Expressionist Architecture

Expressionist architecture was an architectural movement that developed in Europe during the first decades of the 20th century in parallel with the expressionist visual and performing arts.

Today the meaning has to refer to architecture of any date or location that exhibits some of the qualities of the original movement such as; distortion, fragmentation or the communication of violent or overstressed emotion.

Expressionist Architecture

The style was characterized by an early-modernist adoption of novel materials, formal innovation, and very unusual massing, sometimes inspired by natural biomorphic forms, sometimes by the new technical possibilities offered by the mass production of brick, steel and especially glass.

Many of the most important expressionist works remaining as projects on paper, such as Bruno Taut's Alpine Architecture and Hermann Finsterlin's Formspiels.

Tendency more towards the gothic than the classical.

Expressionist Architecture

Hermann Finsterlin's Formspiels depict the form of buildings turned into organic amorphous massings . It is beautiful work that translates to steel and titanium in buildings.

Expressionist architecture was individualistic and in many ways express aesthetic rules, but it is still useful to develop some criteria which defines it.

Distortion of form for an emotional effect.

Subordination of realism to symbolic or stylistic expression of inner experience.

Expressionism Characteristics

An underlying effort at achieving the new, original, and visionary.
Abundance of works on paper, and models, with discovery and representations of concepts more important than pragmatic finished products.
Often hybrid solutions, irreducible to a single concept.
Themes of natural romantic phenomena, such as caves, mountains, lightning, crystal and rock formations. As such it is more mineral and elemental than florid and organic which characterized its close contemporary Art
Utilizes creative potential of artisan craftsmanship.

Einstein Tower in Potsdam-Berlin by Erich Mendelsohn.

Though a movement in Europe, expressionism is as eastern as western. It draws as much from Moorish, Islamic, Egyptian, and Indian art and architecture as from Roman or Greek.

Conception of architecture as a work of art.
The major permanent extant landmark of Expressionism is Erich Mendelsohn's Einstein Tower in Potsdam.

Einstein Tower.

Erich Mendelsohn's small, but powerfully modeled tower, built to symbolize the greatness of the Einsteinian concepts, was also a quite functional house. It was designed to hold Einstein's own astronomical laboratory.

Mendelsohn was after a completely plastic kind of building, moulded rather than built, without angles and with smooth, rounded corners. The total external effect was obtained by rendering the concrete / plaster as surface material . This ‘monument of architectural Expressionism' is one of the most brilliantly original buildings of the twentieth century."

Twa Building in New York by Eero Saarinen 1956-62