Architectural Modernism and Its Impact on Cities

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ARCHITECTURAL MODERNISM AND ITS IMPACT ON CITIES

Late 18th and early 19th centuries brought a lot of change, not only with technology but how people and society worked. New factories were being built therefore causing a growth in population as the workers moved into the cities. Unfortunately they could not cope with the growth. In the 20th century many cities like London, Paris and New York had over one million people living in the city which increased the demand for more of everything. More houses, buildings and transport facilities. Although this was an exciting time for the city, the reality of such enormous technological and urban change was difficult for the city planners. This meant that many people worked and lived in terrible conditions. Areas around the factories were overcrowded, polluted and depressing. The idea of utopias that control the rapid growth and house the working class people were to be clean, open space, fresh air and large areas of landscaping.

Architect Charles Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier, was a highly influential man during this period. He believed that the house was a machine to be lived in, just as the car was a machine to transport people from place to place. His belief was that the way in which people lived needed to be redesigned. His concern with industrialisation and standardisation has had an enormous impact on cities and their inhabitants for the last 90 years.

“Modern Life demands and is waiting for a new kind of plan, both for the house and for the city” Le Corbusier: Towards a new Architecture (Ref 1)

The pace of life dramatically increased during the industrial age. Le Corbusier saw this time when it was possible to redesign life, to restore the old values, to rebel against the old and create a new state, a new way of life. Society unwilling to change, locked into the past was not helping people in ways that he believed it should. He thought many houses were full of useless equipment. His dream was of an orderly city plan, a modern city for 3,000,000 people; all enjoying sky, sea and mountains all from the comfort of their own home apartments.

With the cheap and efficient making of materials, iron and concrete was now able to contribute its prodigious resources to the general economy by taking over the making the ‘Minimum House’. With standardisation it would be possible to make the suitable parts in the factories and assemble the ‘machines’. Craftsmen would no longer be needed and their trades would become obsolete, but now they would have to be trained as fitters.

“The masonry wall no longer has a right to exist” Le Corbusier: The Radiant City

He also applied this idea to the city and felt that streets should be dedicated to the fast and efficient flow of traffic rather than to the walking pace of the pedestrian. He envisioned replacing the narrow streets in the centre of Paris with vast expanses of grass and skyscrapers. The idea behind the radiant city is that the suburbs be done away with and the city centre become more densely populated with a lot of the area being devoted to traffic, planting and tall structures to house many people. Industrialise the building process, the modern movement thought that regrouping blocks of buildings and main arterial routes orthogonally would be the best plan. Which they saw as bring order to the city. Skyscrapers were to be built checkerboard patterns, one every 400m built in the shape of a cross in order to maximum the facade area. This would allow the most light into every room. Courtyards were to be forbidden as they were not part of the overall plan and were a waste of space.

The skyscrapers were to be constructed of steel and glass. The first floor of the skyscrapers were 5 to 7 meters above ground level. This would allow people to walk freely underneath the buildings and around them. The traffic network of roads would be flowing 5m above ground level. The roads would only be use for travelling to...
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