Modernism and the Primacy of Form

10 – “Form and Figure” –Alan Colquhoun

There is a principal axis about the relationship of form and function faintly seen in the articles. Notwithstanding the word “figure” is the frequently appeared through the whole article, it is a clue of the relationship of form and function.

The Beaux-Arts and the work of Le Corbusier as examples are used to show stylistic element of in contemporary building contradicted with the Modern Movement. “Function has been held to give meaning to form, while form has been held to “express” function.” (Pg.190) This proposition has lasted for more than 150 years. The relationship of those two words has cited between form and figure.

The figure looked like the symbol of classical tradition. It reflects or emblems the conventional types. The types also can be explained as the style of architectural history. The beams, columns, arches, roofs and so on can assemble together to build a certain type as one style link in the culture as the article mentioned -“a figural composition is able to convey a complex set of ideas which is not inherent in the basic structural form from which it is derived and which refers to other ideas within the culture” (Pg.193)

Used the examples of Architecture, Art, Music and Painting, the article clue that is from the form, figure, type to model explained the interior influence between form and function.
1.Does the formalism reflect the Architect’s idealism?
2.Why did the article just mention the “positive beauty”? Is there the “negative beauty”?


9 – “The Biological Analogy” – Peter Collins

This article cites lots of writers and architects, from Lamarck, Herbert and Buffon to Frank Lloyd Wright, to discuss the influence of biological theories to modern architecture. Most of those ideas have deeply affected the architects to think over the form of their projects, and the relationship between biology and architecture.

The unfailing controversy on the relationship of form to function goes through the whole article. “two dilemmas in the interpretation of the facts at once made themselves apparent: does form follow function, or does function follow form?”(Pg.151).The biological analogy provides a new hypothesis to analyze the conception of form and functionalism in morphology. Frank Lloyd Wright’s project is also used to explain the combat of forms and function. His conception, living architecture, treats as the symbol against the pure against formalism.

The author summarizes four relationships -”the relationship of organisms to their environment, the correlation between organs, the relationship of form to function, and the principle of vitality itself” (Pg.153). He uses those relationships to correlate architecture with biological analogies.

Form, biology and functionalism, those three aspects interlace together to open out the process of development in modern architecture. From the evolvement of biology, we can find that the architecture theories always spirally make progress.


Can we use the form of biological organisms to improve the function of our building? Does this mean the function followed the form?
The human body is the most complex organisms for our society. Can we accept this as study object in ethic?


8 – “The Six Determinants of Architectural Form”-Paul Rudolph

This article reargued the unfailing topic- form and function. We may be familiar with the famous opinion-“Form follows function”, which impacted lots of architectural students and architects. I also have worshiped this opinion for a long time.

According to the six determinants, we can know the author denying the concept of pure functionalism. The first one, “Environment”, relates to the surroundings of the project. Paul mentioned the public buildings should serve as focal points in cities. I totally agree with it. Cities are the concentrated place of human activities. The public interest should be more important than the personal and commercial interests and the public building as the important role in city should be respected and focused on. At this moment, the impression of form can strongly affect the people’s feeling than the function.

The third determinant, “Region” is still popular topic in recent period. Paul mentioned- the several conditions tend to limit regional expression. The industrialization enriches our design choice but cuts the throat of the connection between architecture with the tradition and culture. The skills and materials of traditional architecture had lost as that we forgot writing when we use the computer too much.

“When architects depend on their sensibility and imagination architecture has always gone downhill.” (P. 215), I partly agree with this opinion. All of designs based on some principles and disciplines, and none of them can be created by a powerful and unconstrained style. We need to follow a right way to achieve our goal but sensibility and imagination are the important aspects in our professional area.


1. What is the different between the form and fashionable style?
2. How did the form and function exchange the roles in the city planning?


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