Western Architecture

November 23, 2014
Shanghai s Historical Western

So you've only got a few minutes before leaving for that dinner party—you know, one of those semi-informal gatherings of individuals who claim to have enough time in their exciting lives to read lots of books and produce their own zines on the side. Perhaps now is as good a time as ever to brush up on your architectural history, to sound like you know what you're talking about when the table launches into that heated debate about the state of art and architecture today.

Well, look no further than UK-based distance-learning website The Open University (OU), where you'll find a helpful set of videos in the aptly titled series "Design in a Nutshell." By just sitting back, pressing play, and letting Ewan McGregor narrate a series of fast-paced, diagrammatic, and minimally animated cartoons, you can prime yourself with some cursory lessons on all things design from Gothic Revival to Postmodernism in just 15 minutes. .

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With "Design in a Nutshell, " OU admirably seeks to make several important historical art and design movements seem at least tangentially relevant to our fast, confusing, messy 21st century lives. Colorful graphics turn figures like Sir George Gilbert Scott, William Morris, and Marcel Breuer into endearing pictographs made of bold, simplified shapes and charged with even bolder and more simplified manifestos. Modernism is neatly personified by a prototype Le Corbusier, while Postmodernism takes the form of an irony-loving, mohawk-sporting, droopy-eyed teenager. The Bauhaus is construed as a party school, and Gothic Revivalism is somewhat inexplicably tied to the "Goth" practice of applying too much eye makeup.

Enhanced with random comical anecdotes and bits of slapstick humor, these videos do not attempt to be anymore than they claim to be: complex, tangled historiographies condensed into easy-to-digest pedagogical videos that appeals to our inner elementary school student (the kind that yearns to watch Schoolhouse Rock! on a rainy day). Though it neuters design movements of their sociopolitical undercurrents, "Design in a Nutshell" makes a gallant attempt to convey that history continues to influence the present, whether we realize it or not.

Source: architizer.com
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