form follows function

No idea why, but with yesterdays entry, my thoughts got stuck with design and why things look as they do. The maxim of Bauhaus architects came to mind – I think it was Adolf Loos, who formulated it – whereby architectural ornament was considered a crime. And, of course, this famous creed popped into my head: form follows function. Where did that come from? Another architect, American Louis Sullivan formulated it first. Here’s the full quote from his article “The tall office building artistically considered“:

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic,
Of all things physical and metaphysical,
Of all things human and all things super-human,
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.

Prior to this conclusion, now shortened into just “form follows function”, he explains further:

All things in nature have a shape, that is to say, a form, an outward semblance, that tells us what they are, that distinguishes them from ourselves and from each other. Unfailing in nature these shapes express the inner life, the native quality of the animal, tree, bird, fish, that they present to us; they are so characteristic, so recognizable, that we say, simply, it is “natural” it should be so. Yet the moment we peer beneath this surface of things, the moment we look through the tranquil reflection of ourselves and the clouds above us, down into the clear, fluent, unfathomable depth of nature, how startling is the silence of it, how amazing the flow of life, how absorbing the mystery. Unceasingly the essence of things is taking shape in the matter of things, and this unspeakable process we call birth and growth.”

I will have to ponder this for a while. As I have a hard time believing, that all the ugliness I see every day follows a clear function. Exhibit A: car seat cover designs. Exhibit B: overland bus design. To name but two.

exhibit A, click=source

exhibit B, click=source


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