Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview
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21: Germany: the encyclopaedics

THE ATMOSPHERE OF 1927 is best given by a book-title that could hardly have been imagined a year earlier--Der Sieg des neuen Baustils, Walter Curt Behrendt's contribution to the body of literature on Modern architecture that is explanatory rather than propagandist in aim, though even he fell victim to an old-established exasperation of the propagandists

When will clients finally realise the spiritual discrepancy between their Louis Seize interiors and their Rolls-Royce cars?

But the victory of the new architecture was real and international-- sufficiently so for 1928 to witness the first attacks on it as an 'International Style', for in that year Alexander von Senger published his Krisis der Architektur, directed against Modern architecture as a whole, but based entirely on quotations from Le Corbusier's books and from L'Esprit Nouveau, which is described as

... this neo-Jacobin review, Le Corbusier's organ, the synthesis of Russian, German and Austrian tendencies, is furthermore, nothing but a disguised Bolshevik propaganda magazine.

The mainstream of Modern architecture had found its International Style, and so had its opponents, for whom von Senger's tone and tactics were to become the norm. But the attitude of the numerous German books that appeared after Weissenhof is not defensive, and their aim is to consolidate the victory of the new style by effecting broad surveys of its materials, its history, its aesthetics. In this context, Ludwig Hilbersheimer stands out for his industry, if for no other reason, and is one of the most characteristic figures of the epoch. His career, to this date, had not been outstandingly busy or successful in architecture, but now, under the aegis of Hannes Meyer, he founded a town-planning department at the Bauhaus, and in two years produced four books that give a remarkably full coverage of the Modern Movement as it then understood itself.

In one of them he surveyed the new architecture as a movement covering most of Europe, Internationale Neue Baukunst, which illustrated the work of some seventy European architects (and four Americans), and proved his judgement to be remarkably sure--very few of the architects whose work


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