Post War Stripped Classical

23 Nov
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, New York. Philip Johnson, 1960. Mies van der Rohe Crown Hall  Illinois Institute of Technology Eliel Saarinen in his art gallery at Cranbrook, Michigan
 
National Library, Parkes Place West, Parkes, ACT. Bunfling & Madden,1964. A contemporary derivation in the spirit of Graeco-Roman architecture. The Woodland Cemetery, Stockholm, Sweden.  
     
The flame of classicism has burned for two-and-a- half thousand years in the architecture of Western civilisation. Sometimes it has burned brightly, sometimes dimly, but it has never been extinguished. The flame was very low during the period following World War II. Traditionally inclined architects who had survived from the prewar decades had little opportunity to ply their classical trade in the austere years of the 1940s and early 1950s, when classicism was regarded as an irrelevant, unaffordable luxury. The flickering torch of classicism was carried by Mies van der Rohe in his elegantly sparse buildings on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology and by Eliel Saarinen in his art gallery at Cranbrook, Michigan. In Australia, as elsewhere, modernism was making its impact, and symmetry—the hallmark of classicism—was avoided like the plague by ‘progressive’ architects.
Surprisingly, the Stripped Classical style made a comeback in the early 1960s. The American architect Philip Johnson, who had helped to coin the term ‘International style’ in the 1930s, gave notice that he was bored with mainstream modernism when he (with Max Abramovitz and Wallace K. Harrison) designed New York’s cultural hub, the Lincoln Center, in the form of three ultrasimplified, colonnaded, flat-roofed, ‘classical temples’ arranged around a formal, rectangular plaza. The Lincoln Center did not exactly set off a world-wide avalanche of stripped classicism, but it seemed to legitimise occasional essays in the idiom by less well-known architects. (Philip Johnson was heavily influenced by Italian Fascist design).
In Australia, the Stripped Classical style won national prominence with the completion in 1968 of Walter Bunning’s National Library in Canberra’s ‘parliamentary triangle’ between Parliament House and Lake Burley Griffin. Bunning claimed that his marble-clad, colonnaded, rectangular prism had affinities with the Parthenon.
Buildings in the Late Twentieth-Century Stripped Classical style are static rather than dynamic, and they show no vestiges of classical detail. The classical qualities that remain are those of predictability, symmetry, a strongly repetitive rhythm of columns or column-like elements, and a reliance on carefully considered proportions.
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