Chapter 8 of History of Modern Art by Arnason & Mansfield

The Book “History of Modern Art – Painting Sculpture Architecture Photography,” published in 2014, is addressed modern architecture and provides them with the basic history of various architectural designs. Two authors wrote the book, the late H.H. Arnason, a professor in the Department of Art at the University of Minnesota, and Elizabeth C. Mansfield, a vice president at the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle ParkNorth of Carolina. The book was published by Pearson publishers, one of the leading publishers in Newyork. This reading report will be based on chapter eight of the book entitled “Early Modern Architecture.”

The main purpose of reading this book is because it has a great contribution to the architectural world. It gives precise information on how various designs were invented and their function across Europe and USA architectural designs. Chapter eight of this book explores cubism in modern architectural designs (Arnason & Mansfield, 2013). It features the main architectures in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, such as Lloyd Wright, Henry Hobson, Richard Morris, etc. According to Lloyd Wright, all buildings had to be created based on functionalism, whereby a building is built to feature the intended purpose of a structure and its functionality in design. This design called for the elimination of ornaments in buildings because they were unnecessary regarding a building’s main purpose (Arnason & Mansfield, 2013). Wright demonstrated functionalism in some of his designs, including his Ward Willits House, characterized by a free-flowing floor plan, an open veranda that allows light from outside to penetrate the living room, and low ceilings to bring a sense of intimacy into the house.

Functionalism was widely adopted in major architectural designs in Europe and the USA during the 19th and 20th centuries. However, most of the engineers used modern machines and innovations to help construct their houses. The advancement of metal production enabled the production of strong metals, which paved the way for taller buildings to be built (Arnason & Mansfield, 2013). For instance, the Home Insurance Building in Chicago was built by William Le Baron Jenny as a twelve-story building and relied on the internal metal skeleton to carry all the weight of the external shell. This was a major transformation in the building of skyscrapers because it allowed the use of glass boxes and reduced the number of supporting elements.

However, some architectures were also against functionalism in the US. Between 1915-1940, America had two major construction projects, including the Pennsylvania Station and the Palace of Fine Arts in San Fransisco. The Pennsylvania station was designed by Beaux-Arts Architectural firm that was evidently against functionalism. The exterior of the Pennsylvania station had a massive Doric colonnade which clearly symbolized a modern temple instead of a railway station (Arnason & Mansfield, 2013). However, the building was destroyed in 1966 and was established as a New York City Landmark Reservations. The palace of fine arts also went against the canonical rules by using rich imaginative ornaments to cover its structures. This was against functionalism, which had called for the elimination of ornaments in buildings.

However, the significance of functionalism did not end, and made a major breakthrough in 1908 through the construction of the AEG Turbine Factory. Peter Behrens built this factory; a German architect used high corner masonry piers and an overpowering glass roof. It created mass social implications because it was built to provide maximum space, air, and light for the factory workers creating a suitable working atmosphere for the employees (Arnason & Mansfield, 2013). This created a sense of corporate social responsibility and enabled the wide adoption of functionalism in most factory buildings.


Arnason, H., & Mansfield, E. (2013). History of modern art (7th ed., pp. 169-185). Pearson Education.

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