The rules of classical architecture were broken by a series of drawings by Russian avant-gardists who came about during the First World War. They were known as Russian Constructivists, defying the norms of geometry during that period, and defining the endless possibilities in architecture, not bound by strict rational orders. This marked the beginning of deconstructivism.
The movement is often considered to mark rebellion through architecture, challenging norms, and societal traditions. The world can be translated to the demolition of a structure. This understanding, however, blurs the true motivation behind Deconstructivism. The style opens our eyes to the infinite possibilities of structures beyond the traditional 4 walls and a roof that classically defines shelters.
Post-world war 1, Russia was in a process of radical change. Architecture, being directly impacted by societal change, went through a revolution of its own. Vladamir Tatlin designed the Monument of the Third International in 1919. The design showed the monument bent and trapped in a twisted frame.
Aleksandr Rodchenko put forward a design with geometric experimentation and irregularity for a radio station. These designs, however, were never constructed, with doubt being placed on unfamiliar programs, and the general audience connecting with a much more familiar style, i.e. Modernism, which came about the same time as the phase of Russian Constructivism.
Though the idea of deconstructivism existed long before, the term was first introduced in the 1980s. French Philosopher Jacques Derrida introduced ‘Deconstructivism’ which developed from the exploration of geometry in a building, inspired by Russian Constructivism, but maintaining functionality, an aspect highlighted in architecture by Modernism.
Derrida’s work inspired Bernard Tschumi, who designed Parc de la Villette after his winning entry for the competition in 1982. The competition was set after the then French President set Paris for an urban Redevelopment.
His approach was un-traditional, creating a program where the unknown entropic unknown and the cartesian space was set to exist in a state of constant reconfiguration and discovery. His Design, along with other entries, such as Derrida and Peter Eisenmann, Zaha Hadid, Jean Nouvel, and Rem Koolhas’, brought notice to deconstructivism.
Mass Media Popularity
The style gained mass global attention during MOMA’s 1988 Deconstructivist exhibition, which had been organized by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley. The exhibition featured works of Zaha Hadid, Peter Eisenman, Daniel Libeskind, and many others.
Johnson and Wigley described the exhibition to mark a different sensibility, with the dream of a pure form being disturbed. The exhibition ‘examined’ a point of intersection between several architects where unsettling forms are brought up that exploit the hidden potential that existed in modernism.
The movements gained popularity through the years because of the works of architects like Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry.
Zaha Hadid, a British-Iraqi architect was the first and only woman to have won the Pritzker Prize. Early in her career, she gained a reputation as a ‘paper architect’, her sketches for designs being considered too ‘avant-garde’ to be considered to be recreated in a 1:1 scale. Her design addressed the challenges and opportunities in the 21st century. Her architecture was not a personal stamp on the world, but ‘contributed to society’s progress and ultimately to our individual and collective wellbeing’.
Rem Koolhaas designed buildings such as the CCTV building in Beijing, 2012, reimagining skyscrapers as a loop, breaking away from the tradition of a strong rational structure defined by a great height. Koolhaas’ architecture focused on ‘layering programmatic elements leading to an environment of interaction.’
Daniel Libeskind based an ideology that transcended consideration only to beauty in form and aimed to bring about architecture with inherent meaning. His works of the Jewish Museum, Berlin and Dresden’s Military History Museum reflected the harsh past of the site and country, with these understandings deforming rational structures.
Frank Gehry created forms that defined innovation and growth in architecture, defining the unlimited possibilities present in architecture. His designs are great examples of his philosophy he held in architecture, such as the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Dancing House, Prague, and Louis Vuitton Foundation.
Interestingly, many architects who practice deconstructivism refuse their work to be defined by a particular style, as it gives the impression that their work was a part of a fad of the time. The deeper intricacies and values considered during the process of designing is what often defines the ‘true form’ of the design and is not related to a trend.
These architects aimed to create architecture free of rules and defined the subject as a form of expression and communication. They freed architecture from strict orders and created infinite opportunities for designs believed to only be possible on paper and considered impractical.