Lecture: Tradition as Modernism

Erik M. Ghenoiu, Pratt Institute

The leading school of progressive architects in Germany directly before the First World War—the group that taught the generation of Gropius and Mies—claimed that the necessary basis of modern architecture was a kind of “tradition.” For them all design disciplines were defined by an evolutionary adaptation of form to the social practices of the user, and not as a variety of expressive art. This idea was rooted in earlier German design reforms, influenced by British Arts and Crafts, and tempered by a reaction against the “new style” movements of around 1900. The resulting approach rose to dominance in the hands of architects like Hermann Muthesius, Fritz Schumacher, and Theodor Fischer in the early 1900s, expanding its interests to questions of taste, social class, and housing reform, and merging with sympathetic developments in city planning. This strain of modernism reached its peak around 1910 in the attempt to solve the problems of the modern metropolis, but was then pushed out of power by the resurgence of the notion of the artist in design, and by changes resulting from the war.

Erik M. Ghenoiu (Ph.D Harvard) has served as visiting professor of architectural history and theory at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York since 2007, where he is faculty advisor to TARP Architecture Manual. He has also taught at Parsons the New School for Design, Harvard University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is affiliated with the Transatlantic Graduate Program of the Center for Metropolitan Studies, and was a visiting fellow in architectural theory at the University of Queensland. Presently he is preparing a book on “tradition” as modernism in German architecture and city planning around 1900 and a special double issue of TARP on the theme of Insidious Urbanism.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011

6:00 pm-7:30 pm

20 West Village F

Northeastern University
40A Leon St
Boston, MA 2115