Modern Architecture                 
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Architecture looks at the man-made living environment. Every great culture in the past had its own ideas of beauty expressed in art and architecture. When you look around at buildings, stets, squares and parks, you will find them designed, planned and built in different styles.

Modernism was invented in the 1920s by a group of architects who wanted to change society with buildings that went against people's feeling of beauty. They wanted their buildings constructed in a way to look unnatural.

While in traditional architecture materials such as earth, stone, brick and wood are used, the materials of modern architecture are steel, glass and concrete. To many people modern architecture equals progress. Developing countries want to build the most modem-looking buildings as the first step towards becoming a modern country.

Modern buildings impress us because they are huge, but many people do not find them beautiful. The buildings look like boxes with flat roofs, sharp corners and glass walls that act as mirrors. You do not feel invited to enter them. Everything about these buildings seems hard and unfriendly.

Ancient architecture shows us many beautiful buildings. These include great examples such as Taihe Dian, the Temple of Heaven or the great European cathedrals. Both in the choice of materials and shape of buildings, ancient architecture stands much closer to nature.

Nature does not have any straight lines. Antonio Gaudi, a Spanish architect, was the first to understand that. There are not any sharp corners or straight lines in any of his designs. He only wanted natural materials, such as stone, brick and wood to be used and many parts of his buildings look like things we find in nature. In some of his architecture, balconies look like eyes, other parts look like bones, the walls seem to be covered with the skin of a fish, while the roof looks like the back of a dragon. Most of Gaudi's works were constructed in and around Barcelona. Looking at the architecture by Gaudi is like a dream, full of fantastic colours and shapes.

Despite the fact that he used traditional materials, Gaudi was a modern architect. In fact, there are other modern architects who use designs from nature when they create their buildings. Frank Lloyd Wright, who built an art museum in New York, found himself inspired by Japanese seashells. Another famous building that makes people think of seashells is the Opera House in Sydney, though it makes other people think of ship sails.

The 2008 Olympic Stadium in Beijing is another design that makes us think about nature. Seen from the top, it looks as if the stadium is covered by a gray net of steel, and it looks just like a bird's nest made of tree branches. Birds fill up the spaces between the branches of their nests with soft materials. Just so, the spaces in the structure of the stadium will be filled with huge plastic bags full of air. Although the stadium will be made of concrete and steel, the flowing lines and round shapes make the building look warm and friendly.

(Senior English for China Student's Book 2A  Unit 3  Reading)

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