Early Modernism

The modernist movement actually began in the early part of the 20th century. The industrial revolution had brought the world new machines and materials, and architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, believed that new technology rendered old styles of building obsolete. Le Corbusier wrote that buildings should function as “machines for living in”, analogous to cars, which he saw as machines for traveling in. Just as cars had replaced the horse, so modernist design should reject the old styles and structures inherited from Ancient Greece or from the Middle Ages.

Following this machine aesthetic, modernist architects typically rejected decorative motifs in design, preferring to emphasize the materials used and pure geometrical forms. We previously looked at town planning principles, and how they morphed into Modern Town planing thought. This Post will deal primarily with the built form itself, however the characters are the same.

The modernist movement, reached its pinnacle during the post war period. Originally with its origins in Germany and France, moved to North America During the Nazi rise to power. During the post war building boom, they were well positioned to build.

Form Follows Function.

Coined by Louis Sullivan in “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered” from 1894, the idea was that a buildings form should be derived from its purpose. Sullivan was an early builder of Skyscrapers, and mentor to Frank Lloyd wright. While Johnston stripped ornament from his structures, he still applied some, typically in Iron and Steel, or Terra Cotta, both being lighter then masonry.

Sullivan briefly worked with lebaron Jenny in 1871, who is credited with the First Skyscraper, Sullivan formalized the verticalality, and his form follows function mantra was cited by future modernists as a reason to exclude all ornament, and credit him as the first modernist.

As early skyscraper development occurred in Chicago, the chicago style was one of the first modernist Styles

The Chicago Style

Chicago style buildings date from 1895-1930, and are typically designed with Metal (cast or wrought Iron and later steel) skeleton structural systems. This freed the walls to only need to support themselves, and allowed for much larger windows then had been possible. The Chicago Style developed after the 1871 Chicago fire, and made use of the latest technologies in building.
Chicago Style buildings are typically commercial in nature, Over 5 stories, and feature large fenestration (fenestration refers to the openings in a building, typically windows) Typically Large 3 part rectangular windows
The Nova Scotia Furnishings Building was designed in 1894 by architect Edward Elliot in the Chicago Style.

(Above)view from 1910, Expanded from the invoice below.

The Steel Structure in the Nova Scotia Furnishings Building is Readily apparent as it is exposed on the first 2 floors facing Barrington Street. When built it featured the Largest windows in Halifax, and was also the Tallest building on Barrington Street, and featured a passenger elevator. The Building Crosses both Blocks, and also has a brick front on Argyle Street.

Edward Elliot also designed Halifax City Hall, the Harrison Building on Barrington Street, the Newman Store, the gates at Point Pleasant Park, the Truro Agricultural College and the Dartmouth Post Office


Another Chicago style example is the next door neighbor to the Nova Scotia Furnishings building, Known as the Marble Building.

Owned By Gerorge Wright, Wright’s Building or the Marble building as its now known was built in 1896. It was Designed By J.C Dumaresq, It was Built in the Chicago Style, to compliment the Nova Scotia Furnishings building next door.The facade consists of Red and Grey brick, with Terracotta accents. Window pairs are separated by Red Marble Columns, Which are responsible for the building taking the “Marble building” name.


(Above) Wright’s Building 1896 show use of Red and grey brick with terracotta. The Owners name emblazoned on top. (below) Detail between stories.


For 4 years this Building Housed a Marconi Wireless station. The latest and most modern buildings attract the latest and modern clients..

Another well known Chicago style building is the #4 fire station on bedford row.

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