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Form and Function

Stage 1 Lecture

Contextual and Critical Studies

Andrea Peach

Dominant ideology throughout

western industrialised world in art,
design and architecture for most of
the twentieth century
How things used to look …
Adolf Loos 1928
Essay on Ornament and Crime:

“Evolution is synonymous with

the removal of ornament from
objects of everyday use”
Adolf Loos 1901
“A plain piece of
furniture is more
beautiful than all the
inlaid and carved
museum pieces”

Armoire - Vienna, Austria

Adolf Loos 1928

Steiner House - Vienna, Austria

Louis Sullivan 1896

“It is the pervading law of all things

organic and inorganic, of all things
physical and metaphysical, of all
things human and things
superhuman… that form ever
follows function, This is the law …”
Form and Function

Louis Sullivan

“Form and function are

one …”

Guarantee Building, Buffalo New York, 1895


USE should determine the FORM of

an object

If an object is made to function well

it will by definition be beautiful
(also referred to as Functionalism)
Rules of Modernist Design

Objects should be:

• simple, honest and direct

• Well adapted to their purpose

• No ornament
Rules of Modernist Design
• Standardised

• Machine-made

• Reasonably priced

• Expressive of their structure and

Marcel Breuer 1926
Nesting Tables

Nickel-plated steel and lacquered wood

Mies van der Rohe 1927
Cantilever Chair

Chrome-plated tubular steel, oil cloth

“Here is gay,
sparkling furniture
that brings new
beauty and charm
into your kitchen …
it’s the kind that
seems to stay new

Howell ‘Chromasteel’ USA

Greta von Nessen 1952
‘Anywhere lamp’

Aluminum and enameled metal

2006 …

Ocean - Bianco Table / Gamma Chairs - chromed tubular steel frame


A term used to refer to the principle

that nothing is included in a design
that does not enhance the
object’s purpose
Marianne Brandt 1924

Tea infuser
Germany, Bauhaus
Deutscher Werkbund 1929
Die Form =

The Form
Die Wohnung Stuttgart 1927
Weissenhof Seidlung 1927

Walter Gropius / Marcel Breuer

Mies van der Rohe

Giso lights 1928
The Netherlands
Machine Age 1920s
“Machines are replacing
hand work; the spheres
are smooth; the cylinders
have the kind of precision
only attainable in theory:
without fuss, the machine
produces surfaces which
are faultless.”
Machine Age 1920s

Russian Constructivist
printed textile
Marcel Breuer 1931

“This metal furniture is intended to be nothing

but a necessary apparatus for contemporary
Le Corbusier 1929

“Metal plays the same part in

furniture as cement has done in
architecture. It is a revolution.”
John Gloag 1929

“Metal is cold and brutally hard...

It gives no comfort to the eye”
“Modern carpet
designs may provide
endless entertainment
for your friends”

Heath Robinson 1936

“De Staalstoelophoon”
Functionalism, Yes, But.

The Titanic - Photomontage

Stanley Tigerman, 1978, USA
Alessandro Mendini 1978


“Redesign of Modern Movement Chairs”

Wassily by Breuer, Italy
Functionalism, Yes ...

Mies van der Rohe

Barcelona Chair 1929
Functionalism, Yes ...


21st century
Functionalist Design Form Follows Function
George Marcus Susan Lambert
Prestel 1995 V&A Museum 1993