Josef Frank and the History of Architecture: Gothic and the Renaissance, Leon Battista Alberti and Albrecht Dürer in Architectural Discourse on Neues Bauen at the Beginning of the 1930s

By Cardamone, Caterina | Journal of Art Historiography, June 2016 | Go to article overview

Josef Frank and the History of Architecture: Gothic and the Renaissance, Leon Battista Alberti and Albrecht Dürer in Architectural Discourse on Neues Bauen at the Beginning of the 1930s


Cardamone, Caterina, Journal of Art Historiography


'History exists not to be correctly recognised, but to deliver raw material for scientific and artistic work from which we might gather what we need.'1

Introduction

The reflection on history constitutes one of the central issues in the theoretical work of Josef Frank (1885-1967), one of the most influential figures of Viennese architecture in the interwar period. 'Dissenting voice' in the German discussion on architecture between the end of the 1920s and his emigration in 1935, Frank belonged however to the core institutions of modernism.2 Founding member of the CIAM, leading figure of the Austrian Werkbund, Frank proposed an alternative vision of modernity based on a profound reflection on classical tradition.

Frank's engagement with history starts with his education at the Technische Hochschule in Carl König's milieu and the writing of his doctoral dissertation on Leon Battista Alberti in 1910 - not included in any of the following of Alberti's bibliographies.3

In Frank's theoretical work, a paradigmatic case study for the use of historiographical categories in the discussion of modernity is Architektur als Symbol. Elemente deutschen neuen Bauens (1931). Reviewed as 'less than systematic'4 by contemporaries, as 'unpleasant'5 and 'acid'6 by interpreters, Architektur als Symbol provides one of the most complex analyses of modern architecture ever written. To argue his position, Frank devotes approximately two thirds of the book-length essay7 - an uninterrupted discourse on modernity artificially organised into chapters - to a re-writing of architectural and cultural history. Frank's narration strongly and explicitly moulds the entire historical course in order to assign modern architecture a determined place in it and to argue his critique of Neues Bauen. My contribution focuses essentially on one aspect of Frank's historiographical construction: the opposition of classical tradition and gothic sketched at this point, which proves itself determining for his critique of German functionalism and for the foundation of modern architecture in the context of Frank's entire theoretical production.

The first and most salient aspect in Frank's approach to history is a declared operational use of it, an attitude that is rather common in the theoretical works of architectural modernity.8 In a more circumscribed Viennese context, precedents are also to be found in the closest milieu around Frank. It is in the written work of Oskar Strnad and Oskar Wlach - in particular in the doctoral thesis defended by Oskar Wlach in 1906 about polychrome cladding of Florentine proto-Renaissance - that historical knowledge emerges as an instrument to intervene in contemporary discourse.9 In his 'flowing and clear writing, carried by intelligence and artistic sensitivity',10 Wlach uses principles that he derives from his analysis of Florentine medieval and renaissance incrustation to deliver a sharp critique of the work of the influential Baurath Otto Wagner.11 Frank's position is however decidedly more radical in the entanglement of history and present situation and has probably no parallel in contemporary contributions. 'We no longer want to take the view of the historian who can recognize what is good and bad or what is authentic and what is fraudulent, who understands and forgive all. It is no longer enough [if] we want to give expression to our clear will.'12

It is probably this engagement that leads to an extraordinary superposition of historical past and present. 'Our time is all of history, as it is known to us. This notion alone can be the basis of modern architecture.'13 Moreover, it is historical knowledge - and not scientific, as commonly assumed in the theory of modern movement - that constitutes the distinctive core of modernity. Throughout the entire essay, historical discourse is not separable from comments on the contemporary situation. Continuous temporal shifts are a distinctive mark in the writing. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Josef Frank and the History of Architecture: Gothic and the Renaissance, Leon Battista Alberti and Albrecht Dürer in Architectural Discourse on Neues Bauen at the Beginning of the 1930s
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.