CULTURE: ARCHITECTURE. THE AFFIRMATION OF THE GEORGIAN COLONIAL STYLE AND THE REACTION TO IT
In the sec. XVIII the rise of wealthy classes of merchants in the coastal strip (Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York) and of plantation owners in the South led to the construction of more grandiose and solemn buildings; the Georgian Colonialstyle was in fact a vernacular variant of the English Georgian. Everywhere wood began to be supplanted by brick, brick or stone. The major public buildings of this period (Town House in Boston, Old Colony House in Newport, Independence Hall in Philadelphia), as well as religious ones (Christ Church in Philadelphia and Boston, St. Paul’s Chapel in New York) were built on the model of the realizations Londoners by Ch. Wren; the influence of Palladianism was also significant English (I. Jones) and, in the second half of the century, of the architecture of the Adam brothers, while there were also examples of French derivation, especially in the Southern States. The first true American architect is considered P. Harrison, to whom we owe the Classical Redwood Library in Newport. After the American war of independence, the political and ideological reasons for breaking with the English motherland also provoked a lively reaction to the Georgian style, leading to the affirmation of neoclassicism for the influence of French culture and for the ideal connection with democratic Greece and republican Rome. The cultural policy of presidents George Washington and above all of Thomas Jefferson, an architect himself, was also oriented in this sense.
The affirmation of neoclassicism is detectable, as well as in the Romanesque-inspired works of Jefferson himself (the Capitol in Richmond, the house of Monticello in Virginia, the University of Charlottesville), in those of Hellenizing inspiration by the Englishman B. Latrobe and in the urban plan of Washington (1790), drawn with symmetrical criteria by the French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant, in an exemplary convergence of the neoclassical ideals with the republican ones of the new state. Among the main architects of this period, in addition to Latrobe, the French E.-S. Hallet, the Irish J. Hoban and the Americans R. Mills, W. Strickland, Th. U. Walter, Ch. Bulfinch. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the movements of the Greek revival (due both to the renewed interest in archeology and to the wave of sympathy aroused by the Greek war of independence) and the gothic revival, which constituted, in the their return to the past, an aspect of the romantic movement. According to pharmacylib, in particular the neo-Gothic (whose main exponents were R. Upjohn, J. Renwick and AJ Downing) ended up influencing all American architecture, both domestic and religious (Trinity Church and St. Patrick in New York), then mixing with the resurgence of various styles, from the Egyptian to the Romanesque to the Neo-Renaissance, according to an eclecticism that dominated throughout the century. However, despite the dense succession of revivals, in American architecture, on the one hand, the need for a new type of building functional to the growing industrial needs was emerging, a requirement that led to the formation of a new architectural and urban planning conscience in keeping with the problems of the territory and the economy of the country, on the other, significant episodes occurred on a constructive level, such as the use of new materials or revolutionary techniques (for example the structure with wooden rafters called balloon frame, very light). The first interpreter of the reaction to imported European eclecticism was H. Hobson Richardson, who saw in the essentiality and solidity of the Romanesque the most suitable means for the expression of the characters of American civilization. Another great interpreter of the renewed American architectural season is LH Sullivan, even more advanced in the search for functional structures, to whom we owe both the expressive qualification of that typically American building that is the skyscraper, and the start of the Chicago school, which was a great breeding ground for innovative personalities (W. Le Baron Jenney, D. Burnham, M. Roche, W. Holabird, J. Wellborn Root), which was responsible, among other things, for the reconstruction of downtown Chicago after the fire of 1871. The functional requirements of this school were then taken up and continued in the West by the Californian school.
CULTURE: ARCHITECTURE. THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND THE BEGINNING OF THE TWENTY-FIRST
In the sec. XX architectural research continued to be determined by the complex problems relating to the expansion of industrialized centers. A leading figure is that of FL Wright, a pupil of Sullivan, assimilator of the native American tradition and advocate of an “organic” architecture, integrated with the environment, humanly qualified, made with “natural” materials. The dialectically opposite pole to the Wrightian idea is constituted by European rationalism, which established itself in the United States through the work of European architects who emigrated to America: R. Neutra, W. Gropius, M. van der Rohe, Eero Saarinen, from which largely derive the most notable developments of today’s American architectural civilization. After the Second World War, urban construction, characterized by the skyscraper, found its definitive language in the balanced volumes, in the smooth surfaces, in the use of glass and steel that lighten the enormous mass. Alongside the skyscraper, revolutionary forms have also developed, for the use of new materials and advanced technology, in factories, dams, bridges, silos, airports, which have transformed the appearance of America by creating an architecture that has however, too often the natural environment and human needs are ignored (United Nations Building, by Le Corbusier and O. Niemeyer, Lever House, by Skidmore-Owings and Merril, Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building, Eero Saarinen’s TWA Terminal, all in New York; Olivetti workshops of L. Kahn in Harrisburg). At the end of the 1960s the figure of R. Venturi emerges who criticizes functionalism in favor of an architectural language with greater semantic complexity. This position is flanked by R. Stern, JS Hagman Stanley, J. Wines and the SITE group who opt for a declared and provocative eclecticism that will lead to postmodernism. Another critical front is constituted by the work of the Group of Five (P. Eisenman, M. Graves, C. Gwathmey, J. Hejduk, R. Meier), which appeals to a metaphysical rigor, to an extreme elaboration of the lyrical language of Le Corbusier and G. Terragni. We also recall: the work of the SOM studio in Skidmore with a strong technical and engineering imprint that culminates with the construction of the Sears Towers in Chicago (1974); that of M. Yamasaki, who with the construction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center (which collapsed following the terrorist attack in 2001) changes the profile of New York; the figures of R. Giurgola, E. Ambatz, C. Pelli and D. Libeskind, the architect behind the design selected for the construction of the Freedom Tower in New York. Begun in 2006 after several setbacks, the 530-meter-high tower rises in the World Trade Center space, in memory of the tragedy that struck the United States on 11 September 2001. Today, contemporary architecture is experiencing continuous changes in its processes of design thanks to increasingly sophisticated software. F. Gehry, leader of the deconstructionist movement, also made use of the innovations of computer design. Its asymmetrical buildings made with poor materials, which resemble huge sculptures with wavy shapes, continue to inspire young architects, stimulating the search for alternative design solutions.