History of Design: Deconstructivism Presentation Essay

History of Design


       Not considered an art movement but a common way of thinking and executing ideas, Deconstructivism begun as late as 1980 but continues to leave an impact on the modern landscape. Deconstructivism proliferated at around the 1980s, after the decline of Anti design and Memphis. Yet, all three of these styles are branches of Post Modernism. Post Modernism is a fragmented art movement that followed after Modernism as a response to the aftermath of the Modernist ideas. Modernism was a period in human history, following the war, where people held utopian ideas of society and encouraged mass production. There was also a serious deficit of ornamentation and a strict adherence to the mantra, “form follows function” and “truth to the material”. In response, Post Modernism rejected industrial processes and critiqued philosophical concepts of universal truths and objective reality. The artists of this time were dissatisfied with the lack of humanity in art. Regardless of their refusal of previous thoughts and movements, Post Modernism is known for incorporating certain characteristics from other existing art movements. For example, Deconstructivism kept the radical irregularity of the Russian Constructivists as well as the lack of ornamentation promoted by Modernism. The artists and designers of this time seemingly blended these two polarized characteristics in a harmonious and fluid way. The decision to retain these specific characteristics relate back to the theory that Deconnstructivist thinking is based upon.

       The theory behind Deconstructivism begins with the Algerian-French philosopher, Jacques Derrida in the 1930s. Jacques Derrida’s theory itself had little to do with the arts and was concocted with the idea of language and semiotics in regards to law and fairness as its central focus. He states in his theory that the true meaning of words comes from the breaking apart and challenging of the physical text of the word and the associations (social, economical, political) held about the word. This is because the meaning of a text is not intrinsic but from the contrast made by the text itself and its associations. Especially, since associations and meanings have a tendency to change over time. Furthermore, by the 1980s, Jacques Derrida’s theory found its way into the budding minds of several artists in time for the Parc de la Villette competition. MOMA’s Deconstructivist Architecture Exhibition in 1988 lead to the proliferation of Deconstructivism and spotlighted several key artists of this methodology. These artists took inspiration from Jacque Derrida’s idea that true meaning was the result of fragmentation, and imploded their subject matter only to reassemble to form either a new or the true meaning. Deconstructivism unlike the previous modernist movement, did not believe in terms such as “form follows function”, “purity of form”, and “truth to materials”; instead the Deconstructivist artists would ask “Why not?” Despite their rejection of Modernist beliefs, Deconstructivist designers would not disregard their subject matters function. Art during this period tended to challenge the conventional with its seemingly haphazard appearance, curved forms, asymmetry, and dissonance with its surroundings.

       Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, and Bernard Tschumi are some of the more notable artists practicing Deconsntructivism. However, these artists do not like being labeled as “Deconstructivists” and tend to apply these idea to the architectural field. This could be because only buildings with their magnitude and presence, can aptly convey the the Deconstructvist meaning and idea. Some artists like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry did dabble in the field of product design; Zaha Hadid creating a line of deconstructivist shoes and Frank Gehry with furniture design. Another prominent Deconstructivist product designer is AANDERSON, a design company that creates deconstructed products in order to revolutionize the way we use and see the product. Deconstructivism is more commonly seen in buildings.

       Buildings such as Dancing House in Prague, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angles, and Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Cleveland were designed by Frank Gehry. Zaha Hadid’s famous works include the the aquatic centre for the London 2012 Olympics, the Guangzhou Opera House in China, the Heydar Aliyev Center, and the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein in Germany. All these buildings are characterized by there simple elegance yet its unconventional haphazardness appearance. And as previously mentioned before, these artworks evoke a sense of unease and controversy as they are drastically different from the buildings and space surrounding them. For example, the opinions on the jarring disparities between the Deconstructivist Dancing House building and its surrounding Art Noveau style buildings were polarized.

       These controversial desgns were in part due to the advancement in Parametric design, which is the architectural style based off of algorithms with the help of a computer. Parametric design led to the flourishment of Deconstructivism architecture. And though this style developed in the mid-1990s, Parametric design thrived in the early-21st century with the development of advanced parametric design and technology. With the term “Parametricism” coined in 2008 by Patrik Schumacher, an architectural partner of Zaha Hadid. The most identifiable aspects of parametric design is the curving of commonly rectilinear forms and the intricate repetitive designs. The benefit of Parametricism, which relies on a computers to calculate and visualize, is that the computer can calculate every possible factor and possibility. Parametricism also helps to calculate internal movement such as the way a person may travel throughout the building or how long they may spend on one floor. The end product of these algorithms and calculations result in fool-proof, rational scientifically accurate building. Though, some critics state that the reliance of a computer to finalize the design has generated a building that discredits its immediate surroundings and lacks the harmony commonly seen with buildings in an urban landscape. However, this dissonance from its landscape, in my opinion, adds to the goals of Deconstructivism. Emphasizing and extracting meaning and truth is made from the comparison and contrast of the broken up pieces, and in this case, the disparity of the parametric building and its neighbouring buildings or scenery.

       Deconstructivism, a common direction of thought and art, has left its impact on modern architecture and design by introducing to society an unconventional style of building rendering. This unorthodox approach to building design is in part due to the computer aided technology known as parametric design as well as the theories generated by Jacques Derrida. One must ignore the negative connotation associated with the term “Deconstructivism” as Deconstructivism is not about demolition or rebellion but the idea of fragmenting a piece to its simpler components in order to truly understand the whole of its meaning.

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