World War 2 had a catastrophic impact on every aspect of everyday life. where the stock market crashed. Also, economic inflation had pushed building materials price up and led to materials shortages. As a result of this, the United Kingdom nationalized coal, steel, electric, and gas manufacturing. Pioneered by the infamous Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Erich Mendelsohn. Internationalism shares many similarities with modernism but has its unique differences. The modernist movement is the parent to the internationalism style and the modernist movement was based highly on the lack of ornament “Ornamentation is for criminals and degenerates.” (Adolf Loos Ornament and Crime 1908) this is a very strong and bold used by Adolf and is simply saying architects who use ornamentation are criminals, so he is very strong-minded with his opinions and wants buildings to be functional and to have more simple aesthetics. Modernism was a very big movement at the time, focusing on clean lines and minimal ornamentation, that in turn gave birth to internationalism “development of new building technologies centering on the use of iron and steel, reinforced concrete, and glass.” It’s rare to see an international-style piece of architecture using wood as a main material as these materials stated are very clean and some very sustainable and wood doesn’t fit the profile for internationalism. To fully understand how the international style was impacted by world war 2, building such as The Bauhaus must be discussed. The Bauhaus is the most well-known piece of internationalism furthermore was bombed during the war, so this has been directly impacted by the war.
The Bauhaus School by Walter Gropius is one of the most well-known buildings embodying the principles of modern/ international architecture. The technologies and materials used in this building are now being used for countless buildings today. Most of the building is prefabricated for ease of use and that is also widely used today. With its extensive white façade and a large amount of glass used, it has a strong and clear framework that is made visible using the transparency of the glass. The complex is made into different sections, housing, a studio, a workshop, and private offices. Its view from the outside has no central viewing point so you need to walk around the building to see everything. “During the war, the complex was bombed, and the damage was at first only provisionally repaired.” The impact of war has made a mark on the school, being physically partly destroyed during the bombings but has been renovated to its original standards. The complex is very asymmetrical with the positioning for the dorms and other facilities. Then the building was recognized and achieved UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE status. So the ideals of the movement are rich enough for people to want to restore the building to stand as almost a monument that it can overcome the war. As a prime example of the earliest work of internationalism, it sets the stage for what to expect from the movement. This building was built in 1925-26 just before the great depression that swept across America affecting the entire world, this is a true example of what internationalism was before the second world war. If you look back at the key principles of internationalism it clearly gives a lot of open space which applies inside as well as out, with its staircases symmetrical to its window covered façade and its vast room and studio workshop sizes, it’s got function whether its studio space, workshop space, offices, and catering. Such a simple yet complex design from just looking at this facade.
Moving onto the Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier, Corbusier is one of the most renowned architects for pioneering modern architecture and starting the international style with fellow architects. The building itself is built for ease of use in everyday life in his words “The house is a machine for living.” A machine has a function, so it makes sense for the form to follow the function of the building. The War had an impact on the house as the family moved out during the war to then the house was occupied by Nazis and Americans furthermore the original family moved back in, but not being able to live as they did before the war they moved out and sold up. So, the function as a home isn’t valid anymore. Looking at the Villa Savoye with its striking appearance, and boldness to say the least but it is still appealing to look at. Its stilt columns hold up a simple box with windows and its white clean façade is made possible by using reinforced concrete. Villa Savoye Stripped away from all ornamental features gives it a really minimal look which is the embodiment of internationalism. Being built in 1928-31, coming after the Bauhaus which steer headed the movement it's clear Corbusier wanted to design something that was fun and controlled. Its function is to be served as a summer house and as you can see there is a lot of greenery around it, so space is a good thing for this. Corbusier had health in mind when designing the house. Le Corbusier’s aim was to make housing that’s affordable and mostly prefabricated for ease of building, to help the efforts of post-world War 1, so this is someone who was pro-actively helping the situation. The building is described to fit the “five points of a new architecture” explained in his book “Treatise vers une architecture” (1923), the pilotis, roof garden, free ground plan, horizontal windows, and the free façade. The building features every single point with the decoration-free walls, open space living inside, its linear roof garden, and windows that are wrapped horizontally, and it's very clear pilotis give the building a striking appearance. Is this when internationalism is at its greatest? To see how internationalism survived world war 2, Brasilia will be used for discussion as many buildings share many embodiments of internationalism.
Brasilia, led by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer, are both admirers of Le Corbusier as they invited him to Brazil in the 1930s. This city has a plan that looks like a plane with the residential blocks as the wings and the buildings of interest and other amenities on the vertical line. The buildings of interest are hotels, a hospital center, a shopping district, a recreation area, banks and offices, a bus terminal, a cultural center, a cathedral, ministry buildings, a supreme court, congressional buildings, a plaza of the three powers, and executive offices. So, the magnitude of buildings is very vast, and a tremendous achievement to of designed a whole city. Looking more closely at a few of the key buildings; ministry buildings, congressional buildings, supreme court, and the cathedral. As the plan sets out described as a plane-like design, its function as a city is mapped out into sections as stated. This embodiment of function in the plan alone is an homage to the internationalist style as there is a lack of ornamentation and is highly functioned for ease of life across the city.
The ministry building is the Ministry of foreign affairs and was designed by Niemeyer in 1970, its column like spires that make the façade are a real homage to Corbusier’s pilotis, its decoration is the material itself as decoration is not much to be seen, its concrete open spaces make the outdoor space even greater, to the curtain walls of glass encased in the spires and the pool around the building emphasizes its size and simplicity of its shapes and appearance.
The congress buildings designed by Niemeyer in 1985, now this complex is very striking in appearance, yet simple. The towers are 27 stories and are comprised of hotel rooms and office spaces. The towers are connected by a three-story bridge from the 14th to 16th floors. Whilst the two domes are the assembly chambers. The towers are surprisingly 5 sided due to the angles used, so not all as it seems. Other than the shape there is minimum decoration, the building themselves are the decoration there is no need for external features and this is an excellent example of internationalism and minimalism. The use of prefabricated concrete is an excellent homage to Corbusier’s works. The supreme court, with its ribbon-like columns and the flat roof and glass walls that are made even more powerful with the reflection of the water to make it look like it is suspended, is one of Niemeyer’s trademarks at this point. This building looks effortless and playful to what the building is meant for. And the cathedral is probably one of the most abstract designs and most striking to look at with its circular spires rising, the ceramic tiles that are inside the spires make this modern bit of architecture more ornamental going against the principles of internationalism. Some can argue “Today, the city is quite correctly regarded as a colossally wrong turn in urban planning” So as a whole the city failed to function due to traffic, getting around the city, etc. But that is not to say that the buildings have failed. “It is difficult as a pedestrian - it does not always feel like it is on a scale designed for humans” quote by Lucy Jordan, journalist. So, the scale as a city was not very liked as many people thought it lacked character and its stance as a city was very poor. After this discussion, it is clear to see that this city is proof that internationalism did not perish after the second world war. And Niemeyer has done a huge homage to Le Corbusier, But their principles of it working as a city could have been managed more precisely.
So how did post world War 2 impact the international style movement? After looking at pre and post-world War 2 and examples of internationalism, from how the war has physically impacted works with The Bauhaus being bombed to the Savoye even being occupied by the Nazis and American army it’s clear to say that it had a negative impact physically. However, people's passion to preserve and protect buildings that have such a huge heritage “To then the building was recognized and achieved UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE status” means people want these buildings to stay to inspire future works and to not forget the principles of the movements these embodied. To say the movement is still in works today, with examples of work from Van der Jeugd and Willow House by Guz Architects, each embodying the five points of architecture stated by Le Corbusier, paying excellent homages to his work and having splashes of internationalism running through them. Stating back to The Bauhaus and how the impact of post-World War 2 affected it, “So the ideals of the movement are rich enough for people to want to restore the building to stand as almost a monument that it can overcome the war.” Through one of the most destructive times of our history, this building was hit by, the resilience of the people to restore the building to its original standards and to protect it for the future just proves that the war has impacted the movement very heavily however the movement has brought solutions to many building methods we still use today such as prefabricated materials and using more sustainable materials. The movement may have slowed down due to the impact of the war furthermore the principles are not forgotten.
- Toward architecture, Le Corbusier (1923)
- Cardasis., D., 2017. James Rose. Athens: University Of Georgia Press; Amherst, p.21.
- Bauhaus Building by Walter Gropius (1925-26), 2020)
- Encyclopedia Britannica. 2020. International Style | Definition, History, & Facts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 July 2020].
- Schwarz, B., 2020. Oscar Niemeyer: A Vision In Concrete. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: [Accessed 10 July 2020].