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Structural Expressionism

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The nineteenth century produced some spectacular structures which made use of iron (and later, steel) to span great distances and enclose huge, light- filled spaces: the Crystal Palace (1851) in London and the Galerie des Machines (1889) in Paris are but two examples. Their designers exposed the metallic structural skeleton because to all intents and purposes it was the building. In the early twentieth century, progressive architects combined their admiration for the masterpieces of nineteenth-century structural engineering with a dash of Ruskinian morality and proclaimed that good architecture required ‘the truthful expression of structure’. During the 19205 and 19305 this commandment was fervently believed by all committed modernists, but in practice it was, with some notable exceptions, more often broken than observed.
In the Post-War period, leading architects such as Eero Saarinen in America experimented with dynamic shapes derived from structural concepts, but there was then a gradual drifting away from the obsession with the explicit display of structure. Many Late Modern and Post-Modern buildings give the observer no hint whatsoever of the structural system they use.
Partly as a reaction against rough, heavy, crude, lumpy Brutalist concrete, designers have in recent times once more become fascinated by the spidery, delicate complexity of steel structures, especially when the suspension principle is used. Some have also been attracted to the free, sculptural, non- rectilinear spatial enclosures achievable with membrane structures. Important names on the international scene are Frei Otto, Richard Rogers and Norman Foster. Key buildings are the Munich Olympic Stadium roofs, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, the Renault Centre in Britain, and the HongKong & Shanghai Bank in Hong Kong. The display of a building’s structural sinews is often accompanied by exposure of its service ducts and pipes.
The examples cited make it clear that buildings of all shapes and sizes are required to fit into this stylistic category and that consequently they cannot be pinned down by a small number of criteria which apply to all. The common factor is a determination to get ‘the most for the least’ from a structural system, usually making great use of members in tension.
By their very nature, Late Twentieth-Century Structuralist buildings often serve specialised functions and look exciting and different; this applies to Australian examples as much as to any others.
Melbourne’s Myer Music Bowl (1959) was an exceptionally early essay in compression masts and tension cables, but it did not spawn many major progeny until Sydney started erecting and demounting a lightweight ‘performance canopy’ every year in the Domain. Also, the Olympic Swimming Pool (1954—56) in Melbourne was a significant precursor. More recently, the huge Exhibition Building at Sydney’s Darling Harbour, the sail-like membrane structures at Brisbane’s Expo, and a number of sporting complexes have brought the structuralist idiom back into the public eye.

Style Definition
Also called "high-tech modernism", Structural Expressionism is a specific branch of advanced modernism in which buildings display their structural elements visibly inside and out. The larger design features are liberated by the possibilities of engineering, while detailing is generally faithful to the principles of the International Style. Common features include detached frames, exposed trusswork, and highly complex shapes requiring unusual engineering. Structures in this style tend to be metallic, in contrast to the older brutalist style which usually employs concrete. Precedents of Structural Expressionism include modern buildings like the John Hancock Center and U.S. Steel Tower.
Structural Expressionism was born as a distinct style with some of the early work of the Richard Rogers Partnership, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The style's leading practitioner is the firm Foster and Partners, led by Norman Foster. The architect Santiago Calatrava is another major figure, with a more naturalistic form of this style.
   
  Quoted from:
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
RICHARD APPERLY, ROBERT IRVING, PETER REYNOLDS. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SOLOMON MITCHELL.
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.
 
  The Australian Academy of Science building, named the "Shine Dome", Canberra, designed by Roy Grounds, completed 1959

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