German Architecture for a Mass Audience

By Kathleen James-Chakraborty | Go to book overview

1

Space

In 1938 the German architect Rudolf Schwarz described the way in which the experience of standing in a ring affects those who participate in it:

In the closed form of the ring the arcing movement which originated it circles incessantly ahead, an inner stream of power which constantly renews and unifies the figure, just as the warmly circulating blood sustains and enlivens the human body. The inner stream, dark and hidden, turns the people into a community and unites their bodies into the higher body. This genuine growth befalls the individual who links himself into the common form. The forms of human community are alive. They are exceedingly potent realities which, standing the test of time, prove true. And of them all, the ring is the strongest. 1

In this statement Schwarz makes a number of assumptions about the power of form. First, he assumes that all people experience it in the same way, that is, he assumes a universal subject. Second, he takes for granted that form generates emotions in both individuals and, because these experiences are universal, in groups. Schwarz uses organic metaphors ('warmly circulating blood') to explain how the group, or community, can thus be understood as 'alive'. Finally, these are, Schwarz tells us, timeless truths, located outside the shifts in fashion that had done so much within his own lifetime to change the appearance of architecture.

Schwarz wrote during the Nazi dictatorship and described techniques that its supporters relied upon in their own attempts to use architecture to promote community. Nonetheless there is nothing specifically Nazi about these beliefs, nor were they unique to Schwarz. Indeed, they had already been widely held by German architects for a quarter of a century, and they would prove to have enormous consequences for the modern religious architecture of which Schwarz was such an important exponent before and after as well as during the Nazi dictatorship. 2 Schwarz's assumptions had their roots in two interlocking discourses: the explanation German sociologists offered for understanding the social dislocations wrought by modernization, and the aesthetic theories of philosophers and art historians who, at times inadvertently, offered architects a means for addressing and perhaps resolving those dislocations. Writing in the final decades

-10-

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German Architecture for a Mass Audience
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Space 10
  • 2 - Simplicity 21
  • 3 - Spirituality 41
  • 4 - Spectacle 70
  • 5 - Postwar Legacy 95
  • 6 - The New Berlin 115
  • 7 - Conclusion 137
  • Notes 140
  • Select Bibliography 158
  • Index 169
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