The principle of form follows function is connected with modernist architecture and industrial design which related to 20th century. The basic theory of this is mainly based on whether the shape of a building and architecture is based on the prospect function and purpose.
1.1Historical Background 1.1Historical背景
This formula form follow function(originally version is: form ever follow function) is created and declared by Louis Sullivan, an American architect. Though the authorship of this phrase is often wrongly believed as another American sculptor-Haratio Greenough, whose thought is before the later functionalist approach and were discovered again in 1930s. People always wrongly regard him as the authorship because he published a series of essays about form and function.
Louis Sullivan, the American architect, is the person who first put forward the phrase of form should follow function in his essay — “tall office building artistically considered” which is published in 1896. He described it like that:
It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.
After that, in a official occasion, the famous phrase was said by this Chicago constructs-Louis Sullivan in 1907 when he summarized the principle of design. In the theory of Sullivan, function did not simply indicate utility or practical use. On the contrary, it represents life power or life force. It more related to a kind of essential vitalize. Specifically, the essence of a thing in nature life equals to its life force, vice versa the final life force influence the exterior form. The essence of object gradually mold the key appearance of things. He apply this formula into skyscraper design, the essential aspect and outward appearance of a skyscraper seems to be closely related to grand and tall. However, in the approach of modern utilitarian, grandness and tallness sometimes means a skyscraper can not be functional.#p#分页标题#e#
1.2 The way to interpret “Form Follows Function”解读的方式“形式服从功能”
There exists two main ways to express this phrase “form follows function”
First one is, descriptive: beauty arises from fashion purity.
Second one is, prescriptive: aesthetic conception plays less significant role than functional conception
The descriptive interpretation prefers simplicity to complexity. Generally speaking, it defines that nature and purity of function is the most significant resource of beauty, not ornamentation. This view is fully based on belief that form follows function.
However, the truth is not like that, compared with aesthetic elements, functional can be more objective and practical when used in design.In other words, a functional creation process leads to designs are timeless and forever, at the same time, it also may be regarded as simple and boring.
The prescriptive interpretation pays much attention to functionality than other design elements, such as usability, ergonomics and aesthetics.
This interpretation can be regarded as a approach for designers to rethinks what should be deleted from design. What aspect of design didn’t work into effect. whether the form is only defined and shaped by the really function.
2 Discussion on the functionality of ornamentation浅谈装饰的功能
An allegorical essay— “Ornament and Crime” was cited by an influential Austrian architect Adolf Loos in 1908, because of a phenomena that Vienna Secession adopted overwhelming ornament in its architect. He held a view like that ornamentation is not only a resource of criminals, but also creates a crime by destroying national economy as well as development of culture. It is because in a rapid development country, ornament is no longer a natural invention from its culture, therefore, it can only be concluded as a degenerative negative trend.
Modernist architects like Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Miles Vander Rohe are most loyal companion who have the similar opinion with Adolf Loos, they claim that both “ornamentation is crime” and “form follows function” are important, which play increasingly significant role for designer to obey, especially in the fields of architecture design, and in other fields., they are also moral principle for these artists.
It is known that form should follow function has been a very popular credo among all the modern architects since 1930s. Accompanying with that, ornamentation is on the opposite location whichare always used to indicate decorative, luxury and superfluous elements which were widely used in modern architecture. So,in the architecture industry, professional designers call it as ornament. However to Sullivan himself, during prosperous period of his work and career, he didn’t apply this principle dogmatically into his design and work. As a matter of fact, his design style which applied in his work could be spare and crisp, sometimes he decorate their plain surface in different forms, for example, by using very natural and organic object like vines and ivy, or pretty geometric design, or interlace form which is drawn by Irish design heritage.#p#分页标题#e#
3 Application in architecture在建筑中的应用
The aphorism of “form follows function”was quoted by an Lippincott’s Magazine to generalize the essential of architectural design. This kind of three-worded Philosophy of art has made numerous treaties and regulations become gloominess and useless. This phrase which put forward by Louis H. Sullivan can be perfectly suited for describing the whole architectural design and composition.
Generally speaking, each architectural work contains a real “function”, and a purpose of function is considered as tool to measure and characterize its “form”. In other words, function is always being served by structure of architecture and identify the form in order to make form perfectly adapted to each other. Thus try to build a infallibly system and design of architecture which is not lack of cultural. To what extent, it can be easily result in an outcome, architect is scientific and practical, but it can not avoided to be boring and lack of interest, even though lack of creativity, as the architecture is built based on the principle that form follows historic precedent, which represents as randomly each architecture for which has not successfully offer correct mask which is academically and historically, and which considers as heterodoxy trying to achieve.
Returning back to the American artist Adolf Loos, which have resonance with another German artist Miles, they proposed the art and architecture should wholly be amended and adjusted according to architecture. Especially replacing ornament which was elaborately artistically made. They advice to use simple and straightforward display to showcase the materials and forms as their originally and innate visual appearance, that those cultural elements should not be controlled by architecture as Beaux Arts.
But by analyzing the phrase of Mr Sullivan, we find this theory is mainly based on studies and observation of nature. At the same time, it even though almost all the original creation’s function is to keep and spread the various species, yet the rapidly changing environment has influenced tremendous species and shaped individual species. As a result, if the view of form follows function is correct, it seems not obey in a straight sequence, nor in conformity to a mathematical model, changing is an inevitably nature regulation.
So before evaluating and identifying Sullivan’s aphorism of potential law and rule, on the basis which architecture design and structure style is built, it might be easy to repair, and extend to a broader range: form should be determined by both function and environment. The work of architect serves the function, but in limited range and effect. Specifically, in the new epochs, the advancement of art and architectural is shaped and chartered by various elements, such as the beam and lintel, the Roman arch and vault. Historic styles were thought into being obedience to new advancement of function and environment, and each was an creative innovation which is based on well-established and solid-founded practice. Without any doubt, new statement will have a great influence on style and design of architecture currently or in the coming future.#p#分页标题#e#
At that moment, art and design is driven by the development of economics and advancement of economics.On the basis of creation and innovation come back to ancient Greek and Roman architecture, the architecture and building forms were being shaping. Apparently, for Sullivan, the new form for building should origin from functional aspect of a building instead of historical precedent.
The most widely acknowledged work is the writhing green ironwork which is fully used in the entrance canopies of a building which located in Chicago, it called Carson, Pirie, Scott and Company Building. This amazing job always managed and directed by Sullivan, would gradually become the signature of Sullivan. Compared with other forms of architecture, they are outstandingly recognizable.
Nowadays, it’s the moment that technology, design taste and also economic power converged and this condition make it possible to drop the established styles of old ages,the shape and structure of architecture can not going to be selected out of old pattern to determine the form. In conclusion, it is forms should follows function, not form follows precedent.
1.Janet Stewart, Fashioning Vienna: Adolf Loos's Cultural Criticism, London: Routledge, 2000
2.Janet Stewart, Fashioning Vienna: Adolf Loos's Cultural Criticism, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 173
3 Horatio Greenough, *Form and Function: Remarks on Art*, edited by Harold A. Small (Berkeley, Univ. of California Press, 1947), although the theory of inherent forms, of which the phrase is a fitting summary, informs all of Greenough's writing on art, design, and architecture. Greenough was in his architectural writings influenced by the transcendentalist thinking and the unitarian kind of protestantism of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
4. Sullivan, Louis (1924). Autobiography of an Idea. New York City: Press of the American institute of Architects, Inc. p. 108.
5. Sullivan, Louis H. (1896). "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered". Lippincott's Magazine (March 1896): 403–409.
6. Loos, A. (1908). Ornament and Crime (PDF). Innsbruck, reprint Vienna, 1930.