The modern architecture | Fernando Freire Forga

Gerrit Rietveld. Casa Schröeder en Utrecht, Países Bajos, 1924 | Fotografía: Dave Mendelsohn
Gerrit Rietveld. Casa Schröeder House in Utrecht, NetherlandsPaíses Bajos, 1924 | Photography: Dave Mendelsohn

The works developed by philosophers and thinkers, from ends of the 18th century have been determining what today we know as Modern Age and his derivations. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) is considered to be the most influential thinker of the modern Europe, thanks to him works are had as “Critique of the Judgment” (1790) that form a part of the conception that governs the evolution in the art of beginnings of the 20th century (with the artistic forefronts) and the aesthetic conformation of the Modern Architecture.

In the middle of the 19th century, the photography will force the painters to take new courses in search of a new artistic representation, giving I go on to the emergence of the impresionism. The questions by the artistic beginning developed by the impresionism, in the second half of the 19th century, will have a decisive influence in the formation of the critical spirit of the 20th century. Hereby the artistic forefronts will appear, where the Fauvism(1905) is considered to be the first artistic forefront recognized to beginnings of the 20th century, which it marks the beginning of an aesthetic revolution that it will bring I obtain a succession of radical movements and of short duration, where they stood out: the fauvismo, the expressionism, the cubism, the futurism, the constructivismo, the neoplasticismo, the dadaísmo, the surrealism, the abstract expressionism, between others.

Gerrit Rietveld. Casa Schröeder en Utrecht, Países Bajos, 1924
Gerrit Rietveld. Schröeder House in Utrecht, Netherlands, 1924

As aesthetic contribution, the Artistic Forefronts served to influence formally the architecture that was constructed in the middle of the decade of 1920. It is important to mention the Schröeder House in Utrecht – Netherlands, projected and constructed for Gerrit Rietveld in 1924. Rietveld already had designed his famous Red and Blue chair in 1918, nevertheless he considered that for a complete representation of the beginning formulated for neoplasticismo1, it was fundamental to penetrate into the field of the architecture.

Nevertheless, it is impossible to determine which was the first work of modern architecture; both in the United States and in Europe there exist, in the first years of last century, references of constructions that can be considered moderns2 by his form as by the constructive materials used (I make concrete armed, I steel and glass). Nevertheless, yes there exist works that by his architectural quality are considered to be works summits that allude a beginning of the Modern Architecture, between them it is indispensable to mention the Villa Savoye in Poissy, France, of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret (1929-1931), and the German Pavilion in the Universal Exhibition of Barcelona of Mies van der Rohe (1929).

 Le Corbusier y Pierre Jeanneret. Villa Savoye en Poissy – Francia, 1929 – 1931. | (Fotografías: Arq. José Miguel Forga).
Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Ville Savoye in Poissy – Francia, 1929 – 1931. | Photography: Arq. José Miguel Forga.

About 1932, epoch in which there was lived the consolidation of the modern architecture worldwide, the young person architect Philip Johnson and the historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock published the book: The Internacional style, Architecture since 19223.In this document, Johnson and Hitchcock recount a few interesting disintegrations of the elements compositivos formal that skilfully found in the works of modern architecture, which exhibit in the book. Nevertheless to consider the modern architecture to be a style is going to generate confusion and differences for the later understanding of the modern architecture. Some years later and without obtaining the awaited results, Hitchcock will try to repair the false stylization of the modern architecture, with the purpose of withdrawing “the label” of international style to an architecture concebida as consequence of a movement and not under the cánones of a style.

“… The form, as he would say Mies van der Rohe, it was not an aim but a result of the architecture. In this sense of formal need, the modern architecture supposes an absolute denial of the style, denial that meets accentuated by his voluntary installation in one it emptied formally and for his insistent search of the universality. And, even if in 1925 Le Corbusier was presenting with his five points of the modern architecture a germ of formal regulation that could be understood by many as not very distant to the idea of style, and really the pilotis, the ceilings garden, the free plant, the continuous window and the free front were not simply ideas, but forms. The certain thing is that such forms might not consider in any case as stylistic options, but as what they were, the forms for the modern architecture, forms absolutely necessary and determined from a few conditions foreign to they same”…

Extract of the prologue realized by Maria Teresa Muñoz in 1982, for the bookThe Internacional style, Architecture since 1922.

Abounding in the topic, if the modern architecture is a style or not, – like way of visual exercise – later a few images are exposed, as examples, of housings that have influenced the development of the modern architecture worldwide; with the purpose of they comparing and being obtained by the conclusion of which they do not guard the same style, and that consequently turns out to be more guessed right to relate them under beginning of a movement.

For the decade of 1940 the modern architecture is established in Latin America, both in the constructive field and in the academician. Inside the most out-standing modern Latin-American architects, for his works in the later decades we have to: Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil and Jose Villagrán García in Mexico.

To beginnings of the decade of 1960 the entire planet was modern and it was possible to estimate that the principal architectural influences belong to architects as: Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, Richard Neutra, between others. It is just in the middle of this decade when the critiques and disagreements with the modern dogmas start having major diffusion, being generated this way the beginning of what has been called A Postmodern Architecture. The development of the postmodern architecture despliega spreading the idea of the revitalización of the “historical modal”, placing explicitly in check the antihistoricist values of the Modern Movement and leaving in a background the beginning that apply to the Modern Architecture: Universality, Economy, Precision and Rigor.

“From the sixties, the architects left the beginning of the modern visualidad, attracted by the promises of organicismos, realisms and historicismos of diverse nature, the emptiness that left the lost formality it tries myself to cover with the effects of the reason and of the sensitive shade of the imagination. This way, the aim to produce images supplanted to of constructing forms; the determination in proposing appearances replaced to the commitment to construct visually tidy structures.

Helio Piñón.


At present, to think about architecture is basically to imagine an urban sculpture with an approximation to making some human certain use possible. There leaves itself on the second plane the exhaustive analysis of the spatial and prime function for overcoat the visual fact and in the “sensations” that this architectural object might produce in the spectator.

In the last 40 years, the public in general has been taken – by the architects postmodernos – to a field of hallucination where the formal originality marks the guideline and indicates cuan boldly it has been the project proposed for certain architectural order. It is not rare to see that this answers to architectural idioms that are going out of fashion periodically (with intervals of 10 years approximately) and they are replaced by some offer of change that tries to look for a new formal option.

In our contemporaneousness, when it is tried to debate on the topic of the Modern Form in architecture, only they come near to a series of subjectivities that cause confusion, both in the professional and in the user. It is for it, which to begin to visualize the Modern Form it is necessary to mend to the origin of this one, to the philosophical offers that somehow directed, to artists as architects, to synthesize so much quite the modernity in forms as systems of visual relations and of sense, typically of the work, in whose recognition has a decisive paper the subject of the experience across the judgment estetic ne) and they are replaced by some offer of change that tries to look for a new formal option.4

Between the principal thinkers who influence the development of the modern art we have to: Worringer, Hildebrant, Wölfflin, Herbart, Von Hildebrand, Fiedler, between other thinkers who are in the habit of having been influenced (direct or indirectly) for Kant’s works.

Going deeply in related to the Modern Form, since already he has arranged an appointment, in the book: The International Style, Architecture from 1922, in spite of trying to stylize to the modern architecture, is a substantial source to understand the conception of the form in the constructions that shape this architecture. The concepts – some derivatives of the book in mention – that they help to emphasize the analysis of the form in the modern architecture are:







Casa Gropius, Walter Gropius. Imagen:
Gropius House, Walter Gropius. Source:

ARCHITECTURE LIKE VOLUME. With the genesis of the Modern Architecture, the production of buildings like mass would remain obsolete. The constructive systems aporticados, of steel or of I make concrete armed, they allow that the new buildings should be much more frivolous and demand material structural minor. It is hereby that the architecture loses his aspect of mass to turn into a volume

“The heavy aspect of static solidity, which up to beginnings of the 20th century had been the most important quality of the Architecture has disappeared practically; in his place there is an appearance of volume, or, more exactly, of flat surfaces that enclose a volume. The principal architectural symbol is not already the massive brick, but the opened box. In fact, the great majority of the buildings are actually – and in appearance – simple planes that surround a volume”.5

It is necessary to bear in mind the material used in the surfaces of the buildings, a smooth material (that allows a continuity) will support the aspect of volume, whereas if a rugose material is used the visualization of the same one will get lost.

 Le Corbusier y Pierre Jeanneret. Villa Savoye en Poissy – Francia, 1929 – 1931. (Fotografías: Arq. José Miguel Forga).
Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Ville Savoye in Poissy – Francia, 1929 – 1931. Fotografías: Arq. José Miguel Forga.

THE REGULARITY. In search of achieving economic solutions, the modern architecture, it will develop a structural order with certain regularity. The modulation is an artifice that allows to arrange the project and to allow to optimize in the construction of the structures (what generates an economic saving); fact that also it will favor to generating a regular volume for the building.

“The props of the constructions in reticle are in the habit of being far the same thing between yes, so that the loads distribute with uniformity. This way, the majority of the buildings have a regular basic pace that can observe clearly before that should place the external closings. More even, the considerations of economic type favor the utilization of elements standardized in the whole structure. The good modern express architecture across the design this classification typical of the structure and this similarity of the elements, achieved by means of an aesthetic arrangement that emphasizes the underlying regularity. The modern bad design contradicts this regularity. Nevertheless, in architecture, the regularity is not absolute but relative”.6

 Mies van der Rohe. Pabellón Alemán en la Exposición Universal de Barcelona, España, 1929. (Fotografías: Arq. Fernando Freire Forga).
Mies van der Rohe. German Pavilion in Universal Exhibition in Barcelona, Spain, 1929. Fotografías: Arq. Fernando Freire Forga.

PLANTS AND THE FUNCTION. As modern process of projection, the solution of the plant was one of the principal points of item to determine the spatial dimensions and the modulation of the structures, all I sue this one, delimited by the function determined for the space to projecting.

“The funcionalistas have done of the plant his particular fetish. They are in the habit of affirming that they have never studied or composed his fronts, but these simply have gone being formed as the inevitable apparel of the plant. It is true that the full application of the beginning of regularity to the plants to the sections brings I obtain a coherence in the exterior gatherings, but it does not involve automatically a good system of proportions in the fronts. The architects who seek to obtain the character fuller architectural in his buildings, will have to continue studying the gatherings in if same so much as the plant and the sections…

… The doctrine of the unaesthetic contemporary funcionalistas is much more strict. His offers are of economic and not ethical order not archaeological. There are important European critics, specially Siegfried Giedion, that they hold, not without certain reason, that in the modern world the architecture has to solve a few practical so enormous problems, aesthetics have to be relegated to a background in the architectural critique”.7

Casa de la Cascada, Fran Lloyd W. imagen:
Hauffman House, Frank Lloyd W. Source:

HORIZONTAL. The coherent placement of structures and his evident regularity, it brings as consequence the horizontalidad of the building. A building or skyscraper is not any more than the overlapping than horizontal floors, nevertheless this fact does not remove the possibility of placing forms, which for his nature have to be vertical as the stairs and elevators.

Our natural environment we perceive it by means of visual records “towards the horizon” (especially in landscape topics), it is for it that the horizontalidad favors also the visual relation exterior – interior by means of windows or screens, continuing our natural perception without vertical superposed interruptions.

“…The horizontal is not in yes same a beginning of the international style. When the function needs vertical elements, also these are expressed. The beginning of regularity tends to increase the general effect of horizontalidad, at the expense of the vertical elements, entrusting to these only a secondary paper in the majority of buildings” 8

Casa Farnsworth, Mies Van de Rohe. Imagen:
Farnsworth House, Mies Van de Rohe. Source:

TRANSPARENCY. This point is not touched in the book of Hitchcock and Johnson, nevertheless the transparency plays an important role in the production of modern architecture, allowing a narrow relation exterior – interior.

Inside a geographical context, the transparency – across the slant of the glass – goes is necessary to allow a new way of emplacement, the reflections originated by the glass will allow to reflect the exterior, achieving an accepted integration with the environment, fact that had not been practised before the appearance of the modern architecture.

The transparency in general, not only it will be a topic that understands to visual interior – exterior. One of the expositions developed for Le Corbusier proposes to raise the building on columns or “pilotis”, as consequence of the study of transparency. Where what was looked, across raising the volumes, it was to be able to register and dominate visually the place without having major visual interruption.

Casa Currutchet
Casa Currutchet

ABSENCE OF APPLIED DECORATION. Any type of decoration turns out to be unnecessary for the good production of modern architecture, the form of the same architecture and the used materials are mas that sufficient.

The decoration is unworthy of the good constructive detail that is needed in an architectural project, demonstrating a formal unnecessary need to which it is appealed to conclude an architectural project.

…”The architectural detail so needed by the modern structures like it was for those of the past, it provides the decoration of the modern architecture. In fact, most of the decoration of the purest styles of the past, it had his origin in structural requirements or in symbolisms of the underlying structure … Besides The architectural detail, there have used works of sculpture and painting to adorn successfully contemporary buildings, without falling down in the simple applied decoration”.9

Fernando Freire Forga · PhD Architect
Lima · july 2013
Author of the Blog La Forma Moderna en Latinoamérica

Fragments of the Investigation “La Forma Moderna en la Vivienda Unifamiliar Peruana 1950 – 1970”, which reached in the year 2008.


1. Neoplasticism: artistic current promulgated by Piet Mondrian in 1917 that it was proposing to clear to the art of any incidental element in an attempt of coming to the essence across a plastic objective language and, as consequence, universally. Together with Theo van Doesburg it founded Stijl’s magazine, principal organ of diffusion of the movement, in whose first number turned out to be published the manifest neoplasticista. Biblioteca de Consulta Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2005.

2. As examples of modern works projected during the first period of last century: In the United States, Frank Lloyd Wright’s project for the Nautical Club Yahara, Madison, Wisconsin of 1902 shows a clear architectural – formal incursion in what some years later it might be called as modern architecture. In Europe you act as that it fulfilled Eisenwerk Manchen AG for the Ships of the Margarete Sétif GMBH in Giengen/Brenz, Alemanía in 1903 also glimpses a clear modern projection. (The images of the projects are in the annexe of this document).

3. The book: The Internacional Style, Architecture since 1922 by Philip Johnson and H-R Hitchcock was elaborated for The International Exhibition of the Modern Architecture celebrated in the Museum of Modern Art of New York, in 1932.

4. PIÑÓN, Helio (1997); El sentido de la Arquitectura Moderna; Ediciones UPC – Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña, España

5. HITCHCOK, Henry Russell – JOHNSON, Philip (1984); El Estilo Internacional:-Arquitectura desde 1922; Artes Gráficas Soler, S.A., España.

6. Ibidem

7. Ibidem

8. Ibidem

9. Ibidem

Fernando Freire Forga nace en Lima el 21 de marzo de 1977. Entre los años 1994 y 2000 realiza estudios de arquitectura en la Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas en la misma ciudad. En 1999 obtiene el primer premio en el Concurso a nivel nacional organizado por PROCOBRE-PERÚ con la tesis: Edificio Automatizado de Oficinas: “Usos del Cobre en la Arquitectura”.

Ha realizado estudios de Doctorado sobre Arquitectura Moderna en la ETSAB, Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona en la Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña, España. Actualmente, se encuentra inmerso en el desarrollo de trabajos de recopilación e investigación de Arquitectura Moderna en el Perú. Es docente de la Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú y se desenvuelve como proyectista de manera independiente.

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