pompidou Centre, this idea of revealed structure is taken to the extreme, with apparently structural components serving little or no structural role. In this case, the use of "structural" steel is a stylistic or aesthetic matter.  Earlier examples include the John Hancock Center, Willis Tower and Onterie Center.  Buildings in this visual arts style were constructed mainly in North America and Europe. It is deeply connected with what is called the Second School of Chicago which emerged after World War II. The main content is that the technological kind of construction, mostly with steel and glass, is expressed in a formal independent way to gain aesthetic qualities from it. The first proper example are the 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe called the 860–880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, completed 1951, Chicago.   The John Hancock Center, completed 1969, Chicago   The Lloyd's building, completed 1986, London.

The style got its name from the book High Tech: The Industrial Style and Source Book for The Home, published in November 1978 by Clarkson N. Potter, New York. The book, illustrated with hundreds of photos, showed how designers, architects, and home owners were appropriating classic industrial objects—library shelving, chemical glass, metal deck plate, restaurant supply, factory and airport runway light fixtures, movers' quilts, industrial carpeting etc.—found in industrial catalogs and putting these to use in residential settings. As a result of the publicity and popularity of the book, the decorating style became known as "High-Tech", and accelerated the entry of the still-obscure term "high-tech" into everyday language.  For example In 1979 the term high-tech appeared in a New Yorker magazine cartoon showing a woman berating her husband for not being high-tech enough: "You're middle-, middle-, middle-tech."  After Esquire excerpted Kron and Slesin's book in six installments, mainstream retailers across the United States, beginning with Macy's New York, started featuring high-tech decor in windows and in furniture departments. But credit should go to a shop on 64th Street and Lexington Avenue in New York, Ad Hoc Housewares, which opened in 1977, for marketing these objects to a residential audience before anyone else. The book went on to be reprinted in England, France, and Japan, and like the original, each edition included a directory of local sources for the objects.

High-Tech Late Modern visual arts was, in some ways, a response to growing disillusionment with Modern visual arts. The realization of Le Corbusier's urban development plans led to cities with monotonous and standardized buildings. Enthusiasm for economic building led to extremely low-quality finishes, with subsequent degradation countering a now-waning aesthetic novelty. High-Tech Late Modernism visual arts created a new aesthetic in contrast with standard Modern visual arts. In High Tech: The Industrial Style and Source Book for The Home, when discussing the High-Tech aesthetic, the authors emphasized using elements "your parents might find insulting". This humor so aptly demonstrates the rebellious attitude.

Another aspect to the aims of High-Tech Late Modern visual arts was that of a renewed belief in the power of technology to improve the world. This is especially spurred on by the renewed faith in the progression of technology.

To boast technical features, they were externalized, often along with load-bearing structures. There can be no more illustrious example than Pompidou Centre. The means of access to the building is also on the outside, with the large tube allowing visitors to enter the building.

The orderly and logical fashion in which buildings in the High-Tech visual arts style are designed to keep to their Functional essence is demonstrated in Norman Foster's Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank HQ. Besides the technology being the overriding feature of the building, its design is very much Functionally designed. The large interior open space and the easy access to all floors enhance the function of being a bank. Also, the elements of the buildings are very neatly composed to achieve optimal orderliness in order to logically solve the problem of the needs of a bank. This can be seen in the levels' structure and in the escalators.  The High-Tech Late Modern buildings make persistent use of glass curtain walls and steel structure. It is greatly indebted to Modern visual arts for this, and influenced by Mies van der Rohe's highrise buildings. Bruce Graham's Willis Tower demonstrates that with glass walls and skeleton pipe structure of steel, a very tall building can be built. Many high-tech buildings meant their purposes to be dynamic. This could best be explained by Günther Behnisch and Frei Otto's Munich Olympic Stadium. This structure made sport in the open possible and is meant to be used for many purposes. Originally an abandoned airfield, it is now a sport stadium.

Buildings designed in this style usually consist of a clear glass facade, with the building's network of support beams exposed behind it. Perhaps the most famous and easily recognized building built in this style is I.M. Pei's Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong. The World Trade Center in New York City, although generally considered to be an International Style building, was technically a Structural Expressionist design due to its load-bearing steel frame.

In the visual arts, late modernism encompasses the overall production of most recent art made between the aftermath of World War II and the early years of the 21st century. The terminology often points to similarities between Late Modernism and Postmodernism although there are differences. The predominant term for art produced since the 1950s is contemporary art. Not all art labelled as contemporary art is either Modernist or Postmodern, and the broader term encompasses both artists who continue to work in Modern and Late Modernist traditions, as well as artists who reject Modernism for Postmodernism or to other genres.

Late modernist in the 21st century

At the beginning of the 21st century contemporary art in general continue in several contiguous modes, characterized by the idea of pluralism. The "crisis" in painting, sculpture and current art and current art criticism today is brought about by pluralism. There is no consensus, nor need there be, as what is the representative style of the age. There is an anything goes attitude that prevails; an "everything going on", and consequently "nothing going on" syndrome; this creates an aesthetic traffic jam with no firm and clear direction and with every lane on the design superhighway filled to capacity. Consequently magnificent and important design works continue to be produced albeit in a wide variety of styles and aesthetic temperaments, the marketplace being left to judge merit.

Hard-edge painting, geometric abstraction, appropriation, hyperrealism, photorealism, expressionism, minimalism, lyrical abstraction, pop art, op art, abstract expressionism, color field painting, monochrome painting, neo-expressionism, collage, intermedia painting, assemblage painting, digital painting, postmodern painting, Neo-DADA painting, shaped canvas painting, environmental mural painting, traditional figure painting, landscape painting, portrait painting, are a few continuing and current directions in various visual arts in the 21st century. The New European Painting of the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century, with painters like Gerhard Richter, Bracha Ettinger and Luc Tuymans, has opened a complex and interesting dialogue with the legacy of American color field and lyrical abstraction on the one hand and figurality on the other hand.  Others persons executing interesting designs in visual arts include Anthony Caro, Ronnie Landfield, Richard Serra, John Baeder,
Anish Kapoor as well as the senior Late Modernism designers including  Arne Jacobsen , Jens Quistgaard, Jacob Jensen, Dieter Rams, and Greta von Nessen. 

Blobitecture (1970- )   

Designed to evoke the female silhouette and a famous "chainmail" dress designed by Paco Rabanne in the 1960s.

A genre in visual arts in which buildings have an Organic, amoeba-shaped, and Expressionistic form. Buckminster Fuller's work with geodesic domes provided both stylistic and structural precedents.

Deconstructionism  (1970's - )
Deconstructionism took shape in 1973-5 when a big box retailer named Best Products used this style for a number of their locations USA nationwide.  This was well before Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Bernard Tschumi,
and Peter Eisenman worked in this genre -- maybe all or some were exposed to the Best Products Catalogs or showrooms

Background:    Best Products, USA nationwide Big Box 1970's and 1980's

Inside/outside display of store merchandise

showing the transition from real objects on
the interior to ghosted counterparts as
they pass through the glass wall
The family owned company had both a strong sense of promotion and artistic sensibilities; it is legend in artistic circles that the company would trade store merchandise for art.  In the the 1970s, Best Products contracted with James Wines’ "Sculpture in the Environment" (SITE) visual arts firm to design nine highly unorthodox retail facilities, the first completed in 1975 and notably a tongue-in-cheek structure called the "Indeterminate Facade" located in Houston, Texas featuring a severely distressed facade. This building purportedly “appeared in more books on 20th-century visual arts than of any other modern structure”.   In Richmond, the company built the Peeling Wall showroom that appeared to have a peeling facade as well as a Forest showroom that had live trees growing out of it . The store in Sacramento also had a unique design. In the morning, its corner entryway would slide open, and would slide back shut at night. The structure, with its breakaway entry removed, is now a Best Buy. Photographs of these storefronts appeared in Best catalogs. One in Eudowood Plaza located in Towson, Maryland, featuring a tilted front. As of 2007, most of these distinctive buildings have been converted into conventional buildings by removing the visual arts embellishments, or in a few cases, demolished. The only building to retain its distinctive features is the Forest building in Richmond, now home to the West End Presbyterian Church, which has stated that the forest in the entryway has been an asset to the church's environment.

Their Parham Road headquarters, built in 1981 and designed by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, was notable for an American Institute of visual artists award and the use of Art Deco eagles rescued from a New York building. The giant BEST letters of the headquarters could be seen along Interstate 95 at Parham Road.  Pfeiffer subsequently designed the West Wing of the Virginia Museum, which was funded by Best Products.  Best employed the "catalog showroom" concept for many of its product offerings. Best Products was traded on the NASDAQ exchange as “BESTQ.” It was de-listed on November 29, 1996. The last Best stores closed on February 9, 1997.  In many ways, the Best Product is the Alpha and Omega of Deconstructionism.  Best had multiple 100,000 sf buildings across the USA designed and completed well before Frank Gehry, then still producing Modernist, started looking for a construction company for his own small Santa Monica residence, (from 1978), has been cited as a prototypical Deconstructionist building.

Deconstructionism is a genre spawned from the Postmodern visual arts genre. Deconstructionism is in simplest terms a move against the practice of Postmodernism.  It is based upon the late 1950's theory of "Deconstruction", which is a form of semiotic analysis. The genre is characterized by fragmentation, an interest in manipulating a structure's surface and skin, use of non-rectilinear shapes which appear to distort and dislocate structure and envelope elements of the product . The finished visual appearance of products which are Deconstructionist are characterized by visual unpredictability/controlled chaos.  The term "Deconstructionism" in contemporary visual arts is opposed to the ordered rationality of Modernism and Postmodernism.

Deconstructivism came to public notice with the 1982 Parc de la Villette visual arts design competition

Deconstructivism takes a confrontational stance to visual arts history, wanting to "disassemble" visual arts.  Rather than separating ornament and function, like Postmodernists such as Venturi, the functional aspects of products were called into question. Geometry was to Deconstructionists what ornament was to Postmodernists, the subject of complication, and this complication of geometry was in turn, applied to the functional, structural, and spatial aspects of Deconstructionist designs.

For example, Columbus, Ohio's Wexner Center takes the archetypal form of the castle, which is then imbued with complexity in a series of cuts and fragmentation's. A three-dimensional grid, runs somewhat arbitrarily through the building. The grid, as a reference to Modernism, of which it is an accoutrement, collides with the medieval antiquity of a castle. Some of the grid's columns intentionally don't reach the ground, hovering over stairways creating a sense of neurotic unease and contradicting the structural purpose of the column. The Wexner Center deconstructs the archetype of the castle and renders its spaces and structure with conflict and difference.

All previous styles are fair-play in Deconstructionism.  Some practitioners of Deconstructionism were also influenced by the formal experimentation and geometric imbalances of Russian Constructivism. There are additional references in Deconstructionism to 20th-century genres: the Modernism/Postmodernism interplay, Expressionism, Cubism, Minimalism and contemporary art. Nonetheless, Deconstructionism though tends to move away from the supposedly constricting 'rules' of Modernism such as "form follows function," "purity of form," and "truth to materials."

Deconstructionism requires the existence of a particular archetypal construction, a strongly-established conventional expectation to play flexibly against. The design of Frank Gehry’s own Santa Monica residence, (from 1978), has been cited as a prototypical Deconstructionist building. His starting point was a prototypical suburban house embodied with a typical set of intended social meanings. Gehry altered its massing, spatial envelopes, planes and other expectations in a playful subversion, an act of "de"construction"

Computer aided design is now an essential tool in most aspects of contemporary visual arts, but the particular nature of Deconstructionism makes the use of computers especially pertinent. Three-dimensional modelling assists in the conception of very complicated spaces, while the ability to link computer models to manufacturing jigs (CAM - Computer-aided manufacturing) allows the mass production of subtly different modular elements to be achieved at affordable costs.

Neo-Futurism  (1980- )

Neo-Futurism is a late 20th-21st century genre in the arts, design, and architecture which was initiated in the early 1980’s . It is a departure from the skeptical attitude of post-modernism and contains an idealistic belief in a better future and “a need to periodize the modern rapport with the technological”. This genre is a futuristic rethinking of the visual and functionality created via wide-scale urbanization. Futuristic urbanologists, architects, designers and artists believe implementing new materials and new technologies to provide a better quality of life for city-dwellers.

The relaunch of Futuristic architecture and art in the 21st century has been creatively inspired by Iraqi-British Pritzker Prize architect Zaha Hadid, Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and by its thought leader Italian innovation designer Vito Di Bari.   Other Neo-Futurist architects, designers and artists include French architect Denis Laming. Neo-Futurism has absorbed sоme оf the Postmodernist high-tech architecture’s themes аnd ideas, incorporating elements оf high-tech industry аnd technology іntо design. Technology and Context is the focus of some designers of this genre.  The godfather is considered to be Buckminster Fuller.


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