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Pioneers of Modern Design Theory


The evolution of architectural designs originated from the simple ancient ideas to the present complex technical and advanced forms. This growth has been facilitated by the increase in research and innovation that has been on the rise since the 18th century. The inventions have resulted into sophisticated designs of modern structures that have made the world a much more beautiful place. Thus, modern structures are characterized by skyscrapers and other designs referred to as the impossible structures. Some of the modern designs are created to withstand the natural disasters that come as a result of complex weather patterns that occur in some parts of the world. Thus, Dubai is one of the cities in the world that display the most sophisticated building designs of modern times. These structures are made to attract tourist from different parts of the globe to help in expanding the economy of the region. Some of the attractive structures in this region include the Dubai Hotel that has been built in the sea to increase its superiority. The modern designs are the result of the contribution of various personalities who have shown interest over the years in making the world a beautiful place. The extensive research by these people created a sense of progression in the field of architectural science. The paper discusses the pioneers of modern design theory; it specifically focuses on the theories of Patrick Geddes and Hector Guimard, their historical background, and the contribution they have made towards the growth of architectural science.

Geddes’s Early Life and Education

Patrick Geddes is regarded as one of the pioneers of modern design. Geddes was a person of interest in various technological inventions; the current professionals refer to him as the man with advanced skills and knowledge in urban planning. Patrick is also regarded as the educationist, conservationists, and ecologist. He created numerous ideas that influenced the environmental conditions of his time. At the initial stages of his life, Geddes attended childhood education in Perth academy, a place where he had learnt that he could not express himself in writing as he had great ideas, but he could not put them in writing. Geddes never took a university education; instead, he engaged in private learning where he concentrated on the botanical studies and he had a tutor who would advise him on various botanical techniques.

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Towards the end of the 18th century, Geddes was nominated to become the assistant practical botanist at Edinburgh University. During his stay at the university, he initiated various experimental designs that would improve the living and housing structures in the town. Under his scientific influence, Edinburgh planners made great improvements in the living condition of people in the city. His desire to integrate the community through establishing better living conditions attracted him to the designs that would later change the face of the forgotten town city. Through his designs that kept changing with time, the town saw the first tall buildings that people could not imagine. The developments attracted many people from the surrounding cities as Edinburgh became attractive because of the new designs that had changed the face of the city.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Geddes acted as the international consultant in urban planning. He was consulted to design most of the Indian cities, and he even extended his support to Jerusalem and other Asian countries. He was majorly involved in re-planning the old cities and transforming them to follow the modern standards that continue to exist even today. He also revamped old buildings and suggested the modern techniques of putting and arranging structures in towns.

Geddes Theoretical Principles

During early years of his career, Geddes was a botanist who integrated his botanical interest with sociology, anthropology, cultural geography, and urban technologies. The principle behind the Geddes’ thought was that humans were either surrounded by cities or they occupied the cities that needed to be geographically designed to ensure better living conditions. The writings of the architect indicated the theories of the city as he saw the city as a sequence of various structures constructed to influence the economy, anthropology, and geography of a given place. In his urban planning, Geddes saw the above three factors as related. Another theory that was put in place by Geddes was the Le Play's Circular Theory that suggested that geographical locations influenced the structural features of a given place. Geddes realized that the position and arrangement of structures influenced nature and living conditions of people.

The designs made by Geddes included unique features that were the improvement of previous structures. He realized that humans enjoyed classical structures, which also attracted many people to a given area, thus improving economic activities. As an individual with great knowledge in anthropology, he realized that the human mind worked best in a clean and well organized environment.

Geddes Design Works

As the result of his theories and a good understanding of design procedures, Geddes was given different contracts to design houses and cities. Thus, the University of Hebrew is one of the magnificent works of Geddes. Geddes decided to establish the buildings on the mountain side. There were different hexagonal structures that were in harmony with Jerusalem’s structural features. The structures were also meant match the city’s artwork that he had built earlier. Geddes also designed the Hebrew University library. Today, it is used as the School of Law.

Riddles Court is one of his buildings that still exist in the city of Edinburgh. Geddes’ magnificent works is still evident to date. The building has structural features that have continued to attract more people. The long-lasting features are some examples of Geddes’ work of designing appealing structures.

Geddes extended his work to India to help in re-planning and upgrading slum areas that seemed disorganized before. His urban planning work also extended to Jerusalem city, London, and other European cities.

Modern Application of Geddes’ Work

The application of Geddes’ principles continues to be experienced in modern architectural science. The Interlace building of Singapore clearly indicates the hexagonal design used by Patrick Geddes in the design of the Hebrew Library. The modern Dubai Hotel built in the sea also shows some hexagonal designs that closely resemble Geddes’ old designs. The Langport Workhouse in England is another resemblance of his work. It has a hexagonal structure and swindling windows that resemble Geddes’ Riddles court design.

Hector Guimard’s Early Life and Education

Over the years, Hector Guimard’s has continued to thrive even in the modern system of designs. Hector Guimard was a famous French architect who specialized on both the interior and nouveau objects designs. The education of Guimard revolved around art and design, which led to his success in the same field. His skills and abilities enabled him to be regarded as one of the most famous architects of all times. The evidences of his work are still present to date. His ideas are also applicable in various modern designs. Towards the end of the 18th century, Guimard was admitted to École Nationale Et Speciale Des Beaux-Arts, where he enrolled to pursue a course in the field of Art and Designs. While in college, Guimard earned several awards in various design competitions, a situation that motivated his work from the primitive designs the most sophisticated designs that remained among the best even today.

In 1891, Guimard was appointed to become the assistant professor in the field of geometry, mathematical drawings, and shadow manipulations as well as perspective drawings. The real-life contribution of his work was first seen when he designed street numbers and lettering of the famous hotel in France. The above-mentioned work was an inspiration to his work of art that later became his well-known career. The design of Castel Béranger saw his breakthrough into the work of art. He was later involved in some other sophisticated designs that showed the emergence of his work on the international arena. Guimard is honored for some of his greatest works. He won different awards both in school and various competitions that motivated him to concentrate in his line of work and interest.

Hector Guimard’s Theoretical Principles

Hector Guimard applied various design principles in his work to encourage originality his unique creations. One of his principles was to produce a unique design that would reflect what was in society at that time. His mathematical drawing skills enabled him perform his work appropriately, thereby enabling him to achieve the accuracy required in the work of art and design. Hector Guimard was a strong believed in Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-Le-Duc art principle, a theory that led to the success of Art Nouveau movement in France. The principles were guided by the accuracy in creation and presentation of classical art work in the ancient times.

Hector Guimard’s Design Work

In the 18th century, Guimard created many designs, which enabled him to achieve records and awards in many contests. As mentioned before, Castel Béranger is one of his best designs. It was meant to reflect the cultural practices of the medieval times. The uniqueness of his art work attracted many artists who recognised the innovative nature of this designer. Guimard applied his skills in the decoration of his own houses that served as the sample of his great works. The decoration was done with unique materials. The coloration and the mix of patterns provided glittering features that seemed appealing to the eyes of many people. The Castel Béranger building consists of six-storey floors that reflect the style of Art Nouveau. It is known to be the first residential building designed by Guimard in the style of Art Nouveau. The decoration of the internal structures was shiny with the colorful ornaments that reflected the unique styles of the time. The curvaceous structure, especially of the windows and door openings, provided a classical outlook, a feature still relevant in the current architectural structures.

Maison Coilliot is another magnificent work of Hector Guimard; the building is unique and it reflects the Art Nouveau style. The main materials used the building included cut stones and bricks, and the curvaceous nature of the windows followed Guimard’s designs. The structure has three facades and it has an in-built parking lot with a balcony. The decoration of the building is colourful with the suspended ornaments that add beauty from the outer look. The floors and some parts of the wall are covered with the enamel tiles that reduce penetration of water into the underlying bricks. The roofing is wooden, and it is presented in the form of sloping designs.

The La Bluette is another existing structure that shows the work of the famous architect. The outer appearance of the house shows close relations with some of the designs shown above. The curvaceous windows and doors seem to have been the common features of these buildings. The La Bluette has a complicated design that seems simple from the outside. Although it has a magnificent decoration, the design looks unique, especially from the modern structures. The wooden roofing is still evident in this structure, with the design of the roofing structure slant sideways, thereby bringing additional beauty for the entire building.

Modern Application of Hector Guimard’s Designs

The ideas of Hector Guimard are still applicable in the current designs of buildings. Most buildings in the modern times have the arch that creates smooth and beautiful windows and door openings. In the modern Burj Al Arab hotel located in Dubai at the sea, the aches are evident in most rooms and door openings to increase the beauty of the structure. The decoration and color patterns are evident in the majority of modern buildings. Moreover, many buildings today still utilize the bricks and cut stones in building walls. Modern designers apply enamel tiles to protect floors from the penetration of moistures. In the tallest Dubai tower, the facades are integrated to add the beauty. The Cayan Tower in the United Arab Emirates is also another modern work that borrows many ideas from Guimard’s original work. The curvature in the openings of doors and windows and the use of enamel tiles on the floors and wall reveal his ideas. Another similar design that follows Guimard’s ideas is the Petronas Towers in Malaysia located in the Kuala Lumpur City Center, a design initiated by César Pelli, and the use of enamel tiles is evident here.

Similarities and Differences Between the Two Personalities

The contribution of Hector Guimard and Patrick Geddes influenced the modern architectural work. Their works provide the motivation for many modern engineers. Their ideas are used most frequently in the modern designs of the classical representation of structures. Although the modern technology has offered advanced features, the ideas of these two architects are still relevant when designing some structural features of a building. Urban planning and design also follow the ideas of these two great architects. Their works are similar at some points. Their designs possess similarities in the design of windows and door openings. The use of ornaments in decoration is evident in the majority of their structures, a situation that is regarded a common trend during the time. At the same time, Hector Guimard had interest in the art at the beginning of his career, while Patrick Geddes was a botanist and anthropologist who started designing as the result of intensive studies on the need to improve the living standard of the people through proper urban planning and better housing. This situation made him recognized for his work in different cities across the world. The work of these two architects facilitated the increase in research and innovation that had been on the rise since the 18th century. The inventions resulted into sophisticated designs of modern structures that greatly improved the world aesthetically.


In comparison, Patrick Geddes’s work is superior to that of Hector Guimard. He had a better plan and a reason to enter into the design work. He saw the need to create better living conditions for the people in cities, a reason that made him work towards establishing a better housing in towns. His superiority is evident in most cities across the globe, from Jerusalem, India, London to many cities across Europe. His magnificent structures still stand; a perfect example is the design of the Hebrew Library that is currently used as the School of Law. Patrick Geddes presented a more classical approach in his design as compared to Hector Guimard. His designs still show some forms of modern structures, and they tend to follow the patterns of modern buildings. Modern architects also borrow many ideas from his magnificent work.

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