Architectural rationalism

Architectural rationalism. Architectural trend born in Europe as a result of the devastating consequences of the First World War . Rationalism focuses its interest on a new aesthetic that bases its foundation on the use of certain construction materials, as a way to architecturally weigh a technical and standardizing vision, which in turn becomes a rejection of all empty and free ornamentation. In general, rationalist works of architecture are characterized by the predominance of the concepts of structure and function; for the use of simple geometric shapes with orthogonal criteria and for the dynamic conception of architectural space.


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  • 1 Background
  • 2 Principles or postulates of rationalism
  • 3 The characteristics of rationalist constructions
  • 4 Sources


At the end of the 19th century , art Noveau began to break with the artistic tradition, signaling a first attempt at modernity in the plastic arts , but the new style derived in an artisan aesthetic and permeated with vacuous and precious ornamentalism, elements that the new aesthetic rationalist denies.

The first fifteen years of the 20th century have the peculiarity of being the most vertiginous in terms of the pace of human creation and invention. In this quarter century, radical changes in the social, political and technological areas converge in Europe. In this period important currents of the European plastic arts are born and new conceptions and plastic styles begin to take place among the artists, where the use of straight lines, the taste for volumes, the preference for simplicity and certain dyes gain preponderance; beginning to influence rationalist artists.

Another event of substantial importance when analyzing the emergence of rationalism is undoubtedly the desolation that European cities showed at the end of the First World War; This environment of destruction and uncertainty demanded a change not only in the structures of the cities, but also in visuality and expression in architecture. In this context, the rationalist trend emerges, indebted to substantial changes in modern thought and characterized by the post-war constructive drive.

The rationalist constructive orientation was propagated in Europe between the years 1925 – 1940 . The construction of isolated works and the penetration of new constructive methods are forming schools in which the work and influence of the great teachers of rationalism is felt. In this sense, many are the architects and disciples who congregate in pursuit of the new style. As a result, the taste for the new movement begins to expand rapidly and rationalist works are built even in America , architectural rationalism becoming a constructive practice that lays its foundations on purification, essentially, practicality and functionality.

The figure of the Swiss architect Le Corbusier , representative of the French school and one of the most outstanding artists in the history of international architecture, stands out among the rationalists for his important investigative and constructive work .

Principles or postulates of rationalism

The rationalist architects in their eagerness to conceive works in which the industrial aesthetics made itself felt, summarized in their constructions the following aspects:

  • Architectural blocks elevated on pilotis (pillars)
  • Free ground floor.
  • Free facade, independent of the structure.
  • Longitudinal windows (fenêtre en longueur).
  • Flat roofs and with the presence of gardens.
  • Predominance of the colors red, blue, yellow; plus black, gray and white achromats.

The characteristics of rationalist constructions

  • Preponderance of the concepts of structure and function.
  • Inclination and taste for the use of simple geometric shapes and with orthogonal criteria
  • Use of color and construction detail instead of free and overlapping decoration
  • Dynamic conception of architectural space
  • The use of new type materials such as steel, concrete and glass.


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