SO POWERFUL WAS the mystique of reinforced concrete in Paris by about 1920 that many French writers have accepted the idea that the new architecture of the Twenties was in some way caused by this one material, rather than facilitated by it. This acceptance of Choisy's view of technique as a prime cause of style, was doubtless encouraged by the dominating position of Perret as the sole innovator of consequence in the years immediately before the War, but Rob Mallet-Stevens is speaking in the most general terms when he declares, in 1925,1
Abruptly, everything changed. Reinforced concrete appeared revolutionising the processes of construction... science creates a new aesthetic, forms are profoundly modified.
Indeed, he goes so far as to attribute the lag in architectural development as between Europe and America (dates were not his strong point) to an American preference for the wrong material, iron.
Reinforced concrete supervened. The Americans resisted this mode of construction for a long time, and iron reigned supreme in their art of building.
The position here adopted by Mallet-Stevens clearly accepts reinforced concrete as something which had imposed itself, just as Choisy supposed the flying buttress to have imposed itself, and this imposition he accepted as a sufficient explanation of the new aesthetic, the profoundly modified forms. However, at a distance of almost forty years in time, it is clear that the modes of employing reinforced concrete were already extremely various, ranging from the careful Classicism of Perret to the bold vault-work of Freyssinet, and that none of these varieties was, in practice, employed by the younger architects who made the French contribution to the mainstream of the International Style. In particular, they avoided vaults, and curved forms in section generally (which even Perret employed), but frequently made use of curved forms in plan. Though they paid frequent lip-service to the achievements of their immediate elders, their only real inheritance from these pioneers of reinforced concrete was Perret's preference for____________________