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Two of a kind: Architecture and design in the 20th Century and afterwards

Let us talk about architects and designers. About architecture and design.

They come from the same family but are not siblings.

Perhaps cousins. Nevertheless, when they come together, they create a spirituous union of wills and discoveries.

Whenever they follow similar methods and project their ideas together, everyone wins – not just the project owners, but also the people that envisage, design and experience the project, and ultimately also those who benefit from it.

Having different origins and consolidation times, these two subjects have operational concepts that, although not equal, share common grounds and have great proximity.

Dots, lines and colours are just some of the many “ingredients” that structure the materialization of ideas from these two worlds.

Nowadays, we are living very challenging times due to the multitude of influences and directions, and also because we are simultaneously actors and spectators. The very relation with innovation and progress is diffuse. Exactly like it was during the Industrial Revolution and throughout the long journey since then until now.

Let us recall the positions of Ruskin and Morris, both of them arising from the Arts and Crafts movement and who had the worst possible reaction to the arrival of machines. They imagined that such machines would threaten the prominence of craftwork, and result in the unemployment of many workers, whom would then be subject to a horrible condition of exploitation.

Such was the paradigm in Chaplin’s unforgettable movie “Modern Times”.

History never repeats itself, but nowadays, in times of constantly shifting borders, we witness some connection points with those times. Anguish is the common denominator, possessing, however, new makings.

On the other hand, speed is the “moto” of our modern times, one that crushes everything in its path. The liquid cities, the augmented realities and the new paradigms create new challenges every day.

This unavoidable juxtaposition of memories, both past and future, has been analysed by Icograda (International Council of Graphic Design Associations), whose presented proposals have had little impact amongst us – even though Portugal during the nineties was part of its administration, and regardless of the international congress on design hosted by Gulbenkian.

Traditionally, the World Graphics Day – celebrated on the 27th of April – is meant to draw attention to this subject, which has had uneven, yet stimulating, developments, depending on the latitudes.

If we pay attention, we find ever more strong relations of (good) proximity and (good) dialogue between architecture and design, which had a decisive boost during the thirties due to Bauhaus, and afterwards, during the fifties, due to the Ulm School, also in Germany, the latter a continuer of that legacy, although a less important one. Bauhaus under the direction of Walter Gropius, and Ulm with the inspiration of Max Bill. These were paramount experiences on these elective and so essential relations, for they have questioned, studied and influenced the coming generations.

However, this does not apply only between these two subjects. Art has always been transversally present in this matter, just like fashion had already sought to do with great autonomy, as well as with the know-how to materialize drawings and models that tried to reach new horizons. It is, nonetheless, an arrival point of a whole conceptual process. The always radical proposals coming out if these two schools have often unsettled the mainstream ideas of that time, having dealt with enormous pressures and unfair policies. Even today, the postulates arising from Bauhaus still stumble upon the misunderstandings of preconceived ideas. A good example of this are the studies and proposals of colour. Itten and Albers have decisively influenced our understanding of this complex universe, having met resistance against its incorporation in teaching and in professional practices.

But, after all, this is why commemorative dates are there for.

They help us to remind and discover, allowing us to see and be seen in a plural, polysemic and truly stimulating subject.

Like Paul Rand used to say: “because design is everything. Everything!”

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