The era between 1880 and 1910 is largely looked upon as a transitional period in architecture, one marked by the entrenchment of the Chicago School and the rise of Bauhaus. The whimsical impulses of Art Nouveau architecture do not offer it... [more]
The era between 1880 and 1910 is largely looked upon as a transitional period in architecture, one marked by the entrenchment of the Chicago School and the rise of Bauhaus. The whimsical impulses of Art Nouveau architecture do not offer it the monumental status that art historians love to laud. Nevertheless, the style swept across continental Europe and England at the turn of the century, manifesting itself in the floral patterns popular in Belgium and France, and in the geometric designs of Scotland and Austria. The aesthetic theories of Oscar Wilde and John Ruskin influenced its style of delight, fusion, and decoration. Like the Aesthetes, proponents of this style sought to separate humanity from the ugliness of the Industrial Age and surround the growing bourgeoisie with beauty and lightness. The movement incorporated all the arts, with painters such as Gustav Klimt often decorating the interiors of Nouveau homes.
With Art Nouveau architecture, the surface decoration of the applied arts developed into three-dimensional expressions, which would later lead to Expressionism. The architects incorporated the decorative elements of the Arts and Crafts movement (which emerged in reaction to the rapid industrialization of the late nineteenth century), but used mass-producible patterns and materials to forge them. Iron and glass were used as much for ornamental expression as they were for their structural properties.
One of the first applications of Art Nouveau architecture was Victor Horta's 1892 house for the engineer, Tassel. Along with other architects such as Paul Hankar, Willem Kromhout, Henri Guimard, and Otto Wagner, Horta sought to create a style that put an end to all imitations of the past. Spatial elements were no longer primary; instead, ornate facades created a dialogue between surface and ornament. Antoni Gaud' further shaped architecture's expressive qualities in his sculptural structures. His contours flow, and the structures seem to be soft masses, like frosted cakes.