The International style can be understood as a highly codified application of basic principles of modern architecture that had been developing since the turn of the 20th century. However, modernity ultimately originated with the introduction of new materials and construction techniques in the middle of the 19th century, ones that allowed not only for such great feats of cast-iron engineering as the Eiffel Tower, constructed in Paris in 1887-1889, but also for taller buildings with steel frames and wider overhangs of cantilevered reinforced concrete. The recognition of these bold structural innovations helped to elevate the functional aspects of construction to a higher level of appreciation, whereby its scientific basis was upheld as the progressive model for the future. Architects then applied aesthetic principles to this new functionalism, arguing that applied decoration was a degeneration of "true" architecture. These ideas were in direct contrast to the prevailing Art Nouveau style, increasingly seen as ornamentally excessive, sensual, and aristocratic.
   One of the first to voice a concern for this applied decoration was the Viennese architect Adolf Loos. Considered the founder of modernism, Loos wrote a manifesto titled "Ornament and Crime" in 1913, which explains these connections between excessive architectural ornamentation, decadence, and corruption. His buildings, such as the Steiner House in Vienna, from 1910, reflect these ideas. This structure protects its inhabitants with roofs and walls while providing light through plain windows that puncture the exterior where they are needed on the interior.
   Loos's functionalism quickly spread across Europe. It is seen in the Fagus Shoe Factory, built in Germany in 1911 by Walter Gropius, and in the work of German architects Bruno Taut and Peter Behrens. Functional modernism quickly spread to the Netherlands, where it developed a more regional form of Rationalism called de Stijl, seen in the architecture of Gerrit Rietveld, and to France, as exemplified by the work of Le Corbusier. In Italy, Futurist architects sought a more dynamic approach to the fastmoving modern world, where future buildings would resemble great machines, while the next generation of Italian Rationalists, such as Giuseppe Terragni, created sparer geometric designs. The Russian Revolution of 1917 helped the spread of utilitarian modernism in Russia as well. Back in Germany, Gropius went on to establish the Bauhaus School of Design, which came to be seen as the final basis for the International style.
   The term "International style" was coined by Henry Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson in an exhibition they organized at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1932. They called it "The International Style: Architecture since 1922" and subsequently published it in a manifesto in which they identified three fundamental principles of modern architecture. The first was a discussion of the expression of volume rather than mass in architecture. Now a building could be conceived of as a structural skeleton wrapped in curtain walls or windows that allowed for more unencumbered and flexible interior space. The second principle sought to define an aesthetic of regularity and balance rather than the more rigid symmetry favored by classical architects. The third principle included the rejection of any form of historical articulation or applied ornamentation, which they considered as merely arbitrary and unnecessary rather than degenerate. Instead, the materials themselves would be held up as intrinsically beautiful, and their carefully balanced arrangement would produce an aesthetic harmony of parts.
   In the United States, the International style moved from its theoretical framework to a more practical application of its principles in the 1930s, when Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Marcel Breuer joined Richard Neutra in the United States and established this form of modern architecture in private homes. Louis Sullivan experimented with its use in the urban skyscraper, and Louis Kahn and Philip Johnson introduced the International style to a variety of buildings constructed from the 1940s through the 1970s, including museums and office buildings. Because of the strict adherence to formal architectural principles and a disassociation with regional or national styles, the International style did not need to engage in the rather messy nationalistic concerns found in Europe during World War I, nor were International style architects compelled to respond to the political environment of the time. Instead, since this style of architecture was theoretically positioned "above" such concerns, its introduction into the United States was relatively smooth despite its avant-garde European origins. However, the International style was gradually supplanted by Post-Modernism and a reintroduction of historical referencing, regional concerns, and a fuller stylistic variety to architecture.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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