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A second alternative to Cubism is the curvilinear style in which buildings resemble the forms of living organisms rather than hard-edged geometric masses. Most architects predisposed to this literal version of organic form have sought maximum continuity of surface and space. This goal is incompatible with most planning requirements; and as might be expected, its pursuit is usually confined to houses. Nevertheless, the use of biologically organic form in architecture is a peculiarly modern development that has had a greater following in the postwar years than ever before. It is sustained by its own apparatus of theory and holistic philosophy.
Concerned with the psychological effects of the enclosure, its proponents have argued for a genuinely radical break with all forms of right-angled, cellular composition, which they see as inherently oppressive. Structuralist design in its purest form deals with what Mies van der Rohe called skin and bones architecture, a steel or concrete skeleton structure covered by a glass or metal skin. Although Mies's own projects for glass skyscrapers in the twenties emphasized the skin and showed no structure at all, his American work increasingly concentrated on the bones until even the skin had its own external armature of metal mullions.
Some architects at the beginning of the sixties sought to abstract the skeletal cage still further by modifying its proportions and eliminating as much detail as possible. Others, perhaps in response to the work of sculptor-architects in various Brutalist modes, have sought to give to skeletal structure itself an expressive plastic complexity. Still, others have borrowed the look of machinery or the bulky joints of a child's Tinker Toy. And a fascination with the possibilities of structure for its own sake sometimes leads to gymnastic exercises, hurling great blocks of buildings into the air for no reason more persuasive than that it can be done.
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