Modernism first emerged in the early twentieth century, and by the 1920s, the prominent figures of the movement – Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe - had established their reputations. However it was not until after the Second World War that it gained mass popularity, after modernist planning was implemented as a solution to the previous failure of architecture and design to meet basic social needs. During the 1930s as much as 15% of the urban populations were living in poverty, and slum clearance was one of the many social problems of this decade.
Students at the Bauhaus school of design were taught purity of form and to design for a better world by Walter Gropius. The phrase ‘form follows function’ is often used when discussing the principles of modernism. It asserts that forms should be simplified – architectural designs should bear no more ornament than is necessary to function. Modernists believe that ornament should follow the structure and purpose of the building. Family life and social interaction was at the centre of the modernist dream for a planned environment. “The vision was for trouble free areas by mixing blocks with terraces to create squares, zoning services and amenities, all interlinked by roads”. The modernists planned for zoned areas where residential and commercial amenities were distinct and separate. In his introduction to Modernism in Design, Paul Greenhalgh outlined key features in modernist design including function, progress, anti-historicism and social morality. These principles can be found in many of the key realisations of the modernist dream – Le Corbusier’s famous Villa Savoye in Poissy, France is a prime example. It shows no reference to historic architectural design; the pioneering plan was a progressive leap for the late 1920s. The form clearly follows the intended functions of the residential building, bearing no unnecessary ornament, and the open space surrounding the structure