Iconic modern architecture

Iconic Modern Architecture: 5 Examples That Have Serious Flaws

Iconic modern architecture exhibits consciousness that completely breaks away from conventions. Some of these iconic architectural structures seem to exhibit the mid-century modern style. In this style, minimalism characterises structures in which designs are clean, open and modular. It is a shift from ornament design. However, since these structures stand out from the rest, they have their flaws.

The architects of these buildings seem to have put aesthetics and form purity ahead of important structural considerations like stability, comfort and space.

iconic modern architecture
Above: Sydney Opera House designed by Jørn Utzon

Besides, the pride and ego of an architect may blind them to create designs, which may be hostile to living but aesthetically pleasing.

These visionary designs intended to captivate and satisfy the ego of aesthetic purists.

Nothing fascinates them more than a structure of iconic modern architecture with slick lines, asymmetry, the absence of ornamentation, metal structures, flat roofs, and black and white finishing.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe once said, “form follows function”.

Bauhaus and International Styles seem to follow this paradigm of modern architecture. This style arose during the early 1900s and reached its peak of popularity during the postwar period.

At the height of its popularity, hubris and politics misguided the architects to not acknowledge its origins.

While the movement intended to produce aesthetic and functional structures, the results were often the opposite and unintended.

That is not to say that the movement was a flop.

Today’s aesthetic architecture borrows much of its principles from the modernist architecture.

Let us take a look at the five iconic modern architecture buildings with serious flaws.

1. The Farnsworth House

The Farnsworth House
Above: van der Rohe-designed Farnsworth House


One of the most iconic brainchildren of van der Rohe, the house follows the paradigm of International Style.

The house, which lies in Plano, Illinois, was completed in 1951. The owner, Edith Farnsworth, was a doctor by profession. She intended it to be placed where she could retreat from the bustling city of Chicago to a quiet countryside.

Her emphasis on connection with nature led to the floor-to-ceiling glass sheets with white-painted steel frame holding them together. This style was a break from sociopolitical aspects to the aesthetic and functional aspects.

The appearance of weightless comes from the juxtaposition of the house against the natural landscape.

Also, the house is completely transparent. No doubt sexy, the house’s privacy has raised questions regarding livability and purpose.

Also, water from a nearby stream flooded the house. The illumination from the glass also attracted bugs. Not to mention, the steel bars obtained rust, and ventilation was poor.

2. The Glass House


The Glass House
Above: Johnson designed the Glass House

It was Philip Johnson’s home, which lies in New Canaan, Connecticut. As an architect by profession, Johnson borrowed the glass-and-steel design from the Farnsworth House to complete it in 1949.

The house’s floor plan is open-plan with glass sheets enclosing it from the ceiling down to the floor with black-painted steel frame holding them together. However, the flat roof allowed water to enter into all the four corners of the house when it was raining.

In fact, Johnson himself referred to this problem as “four-bucket”. Besides, the completely transparent building posed problems with privacy, especially in bathroom and bedroom.

However, the building incorporated a brick cylindrical volume to compensate for this.

3. Villa Savoye

villa savoye
Above: Le Corbusier designed the Villa Savoye

This French villa was designed and built by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in 1931. Just like the Glass House and the Farnsworth House, the owners intended it to be a weekend retreat from Paris to Poissy.

Corbusier designed according to five guiding Bauhaus principles:

  • Open floor plan
  • Flat, functional or terraced roof
  • Non-load-bearing, free facades
  • Narrow, ground-level columns
  • Horizontal ribbon windows

Corb famously put it, “the house is a machine for living”.

Thus, it is little wonder that the elevation of the house was high to encourage the use of industrial machines such as vehicles. The curvilinear design of the glass at the base was analogous to the turning radius of vehicles.

The flat roof design caused problems with leaks, especially during a period of frequent downpour such as autumn.

4. The Fallingwater House

the fallingwater house
Above: Wright designed the Fallingwater House

Frank Lloyd Wright designed the home following the Japanese paradigm of cantilevering.

Edgar Kaufmann Sr., the owner, intended the house to connect with the surrounding landscape of forest and falls.

The cantilevering of balconies caused structural problems, however.

The roof was also flat, and just as Philip Johnson described his house regarding leaky roofs, so did Kaufmann as “seven-bucket building”.

Kaufmann must have meant that the water leakage problem was far much worse. Not to mention, the weak reinforcement of the cantilevered balconies caused them to sink by some few inches.

5. The Eames House

the eames house
Above: The Eames designed their own home

The home owners, a married couple Charles and Ray Eames, were also the architects of the house. They incorporated a mixture of colours and materials to cover the house.

This design was a far cry from the glass-and-steel structure of the Farnsworth and Glass Houses. This Mondrian design adapted the house to respond to the different conditions of light.

This is an example of a structure that has withstood the tests of about seven decades.

6. Maison Bordeaux

the maison bordeaux
Above: Koolhaas designed the Maison Bordeaux

Rem Koolhaas designed and built it in 1998.

This design, just like the Eames House, mixed different materials such as cement, glass, aluminium and Cor-Ten steel.

Also, the design was low and modular with flat, functional roof. This design caused problems with leaking. Moreover, the cantilevered floor design degraded the internal core of the concrete.

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