Category Archives: History 221 Class Notes

History and Theory of Design One : Semester Wrap

EW Godwin desk This semester has been a whirlwind of design starting with the earliest neolithic caves up to the crisp designs we have studied in recent weeks. Personally, I really enjoyed the film about Charles and Ray Eames, the great Medici movie and our visiting professor Jo Leimenstoll discussing Thomas Day. I never knew much about who Thomas Day actually was when I would hear his name mentioned, so that is definitely a bonus. Gaudi is another name I have never heard of! He is amazing and his designs are other-worldly to me. Seeing the history of the home and its beginnings through the readings in the ‘If Walls Could Talk’ text was fascinating and funny in the way the author approached the material. It really makes you think of how things develop and what we may look back on and realize that it will more than likely be outmoded, maybe sooner than we think!
Overall the class was very enjoyable and I had the chance to go back and see things I have studied before in another light and this adds to my details of the day. I am sure I will look back on the things I learned in this course for many years to come. Mackintosh_Charles_Rennie-The_Hill_House_-_interior_hall-c.1903-mbaroque gardenprimavera_200px

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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in History 221 Class Notes


Reactionist Styles

The reactions against the Victorian Age and the Industrial Revolution were numerous and very interesting. The Aesthetic movement is a philosophical view celebrating beauty for beauty’s sake. There is no moral or sentimental message and the social problems of the time were of no concern. A disconnection from the ugliness of poverty and industrialization of the time was sharp witted and brilliant as was its representative Oscar Wilde. One strain of the Aesthetic movement was interested in a Western interpretation of Asian design with a focus between contrast of void and presence, dark and light, transparencies and the attenuated line.
Oscar Wilde EW Godwin desk
Macintosh is representative of Scottish designers Charles Macintosh and his wife Margaret McDonald. The Macintosh movement is noted for its own vocabulary of symbolism representing the masculine and feminine and for the first time design was strictly focused on the interior of a home and was not concerned with the exterior at all. The effect of light at different times of the day. The design was considered to be turn-key as they designed everything in the space including furniture, and fixtures. The interaction of the pieces with the light changing throughout the day with a 3-D exploration of concepts. Their work is noted for its strong linear and geometric features as well as the use of their signature Scottish rose.Mackintosh_Charles_Rennie-The_Hill_House_-_interior_hall-c.1903-m
Art Nouveau is a movement in opposition to the industrial revolution and celebrates nature romantically. Cycles of birth, growth, maturity and death represented in the Art Nouveau movement are to put us in touch with nature and restore balance to our souls. The designs are very curvilinear and asymmetrical. There are no right angles. Art Nouveau is a reaction to the Arts and Crafts movement which tried to revitalize the crafts of the past in history where Art Nouveau utterly rejects history as part of its movement. Art Nouveau emphasizes life at the moment of change and seems alive, with a high level of anticipated movement.
There is a focus on botany and biomimicry with the incorporation of insect wings and plants of all types flowing in the designs of Art Nouveau. art nouveau metalwork
art nouveau woodwork art nouveau doorway
The Vienna Secession is noted for its geometric emphasis and linear ornamentation. The Vienna Secession sought an equality between applies arts and fine arts. There is a connection to the Arts and Craft movement but in a much more industrial and mechanical expression in design such as the Thonet chairs of Austria, the Barcelona Chair and the architectural styles of Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson was noted for his medieval style with heavy stone walls, towers and romanesque semi-circular arch known as the Richardsonian Arch. Barcelona Chair, 1929 Mies van der Rohe

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Posted by on April 20, 2013 in History 221 Class Notes


Chairs of Importance

Barcelona Chair, 1929 Mies van der Rohe

The Barcelona chair designed by Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich has been in production for the past 80 years with very little design change from the original. As a well-known Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe and his partner Lilly Reich based the Barcelona Chair on ancient designs of folding chairs of the Pharaohs and Romans. The Barcelona chair was a key part of the new designs of the period following World War I to revitalize Germany. The Barcelona chair has been one of the most significant designs and is still in production since the original design of 1929.

B3 Chair, 1925  Marcel Breuer

The Wassily Chair, also known as the Model B3 chair, was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925-1926 while he was the head of the cabinet-making workshop at the Bauhaus, in Dessau, Germany. Despite popular belief, the chair was not designed for the non-objective painter Wassily Kandinsky, who was concurrently on the Bauhaus faculty.This chair was revolutionary in the use of the materials (bent tubular steel and canvas) and methods of manufacturing. It is said that the handlebar of Breuer’s ‘Adler’ bicycle inspired him to use steel tubing to build the chair, and it proved to be an appropriate material because it was available in quantity. The design (and all subsequent steel tubing furniture) was technologically feasible only because the German steel manufacturer Mannesmann had recently perfected a process for making seamless steel tubing. Previously, steel tubing had a welded seam, which would collapse when the tubing was bent.-Retrieved from:

Cabaret Fledermaus Chair A very fun and interesting mini-chair blog! A fabulous design history site.

Hilhouse 1 chair Charles Remmie Macintosh

Charles Remmie Mackintosh is credited for designing the Hilhouse 1 chair from 1902-1903. He and Margaret MacDonald worked together on all design projects and were married. Mackintosh, part of the British Arts and Crafts movement took inspiration from organic elements and combined them with the modern, simplistic geometric influences creating timeless designs that greatly influenced European designs of the time.

MR10, 1927
Mies van der Rohe was heavily influenced by Marcel Breuer’s use of tubular steel, van der Rohe quickly recognized the compatibility of this revolutionary material with contemporary design. Mies incorporated a new material and a new technology in the use of the cantilever principle. “Architecture is a language, when you are very good you can be a poet,” wrote the acclaimed architect and bauhaus director. Mies van der Rohe designed the MR-10 chair in 1927.

Paimio Lounge Chair, Designer  Alvar Aalto Alvar Aalto, a Finnish designer is famous for his “Scroll Chair”originally designed in 1929. Alvar Aalto won a competition to be the Architect, Interior Designer and Furniture Designer for the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium in 1928.

He succeeded in creating a sensitive environment for the patients to recuperate.His thought in positioning for the sun, selection of soothing materials which reduced Hospital “clatter” noise made a cheerful environment for both staff and patients.

He continued those philosophies to design the furniture, especially the Paimio Arm Chair. The TB patient’s breathing was considered with the 110 degree angle of the chair back, the front curve of the arm made it easy to grip for getting in and out of.

The timber surface was easily cleaned. The use of timber creating warmth negated the coldness of institutions

The Paimio Chair is constructed from both two dimensional molded plywood and laminated timber. The curves are made by clamping layers of veneer and glue over a form to achieve the desired curved shapes.

A straight laminated timber crossbar in the upper back stabilized the framework. The continuous curves of the chair seat and back resembled a coil spring – this provided extra resilience to the plywood design. Retrieved from

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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in History 221 Class Notes


Monticello & Fallingwater

fallingwater abstract

Fallingwater abstract 1

Monticello aerial

Monticello Gardens

Although I did not travel with our class to visit Monticello and Fallingwater I imagine that it was a wonderful excursion.
Years ago I toured Monticello with my family and I loved Jefferson’s constant experimentation, whether it was in gardening or architecture or his many other hobbies. The sense of classical architectural forms is eclectic yet shows the latest technology of the period and is really a treasury of invention and imagination.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s design of the Kaufman home, Fallingwater, is a tribute to Frank Lloyd Wright in my opinion as one of his most striking thoughts about nature and how we fit into living with nature. He literally put a home on top of a waterfall and carefully shows the limits and beauty of living with the flowing water. His appreciation and gratitude for the natural forms and their influence on his work is obvious. Seeking perfection in architectural form would be his life’s work.

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Posted by on April 13, 2013 in History 221 Class Notes


History 221: Henry VII

In a nutshell, Henry VII became king because his father was Edmund Tudor of Welsh royal lineage and his mother was a descendant of Edward III. He was in good position to become king. Henry ascended to the throne due to his success in battle where he defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field. During Henry VII’s reign he successfully restored faith in the monarchy as he strengthened the judicial system and the treasury was left very secure under his rule. Henry VIII was left with a wealthy, secure throne. Henry VII used heraldic devices to show his people the connection between good things happening and his rule. He added his family’s royal insignia and symbolism everywhere to show the source of the success, strength and power of the monarchy.

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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in History 221 Class Notes


Baroque and Rococo Influences

baroque garden Baroque style is underscored by the views of Humanism at the time where man is separate from nature and that man is superior. The Baroque view advocated control of nature, which was considered dark and primitive. Women were considered part of nature and were to be controlled. The elaborate gardens were evidence of their supposed control of nature by potting plants and making boundaries to contain the growth and expansion of nature. The bushes are tortured and contorted into spiral or animal shapes. Their aim with the gardens was to show they “have” nature but that they dominated it. Their buildings were very rigid with ordered proportions using classical proportions and classical icons from the past. The Baroque use of dado to protect the painted walls and artwork with swirling scenes that have a quality of movement that makes them seem ready to move at any second. They still contained the movement of the paintings within the rectangular frames. There are so many features of the Baroque era including the Versailles, Hall of Mirrors
evolution of the french parquet flooring, the large-scale unblemished mirrors and the use of strong, bold, dark colors for the color palettes of the rooms of the time. These elements are still used today in parquet flooring, boiserie, a french wood paneling and the classical french style which still is a standard of design today. boiserie

frag_swing Rococo style is known for it’s frivolous attitude influenced by the ideas of fantasy, love, happiness and pleasure. Rococo style is identified by it’s use of seashell motifs, and the use of rocks, dripping water and Eastern exoticism showing pagodas and Eastern figures. Trade with the East has made the influences visible in French design at the time. Colonialism is at it’s peak and France controlled fashion the world over. This is the pinnacle of French influence as the guild system has allowed products produced in France to be influential and in demand. Lace, brocade and pastel colors painted the landscape of fashion and decor of the cities and a more relaxed, comfort driven design demand was replacing the rigid formality of the Baroque period. England is at war, Italy’s influence has faded and France is center stage. The demand for exquisite pieces of small, movable furniture for personal use was a new phenomenon and created works that are still in use today such as the side tables, sewing tables and bureaus. The work of Jean-Francois Oeben is incredible. He specialized in crafting small, elaborately fitted, multi-purpose pieces of furniture with mechanical parts. 2006AN0757 The new seating arrangements and options for how to socially engage with the arrangement of furniture placement and mobility opens a new era of social hierarchy rules which were loosened and more comfortable. This has been an enormous influence on modern furniture design and homes designed for living and entertaining. <a


Renaissance :

The Renaissance comes to life as the Medici family rises to power in Florence, Italy. The Medici family rose from humble beginnings to become financiers of kingdoms, businesses and even the Catholic Church. The Medici family created a network of “friends” doing favors for the ordinary people as well as the well-connected. Peasants were welcome to present their problems and ask for help. This created a vast network of loyal friends who would fight for the Medici family when prompted. Lorenzo Medici was instrumental in the growth in artistic ventures all over Florence. He openly funded art that was controversial as seen by the Catholic Church. birth_of_venus_300px Boticelli became a very close friend of Lorenzo and was commissioned to create a new genre of art never seen before. Fantasy art depicting the pagan goddess Venus with human desire openly expressed was seen for the first time. “The Birth of Venus” was scandalous for the time and the priest Sabonarolla was a vocal critic of the wave of influence that Lorenzo Medici was commissioning.primavera_200px In religious paintings showing the Holy Family, Boticelli’s images of the holy family and adds members of the Medici family, kings, princes and other dignitaries again showing their influence. Boticelli also painted himself into the portrait depicting the baptism of Christ. Michelangelo, a young apprentice at a shop in Florence showed great promise and was eventually asked to move in to the residence of Lorenzo and become a member of the family along with his other seven children. He created many magnificent sculptures for the Medici family in his career. Leonardo da Vinci was another artist discovered by Lorenzo Medici. The great duomo contest was funded by the Medici family as well. The cathedral in Florence was left maimed with the construction of a dome incomplete. It was an embarrassment to the city and citizens of Florence so to find the best minds to submit plans for completion of the dome, a contest was held. italy-duomoThe completion of the dome by Bruneschelli placed Florence at the pinnacle of architectural dominance with the secretive calculations of Bruneschelli. The superior architectural skill helped Florence to grow as the citizens and visitors watched in awe the methods of construction that would beautify Florence. Based on the model of ancient Greek architecture in the Pantheon, the study of the ancients again influenced the future. The capitals and domes would be seen all over Florence. The rebirth of design models of the past is now known as the Florentine style.

China’s design history is rich with what I feel is technology that has been used in the development of designs in the West. We have learned about the Roman baths and how they used radiant floor heating systems in their baths to give the three areas of varying heat to the bathers but did China use the technology first? The kang is a system of a raised platform bed heated by hot air moving through pipes leading from the stove and leading to the outside area through a pipe.

Did a Roman visit China and come back with the method used in the Roman baths? I think they were heavily influenced by the Chinese! Another Roman design on the curule stool is the boss, which could indicate the power of a Roman symbol, but it was also used in China with the Fu, which is a symbol in the middle of a door with a symbol.220px-Curule_chair,_sella_curulis,_Museo_Borbonico,_vol._vi._tav._28 The similarity I feel is significant. Finally, the tracery of the Gothic cathedral glass work looks very much like the latticework of the Chinese doors that were covered in paper to keep the walls insulated.tracery Again, I feel a visit to China would have exposed Roman civilization to ideas that they could use in their own designs at home.

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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in History 221 Class Notes