Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview

11: Holland: Berlage and attitudes to Wright

DURING THE WAR of 1914-18 the Dutch alone, of all nations who had contributed to the growth of a new architecture, enjoyed the benefits of neutrality, and in the development of their architecture alone can the break between the first and second phase of the developing twentieth-century style be seen unobstructed by the confusions of the War. Outside Holland, major architects whose careers effectively span the War years are rare-- Gropius and Perret are almost alone in having done work of equal interest before 1914 and after 1918--and most of the personalities who characterised the post-War scene, such as Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Lurçat, have insignificant or non-existent pre-War careers. But in Holland the war years were, if anything, a period of increased building activity, forcing on the development of talents that were maturing after 1910, which rapidly brought young men to the top, and drove pre-War currents of ideas to their logical (or illogical) conclusions--all without any serious breaks or interruptions of development except those precipitated by the ideas and personalities involved. The break--and it is a real break with the past--comes in late 1917 with the foundation of the group de Stijl, but the ideas of this group, far from being born of the agonising experiences of the War, were the product of discussions, experiments and building work that had been going on since 1911, or thereabouts. That the ideas of de Stijl (and similar bodies of thought) were taken up so enthusiastically in countries that had been involved in the War, seems to be less due to their applicability to post-War conditions (which is doubtful) than to the fact that theorists in most of those countries would have arrived at similar conclusions themselves at about the same time, had they not been otherwise engaged.

The rapid evolution of de Stijl theory and practice may be largely attributed to the clear-cut polemical situation in which the group's architects found themselves, with their own Rationalist, mechanistic, abstract approach in direct opposition to the fantasticated, handicraft, figurative approach of the Wendingen group in Amsterdam. But, as is so often the case in polemics of this kind, the violent opponents had a great deal in

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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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