Architecture has gone through vast development and changes in the past century. That is due to the industrial revolution that turned the table of building design upside down. Modernist styles evolve day by day. Today, with all the technology in the architects’ hands, they can unleash their imagination, feeling confident that whatever they have in mind can exist in our physical world. Construction is not anymore a barrier, and architects’ ideas are not chained by tools deficiency. Therefore, they try to invest all the technologies the world possesses at present. In this article, you will get to know ten things about one of the postmodern architectural styles, which is Bowellism architecture. 

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The Lloyd’s building in London (1978) by Richard Rogers. ©www.tatler.com

1. It is a modern Architectural Style.

The term Bowellism appeared in the middle of the nineties. The style strongly emphasizes the transparency of design and construction. It leans towards exposing all the building services to the outside, such as the ducts, lifts, staircases, etc. The Hypothesis is that these elements are the most regular to be subjected to maintenance. Therefore, placing them outside eases that process. Also, with that strategy, ample space is left for the interior, maximizing the area of the building.

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Rotterdam Library, Rotterdam. ©www.hisour.com

2. It is a high-tech Architecture.

Bowellism is knowingly associated with high-tech architecture as it seeks the utilization of new advances in technology and building materials. More importantly, it aims at communicating the main structure and functions of the building through both the interior and the exterior of the building. Steel, glass, and concrete are the three primary materials that High-tech architecture extensively uses due to their high flexibility and availability to create a broad range of forms.

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A logo that expresses High-tech Architecture through depicting a sense of complexity and technical elements of architecture. ©www.dezeen.com

 

3. It is famously associated with Richard Rogers Buildings

Richard Rogers is an Italian-British architect who is known for his modernist and functionalist designs in high-tech architecture. He finds Bowellism is to best suit his vision and approach in architecture. His iconic projects are mainly inspired and influenced by Bowellism. He aims at leaving as much room as possible for the interior to host the activities of the building freely without being disturbed by the sewage pipes, ducts, and other building services.  

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Richard Rogers in front of Pompidou Center, Paris, France. ©www.theguardian.com

 

4. Le Corbusier and Antoni Gaudi influenced Bowellism.

Le Corbusier was famous for his “true” architecture. Truth to materials, site, method, and program. That concept guided a lot of the pioneers of modern architecture. Moreover, Gaudi was well known for his great love for nature. His buildings were a complete works of art as he paid attention to the smallest details that make people appreciate not only the structure as a whole but also discover many elements within it. Those two approaches shaped the overall vision of bowellism. To make what is usually invisible visible as if the building is revealing the truth.

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The materials are exposed fearlessly and the building mass is clear. Notre-Dame du Haut by Le Corbusier. ©www.artchitectourstravel.com
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Gaudi’s great attention to details in La Casa Batllo. ©www.pinterest.com

5. It is also called inside-out Architecture

This concept can result in numerous outstanding ideas in design and construction. Usually, the building facades are two-dimensional despite being the most significant element to be visible to the outside and covering the whole area of the building. Therefore, investing that space by adding more unrevealed features to it is brilliant. People can get to see how the building works and how people flow through the building. Bringing what is -usually buried- inside the concrete outside is giving architecture a new glory making people discover the magic behind it.

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HSBC Headquarters by Norman Foster. Services typically concealed within a central core were exhibited on the exterior of the building. ©www.dezeen.com
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Inside the HSBC Headquarters. ©www.flickr.com

6. The term Bowellism was mentioned for the first time in one of Michael Webb’s lectures

Michael Webb is an English architect and a founding member of the 1960 Archigram Group. Bowellism originated with his 1957 student project for a Furniture Manufacturers Association building in High Wycombe. Furthermore, Webb coined the term in response to a comment on his design in a 1961 lecture. He recalled hearing the words: “within the schools, there are some disturbing trends; I saw the other day design for a building that looked like a series of stomachs sitting on a plate. Or bowels, connected by bits of bristle”. (1)

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Michael Webb. Furniture Manufacturers Association Headquarters, project, High Wycombe, England, Side elevation. ©www.moma.org

 

7. It is usually known to be symbolizing how the human body works

The style recalls the way the human body works. It has this new fascination with the visible circulation of outer staircases and lifts. Nevertheless, it focuses on a building’s skeletal services as well as its “bloodstream” or the moving cars and crowd, cascading down from the top to the main foyers – all visible through the geodesic skin of the structure. (2) 

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Art in dialogue with architecture and the human body. ©www.frameweb.com
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The blood vessels carry oxygenated blood to different parts of the human body and staircases carry people to different parts of the building. ©www.frameweb.com

8. Pompidou Center -an award-winning- is also influenced by Bowellism 

It is a multicultural complex building that houses different functions. It accommodates a public library, museum, and a center for music and acoustic research. The jury picked the design among 681 competition entries as it became the first radical example of a bowellism building with its structural system, mechanical systems, and circulation exposed on the exterior of the building. All of these elements were color-coded: green pipes are plumbing, blue ducts are for climate control, electrical wires are sealed in yellow, and circulation elements and devices are red for safety. (3)

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Pompidou Centre by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, Paris, France. ©www.lonelyplanet.com
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All mechanical and structural elements are color coded. ©www.arrivalguides.com

9. The success behind Lloyd’s building is due to Bowellism 

It hosts the insurance institution Lloyd’s of London. The building is sometimes called “Inside-out building”. Unsurprisingly, the building is a leading example of radical Bowellism architecture in which the services for the building are located on the exterior to maximize space in the interior. The building gained -not only- an architectural value, but also it became a cultural icon as it got featured in many films and record album covers. (4)

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Lloyd’s Building by Richard Rogers. ©www.allcadblocks.com
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Inside Lloyd’s Building by Richard Rogers. ©www.allcadblocks.com

10. It received some harsh criticism.

It takes the architect loads of courage to come out with such a style for his architecture. In the beginning, bowellism was not well welcomed in the world of architecture. People are used to seeing ornaments and figures displayed on the façade. On the other hand, if any of these elements did not exist, they expect to see fewer details and minimal facades as in modern architecture of Mies van der rohe and Le Corbusier. Therefore, it is vastly hard to convince people to accept seeing ducts and lifts on the outer skin of the building. As National Geographic described the reaction to the design of Pompidou center as “love at second sight.” (5)

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Lloyd’s Building by Richard Rogers. ©www.nonagone.style

References: 

  1. Samantha Hardingham and David Greene, The disreputable projects of David Greene, Architectural Association Publications 2007-10-01
  2. Sadler, Simon (2005). Archigram: Architecture Without Architecture
  3. Sisson, Patrick (January 23, 2017). “Centre Pompidou, a monument to modernity: 8 things you didn’t know”
  4. (Lloyd’s Building, 2020)
  5. Newman, Cathy (October 1980). “The Pompidou Center Captivates Paris
Author

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