The International Style
Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Philip Johnson
W. W. Norton, June 1995
Hardcover/Paperback | 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | 269 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0393315189 (PB) | $22.95 (PB)
Initially produced as the catalog to accompany a controversial and groundbreaking 1932 Museum of Modern Art show of the then new architecture emerging in Europe and America, The International Style quickly became the definitive statement of the principles underlying the work of such giants as Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and other pioneers. It might be said that Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson discovered as well as defined “the International Style,” and over the decades their book has served as both a flashpoint for criticism and a frame for growth in the architectural profession. It has never been out of print in over sixty years.
This new edition has been completely redesigned and reset,
it features a new foreword by Philip Johnson, who reflects on the legacy of the International Style and examines the still-precarious power of architecture in our public life.
Published as a companion to Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, the 1932 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, The International Style brought modern architecture, a European phenomenon, stateside. The exhibition and book came seven years after International Architecture, which was edited by Walter Gropius at the Bauhaus: an architect and design school that defined the “style” that Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson would embrace and promote. The earlier book presents photos and drawings of buildings by Gropius, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and other European architects, and the MoMA curators basically did the same, focusing on form over substance, appearance over function, style over social concerns. In terms of publications, The International Style has held sway much longer than International Architecture. The latter was reprinted this year, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus’s founding, while The International Style received two later editions following its original publication: in 1966 and in 1995, the latter of which I bought for a history of modern architecture class in college the same year and am most familiar with. (The spreads below do not reflect this most recent edition.)
By 1995, the lasting influence of The International Style was not only well-established, it was repeated in the 1988 Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition by none other than Philip Johnson (with Mark Wigley). Each exhibition and companion publication aimed to define a style that captured the zeitgeist by focusing on form and appearance. Johnson and Hitchcock defined three traits of what they called the “international style” but what is commonly known just as “modern architecture”: Architecture as Volume, rather than architecture as mass, arising from steel framing; Concerning Regularity, on the articulation of windows in exterior walls free from the role of structural support; and The Avoidance of Applied Decoration, a self-explanatory phrase. These are important aspects of what Gropius and other European architects were doing in the 1920s and 30s, but there was more to their buildings than just structure and surface. No matter, as MoMA’s traits would come to define modern architecture and supplant any deeper concerns for the social repercussions that arose from the conflicts, technological changes, and economic shifts that dramatically changed the world a century ago.
Spreads (from MoMA PDF of 1932 book):
Henry-Russell Hitchcock (1903–1987), architectural historian, was Sophia Smith Professor of Art at Smith College and author of many works on architects and architecture. Philip Johnson (1906-2005) was a Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, and a fellow of both The American Institute of Architects and The American Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1978 he received the Gold Medal from the AIA, and in 1979 the first Pritzker Architecture Prize.