Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview

5: Germany: industry and the Werkbund

THE YEAR 1907 must appear, in retrospect, a decisive one for German (and, by that token, international) architecture. If no new themes are introduced into architectural thought, attitudes toward certain contemporary problems were as resolutely taken up as they were, a little later, by the Futurists, and --what is more--were shortly translated into practice. That is to say, discussion and exposition among architects and those connected with design were primarily devoted to evolving programmes and organisations for immediate action, and not to the formulation of bodies of encyclopaedic theory in the manner of Choisy or Guadet. There was indeed a parallel current of pure intellectual speculation about the aesthetics of architecture, descending from Lipps and producing one of its classics in Worringer's Abstraktion und Einfühlung of 1908, but there seems to have been no important mingling of the two streams of thought--the men of action tapped the Lippsian stream at source, not at Worringer.

The heart-theme of the practical body of thought was the problem of mechanism--or rather, the relationship of architecture, as an art of design, to mechanical production at all its phases, from the factory work-hall to the advertising of the finished product. This relationship was scrutinised most closely at two critical points: the aesthetics of engineering construction, and the aesthetics of product design. To take the first point first, leaders of German architectural thought, like the Italian Futurists, deplored the application of art-work to engineering structures, but whereas the Futurists intended to conjure an aesthetic out of machinery and engineering, the Germans hoped to conjure some aesthetics into them.

Already, therefore, in 1907, the Verband Deutscher Architekten- und Ingenieurverein was challenging expert opinion on this point: How shall we force up the importance of aesthetic considerations in engineering construction to a higher level than at present.

Phrased thus, as a sort of collision between two separate entities, aesthetics and engineering, the problem tended to indicate two equally separate answers, as Lindner and Steinmetz go on to record

We soon arrived at the conclusion that any solution for our new situation

-68-

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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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