Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview

4:England:Lethaby and Scott

SPEAKING TO THE Architectural Association, London, in 1915, W. R. Lethaby proposed that one of the things that might be learned from Germany was

... how to appreciate English originality. Up to about twenty years ago there had been a very remarkable development of English art of all kinds. For five or six years round about the year 1900, the German Government had attached to its Embassy in London an expert architect, Herr Muthesius, who became the historian (in German) of the English Free Architecture. All the architects who at that time did any building were investigated, sorted, tabulated and, I must say, understood. Then, just as our English free building arrived, or at least 'very nearly did', there came a timid reaction and the re-emergence of the catalogued styles. It is equally true or even more true that the advances in German industrial design have been founded on the English Arts and Crafts.

This characteristic piece of Lethaby's prose, loosely organised but by no means artless, entangles two issues that are really independent of one another, though one can well see how a feeling that some virtue had gone out of English architecture, might become coupled with the feeling that it had gone with Muthesius to the adoptive Fatherland of the Arts and Crafts. Indeed, the synchronisation of the stages of decline in England and of advance in Germany is so close that it is all too easy to suppose a connection.

Thus the foundation of the Deutscher Werkbund in 1907 had been preceded by Thomas Graham Jackson's denunciation of Art Nouveau in 1906 and was followed in 1908 by an attack on the Glasgow School in the Architectural Review. One must suspect that one of the reasons for the English decline was a failure to see that Glasgow Art Nouveau was a part of the 'English Free Architecture', and not an opposition movement. Sensitivity about this decline is apparent in the Review as early as 1909.

Our reputation in domestic architecture, on which we are wont to pride ourselves, is being taken away.... A writer in the Architectural Record, New York, criticising our special issue--which, it will be remembered, was devoted to domestic architecture, pines for variety and complains of a lack of rational development.

In 1911, the year of the completion of Gropius's Fagus factory, the Review first gave prominence to a 'catalogued style' in an article by A. E. Richard-

-44-

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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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