Vote: Architectural Curves or Right Angles

Vote: Architectural Curves or Right Angles


National Congress of Brazil Oscar Niemeyer Architect via

National Congress of Brazil Oscar Niemeyer Architect via escuyer.tumblr.comvia


Oscar Niemeyer was one of the most important architects of the 20th century and he did not like angles. “Right angles don’t attract me. Nor straight, hard and inflexible lines created by man,” he wrote in his 1998 memoir The Curves of Time. ” I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire universe, the curved universe of Einstein.” via and gizmodo  *great Niemeyer architecture images

Was he ahead of his time, anticipating the direction of architecture?





People are far more likely to call a room beautiful when its design is round instead of linear. What about architecture, curves versus angles? The reason may be hard-wired into the brain. There have been recent studies by neuroscientists that conclude, “Curvature appears to affect our feelings, which in turn could drive our preference.” It’s also critical to point out that just because people have a natural neural affinity for curves doesn’t mean round design is always superior. If researchers asked people to rate architecture based on functionality instead of beauty, for instance, they might get different results.

CoDesign, in their post Why Our Brains Love Curvy Architecture shared: When the great architect Philip Johnson first visited the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, he started to cry. “Architecture is not about words. It’s about tears,” Johnson reportedly said. Something about the museum’s majestic curves moved him at an emotional level.




Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Architect Frank Gehry image via

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Architect Frank Gehry
image via


Curves are making big statements on skylines around the world from the exquisite (in my humble opinion) Guggenheim Bilbao to London’s “Gherkin” ,  the “Marilyn Monroe” Towers in Ontario, many of Zaha Hadid’s Designs, Calatrava, and the Apple Campus 2 — its massive new headquarters designed by starchitect Norman Foster.


The Gherkin, Architect Norman Foster Curved buildings can point to nature, whereas angular buildings contrast with it Paul Silvia, assistant professor of psychology

The Gherkin, Architect Norman Foster
Curved buildings can point to nature, whereas angular buildings contrast with it
Paul Silvia, assistant professor of psychology


Monroe Curves, Absolute Towers by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects

Monroe Curves, Absolute Towers by Ma Yansong of MAD Architects


Calatrava via

Calatrava via



Curved or angular, do you have a preference?

Some of the rooms had a round style like this Courtesy Oshin Vartanian via CNN

Some of the rooms had a round style like this
Courtesy Oshin Vartanian via CNN

Others had a rectilinear form, like this Courtesy Oshin Vartanian via CNN

Others had a rectilinear form, like this
Courtesy Oshin Vartanian via CNN


In short, what we learned from our research and’s work, “Time and again, when people are asked to choose between an object that’s linear and one that’s curved, they prefer the latter. That goes for watches with circular faces, letters rendered in a curly font, couches with smooth cushions–even dental floss with round packaging.

The Essence of a Miesian Dwelling

The Essence of a Miesian Dwelling

A winter view of the house in 1971, showing the original insect screening of the porch, and the roller shades added by the owner after the curtains were damaged by flood waters. image via Wikimedia Commons

A winter view of the house in 1971, showing the original insect screening of the porch, and the roller shades added by the owner after the curtains were damaged by flood waters. image via Wikimedia Commons

The Farnsworth House is a 1,500 sq.ft home designed and constructed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe between 1945-51. It is a one-room weekend retreat in a once-rural setting. The design is recognized as a masterpiece of the International Style of architecture and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006, after joining the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.  The cost of project was $74,000 in 1951 ($648,000 in 2012 dollars). There was a cost overrun of $15,600 over the approved pre-construction budget of $58,400.  This created havoc,  lawsuits and counter lawsuits  ensued until the courts ordered Dr Farnsworth to pay her bill.



At his inaugural lecture as director of the department in 1938, Mies stated:

“In its simplest form architecture is rooted in entirely functional considerations, but it can reach up through all degrees of value to the highest sphere of spiritual existence into the realm of pure art.”

  This sentence summarized what had become Mies van der Rohe’s consistent approach to design: to begin with functional considerations of structure and materials, then to refine the detailing and expression of those materials until they transcended their technical origins to become a pure art of structure and space.

The dominance of a single, geometric form in a pastoral setting, with a complete exclusion of extraneous elements normally associated with habitation, reinforces the architect’s statement about the potential of a building to express “dwelling” in its simplest essence.


As Mies stated on his achievement, “If you view nature through the glass walls of the Farnsworth House, it gains a more profound significance than if viewed from the outside. That way more is said about nature—it becomes part of a larger whole.” Farnsworth House is the essence of simplicity in the purest form, displaying the ever-changing play of nature.




image via

image via


Information for this post was obtained from the following resources:   Wikipedia

Paul Rudolph: Concrete Connoisseur

Paul Rudolph: Concrete Connoisseur

In a small Kentucky town, Paul Rudolph was born to a nomadic Methodist preacher in 1918. His unique childhood was spent traveling the American south from church to church. The charm of these pious concrete structures and other regional landmarks inspired Rudolph to earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Auburn University. His serendipitous meeting with Walter Gropius, the founder of Bauhaus, while pursuing his master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design would help shape his bright future as an architectural visionary.

Orange Country Government Center in Goshen, New York.

Orange Country Government Center in Goshen, New York.

After attaining his master’s, Paul Rudolph partnered with Ralph Twitchell in Florida and became a kingpin of the “Sarasota School”. This style of architecture focused on a clean contemporary floor plan and highlighted natural light, sweeping overhangs, and flat roofs. In 1958, Rudolph completed the Art and Architecture Building at Yale University. While there he felt a strong desire to share his passion and he became Dean at the Yale School of Architecture. After six years of inspiring a new generation of builders, Rudolph relocated to New York. He continued to focus all of his attention on the controversial Brutalist style. Brutalist architecture was inspired by the modernist movement. These buildings tend to be extremely linear, square, and feature predominantly concrete.

Yale Art and Architecture Building.

Yale Art and Architecture Building.

Despite being idolized by his peers, the public found many of his larger brutalist designs to be “brutal indeed” and criticized the abundance of concrete and steel. When Paul Rudolph passed away in 1997, his obituary in the New York Times said, “With the exception of Louis I. Kahn, no American architect of his generation enjoyed higher esteem in the 1960’s.  But after 1970, his reputation plummeted. Many of his buildings are being torn down, or are in danger of being torn down.  Mr. Rudolph leaves behind a perplexing legacy that will take many years to untangle.” However; a little over 15 years later, the unique appeal of Paul Rudolph’s brutalist designs is reaching  new audiences who are embracing the incredible buildings with open arms.

Paul Rudolph's 1961 Miami home.

Paul Rudolph’s 1961 Miami home.

The Louis Kahn Conundrum

The Louis Kahn Conundrum


A density of purpose, a phenomenal sense of place and an intense spirituality define his works. There is a silence about his buildings, they have a sense of quiet…Michelle Roohani


In 1974, a silver haired gentleman suffered a fatal heart attack and passed away in a small, dimly lit bathroom stall deep within New York City’s  Penn Station. A recently used passport was found alongside a weathered briefcase, but the home address was missing and an office address was found to be closed at the time. Despite efforts to identify the man, it would be a few days before anyone stepped forth to claim the deceased. This unknown man, who was reportedly heavily in debt at the time of his death, is considered by many to be one of the greatest and most influential American architects of the twentieth century. The riddle of how this preeminent architect could meet such an anticlimactic end can be best surmised by one of his own quotes, “How accidental our existences are, really, and how full of influence by circumstance.”


Louis Isadore Kahn had three separate families: a wife with whom he shared a daughter and two other long-term relationships with colleagues, one of which produced a daughter, the other a son. Despite this uncommonly complicated family life, the architectural historian who penned the first book about Louis Kahn, Vincent Scully said, “For a while, I didn’t know he had even one family … that was part of his mystery.” He was a workaholic nomad and a man passionate about architecture.  As with many visionaries, Kahn’s weaknesses and virtues were inseparable and it is worth acknowledging both when contemplating his body of work. It consisted of fewer then one hundred designs and only a handful came to fruition.

Experts say, one of the poorest countries in the world has one of the most beautiful public buildings on Earth.The structure is surrounded by water and from a distance, it appears to float on a lake. Khan spent the last twelve years of his life on the project. It was completed in nineteen eighty-three, nine years after his death.


Dhaka, Bangladesh Government Buildings

Louis Kahn completed his study of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and went on to become a professor at the Yale School of Architecture before returning to teach at his alma mater. In Kahn’s obituary it is written ‘that his sombre, poetic buildings of stone and concrete led a generation of younger architects away from glass boxes’ (George Goldberger, New Yorker).  He is well known for his mythic use of large open spaces and dramatic light in his buildings, which results in a bountiful feast for the eyes.   Kahn refused to veer from his firm belief that the materials an architect uses have their own divine decree. In his words, “Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.” Louis Kahn was unyielding in the purity of his architectural landscapes. Despite a brilliant but mixed record of success in the United States, Louis Kahn did find an enthusiastic embrace for his work in India where he built his last great project, the government building at Dhaka.


Yale Art Gallery: Silence and Light, Tetrahedron Slab

“Late 20th century icon of American Architecture. Master of putting a square thing inside of a round thing, and a round thing inside a square thing. Also adept at adding triangular openings in the round thing or square thing, and sometimes he put a shallow arched opening in the square thing OR the round thing.”   Jody Brown, Architect: A Talk with Louis Kahn  Coffee With An Architect December 16,2010

The influence that Louis Kahn had over the industry is vast. Architect Frank Gehry credited Kahn as his original inspiration and said that without Louis Kahn, he would not be the same man. World renowned Architect I.M. Pei said, “He may only have completed a few buildings, but they are great masterpieces.” In his own words, “A great building must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed and in the end must be unmeasurable.” Perhaps the full value of Kahn’s impact on American architecture has traveled along a similar winding road.

Salk Institute  La Jolla, California Photo: Cultivar Consulting

Salk Institute La Jolla, California
Photo: Cultivar Consulting


My Architect  (DVD) Nathaniel Kahn shares clips from his documentary “My Architect,” about his quest to understand his father, the legendary architect Louis Kahn

Works by Louis Kahn    Map of Works

Cuba’s Architecture Moderna….Mid-Century

Cuba’s Architecture Moderna….Mid-Century


Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Workshops of the University of Villanueva 1959, Manuel GuitérrezWebsite for the photo is Arquitectural Habanera .org

Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Workshops of the University of Villanueva 1959, Manuel Guitérrez
Website for the photo is Arquitectural Habanera .org

Mention a place like Havana, Cuba and many images come to mind.  Displayed the world over, photographer Alberto Korda’s famous image of Che Guevara probably pops up, as well as outdated military apparel and classic cars;  cigars, Ernest Hemingway, communism– perhaps all of the above.  Mid-century modern architecture is most likely not found on that list.  Any quick searches of Cuban architecture would bring up salt spurned colonial structures of an eclectic and grandiose appeal.  A quick walk down a side street would be as if you had tripped and fallen into a colonial Easter egg basket.  Many would be surprised to know that Havana also boasts a fair share of Art Nouveau and Art Deco in its public buildings and residential homes as well as Mid Century Modern.  A blog we follow, recently posted an article concerning this very subject, and with such personal ties to Cuba, PGMod couldn’t pass up the re-blogging opportunity, nor the subject.  My late, great, grandfather Lee Minor, spent several years in Cuba during the Fulgencio Batista years. Coincidentally which just so happens to be the same time period in which most of these examples of mid-century happened to pop up.  I mean, it can’t be that surprising that a place in which 50’s automobiles are so famously prevalent, that architecture from the same time period would be equally preserved.  PGMod wishes to give a nod to Cuban modernism and the influences Cuban architects share with the greater architectural community.
Author:  Joshua van den Berg

Lee Minor returning to La Habana 2004

Lee Minor returning to La Habana 2004
lumierefl, flicker

In 1939 Cuba’s first national congress of art gave a statement: We must strive to achieve a typically Cuban Architecture governed by the spirit prevailing in our country, always subject to the new modalities of architectonic expression….both form and spirit should abide by the atmosphere of the place and region where the new building is to be located….then continuing on this theme, Eugenio Batista emphasized the importance of the continued relevance of the Cuban tradition of patios, portico’s and louvers* on the materials level and gaiety and cleanliness on the spiritual plane.  (excerpt from, The Havana Guide:Modern Architecture1925-1965 by Eduardo Louis Rodriguez

* three P’s: patios, porticos and persianas (louvers)      =  The ABC’s of Tropical Architecture Eugenio Batista

“Many of  Havana’s most notable modern buildings have remained relatively unchanged since their initial construction. The economic forces of real estate development, which long ago would have demolished similar buildings in other cities, have been denied access to Havana, so it is virtually like a time capsule. However, this ironically fortuitous situation is likely to end when U.S. travel restrictions ease and the embargo is eventually lifted. ” [Leland Cott, ReVista,summer 2010]   Yes, things are changing according to newswire reports… the end of both real and symbolic obstacles to travel by islanders has begun, though it is not expected to result in a mass exit, it is quite a statement to the Cuban people.  With a passport and a national identity card, you can be off to America for a visit with loved ones.

Something else is changing here in the US as well. The Wall Street Journal reports that the other side to this story is  that Cubans would be allowed to travel in a “legal, orderly and safe manner” and that those who had defected from Cuba more than eight years ago, including scores of doctors and athletes, would be considered eligible to visit Cuba.

As a side note, I was born and raised in Miami, my dad and his three brothers traveled frequently to Cuba and had a business there during the 40’s. I was raised on stories of Cuba, and lived not far from the famous Calle Ocho.  My dad’s clear blue eyes glossed over with love when he spoke of his time spent in Cuba.  From Jai Alai, Hemingway, Cuba Libre’s, to La Floridita, and on and on, but especially the Cuban people.   As the story goes, my mother made the decision for us to live in Miami not Cuba. My father returned to Cuba in 2004 at 90 with the Hemingway Society, traveling via Mexico….it was a meaningful continuation and culmination of his long love affair with the island.

The political climate, leading to the revolution was a strong component of Cuba’s mid century modern story. ” Architecture has the power to do more than provide shelter for human activities and everyday life—it has the power to embody the highest values of our culture. It can  also express the ethos of a particular historical moment and provide inspiration for the generations that follow.

che-fidel-golfThe now-famous golf game of January 1961 (, after which Fidel Castro and Che Guevara decided to build Cuba’s National Art Schools on the manicured grounds of Havana’s famed Country Club—once the exclusive preserve of the city’s elite—has by now entered into the mythology  of the Cuban Revolution.”  Excerpted from a paper about Castro by John Loomis:

Following is a link to a video documentary about the National Art School…..Cuba’s allure and mid century architecture and it’s unique expression of modernism made in 2011: Unfinished Spaces: Cuba’s Architecture of Revolution….Directed by Alysa Nahmias and Ben Murray

Modernismo 1940-1959

La Revolucion 1960-2000


There were many architects that were associated with Modernism in Cuba. This list is in no measure complete: Eugenio Batista, Nicolás Quintana, Leonardo Morales, Max Borges, Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi, Vittorio Garatti, Richard Neutra, Phillip Johnson, Pedro Pablo Mantilla, Maria Teresa Fernñdez, Antonio Quintana and Manuel Guitérrez.

The Modern Regionalist ideas developed in Cuba make that movement one of the most brilliant moments of Cuban architecture. With their works, Cuban architects substantiated Ernesto Rogers statement:

“Modernity does not contradict tradition, it is actually the most developed instance of tradition itself.”

La Casa de Noval,1949  Architect: Mario Romanach

La Casa de Noval,1949 Architect: Mario Romanach