Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview

13: Expressionism: Amsterdam and Berlin

IT WOULD BE altogether too facile to regard the various anti-Rationalist tendencies of 1914-23 as a revolt against the mainstream of development, or as a serious alternative 'school' to the emergent International Style. Though Twentieth-century architecture was undoubtedly impoverished formally by the demise of this manner of design, the resolute paring-down to one particular set of formal and structural solutions that took place in the early Twenties seems to have been a necessary phase of self-discipline and brain-cleansing before development could resume. It would, indeed, be better to regard Wendingen and Expressionist architecture as late outcroppings of attitudes to design that had been part of the main body of European architecture before 1914, but became increasingly unacceptable on formal grounds after 1918. And it should be emphasised that despite the tentative alliance of Amsterdam and Berlin in 1919, they were separate developments both in origin and character.

Since Amsterdam possesses the larger body of work, done over more than a decade, and was the instigator of the short-lived alliance, it will be dealt with first. The chief ornament of the school was Michel de Klerk ( 1884- 1923) as already mentioned, and he, with Piet Kramer, the next most brilliant member of the Amsterdam school, did much of the detailing and interior work on van der Mey Scheepvaartshuis in 1913. There, and at de Klerk's independent Hillehuis two years earlier, one can see emerging a distinctive style that might be called twentieth-century in accent, unrestrainedly eclectic in vocabulary, but nineteenth-century in its phraseology. Indeed the Hillehuis follows structural precepts that go back even further in Dutch town-house practice, but the Scheepvaartshuis follows, more or less, the structural precedents worked out in Berlage's office-buildings before the turn of the century. However, where Berlage's structures tend to be invested in a kind of neutralised Romanesque detailing by the time he came to design the Beurs, the detailing of these two pioneer works of the Amsterdam school is far from neutral in tone, and draws from a variety of sources, including Art Nouveau in general and Toorop in particular, Expressionist painting and carving, de Groot's mathematical exercises,

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Theory and Design in the First Machine Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgements 6
  • Illustrations 7
  • Introduction--The Machine Age 9
  • Section One 13
  • 1: the Academic Tradition and the Concept of Elementary Composition 14
  • 2: Choisy 23
  • 3: the Academic Succession 35
  • 4:England:Lethaby and Scott 44
  • 5: Germany 68
  • 6: the Factory Aesthetic 79
  • 7: Adolf Loos and the Problem of Ornament 88
  • Section Two 98
  • 8: Futurism 99
  • 9: Futurism: Theory and Development 106
  • 10: Sant'Elia and Futurist Architecture 127
  • Section Three 138
  • 11: Holland 139
  • 12: De Stijl: the Dutch Phase 148
  • 13: Expressionism 163
  • 14: De Stijl 185
  • Section Four 201
  • 15: Architecture and the Cubist Tradition 202
  • 16: Progressive Building in Paris 214
  • 17: Vers Une Architecture 220
  • 18: Le Corbusier 247
  • Section Five 264
  • 19: the Berlin School 265
  • 20: the Bauhaus 276
  • 21: Germany: the Encyclopaedics 305
  • 22: Conclusion 320
  • Index to Proper Names and Buildings 331
  • Index, to Topics, Publications, and Organisations 335
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