Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Here's (above) the previous movement: the "post modern" look, with flat, sterile concrete walls punctuated by uniform window slats. This hideous building is by Frank Gehry. Gehry later converted to the "crumpled" look, where buildings looked like crumpled pieces of paper in a wastebasket.

Crumpled evolved into twisted. Twisted is appealing on some level, but I don't think it lends itself to interesting interiors. I imagine this will last another ten years, at least.

Here's what's coming: buildings covered with bas-relief. How do I know? Because relief is beautiful and has become easy and cheap to make. That sounds like a formula for success to me.

Frank Lloyd Wright tried to introduce texture into modern building (above) but he was past his prime when he did it, and his interesting blocks were lost in bland, repetitious, modernist flatness.

What puts makes bas-relief a player again is the new building materials, especially the new hard styrofoams. Complex shapes are easily and cheaply molded and produced in quantity...sometimes from computer renderings. Sometimes the renderings are scans of old reliefs like the Aztec pattern above.

Right around the corner we'll also see a resurgence of interest in stone masonry for those who can afford it. I say this with confidence because when interest in texture returns to architecture, interest in stone, which is the ultimate texture, can't be far behind.

For those who have less money we'll see plenty of hard styrofoam stones which look identical to the quirky, pitted, silica-embedded real thing. Some of the fake stones will take designer shapes like the relief stone above.

I hope you like this Aztec relief calendar (above) because you'll see plenty of imitations of it on buildings in the near future.

The Mayans (above) were big on relief sculpture. Your kids may live in a house with Mayan-type walls like this, but punctuated with big, picture windows. Maybe they'll use undecorated real stone for the first floor, and realistic Mayan relief styrofoam for the upper floors.

Poor Rockwell Kent (above) will be plundered again and again for relief ideas.

Computer-guided hard styrofoam molding will put realistic cathedral window arches (above) within reach of average homeowners.

Some will prefer more contemporary abstract designs like the Frank Lloyd Wright stones above. Anything you can draw can be molded into what appears to be real stone. You'll have bricks made bricks that look like your family and friends. Lots of people will do this. I for one am tired of looking at bare, flat, undecorated modernist walls. Who said that things modern always have to be flat and sterile?


kellie said...

Presumably it's also possible to make computer designed molds for ceramics, so even if you want something closer to stone than styrofoam it's still going to be easier than previously.

Now all you need is a web-based business where cartoonists can market their designs for ceramic reliefs, with computer assisted manufacture on demand!

Lester Hunt said...

Frank Lloyd past his prime?? Blasphemy! Never!

Plus, I think the building you show there is from the era of the Hollyhock House (1921), when he had almost four decades of great buildings ahead of him.

But I think your idea of bas relief architecture is great. If could we bring back ornamentation, that would be the last nail in the coffin of modernism.

Lester Hunt said...

That first FLW picture of yours is the Millard House, "La Miniatura," in Pasadena (1924).

Anonymous said...

Have you been keeping up with since you posted about it? It's still a goldmine.

I love how unsnarky the site is, the caption reads like they were written by well adjusted human beings instead of psychotic 14 year olds "epic FAIL pwned!". You could do a really good skit on this blog playing a computer addicted 4chan type kid. A post on your thoughts on ironic detatchment and snark would be cool too

Anonymous said...

I have a theory. Architecture no longer involves human and animal faces because it is not about profit. Flat, boring buildings compel you to go inside, where you will buy things. It is meant to discourage you from taking pause to either absorb the environment or do any sort of philosophical thinking. We have to hurry one another in to where you buy stuff.

Just a thought, I think about the lack of inspirational architecture all the time. From the 70's on it's been a real drip. Myabe even before that...but for sure the last ten years. Think "Frank Wells Building".


Anonymous said...

Just wait a few years until Frank Gehry's twisted concrete and metal structures start leaking like sieves. That may cause a major reassessment of the architecture as one liner school we've been stuck with since the 1970's.

Niki said...

you know, the 1910 fashions used to be Modern. I'd prefer that over the flat crap.

Anonymous said...

Working in the computer-aided manufacturing field, I will vouch that you probably are not far off at all. In fact, you may even be very accurate.

pappy d said...

This is a great idea, Eddie. They sell 4'x8' sheets of rigid foam. With a hot-knife you could build the forms in the garage. They already sell all kinds of foam columns & stuff.

pappy d said...

This is a great idea, Eddie. They sell 4'x8' sheets of rigid foam. With a hot-knife you could build the forms in the garage. They already sell all kinds of foam columns & stuff.

天天開心 said...


Anonymous said...

You should do a post on Hentai!

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Lester: Holy Cow! If you're right then I really got that wrong! Well, rather than a product off advanced age, it was simply one of the inevitable wrong directions that all creative people are liable to.

Anonymous said...

This guy is fascinating

Virgil said...

yeah, modern architecture and urbanism have a major problem, most stuff built today is dull and sterile. humans need rich textures and organic shapes and organic-looking objects around them (to be happy that is).

agussman_work said...

"For those who have less money we'll see plenty of hard styrofoam stones which look identical to the quirky, pitted, silica-embedded real thing."

Are you familiar with Formstone?

Baltimore is overrun with it.