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After World War II, the mood in America seemed to be, “OK, that’s done. Safe world. Optimism. Lots of babies …what’s next?” In residential architecture, the answer to “what’s next?” was Modernism.
Modernism is about boiling things down to their essence. It’s about letting the function of a building determine its form, and simplifying that form. Instead of using ornamentation to cover up the structural elements of a home, the structural elements are the ornamentation. It’s about honesty with the construction materials – natural or synthetic – and a harmony of the building with its natural surroundings.
Modernism had been around for decades. Chicago architect Louis Sullivan advanced the “form follows function” concept at the turn of the century, and successors expanded upon and refined it: first American Sullivan protégé Frank Lloyd Wright, then Europeans Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, among others. But it was the optimism, the open-minded “what’s next?” curiosity and exploration in postwar America, that provided the perfect fertile soil for those pioneers’ seeds to germinate and blossom into a full-blown movement.
An influential Los Angeles architectural experiment from 1945 through 1966 saw about thirty Modernist residences built by many different designers—houses that crystallized everything that came before it into the American style we now call Mid-Century Modern. In The Case Study Homes, as they were called, form followed function to some pretty amazing places.
Americans saw the Case Study Homes and said, “Ah, so THAT’S what’s next!”
You can see Indiana examples of modern residential architecture during Back to the Future: a Mid-century Modern Home Tour in Indianapolis on Saturday, June 2, featuring five outstanding private homes.
Modernism in architecture
What is Modernism
Picture dictionary of Modern Architecture
Case Study Homes
Arts & Architecture
List of Case Study houses
History of Mid-century Modern design (with lots of great videos) http://www.midcenturymodernonline.com/Mid-Century-Modern-History.html
Home style guide
Where We Live
Presented each week by Indiana Landmarks, Where We Live is a two-minute radio program airing on public radio stations around the state. Where We Live highlights historic places -– their stories, their meaning, their place in our lives today. Find a list of stations airing the program and more about historic places in Indiana on our website www.indianalandmarks.org.