Deconstructivism

Deconstructivism was a reasonably controversial movement that started in architecture around the 1980’s. When translated it literally translates to the breaking down or demolishing of a constructed structure. This can happen for structural reasons or just as an act of rebellion. It is perhaps for this reason that many people misunderstand the movement. Though it is regarded as a modern art movement, it is in fact, not a new style, Nor is it an avant-garde movement against architecture or society. It does not follow the “rules” nor is it a rebellion. It is just the unleashing of infinite possibilities within form and volume.


During the first world war, Russian artists broke the rules of classical architecture and composition by presenting a series of drawings that defied the geometric norms of the times. Their more critical view of style and form did disturb the traditional perceptions of architecture at the time but it did open people’s eyes to the possibilities of breaking the rules. After the war, the country was going through radical changes and revolutions and the impact of this unusual style was both influenced and an influencer of social revolution. Geometry suddenly became irregular, both in art and architecture and in many ways mirrored the world around it.


The term first appeared in the 1980s, as stated. But deconstructivism didn’t ever “take the world by storm” like many other art movements did. It wasn’t as impactful and it didn’t shape the world of art and architecture in quite the same way, but it did have a lasting impression on alternative ways of viewing the world. Deconstructivism as we know it is a melting pot of influence from the Russian Constructivists, Modernism, Expressionism and Cubism. The style itself gained more attention during the MOMA’s 1988 exhibition, which focused on bringing the works of artists like Zaha Hadid, Peter Eisenman and Daniel Libeskind into a more mainstream light.
Because deconstructivism was primarily focused on architecture, there was a much greater opportunity for the exploration of three-dimensional shape and form. Architects were able to play with the volume of a space and the things that occupy it. However, many architects did not align themselves with the style and Bernard Tschumi, an architect and writer, said that “calling the work of these architects a movement or new style was out of context and showed a lack of understanding to their ideas.” He claimed that the style was merely a move against postmodernism. Unfortunately for them, the term resonated with the public and their works have been referred to as “deconstructivist” ever since. Although, since then the style and architects associated with it have won some of the world’s most iconic awards.


One of the most defining characteristics of deconstructivism is that it challenges conventional ideas about form and order. The forms created often disturb our thinking and evoke uncertainty and unpredictability. Through the controlled chaos, they challenge our own preconceptions. Designs would typically consist of irregular and complex geometric forms and objects could be formed by several different fragments put together without any apparent order. In many architectural pieces, we see a manipulation of the building’s surface like a skin that intentionally deformed. Therefore, folds and twists are common and they define the interior space and exterior form. Diagonals, curves and pointed corners are frequent elements and the common right angle is almost nonexistent. The designs lack symmetry and in a lot of ways, practicality. Although, why bother with practicality when the building itself becomes a monumental tribute to organised chaos.