Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview

19: The Berlin school

IN SPITE OF the appearance of notable Modern buildings in cities such as Dessau and Stuttgart, the main power and strength of the German contribution to mainstream Modern architecture came from Berlin--indeed, most of these notable buildings in other towns were the work of architects with, at least, Berlin connections.1 As the second artistic capital of Europe, after Paris, it was clearly likely to produce work of interest, but it contained, in addition, a remarkable group of architectural talents. No other centre in the early Twenties could have boasted, as Berlin could, more than a dozen progressive architects of more than average competence, sufficiently resilient in mental constitution to take in their stride a major aesthetic revolution, from Expressionism to Elementarism, and to design in either style with equal vigour and assurance. Yet Bruno Taut, Mies van der Rohe, Erich Mendelsohn, and Walter Gropius, were as typical of the Berlin architecture of 1919 as of 1926, their contributions to the second phase were as notable as to the first, and all but Mendelsohn did as much to make the skyscraper typical of Expressionism as they did to make the Siedlung typical of the Elementarist phase that runs into the International Style.

The theories of Erich Mendelsohn have been discussed in an earlier chapter, those of Gropius will be discussed in the next: for the moment we are concerned with Bruno Taut and Mies van der Rohe. As a mirror of the ideas current in his time, rather than as an original thinker, Taut is of the greatest interest: at the end of the Twenties he contributed to the group of encyclopaedic works on Modern architecture the only one in a 'popular' vein; in the course of the decade he produced a number of minor pieces of documentary interest, and at its very beginning he produced what is, historically, his most important book, because it is one of the few major documents of the Expressionist phase that can be set beside Mendelsohn lectures--Die Stadtkrone.

This book, written in 1919 and dedicated, understandably, to the Friedfertigen

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1
The next three chapters are, again, much in debt to the personal memoirs of survivors of the period--Mart Stam, Artur Korn, and Walter Segal--and to Sybil Moholy-Nagy's book about her husband, Moholy-Nagy ( New York, 1950).

-265-

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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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