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Deconstructivism: A New Approach in Twentieth Century Architecture

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Deconstructivism, or Deconstruction architecture, is an approach to building design that appeared in the early 1970s. The main aim of this approach is to create architecture, which can be seen in irrational and different way. Deconstructivist buildings ma

Deconstructivism, or Deconstruction architecture, is an approach to building design that appeared in the early 1970s. The main aim of this approach is to create architecture, which can be seen in irrational and different way. Deconstructivist buildings may seem to have no visual logic by its dismantled basic architectural elements, although they satisfy their intended functions and this present an unprecedented challenge to the traditional architectural conventions. However, the main objective of Deconstructivist architects is to move architecture away from the rationality and the dominant principles of modern architecture.

     The Ray and Maria Stata Center, (MIT) in Cambridge, Frank Gehry

The term ‘Deconstruction’ is first coined and developed by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. He introduced the concept of deconstruction in connection with his discipline of linguistic philosophy and grammatology. It was first meant as a method of interpretation and analysis of a text or a speech. Derrida explained that deconstructing a text or a speech, is to draw out conflicting logics of sense and implication. In other words, the text never exactly means what it says or says what it means. However, this concept of deconstructing a text has been applied successfully to the visual arts and architecture.

According to Derrida, readings of texts are best carried out when working with classical narrative structures. Similarly, any architectural deconstruction requires the existence of a particular established traditional construction, to play against. The ideas of Derrida’s deconstruction influenced many architects, who became known as Deconstructivists. However, there are number of important events which announced the appearance of deconstructivist approach. The most influential event was the Museum of Modern Art’s in 1988 ‘Deconstructivist Architecture’ exhibition in New York. It was organized by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley. The exhibition featured distinctive works by number of architects including, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelb(l)au, and Bernard Tschumi.

One of the important buildings that expressed the ideas and philosophy of Derrida is Frank Gehry’s own Santa Monica residence, 1978, CA. Gehry’s starting point was a prototypical suburban house, which expressed and implied a set of social meanings. Gehry rebelled against the traditional form of the house and altered the plans and masses of the building in a creative deconstructive way. The house is enveloped by scavenged trash materials that created structure similar to any other deconstructive buildings.

             Frank Gehry’s own Santa Monica residence, 1978, CA

However, there are number of features that characterize Deconstruction architecture and help people to understand this approach. These buildings feature fragmented shapes and forms, as well as non-rectilinear shapes, which stimulate unpredictability and create a feeling of chaos. Deconstruction architecture also transfers feelings of disorientation and displacement to its viewers. From the 1970s onwards, architectural projects were developed by deconstructivist architects, who expressed the uncanny and the mysterious in their building projects. Rem Koolhaas’ design for the CCTV building in Beijing, and the Seattle Central Library are two expressive example of deconstruction architecture.

                           The CCTV building, Beijing, China

                Seattle Central Library, Rem Koolhaas and OMA

Number of examples of deconstructivist complexity are created by the renowned Frank Gehry including, Vitra Design Museum in Weil-am-Rhein, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and his new residence in Los Angeles. In these buildings, Gehry challenges the functional aspects of modern architecture with its simplicity and deconstructs it by using geometrical shapes.

Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry, Weil am Rhein

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry, on the Nervión River in downtown Bilbao, Spain.

The New Gehry Residence in Los Angeles, 2008

Nowaoday, deconstructivism became a controversial issue between acceptance and rejection. Critics began to question the expected impact of deconstruction, which rejects the past and appears to be aggressive to human sense. If a movement may be identified, it would be, like all modern movements in the twentieth century, based on principles and on a common theoretical stance. As deconstructivism lack this fact and was never entirely unified, it cannot attain the status of a movement. However, deconstruction architecture is not representing now a mass movement in architecture, but it can be regarded as a general trend within contemporary architecture.

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Abdel-moniem El-Shorbagy

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