Monday, November 7, 2016

Architecture in the Early 20th Century, Modernism, Bauhaus, DeStijl and International Style

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Walter Gropius, "Program of the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar," 1919: "Artists, sculptors, painters, we must all return to the crafts! Let us then create a new guild 
of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist! Let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the 
future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the 
crystal symbol of a new faith."

Walter Gropius and Adolph Meyer. Fagus Factory, 
Alfed-an-der-Leine, Germany. 1911-16
Form: This three-story factory uses a steel frame, allowing the facade to be made almost entirely of glass.Iconography: The client's wish for an attractive façade was solved by Gropius in a special way: by means of a projected steel skeleton, which pulled the function of support to the inside, thereby making possible a broad dissolution of the exterior envelope into glass walls; the idea of the 'curtain wall' was at this point first expressed in a consistent manner."The Fagus shoe factory in Alfred, Germany is a seminal building in the history of modern architecture. Designed by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer in 1911,  This revolutionary technique set new standards for industrial construction and is still used in the building of every skyscraper. Fagus traces the history of the building from 1911, when it was designed and built, through the late 1920s, the period of final collaboration between Gropius/Meyer and factory management. It also emphasizes the Bauhaus idea of industrial culture, in which architecture, interior design, graphic design, and photography were interrelated with the business philosophy of the company."
© 2000 Princeton Architectural Press, Inc. (
Context: "Walter Gropius, German-American architect, one of the leaders of  modern functional architecture. In Germany his Fagus factory buildings (1910–11) at Alfeld, with their glass walls, metal spandrels, and discerning use of purely industrial features, were among the most advanced works in Europe. After World War I, Gropius became (1918) director of the Weimar School of Art, reorganizing it as the Bauhaus. It was moved in 1925 to Dessau. The complete set of new buildings for it, which Gropius designed (1926), remains one of his finest achievements. He built the Staattheater at Jena (1923), some experimental houses at Stuttgart (1927), and designed residences, workers’ dwellings, and industrial buildings. Driven out by the Nazis, he practiced (1934–37) in London with Maxwell Fry and in 1937 emigrated to America, where he headed the school of architecture at Harvard until 1952. His influence on the dissemination of functional architectural theory and the rise of the International style was immense. Practicing his principles of cooperative design, Gropius worked with a group of young architects on the design of the Harvard graduate center. He continued his architectural activity with this group, the Architects Collaborative (TAC), in such works as the U.S. embassy at Athens, the Univ. of Baghdad (1961), and the Grand Central City building, New York City (1963). His writings include The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (tr.1935) and Scope of World Architecture (1955).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition.  2001.
"Gropius's first large building, the Fagus Shoe-Last Factory in Alfred on the Leine in 1911... was materialized due to his connection with Peter Behrens—and in cooperation with Adolf Meyer... as had been the case with most of his early structures. The starting point for the young architect was the already existing site plan, the ground plan, and construction plans of the architect Eduard Werner, as well as the foundation, which had already been laid. A loan from the American United Shoe Machinery Corporation made the continuation of the construction possible in 1911, and continued until 1912 step by step under the new concept of Walter Gropius. The whole operational procedure was newly thought through, according to the inner functions, and then articulated in a three-dimensional form. The client's wish for an attractive façade was solved by Gropius in a special way: by means of a projected steel skeleton, which pulled the function of support to the inside, thereby making possible a broad dissolution of the exterior envelope into glass walls; the idea of the 'curtain wall' was at this point first expressed in a consistent manner."
— from Udo Kultermann. Architecture in the 20th Century. p32-33.
taken from


Walter Gropius. Bauhaus, Dessau, 1925-26

Bauhaus, Dessau, 1925-26
Form: This is a view of the BauHaus school of design in Germany. A skeleton of reinforced concrete with brickwork, mushroom-shaped ceilings on the lower level, and roofs covered with asphalt tile that can be walked upon.Iconography: The Creator's Words "One of the outstanding achievements of the new constructional technique has been the abolition of the separating function of the wall. Instead of making the walls the element of support, as in a brick-built house, our new space-saving construction transfers the whole load of the structure to a steel or concrete framework. Thus the role of the walls becomes restricted to that of mere screens stretched between the upright columns of this framework to keep out rain, cold, and noise. ...Systematic technical improvement in steel and concrete, and nicer and nicer calculation of their tensile and compressive strength, are steadily reducing the area occupied by supporting members. This, in turn, naturally leads to a progressively bolder (i.e.wider) opening up of the wall surfaces, which allows rooms to be much better lit. It is, therefore, only logical that the old type of window—a hole that had to be hollowed out of the full thickness of a supporting wall—should be giving place more and more to the continuous horizontal casement, subdivided by thin steel mullions, characteristic of the New Architecture. And as a direct result of the growing preponderance of voids over solids, glass is assuming an ever greater structural importance....In the same way the flat roof is superseding the old penthouse roof with its tiled or slated gables. For its advantages are obvious: (1) light normally shaped top-floor rooms instead of poky attics, darkened by dormers and sloping ceilings, with their almost unutilizable corners; (2) the avoidance of timber rafters, so often the cause of fires; (3) the possibility of turning the top of the house to practical account as a sun loggia, open-air gymnasium, or children's playground; (4) simpler structural provision for subsequent additions, whether as extra stories or new wings; (5) elimination of unnecessary surfaces presented to the action of wind and weather, and therefore less need for repairs; (6) suppression of hanging gutters, external rain-pipes, etc., that often erode rapidly. With the development of air transport the architect will have to pay as much attention to the bird's-eye perspective of his houses as to their elevations. The utilization of flat roofs as 'grounds' offers us a means of re-acclimatizing nature amidst the stony deserts of our great towns;...Seen from the skies, the leafy house-tops of the cities of the future will look like endless chains of hanging gardens."
—Walter Gropius. from Walter Gropius. The New Architecture and the Bauhaus. p25-30. (
Context: Gropius' extensive facilities for the Bauhaus at Dessau combine teaching, student and faculty members' housing, an auditorium, and office spaces. The pinwheel configuration when viewed from the air represents in form the propellers of the airplanes manufactured in the Dessau area. This complex embodies various technological and design oriented advancements including a petchance for glazing, the creation of an architecture of transparency with the supporting structure rising behind the facing skin. It was a radical structure populated by progressive minds touting a unique group-oriented approach to learning.
—Darlene Levy. drawn from S. Giedion. Walter Gropius: Work and Teamwork. p54-56.
"The Bauhaus building provides an important landmark of architectural history, even though it was dependent on earlier projects of the well as on the basic outlines and concepts of Frank Lloyd Wright. "It consists of three connected wings or bridges...School and workshop are connected through a two-story bridge, which spans the approach road from Dessau. The administration was located on the lower level of the bridge, and on the upper level was the private office of the two architects, Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer, which could be compared to the ship captain's 'command bridge' due to its location. The dormitories and the school building are connected through a wing where the assembly hall and the dining room are located, with a stage between."The basic structure of the Bauhaus consists of a clear and carefully thought-out system of connecting wings, which correspond to the internal operating system of the school. The technical construction of the building... is demonstrated by the latest technological development of the time: a skeleton of reinforced concrete with brickwork, mushroom-shaped ceilings on the lower level, and roofs covered with asphalt tile that can be walked upon. The construction area consisted of 42,445 [cubic yards] (32,450 [cubic meters]) and the total cost amounted to 902,500 marks. Such an economical achievement was possible only due to the assistance of the Bauhaus teachers and students, which at the  same time, of course, could be viewed as an ideal means of education."
 —from Udo Kultermann. Architecture in the 20th Century. p37-38.


Iwao Yamawaki, collage, 1932
Form: Collage of Hitler walking on the BauIconography:  Iwao Yamawaki was a Japanese adherent to the Bauhaus style, and a photographer. This collage shows the nazi's trampling over the Bauhaus.
Context: "In 1932, the Nazis seized the power in Saxony-Anhalt and Bauhaus de Dessau was going to be established in Berlin in an empty factory that Mies van der Rohe made repaint in white. Hitler chancellor of Reich, Mies had an interview with one of the "cultural experts" Nazis, Alfred Rosenberg, with the autumn of 1933; it obtained the authorization to continue; but, considering that Bauhaus could not continue its?uvre in "this atmosphere", it made the decision to close the institution. "
(translated from German)  "Iwao Yamawaki (1898-1987) studied architecture (at) the Tokyo School OF kind,(Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko) in order to become active in architecture later. At the same time (he) began to photograph with (his) 35mm camera. In 1930 he gave his employment up in Japan, in order to apply at the BauHaus in Germany. He was trained from 1930 to 1932 there in both architecture and photography. After his return to Japan he began to further-obtain contents of the BauHaus. Yamawaki gave up, after some time, his photography in favor of working as an architect and a member of the art faculty at the university of Tokyo. Up to his death he had different exhibitions of his architectural photography and contributed writings for Japanese photo magazines."


Marcel Breuer, metall-chair, 1925

Marcel Breuer
Form: Polished, bent, nickelled tubular steel frame, and leather or fabric.Iconography: "Breuer was inspired by the shape and form of a bicycle handlebars when he created one of his most famous pieces, theWassily Chair No B3 in 1925. It was designed and made for Wassily Kandinsky'. The frame of the chair was made from polished, bent, nickelled tubular steel, which later became chrome plated. The seat came in canvas, fabric or leather in black section. This chair has been widely copied."
Context: "Marcel Lajos Breuer was born in Pécs, Hungary in 1902, and became on of the greatest architects and furniture designers of the 20th century. Breuer used new technologies and new materials in order to develop his 'International Style' of work. Breuer first studied art in Vienna after winning a scholarship. Marcel was unhappy with the institution and found work instead at a Vienese architecture office. From 1920 to 1928 he was a student and teacher at Germany's Bauhaus, a school of design where modern principles, technologies and the application of new materials were encouraged in both the industrial and fine arts.  During his time spent there Marcel completed the carpentry apprenticeship. While there he designed and made the  African chair and the Slatted chair.After completing his studies at the Bauhaus Marcel traveled to Paris, where he worked in an architects office. After a year he was appointed as head of the carpentry workshop at the Bauhaus. Breuer was given the title of 'young master'. Breuer helped to develop modular or unit construction. This is the combination of standardised units to form a technically simple but functional complete unit."


Marianne Brandt, tea set, 1924

Marianne Brandt
Form: Metal teapot set, with geometricized featuresIconography: The Bauhaus, as an art school, was not just nterested in function, though that was the most important aspect of their designs, but also that what was made had to please the eye. When Marianne Brandt came up with this teapot, her interpretation was, "...This she interpreted as a reaction to the over-ornate kitsch they had grown-up with before the war. The geometric effect is more measured in her tea service of and teapot of 1924 also pictured below. The basic form of the pot is very similiar to the modular teapot developed by Theodor Bogler in the Bauhaus Ceramic Workshop.The semi-circular ebony handles are charactistic of the Bauhaus metal workshop."
Context: " Marianne Brandt was born in Chemnitz Germany and studied painting and sculpture at the Grand-ducal College of Fine Arts in Weimar. After spending some time in Norway and Paris, she returned to Weimar in 1924 to enroll at the Bauhaus, where she entered the metal workshop. When László Moholy-Nagy, assisted by the silversmith Christian Dell, took over as the metal workshop's Form Master from Johannes Itten in 1923, function was invoked as the source of form, Brandt who was one of the workshop's most talented apprentices later admitted that while they were very concerned about function (that vessels should pour properly and be easy to clean), geometric, elemental forms were in themselves something of an obsession."


Karl J. Jucker and Wilhelm Wagenfeld, table lamp, 1923-24
Form: Table lamp fashioned in the Bauhaus style out of glass and silver.Iconography: The student's production clearly stood under the influence of Itten's teachings: the main concern in the production of vessels and appliances was the free study of form together with the experimentally acquired knowledge of metallic materials and their possible treatment.When, in 1923, László Moholy-Nagy became head of the workshop, the focus was directed towards more functional aspects. Straightforward vessels reduced to elementary forms in brass, nickel-plated brass or silver were produced. These were indeed conceived for industrial serial production, but realized only as single pieces or in handcrafted series. 
This was the period in which the first lamp models were produced, namely the "Bauhaus lamp" by Carl Jakob Jucker and Wilhelm Wagenfeld. In Dessau, the more professional and extensive workshop's equipment was capable of accomodating a  more rational serial production of vessels and appliances.
Context: "In line with the overall guidelines of the early Bauhaus, the metal workshop in Weimar, which at first ran under the name of gold, silver, and copper forge, taught traditional metal working techniques. Johannes Itten was the artistic director during the first years, and then in 1922, the experienced silversmith Christian Dell took on the position of master craftsman until 1925.  
Already in 1926, the metal workshop mastered the design and production of all the lighting requirements for the new Bauhaus building. In the following years, it became more and more a "design laboratory" for new lighting equipment and, finally, when several industrial lighting manufacturers took the models into serial production, it achieved the status of one of the most effective and successful workshops at the Bauhaus.  The production of some of the types, such as the Kandem lamps by Marianne Brandt and Hin Bredendieck, was continued for many years after the closure of the Bauhaus."
"The Bauhuas set the standards for a number of different types of light fixture. Its range of hanging and ceiling lights were very successful. In 1926 Marianne Brandt and Hans Przyrembel collaborated on the design of a counter-weighted hanging light that was used extensively in the Bauhaus workshops and was mass-produced by Schwintzer and Gräff from 1928 onward. In some models, a small shade was placed beneath the light source to prevent dazzle. As many people objected to naked aluminium, the shades were often spray-painted in colour. Brandt also designed in 1926 a ceiling light based around a simple, spherical milk glass shade, a component borrowed directly from industrial lighting and transposed into the domestic context. In order to change the bulb, the shade can be removed from the aluminium fixture by unhooking it. It was produced for a short while (1928-30) by Schwintzer and Gräff in berlin. Brandt also designed ceiling lights using concentric rings of milk glass, which did not throw strong shadows or collect dust. The picture right is of the Bauhaus Drafting Room in the then newly established Architecture Department taken in 1928. Note the gleaming linoleum floor, one of a number of new materials of the time. Brandt's and Przyrembel's counter-weighted hanging lights were put to good use above each of the drafting tables. Task lighting was another range developed. Marianne Brandt working with Hin Bredenieck, in1927 created the definitive form for small adjustable bedside and desk lights, with bell-shaped lacquered steel shades (intended to give a directional focused and evenly distributed source of light), gently curved necks and wedge-shaped feet from which the cord disappears neatly out of at the rear, manufactured by Kandem (Körting & Matthieson), Leipzig. Brandt's "Wandarm" (wall-arm) of 1927 was a typical piece of Bauhaus ingenuity. Designed for hospital use, it is an adjustable reading light mounted on a white reflective board (black was also available for a softer effect) which allows indirect lighting, with a push-button switch mounted on the wall-plate easily found by a drowzy patient. It was designed for ease of manufacture and was mass-produced by a Stuttgart firm. The design minimized the amount of soldering needed. All the elements could be cast, pressed and riveted, this reducing labour costs and speeding up production. The very success of the metal workshop's lighting fixtures made finding manufacturers for its tableware difficult as it was tended to be pigeon-holed as a lighting department."


Otto Rittweger and Wolfgang 
Tuempel, strainer set, 1924
Form: Metal tea strainers.Iconography: These are metal tea strainers, used in the time before we had tea bags and instant tea. A person would place the loose tea leaves into the 'ball' at the end of the rod, clasp it shut, and set it into the hot water in order to diffuse the tea. However, it would be rare for someone to have such a beautifully handcrafted set of four, as seen to the left, with a small dish as stand to catch the drips from the tea leaves as they are set up to cool off before cleaning.
Context:Once again, these two designers are following the BauHaus edicts of form, function, and design. While simple in nature, their very simplicity and clean lines make them attractive as well as functional.


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