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  • Writer's pictureGebler Tooth Architects

Principles of Deconstructivism

Deconstructivism is a theoretical term that emerged within art, architecture, and the philosophical literature of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

The movement refers mainly to an architectural language of displaced, distorted, angular forms, often set within conflicting geometries.

With origins in the ideas of French philosopher Jacques Derrida (b. 1930), deconstructivism generated an iconoclastic style of the avant-garde whose principle architectural exponents included Coop Himmelb, Zaha Hadid, Behnisch and Partners, Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenman, Morphosis, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, and Frank Gehry, among others.

Originally, the architects who designed deconstructivist buildings refused to label their work as an architectural style or movement. In their eyes, their approach simply contradicted that of modern architecture. Its non-linear style and defiance in the face of symmetrical shapes propelled the creation of buildings with a unique visual appearance.

The principle behind deconstructivism was to “invent the impossible”. Set within the post-modern wave, it breaks with the structural norms of classic buildings and deforms or moves away from elementary architectural principles.

Deconstructivism Characteristics

  • Surface manipulation

  • Irregular/complex geometries

  • Abstract nature

  • Fragmentation

  • Challenges conventional ideas about form and order

  • Diagonals, curves, and pointed corners are also frequent elements

  • Right angles are almost non-existent

  • Large expanses of a single material (glass, metals, masonry, etc.).

  • Exposed materials.

In many of the architectural pieces, we see a manipulation of the building's surface (traditionally thought of as facades) like a skin that is intentionally deformed for creating uncommon forms.

The rise in prominence of computer-aided design (CAD) in contemporary architecture was a key factor in the development of deconstructivism, as three-dimensional modelling enabled the intricate design of complicated and unorthodox shapes and spaces.

One of the most prominent architects associated with the style is Frank Gehry, whose Santa Monica residence – the building for which he first received critical acclaim – is regarded as the prototypical deconstructivist building, as well as his later buildings the Guggenheim Museum and Walt Disney Concert Hall.

The most notable examples of deconstructivism are:

  • CCTV Headquarters, Beijing.

  • Dancing House, Prague.

  • Imperial War Museum, Manchester.

  • Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

  • Jewish Museum, Berlin.

  • Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles.

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