At the end of the 19th-century artists and architects alike turned to more modern materials, like steel, to construct their masterpieces. One of the most famous steel buildings is the Eiffel Tower. It was originally constructed and designed by architects Stephen Sauvestre and Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair that was to take place in Paris. It was the time of the machine and architecture began to mimic machines in style and design to become functional and minimalistic. A new style of architecture developed, inspired by synthetic cubism, called international style. This approach relied on undecorated and functional architecture that emphasized clean, geometric lines.
Another artistic group also relied upon using modern materials: the Russian Constructivists. This movement began in 1917 just before the Bolshevik Revolution and continued until the early 1930s. Constructivism saw artists as engineers experimenting to produce functional objects in order to create an improved, industrialized Russian society. Industrial materials were used in new and dynamic ways in order to nudge the revolution of Russian society forward. Unfortunately, in the early 1930’s this movement was shoved aside in favor of more traditional materials, like wood and bricks.
One such school was the Bauhaus, which opened in 1919 and closed in 1935. In the beginning, the school focused on crafts, eventually they shifted their focus to manipulating the machine. Thus, the Bauhaus became a leader in innovations and teaching students to think originally. They saw architects as the culmination of art, and were a leader in promoting the International Style. Their first director, Walter Gropius, was an architect himself who used glass and steel in ways that were, at that time, ground breaking. He constructed the Fagus Shoe Building in 1911 that was one of the first buildings to feature a curtain wall. Architecture that has a curtain wall is constructed with a steel skeleton with glass used as a superficial wall. This technique is used on today’s skyscrapers.
After WWII the use of steel in architecture grew once again. The material was available and cheaper to rebuild with than wood. Also, steel buildings require less maintenance and are more structurally sound than houses built of other materials. Steel does not break down due to bugs or mold like wood can. Recent innovations have also made it possible to not only weather proof these constructions, but also protect them against earthquakes. Even a fire cannot completely destroy modern steel buildings because they are coated in flame retardant. Using steel within the buildings began during the Industrial Revolution, and it is a testament to the material’s strength that steel remains a popular option today.