BY THE MIDDLE of the Thirties it was already common practice to use the word Functionalism, as a blanket term for the progressive architecture of the Twenties and its canon of approved forerunners that had been set up by writers like Sigfried Giedion. Yet, leaving the shortlived G episode in Berlin on one side, it is doubtful if the ideas implicit in Functionalism-- let alone the word itself--were ever significantly present in the minds of any of the influential architects of the period. Scholiasts may care to dispute the exact date on which this misleading word was first used as the label for the International Style, but there is little doubt that the first consequential use was in Alberto Sartoris's book Gli Elementi dell'architettura Funzionale, which appeared in Milan in 1932. Responsibility for the term is laid on Le Corbusier's shoulders--the work was originally to have been called Architettura Razionale, or something similar, but, in a letter which is reprinted as a preface to the book, Le Corbusier wrote
The title of your book is limited: it is a real fault to be constrained to put the word Rational on one side of the barricade, and leave only the word Academic to be put on the other. Instead of Rational say Functional....
Most critics of the Thirties were perfectly happy to make this substitution of words, but not of ideas, and Functional has, almost without exception been interpreted in the limited sense that Le Corbusier attributed to Rational, a tendency which culminated in the revival of a nineteenthcentury determinism such as both Le Corbusier and Gropius had rejected, summed up in Louis Sullivan's empty jingle
Form follows function
Functionalism, as a creed or programme, may have a certain austere nobility, but it is poverty-stricken symbolically. The architecture of the Twenties, though capable of its own austerity and nobility, was heavily, and designedly, loaded with symbolic meanings that were discarded or ignored by its apologists in the Thirties. Two main reasons emerge for this decision to fight on a narrowed front. Firstly, most of those apologists came from outside the countries--Holland, Germany and France--that