Rhythm: Modernism and Tall Office Building Essay

Submitted By Yao1989
Words: 1201
Pages: 5

When rhythm is referred to in everyday life, it is often related to music immediately. Rhythm in music is identified by a regular sequence of opposite elements, such as weak and strong beats and so on. 节奏[jié zòu] is a Chinese term that has the same meaning with rhythm as used in music. For architects, rhythm usually connotes the pattern or repetition of elements, such as constructive and functional parts or ornaments that help create a harmonic atmosphere in the architecture. Thus, it is considered as one of the vital factors to achieve architectural beauty. Rhythm here indeed has a meaning very similar to another Chinese term韵律[yùn lǜ], which implies that some elements unfold before our eyes in a graceful pattern.
As for Le Corbusier, Adolf Loos and Louis Sullivan, rhythm occurs in at least one of their essays. These three masters not only show their viewpoints towards ornaments that are used in architecture from their writing, but also hold similar opinions that everything created should fit in the times. All of them deem that we should keep the same rhythm with the times from different perspectives. Le Corbusier does not stand in total opposition to ornaments, but he thinks that decorative art has already been in its decline. What’s more, advanced structure brought about by new constructional methods, has taken the turn to conquer. He maintains, “the more cultivated a people becomes, the more decoration disappears.” 1 That is to say, people’s needs for decorations will disappear little by little, as the gear of times move on. “Trash is always abundantly decorated.” 2 Ornaments nowadays are normally used to help hide the flaws of poorly made products or inferior materials. We are now living in a time chasing for simplicity and purity. “There is so much novelty in the forms and rhythms furnished by these constructional methods, such novelty in arrangement and in the new industrial programmes, that we can no longer close our minds to the true and profound laws of architecture which are established on mass, rhythm and proportion.” 3 New formulas and rhythms can be achieved when we stand against the past and utilize the advanced constructional organization to break the constraints of the old styles. Moreover, rhythm is definitely thought of as an indispensable part of the new architectural code. Compared to the objective and rational standpoint of Le Corbusier, Loos has a more subjective and extreme view, which is indicated in his title “Ornament and Crime”. That is to say, using ornaments is like commiting a crime, so decorations should be utterly abandoned. The human race has already passed the period when people were willing to decorate everything within easy access, just as the childish babble of painting acted as the start of art. Features like simplicity and purity are what we pursue for our utensils, clothing, and other things for daily use, rather than the various ornaments attached to them. In the third essay of Loos “The Principle of Cladding”, he persists in that things should be kept the way they originally look like, rather than be changed artificially because of someone’s wish. He says, “Every material possesses its own language of forms, and none may lay claim for itself to the forms of another material.” 4 Rhythm does not appear in his text, nevertheless, it can emerge without our attentions when materials are utilized following their unique properties. For example, zinc cladding used in Steger Student Life Center, Recreation Center and TUC help architects to form a gorgeous rhythm like three movements in one part of music to present to the entire audience on the Mainstreet stage. However, ornaments can create a rhythm, too. But it is a fake one, since true rhythm should be formed naturally, not artificially. His view in this essay confirms that ornament is crime indirectly. Different from the other two people, Sullivan thinks ornaments can be used in the architecture after deep consideration.