Kick started by industrial revolution, the machine aesthetic is inspired by the inner and outer working of machines. That could be the cogs which interlock to create a locomotion or the intricate workings of a watch. Pictured above is Stephenson’s Rocket, built in 1829 for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway Company, two major industrial cities in the Victorian era.
There was an explosion of ideas and machinery being made for the masses. Which included the production of different modes of transport. Including steam trains, cars and ships to be built in the early 20th century carrying on right up until the 1900’s.
Henry- Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson coined the architectural term International Style. This came about when in 1932 he collated the Modern Architecture: International Exhibition in the MOMA, showcasing architectural designs from this new movement by several European designers and a few Americans. Heavily influenced by Surrealism, The Bauhaus and Russian Constructivism, what made the style stand out was the architect’s ability to keep visible the construction of the buildings and the inner working of the building too, that being bare walls and columns and a limited number of rooms- most being open-plan. Also the minimisation of structural points was key, anything which didn’t need to be there, wasn’t, and letting as much light in the building through the use of a vast amount of windows wrapping most of the building, top to bottom was also an important aspect. A good example would be the Fagus Factory in Germany. Designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer, this is a poignant marker of early modern architecture.
One could appreciate the architecture of the building, rather than it being masked by flamboyant decoration. Instead of hiding away the fact that this was a shoe factory, the revolutionary Germans Gropius and Meyer had embraced the power of making and the industrial age. Interestingly, most art buildings today are inspired by Gropius’s designs, there ideas have had a lasting impact on the art world.
Talking of which, Walter Gropius opened an art school with the idea to bring a fresh start to the war ravaged country; teaching the new genration practical and interlectual skills to build a less selfish and more sophisticated society. Marianne Brant was one of the few female artists at the school. She liked to use metal work in her pieces. Below is a Tea infuser and strainer designed by .I mentioned that Constuctivim influenced the International Style movement.. . But what was this exactly? I’m going to use Vladimir Tatlin’s work as an example. He was an artist – Tatlin’s Constructivist tower was to be built from industrial materials: iron, glass and steel. In materials, shape and function, it was envisaged as a towering symbol of modernity. It would have towered above the Eiffel Tower in Paris. A monument to epitomise the Communist International- their aim was for society to be liberated from capitalist oppression.
The themes of International Style was asymmetry; severe, blocky, cubic shapes; smooth flat plain undecorated surfaces (often painted white); the complete elimination of all mouldings and ornament; ‘flat’ roofs; large expanses of glass held in steel frames. Picture a complete visual contrast to a style such as Baroque. Influenced by the recent industrial revolution and the introduction of super machines, such as the ocean liner Titanic, buildings often featured smooth wall-finishes and long strips of metal-framed windows. Below is Villa Savoye situated in Poissy, just outside of Paris. It was designed by the great Le Corbusier. One can see its similarities to an ocean liner and the use of windows
Eunjae Lee applies the machine aesthetic within ceramics. This is called Silent Machine and it is a tea set. It is inspired by the components of an engine.
“…machines have stories that make them more beautiful than they were”. The stories remain in their times and evoke encompassing, though silent beauty. A tea time with them will deepen its value by their hidden stories and strength.The artist talks about having a new respect for the machines during the industrial age, what they did for us, how they enable the scope in technology to expand, to grow. Now rusty and dormant, Silent Machine is almost a memorial, a reflection of what the machines once were and how they served us. Lee then goes on to say in her description of the piece “…based on aesthetic interpretations of much functionalized forms. While each object is individually seen as an aesthetic ornament, its beauty can be recognized when it functions as one of the elements composing the whole. Mathematical silhouettes and details evoke mechanical and rigid images.”