A complex mix of ideas and elements that are considered both positive and negative when looked at through different perspectives, Kitsch Architecture has been one of the defining features in the development of the modern world. It has been in practice essentially since industrialization, with first mentions of it in the nineteenth century, and continues growing and developing as a style in the present.
In this article, we will try to summarize all that is Kitsch Architecture.
History And Origin
The word ‘Kitsch’ as a term is believed to have come up as a mispronunciation of the English word ‘sketch’ by the Germans in the Munich art markets of the 1860s and 1870s, to describe cheap and marketable pictures and paintings, but it also could have been derived from the German word ‘verkitschen’ which means ‘to make cheap’. The word can also allude to the Russian word ‘keetcheetsya’ which means ‘to be haughty and puffed up’.
Kitsch as an architectural style is attributed to social phenomena like industrialization and urbanization, which lead to the rise of the middle class and a need for mass-produced things to keep them cheap. It was studied exclusively in Germany till the 1970s, with Walter Benjamin being one of the most important scholars.
Kitsch Architecture is also attributed to the Modernist and Post-Modernist movements in architecture, because of the timeline during which it came up, and also for its basic features. This style of architecture is still in use today, with more sub-styles and unique interpretations coming up every day.
Kitsch As An Aesthetic
Kitsch as an aesthetic is associated with mass-produced goods that are cheap and lack tasteful ornamentation, but it can also be used to describe a style that could be appreciated ironically and satirically. According to Walter Benjamin, this style aims to bring instant gratification to the viewers, without having to get intellectually invested in it. It is thought to be a comfortable and direct interpretation of higher art forms and ornamentation.
Kitsch architecture is a way for the middle class to show their appreciation and understanding of so-called sophisticated and elegant artworks and elements, in an inexpensive and sometimes satirical way. Kitsch has become one of the most prevalent aesthetic styles of the modern world, as the middle class keeps on rising.
Kitsch As A Phenomenon In Architecture
Kitsch in architecture can be described as having certain elements in a building that are classically associated with traditional architecture but have no relation to the styles and trends in the region it has been built in – for example, having a building in the Gothic style in a South Korean village. Kitsch Architecture could also mean borrowing a certain ornamental mental element in an otherwise minimalist building, or a building that appears garish and gaudy.
Sometimes, even replicas of famous buildings in unrelated regions could also mean Kitsch Architecture. The unnecessary ornamentation, which appears cheap, but is used to satisfy the middle class by giving them their desired taste of higher art, is one of the main reasons why this style is considered a major part of the Postmodern Movement.
Kitsch as a word may sound negative, this style has been criticized for making a satire out of classic architectural styles, but it also gets appreciation from people who like something out-of-the-box, ones who want to see the world differently than it has been before. The Kitsch Architecture was a result of satisfying the desire of the common man to experience luxury, it was about factory-produced elements that could be interpreted immediately and did not require careful perusal, and it has been successful in achieving its purpose.
Kitsch Architecture is an umbrella term for many varied styles and elements. Everything from buildings shaped like everyday objects like baskets, to buildings shaped like food, and to buildings with a mixture of different traditional ornamentation, falls under this umbrella, and they are just some of the few interpretations of the term ‘kitsch’. Kitsch style has carefully incorporated itself into contemporary architecture and finds more appreciation every day.
Kitsch Architecture has been around since social movements like industrialization and urbanization, having being born as a result of them, but it is still in use in contemporary architecture, mainly because it is not defined by certain specific elements, but rather is defined by terms like ‘garish’, ‘gaudy’, ‘unnecessary ornamentation’ and ‘easily understood’, that can be interpreted differently by different people.
Kitsch Architecture never came to the forefront as a major defining movement, but it also never went out of fashion, growing slowly and steadily in the corner while other movements garnered more attention. It continues to be that way, and even though it has been gaining more intrigue than before, it is still hard to completely grasp the complexity of this style. Kitsch Architecture will continue to flourish in the background, even with changing times, and the only thing that might change is its interpretation.
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