MODERNISM

Modernism is more than a style. It is a philosophical way of thinking about architecture and design. It came into being in an emerging industrial world that rapidly embraced mechanization. When modernism emerged in the Western world in the 1930s, design had difficulty building on or acknowledging history. It was an ideology encapsulated by the statement "form follows function," often attributed to Louis Sullivan but initially used by the nineteenth-century sculptor Horatio Greenough (1805—1 852).26 The modernist idea is that function and utility can and should create form. The question remains, however, what is function?

Modernist theory in furniture seeks to integrate social function and structural integrity, incorporate industrial materials and industrial fabrication processes, and determine how well furniture performs its job. Modernism considers function as a broad term with meaning at many levels. Concerns that affect the notion of function within the view of modernism include27:

■ What is the intended purpose of the furniture?

■ Are there secondary or tertiary purposes (social uses) to consider?

■ Who will use the furniture, in what context, and how often?

■ What tools, resources, energy, and processes are needed for fabrication?

■ What are the waste by-products of fabrication and the resources needed for distribution?

■ What societal or economic impacts result from either the fabrication or consump­tion of the furniture?

■ At the end of its life span, how will disposal, recycling, or biodegrading occur?

The modern understanding of function relates back to utilitas but has a broader defini­tion. The Chaise Longue (Figure 5.41) by Le Corbusier, his brother Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand epitomizes the modernist ideal through the use of industrial materials, deliberate expression of joinery, connectors, reveals, and expressive form that is dependent on a broad view of function and fabrication. In the context of modernism, conception, fabrication, and function are aligned with logical thinking, tectonic assembly, and industrial processes along with the desire for comfort or ergonomics.