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Expressionist architecture 1

Expressionist architecture
Expressionist architecture was an architectural
movement that developed in Europe during the first
decades of the 20th century in parallel with the
expressionist visual and performing arts, that
especially developed and dominated in Germany.
Brick Expressionism is a special variant, that
dominates in western and northern Germany, and in
the Netherlands with the Amsterdam School.
The term "Expressionist architecture" initially
described the activity of the German, Dutch,
Austrian, Czech and Danish avant garde from 1910
until 1930. Subsequent redefinitions extended the
term backwards to 1905 and also widened it to
Dutch Expressionism (Amsterdam School). "Het Schip" apartment
building in Amsterdam, 1917-20 (Michel de Klerk) encompass the rest of Europe. Today the meaning
has broadened even further to refer to architecture of
any date or location that exhibits some of the
qualities of the original movement such as;
distortion, fragmentation or the communication of
violent or overstressed emotion.[1]

The style was characterised by an early-modernist

adoption of novel materials, formal innovation, and
very unusual massing, sometimes inspired by natural
biomorphic forms, sometimes by the new technical
possibilities offered by the mass production of brick,
steel and especially glass. Many expressionist
architects fought in World War I and their
experiences, combined with the political turmoil and
social upheaval that followed the German Revolution
Einstein Tower in Potsdam near Berlin, 1919-22 (Erich Mendelsohn)
of 1919, resulted in a utopian outlook and a romantic
socialist agenda.[2] Economic conditions severely
limited the number of built commissions between 1914 and the mid-1920s,[3] resulting in many of the most
important expressionist works remaining as projects on paper, such as Bruno Taut's Alpine Architecture and
Hermann Finsterlin's Formspiels. Ephemeral exhibition buildings were numerous and highly significant during this
period. Scenography for theatre and films provided another outlet for the expressionist imagination,[4] and provided
supplemental incomes for designers attempting to challenge conventions in a harsh economic climate.
Expressionist architecture 2

Important events in expressionist architecture

include; the Werkbund Exhibition (1914) in Cologne,
the completion and theatrical running of the Grosses
Schauspielhaus, Berlin in 1919, the Glass Chain
letters, and the activities of the Amsterdam School.
The major permanent extant landmark of
Expressionism is Erich Mendelsohn's Einstein Tower
in Potsdam. By 1925 most of the leading architects of
Expressionism such as; Bruno Taut, Erich
Mendelsohn, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and
Hans Poelzig, along with other Expressionists in the
visual arts, had turned toward the Neue Sachlichkeit
(New Objectivity) movement, a more practical and Haus Duldeck in Dornach near Basel, 1915 (Rudolf Steiner and
matter-of-fact approach which rejected the emotional Hermann Ranzenberger)

agitation of expressionism. A few, notably Hans

Scharoun, continued to work in an expressionist idiom.[5]

In 1933, after the Nazi seizure of power in Germany, expressionist art was outlawed as Degenerate art. Until the
1970s scholars[6] commonly played down the influence of the expressionists on the later International style, but this
has been re-evaluated in recent years.

Expressionist architecture was individualistic and in
many ways eschewed aesthetic dogma,[7] but it is
still useful to develop some criteria which defines it.
Though containing a great variety and differentiation,
many points can be found as recurring in works of
Expressionist architecture, and are evident in some
degree in each of its works.

1. Distortion of form for an emotional effect.[8]

2. Subordination of realism to symbolic or stylistic
expression of inner experience.
3. An underlying effort at achieving the new,
original, and visionary.
4. Profusion of works on paper, and models, with
discovery and representations of concepts more
important than pragmatic finished products. Glass Pavilion at the Cologne Deutscher Werkbund Exhibition, 1914
5. Often hybrid solutions, irreducible to a single (Bruno Taut)
6. Themes of natural romantic phenomena, such as caves, mountains, lightning, crystal and rock formations.[10] As
such it is more mineral and elemental than florid and organic which characterized its close contemporary art
7. Utilises creative potential of artisan craftsmanship.
8. Tendency more towards the gothic than the classical. Expressionist architecture also tends more towards the
romanesque and the rococo than the classical.
Expressionist architecture 3

9. Though a movement in Europe, expressionism is as eastern as western. It draws as much from Moorish, Islamic,
Egyptian, and Indian art and architecture as from Roman or Greek.[11]
10. Conception of architecture as a work of art.

Political, economic and artistic shifts provided a
context for the early manifestations of expressionist
architecture; particularly in Germany, where the
utopian qualities of expressionism found strong
resonances with a leftist artistic community keen to
provide answers to a society in turmoil during and
after the events of World War I.[12] The loss of the
war, the subsequent removal of Kaiser Wilhelm II,
the depravations and the rise of social democracy and Goetheanum in Dornach near Basel Switzerland, 1924-28 (Rudolf
the optimism of the Weimar republic created a Steiner)
reluctance amongst architects to pursue projects
initiated before the war and provided the impetus to seek new solutions. An influential body of the artistic
community, including architects, sought a similar revolution as had occurred in Russia. The costly and grandiose
remodelling of the Grosses Schauspielhaus, was more reminiscent of the imperial past, than wartime budgeting and
post-war depression.[13]

Artistic movements that preceded expressionist architecture and continued with some overlap were the arts and crafts
movement and art nouveau or in Germany, jugendstil. Unity of designers with artisans, was a major preoccupation of
the Arts and Crafts movement which extended into expressionist architecture. The frequent topic of naturalism in art
nouveau, which was also prevalent in romanticism, continued as well, but took a turn for the more earthen than
floral. The naturalist, Ernst Haeckel was known by Finsterlin[14] and shared his source of inspiration in natural

The Futurist and constructivist architectural movements, and the dada anti-art movement were occurring
concurrently to expressionism and often contained similar features. Bruno Taut's magazine, Frülicht included
constructivist projects, including Vladimir Tatlins Monument to the Third International.[15] However, futurism and
constructivism emphasized mechination,[16] and urbanism[17] tendencies which were not to take hold in Germany
until the Neue Sachlichkeit. Mendelsohn is an exception whose work bordered on futurism and constructivism. A
quality of dynamic energy and exuberance exists in both the sketches of Erich Mendelsohn and futurist Antonio
Sant'Elia.[18] The Merzbau by Dada artist Kurt Schwitters, with its angular, abstract form, held many expressionist
Influence of individualists such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Antoni Gaudí also provided the surrounding context for
expressionist architecture. Portfolios of Wright were included in the lectures of Erich Mendelsohn and were well
known to those in his circle.[19] Gaudí was also both influenced and influencing what was happening in Berlin. In
Barcelona, there was no abrupt break between the architecture of art nouveau and that of the early 20th century,
where Jugendstil was opposed after 1900, and his work contains more of art nouveau than that of say Bruno Taut.
The circle of der Ring, did know about Gaudí, as he was published in Germany, and Finsterlin was in
correspondence.[20] Charles Rennie Mackintosh should also be mentioned in the larger context surrounding
expressionist architecture. Hard to classify as strictly arts and crafts or art nouveau, buildings such as the Hill House
and his Ingram chairs have an expressionist tinge. His work was known on the continent, as it was exhibited at the
Vienna Secession exhibition in 1900.
Expressionist architecture 4

Underlying ideas
Many writers contributed to the ideology of expressionist architecture. Sources of philosophy important to
expressionist architects were works by Friedrich Nietzsche, Søren Kierkegaard,[21] and Henri Bergson.[22] Bruno
Taut's sketches were frequently noted with quotations from Nietzsche,[23] particularly Thus Spoke Zarathustra,
whose protagonist embodied freedoms dear to the expressionists; freedom to reject the bourgeois world, freedom
from history, and strength of spirit in individualist isolation. Zarathustra's mountain retreat was an inspiration to
Taut's Alpine Architecture.[24] Henri Van de Velde drew a title page illustration for Nietzsche's Ecce Homo.[25] The
author Franz Kafka in his The Metamorphosis, with its shape shifting matched the material instability of
expressionist architecture[26] Naturalists such as Charles Darwin, and Ernst Haeckel contributed an ideology for the
biomorphic form of architects such as Herman Finsterlin. Poet Paul Scheerbart worked directly with Bruno Taut and
his circle, and contributed ideas based on his poetry of glass architecture.
Emergent psychology from Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung was important to expressionism. The exploration of
psychological effects of form and space[27] was undertaken by architects in their buildings, projects and films. Bruno
Taut noted the psychological possibilities of scenographic design that, "Objects serve psychologically to mirror the
actors' emotions and gestures." The exploration of dreams and the unconscious, provided material for the formal
investigations of Hermann Finsterlin.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries philosophies of
aesthetics had been developing, particularly through the
work of Kant and Schopenhauer and notions of the
sublime. The experience of the sublime was supposed
to involve a self-forgetfulness where personal fear is
replaced by a sense of well-being and security when
confronted with an object exhibiting superior might. At
the end of the nineteenth century the German
Kunstwissenschaft, or the "science of art", arose, which
was a movement to discern laws of aesthetic
appreciation and arrive at a scientific approach to
1824, Caspar David Friedrich's Das Eismeer (The Sea of Ice)
aesthetic experience. At the beginning of the twentieth
century Neo-Kantian German philosopher and theorist
of aesthetics Max Dessoir founded the Zeitschift für
Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, which he
edited for many years, and published the work Ästhetik
und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft in which he
formulated five primary aesthetic forms: the beautiful,
the sublime, the tragic, the ugly, and the comic. Iain
Boyd Whyte writes that whilst "the Expressionist
visionaries did not keep copies of Kant under their
drawing boards. There was, however, in the first
decades of this century [20th] a climate of ideas that
1921, Walter Gropius's Monument to the March Dead
was sympathetic to the aesthetic concerns and artistic
production of romanticism.[28]

Artistic theories of Wassily Kandinsky, such as Concerning the Spiritual in Art, and Point and Line to Plane were
centerpieces of expressionist thinking.[29]
Expressionist architecture 5

A recurring concern of expressionist architects was the use of materials and
how they might be poetically expressed. Often, the intention was to unify the
materials in a building so as to make it monolithic. The collaboration of
Bruno Taut and the utopian poet Paul Scheerbart attempted to address the
problems of German society by a doctrine of glass architecture. Such
utopianism can be seen in the context of a revolutionary Germany where the
tussle between nationalism and socialism had yet to resolve itself. Taut and
Scheerbart imagined a society that had freed itself by breaking from past
forms and traditions, impelled by an architecture that flooded every building
with multicolored light and represented a more promising future.[30] They
published texts on this subject and built the Glass Pavilion at the 1914
Werkbund exhibition. Inscribed around the base of the dome were aphoristic
sayings about the material, penned by Scheerbart.

"Coloured glass destroys hatred","Without a glass palace life is a

Catholic parish church "Heilig-Kreuz" at
burden","Glass brings us a new era, building in brick only does us Gelsenkirchen by Josef Franke,
harm"- Paul Scheerbart, inscriptions on the 1914 Werkbund Glass 1927–1929
Another example of expressionist use of monolithic materials was by Erich Mendelsohn at the Einstein Tower. Not
to be missed was a pun on the towers namesake, Einstein, and an attempt to make the building out of one stone, Ein
stein.[31] Though not cast in one pour of concrete (due to technical difficulties, brick and stucco were used partially)
the effect of the building is an expression of the fluidity of concrete before it is cast. 'Architecture of Steel and
Concrete' was the title of an 1919 exhibition of Mendelsohn's sketches at Paul Cassirer's gallery in Berlin.
Brick was used in a similar fashion to express the inherent nature of the material. Josef Franke produced some
characteristic expressionist churches in the Ruhrgebiet in the 1920s. Bruno Taut used brick as a way to show mass
and repetition in his Berlin Housing Estate "Legien-Stadt". In the same way as their Arts and Crafts movement
predecessors, to expressionist architects, populism, naturalism, and according to Pehnt "Moral and sometimes even
irrational arguments were adduced in favor of building in brick".[32] With its color and pointillist like visual
increment, brick became to expressionism what stucco later became to the international style.

Theatres and films

Expressionist architecture 6

Europe witnessed a boom in theatrical production in the

early twentieth century. In 1896 there were 302
permanent theatres in Europe, by 1926 there were
2,499. Cinema witnessed a comparable increase in its
use and popularity and a resulting increase in the
number of picture houses. It was also able to provide a
temporary reality for innovative architectural ideas.

Many architects designed theatres for performances on

the stage and film sets for expressionist films. These
were defining moments for the movement, and with its
interest in theatres and films, the performing arts held a
An example of expressionist architecture in the film set for The
significant place in expressionist architecture. Like
Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
film, and theatre, expressionist architecture created an
unusual and exotic environment to surround the visitor.

Built examples of expressionist theatres include Henry van de Velde's construction of the model theatre for the 1914
Werkbund Exhibition, and Hans Poelzig's grand remodelling of the Grosses Schauspielhaus. The enormous capacity
of the Grosses Schauspielhaus enabled low ticket prices, and the creation of a 'peoples theatre'. Not only were
expressionist architects building stages, Bruno Taut wrote a play intended for the theatre, Weltbaumeister.
Expressionist architects were both involved in film and inspired by it. Hans Poelzig strove to make films based on
legends or fairy tales.[33] Poelzig designed scenographic sets for Paul Wegener's 1920 film, Der Golem. Space in Der
Golem was a three-dimensional village, a lifelike rendering of the Jewish ghetto of Prague. This contrasts with the
setting of the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, which was painted on canvas backdrops.[34] Perhaps the latter was able to
achieve more stylistic freedom, but Poelzig in Der Golem was able to create a whole village that "spoke with a
Jewish accent."
Herman Finsterlin approached Fritz Lang with an idea for a film. Fritz Lang's film Metropolis demonstrates a
visually progressive 'Futurist' society dealing with relevant issues of 1920s Germany in relation to labour and
society. Bruno Taut designed an unbuilt theatre for reclining cinema-goers.[35] Bruno Taut also proposed a film as an
anthology for the Glass Chain, entitled Die Galoschen des Glücks(The Galoshes of Fortune) with a name borrowed
from Hans Christian Andersen. On the film, Taut noted, "an expressionism of the most subtle kind will bring
surroundings, props, and action into harmony with one another."[36] It featured architectural fantasias suited to each
member of the Chain. Ultimately unproduced, it reveals the aspiration that the new medium, film, invoked.

The tendency towards abstraction in art corresponded with abstraction in architecture. Publication of Concerning the
Spiritual in Art in 1912 by Wassily Kandinsky, his first advocacy of abstraction while still involved in the Blau
Reiter phaze, marks a beginning of abstraction in expressionism and abstraction in expressionist architecture. The
conception of the Einstein Tower by Erich Mendelson was not far behind Kandinsky, in advancing abstraction in
architecture. By the publication of Kandinsky's Point and Line to Plane in 1926 a rigorous and more geometric form
of abstraction emerged, and Kandinsky's work took on clearer and drafted lines. The trends in architecture are not
dissimilar, as the Bauhaus was gaining attention and expressionist architecture was giving way to the geometric
abstractions of modern architecture.
Expressionist architecture 7

Brick Expressionism
see main article Brick Expressionism
The term Brick Expressionism (German: Backsteinexpressionismus) describes a specific variant of expressionism
that uses bricks, tiles or clinker bricks as the main visible building material. Buildings in the style were erected
mostly in the 1920s. The style's regional centres were the larger cities of Northern Germany and the Ruhr area, but
the Amsterdam School belongs to the same category.
Amsterdam's 1912 cooperative-commercial Scheepvaarthuis (Shipping House) is considered the starting point and
prototype for Amsterdam School work: brick construction with complicated masonry, traditional massing, and the
integration of an elaborate scheme of building elements (decorative masonry, art glass, wrought-iron work, and
exterior figurative sculpture) that embodies and expresses the identity of the building. The School flourished until
about 1925.
The great international fame of German Expressionism is not related to German Brick Expressionist architects, but to
German Expressionist painters like Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Emil Nolde, Max Beckmann,
Wassily Kandinsky and his German friends in Munich around 1908, and so on.

The legacy of expressionist architecture extended to later movements in the
twentieth century. It had an influence on its immediate successor, modern
architecture, as well as Art Deco. The new objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) art
movement arose in direct opposition to expressionism. Expressionistic
architecture today is an evident influence in deconstructivism, the work of
Santiago Calatrava, and the organic movement of blobitecture.

Many of the founders and significant players in expressionist architecture were

also important in modern architecture. Examples are Bruno Taut, Hans Scharoun,
Walter Gropius, and Mies Van der Rohe. By 1927 Gropius, Taut, Scharoun and
Mies were all building in the international style and participated in the
Weissenhof Estate. Gropius and Mies are better known for their modernist work,
but Gropius' Monument to the March Dead, and Mies' Friedrichstrasse office Douglas Cardinal's National Museum
building projects are basic works of expressionist architecture. Le Corbusier of the American Indian in
Washington, D.C..
started his career in modern architecture but took a turn for a more expressionist
manner later in life.

Art Deco
First identified at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925, art deco shares
some characteristics of expressionism and is likely to have been influenced directly by the Expressionist movement -
particularly the activities of the Weimar Bauhaus - and more generally with the factors and politics that influenced
both movements at the time, such as socialism and mechanisation. In common with art nouveau and expressionism
they are interested in decorative effects that break with the past and reflect a new modernity. The bold use of zigzag
and stepped forms, and sweeping curves and chevron patterns. New materials are employed in new ways such as
glass, aluminum, and stainless steel. Later examples of Art Deco, particularly in New York can be seen as a
Transatlantic equivalent of European expressionism.
Expressionist architecture 8

Neo Expressionism
The influential architectural critic and historian, Sigfried Giedion
in his book Space, Time and Architecture (1941) dismissed
Expressionist architecture as a side show in the development of
functionalism. In the middle of the twentieth century, in the 50s
and 60s, many architects began designing in a manner reminiscent
of expressionist architecture. In this post war period, a variant of
expressionism brutalism had an honest approach to materials, that
in its unadorned use of concrete, was similar to the use of brick by
the Amsterdam School. The designs of Le Corbusier took a turn
Vitra Design Museum, by Frank Gehry, 1989
for the expressionist in his brutalist phase, but more so in his Notre
Dame du Haut. In Mexico, in 1953, German émigré Mathias
Goeritz, published the "Arquitectura Emocional" (Emotional architecture) manifesto where he declared that
"architecture's principal function is emotion." [37] Modern Mexican architect Luis Barragán adopted the term that
influenced his work. The two of them collaborated in the project Torres de Satélite (1957–58) guided by Goeritz's
principles of Arquitectura Emocional. Another mid-century modern architect to evoke expressionism was Eero
Saarinen. A similar aesthetic can be found in later buildings such as Eero Saarinen's 1962 TWA Terminal at JFK
International Airport. His TWA Terminal at JFK International Airport has an organic form, as close to Herman
Finsterlin's Formspiels as any other, save Jørn Utzon's Sydney Opera House. It was only in the 1970s that
expressionism in architecture came to be re-evaluated in a more positive light. More recentlyWikipedia:Manual of
Style/Dates and numbers#Chronological items still, the aesthetics and tactility of expressionist architecture have
found echo in the works of Enric Miralles, most notability his Scottish Parliament building, deconstructivist
architects such as Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskind, as well as Canadian Aboriginal architect Douglas


• Reactions to Art Nouveau impelled partly by moral yearnings for a sterner and more unadorned style and in part
by rationalist ideas requiring practical justification for formal effects. Art Nouveau had however, opened up a
language of abstraction and pointed to lessons to be learned from nature.[40]
• August 25, 1900, death of Friedrich Nietzsche
• Formation of the Dresden Die Brücke expressionist art movement.
• The poet Paul Scheerbart independently offers a Science fiction image of Utopian future.
• Adolf Loos publishes his essay/manifesto "Ornament and Crime" which rejects ornamentation in favour of
• The New Munich Artist's Association, Neue Künstlervereinigung München is established by Wassily Kandinsky
and others in Munich.
Expressionist architecture 9

• Publication in Berlin of the journals, Der Sturm by Herwarth Walden and Die Aktion by Franz Pfemfert as
counterculture mouthpieces against the Deutscher Werkbund.
• Hans Poelzig sets up practice in Breslau. Designs a water tower for Posen (now: Poznań, Poland), described by
Kenneth Frampton as a certain Die Stadtkrone image, and an office building which led to the architectural format
of Erich Mendelsohn's later Berliner "Mosse-Haus" in 1921.
• Wassily Kandinsky resigns chairmanship of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München.
• Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer (architect) build the Fagus Factory, Alfeld an der Leine.
• Der Blaue Reiter forms and has first exhibits in Munich, and Berlin
• Hans Poelzig designs a chemical plant in Lubań with strongly expressively articulated brick massing.
• Wassily Kandinsky publishes Über das Geistige in der Kunst, ("Concerning the Spiritual in Art")
• Work of the Amsterdam School starts with the cooperative-commercial Scheepvaarthuis (Shipping House),
designed by Johan van der Mey
• Michel de Klerk starts work on the first of three apartment buildings at Spaarndammerplantsoen, Amsterdam the
last to be completed in 1921.
• Rudolf Steiner commences work on the first Goetheanum. Work is completed in 1919.
• Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint wins design competition for Grundtvig's Church in Copenhagen, Denmark.
• Paul Scheerbart publishes Glasarchitecktur
• Cologne Werkbund exhibition demonstrates ideological split
1. Normative form (Typisierung) - Behrens, Gropius, and,
2. Will to form (Kunstwollen) - Taut, van de Velde
• Death of Paul Scheerbart.
• Franz Kafka publishes The Metamorphosis
• Michel de Klerk starts building the Het Schip the third and most
accomplished apartment buildings at Spaarndammerplantsoen, for
the Eigen Haard development company in Amesterdam [41]. Work
is completed in 1921.
• Bruno Taut publishes Alpine architecture.
1918 Front page of 'Die Aktion' from 1914 with
illustration by Egon Schiele
• Adolf Behne expands the socio-cultural implications Scheerbarts
writings about glass.
• Armistice – Republican revolution in Germany. Social Democrats form Workers and Soldiers Councils. General
• Free expression of the Amsterdam School elucidated in the Wendingen (Changes) magazine.
• November - Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Worker's Council for the Arts), founded by Bruno Taut and Adolf Behne. They
model themselves consciously on the Soviets and attach a leftist programme to their Utopian and Expressionist
activities. They demand; 1. A spiritual revolution to accompany the political one. 2. Architects to form
Expressionist architecture 10

‘Corporations’ bound by ‘mutual aid’.

• November - Novembergruppe formed only to merge with Arbeitsrat für Kunst the following month. It proclaims;
1. Creation of collective art works. 2. Mass housing. 3. The destruction of artistically valueless monuments (This
was a common reaction of the Avant Garde against the elitist militarism that was perceived as the cause of World
War I).
• December - Arbeitsrat für Kunst declares its basic aims in Bruno Tauts Architeckturprogramm. It calls for a new
'total work of art', to be created with active participation of the people.
• Bruno Taut publishes Die Stadtkrone.
• Spring manifesto of Arbeitsrat für Kunst is published. Art for the masses. Alliance of the arts under the wing of
architecture. 50 artists, architects and patrons join lead by Bruno Taut, Walter Gropius and Adolf Behne.
• April - Erich Mendelsohn, Hannes Meyer, Bernard Hoetger, Max Taut and Otto Bartning stage exhibition called
'An Exhibition of Unknown Architects'. Walter Gropius writes the introduction, now considered to be a first draft
for the Bauhaus programme published later in the month. Called for a ‘Cathedral of the Future’, to unify the
creative energy of society as in the Middle Ages.
• Bauhaus established and begins expressionist phase, to last until 1923.
• Adolf Behne publishes Ja! Stimmen des Arbeitsrates für Kunst in Berlin (Yes! Voices from the art Soviet in
• Spartacist revolt ends the overt activities of Arbeitsrat für Kunst. The group starts the first Utopian letter of the
Glass Chain by Bruno Taut. They are joined by previously peripheral architects; Hans Luckhardt, Wassili
Luckhardt and Hans Scharoun. The letters demand; 1. Return to medieval integration of the building team. 2.
Irregular form. 3. Facetted form. 4. Glass monuments.
• Opening of the Grosses Schauspielhaus by Hans Poelzig in Berlin. Hanging pendentive forms create a ‘luminous
dissolution of form and space’.
• Bruno Taut launches the magazine Frühlicht (Early Light).
• Bruno Taut and Hans Scharoun stress the creative importance of the Freudian unconscious.
• Hans Poelzig is made chairman of the Deutscher Werkbund.
• Design work starts on Piet Kramers De Dageraad. Construction is completed in 1923. Mendelsohn see it as more
structural than the work of Hendrikus Wijdeveld.
Expressionist architecture 11

• February 26, the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari premiered at the
Marmorhaus in Berlin.
• Hans Poelzig declares affinity with the Glass Chain. He designs sets
for The Golem.
• Solidarity of the Glass Chain is broken. Final letter written by
Hermann Finsterlin. Hans Luckhardt recognises the incompatibility
of free unconscious form and rationalist prefabrication and moves to
• Taut maintains his Scheerbartian views. He publishes ‘Die
Auflösung der Städt' (The dissolution of the city) in line with
Kropotkinian anarchist socialist tendencies. In common with the
Soviets, it recommends the breakup of cities and a return to the
land. He models agrarian communities and temples in the Alps.
There would be 3 separate residential communities. 1. The
enlightened. 2. Artists. 3. Children. This authoritarianism is noted in
Frampton as although socialist in intent, paradoxically containing
the seeds of the later fascism. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Friedrichstraße
Skyscraper Project, Berlin-Mitte, 1921
• Taut is made city architect of Magdeburg and fails to realise a municipal exhibition hall as the harsh economic
realities of the Weimar republic become apparent and prospects of building a ‘glass paradise’ dwindle.
• Walter Gropius designs the Monument to the March Dead[42] in Weimar. It is completed in 1922 and inspires the
workers' gong in the 1927 film Metropolis by Fritz Lang.
• Frülicht loses its impetus.
• Erich Mendelsohn visits works of the Dutch Wendingen group and tours the Netherlands. He meets the
rationalists JJP Oud and W M Dudek. He recognises the conflict of visionary and objective approaches to design.
• Erich Mendelsohn's Mossehaus opens. Construction is complete on the Einstein Tower. It combines the sculptural
forms of Van de Weldes Werkbund Exhibition theatre with the profile of Taut's Glashaus and the formal affinity
to vernacular Dutch architecture of Eibink and Snellebrand and Hendrikus Wijdeveld. Einstein himself visits and
declares it ‘organic’.
• Mendelsohn designs a hat factory in Luckenwalde. It shows influences of the Dutch expressionist De Klerk,
setting dramatic tall pitched industrial forms against horizontal administrative elements. This approach is echoed
in his Leningrad textile mill of 1925 and anticipates the banding in his department stores in Breslau, Stuttgart,
Chemnitz and Berlin from 1927 and 1931.
• Hugo Häring and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe submit a competition entry for a Friedrichstrasse office building. It
reveals an organic approach to structure and is fully made of glass.
• Ludwig Mies van der Rohe publishes a glass skyscraper project in the last issue of Frülicht.
• The film Nosferatu by F.W. Murnau is released.
Expressionist architecture 12

• Bauhaus expressionist phase ends. Standard arguments for the

reasons for this are 1. Expressionism was difficult to build. 2.
Rampant inflation in Germany changed the climate of opinion to a
more sober one. Jencks postulates that the standard arguments are
too simplistic and instead argues that 1. Expressionism had become
associated with extreme utopianism which in turn had been
discredited by violence and bloodshed. Or 2. Architects had become
convinced that the new (rationalist) style was equally expressive
and more adequately captured the Zeitgeist. There is no large
disagreements or public pronouncements to precipitate this change
in direction. The only outwardly visible reaction was the forced
resignation of the head of the basic Bauhaus course, Johannes Itten,
to be replaced with the, then constructivist, László Moholy-Nagy.
• Chilehaus in Hamburg by Fritz Höger.
• Walter Gropius abandons expressionism and moves to rationalism.
• Bruno and Max Taut begin work on government funded low cost
housing projects. Chilehaus by Fritz Höger in 1923
• Berlin secession exhibition. Mies van der Rohe and Hans and
Wassili Luckhardt demonstrate a more functional and objective approach.
• Rudolf Steiner designs second Goetheanum after first was destroyed by fire in 1922. Work commences 1924 and
is completed in 1928.
• Michel de Klerk dies and the style of the Amsterdam School effectively dies with him.
• Germany adopts the Dawes plan. Architects more inclined to produce low-cost housing than pursue utopian ideas
about glass.
• Hugo Häring designs a farm complex. It uses expressive pitched roofs contrasted with bulky tectonic elements
and rounded corners.
• Hugo Häring designs Prinz Albrecht Garten, residential project. Whilst demonstrating overt expressionism he is
preoccupied with deeper inquiries into the inner source of form.
• Foundation of Zehnerring group.
• June 3, Death of Franz Kafka.
• Hermann Finsterlin initiates a series of correspondence with Antoni Gaudí.[43]
• Hans Poelzig abandons expressionism and returns to crypto-classicism.
• Zehnerring group becomes Der Ring. Hugo Häring is appointed secretary.
• Max Brod publishes Franz Kafka's The Trial
• Eugen Schmohl completes the Borsig-Tower in Berlin-Tegel
Expressionist architecture 13

Buildings completed in 1925

Borsig-Tower in Berlin-Tegel

• Founding of the architectural collective Der Ring largely turns its back on expressionism and towards a more
functionalist agenda.
• Wassily Kandinsky publishes Point and Line to Plane.
• Max Brod publishes Franz Kafka's The Castle
• Anzeiger-Hochhaus, Hanover by Fritz Höger
• Release of Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
• Weissenhof Estate is built in Stuttgart. Expressionist architects, Taut, Poelzig, Scharoun, build in international
Expressionist architecture 14

Buildings completed in 1927

Anzeiger-Hochhaus Hannover by Fritz Höger, 1927

• Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM) convenes in Switzerland. Hugo Häring fails to move
consensus away from Le Corbusiers call for rationalism towards an organic approach. Finally the Scheerbartian
vision is eclipsed as the non-normative ‘place’ orientated approach is cast aside.
• The Großmarkthalle at Frankfurt (by Martin Elsaesser) is completed.
• Chapel of the Cemetery of Glienicke/Nordbahn (Germany) is completed. Architect: Paul Poser

• Completion of 'The house of Atlantis' in Böttcherstraße (Bremen).

Chapel of Cemetery in Glienicke/Nordbahn

Expressionist architecture 15

• After Nazi seizure of power, expressionist art was outlawed as
degenerate art.

• Design of Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík, Iceland by Guðjón

• The Berlin Philharmonic concert hall is destroyed in 1944 during
World War II.

• Le Corbusier constructs Notre Dame du Haut signaling his postmodern return to an architectural expressionism of
form. He also constructs the Unité d'Habitation, which emphasizes the architectural expression of materials. The
brutalist use of béton brut (reinforced concrete) recalls the expressionist use of glass, brick, and steel.

• Expressionism reborn without the political context as Fantastic architecture.
• Rebuilding of the Berlin Philharmonic in 1963 by Hans Scharoun.
• Church of The Highway by Giovanni Michelucci is inaugurated in Italy.

Expressionist architects of the 1920s

• Adolf Behne
• Hermann Finsterlin
• Antoni Gaudí
• Walter Gropius - early period
• Hugo Häring
• Fritz Höger
• Michel de Klerk
• Piet Kramer
• Carl Krayl
• Erich Mendelsohn
• Hans Poelzig
• Hans Scharoun
• Rudolf Steiner
• Bruno Taut
Expressionist architecture 16

Famous Expressionist buildings since the 1950s

Ronchamp Chapel, 1954 JFK Berlin Philharmonic, 1956-63 Berlin Philharmonic,

(Le Corbusier) International (Hans Scharoun) inside
Airport in New
York, TWA
1956-62 (Eero

Yoyogi National Gymnasium Finlandia Sydney Opera House, Vitra Fire Station in Weil am
in Tokyo, 1964 (Kenzo Tange) Hall in 1957-73 (Jorn Utzon) Rhein, 1994 (Zaha Hadid)

Jewish Museum in Walt Disney Concert Walt Disney Concert Auditorio de Tenerife, Canary
Berlin, 1989-99 (Daniel Hall in Los Angeles, Hall, inside Islands, 2003 (Santiago
Libeskind) 2003 (Frank Gehry) Calatrava)

Forerunner of Expressionist architecture

Casa Milà in Barcelona, 1905-12 (Antoni Gaudi) Roof of Casa Milà in Barcelona
Expressionist architecture 17

[1] Stallybrass and Bullock, p.301-392 -entry by John Willett
[2] Jencks, p.59
[3] Sharp, p.68
[4] Pehnt, p.163
[5] Pehnt, p.203
[6] Most notably Nikolaus Pevsner
[7] Sharp p.166
[8] Taut, Die Stadtkrone 1919 p.87, quote "Architecture is art and ought to be the highest of the arts. It consists exclusively of powerful emotion
and addresses itself exclusively to the emotions."
[9] Pehnt, p.20
[10] Pehnt, p.19, Taut's mention of "earth-crust architecture" and what Poelzig deemed, "Important to remodel the earth's surface sculpturally."
[11] Sharp p.119
[12] Sharp, p.9
[13] Pehnt, p.16
[14] Pehnt, p.97
[15] Sharp, p.95
[16] Sharp, p.110
[17] Pehnt, p.169
[18] Pehnt, p.119
[19] Pehnt, p.117
[20] Pehnt, p.59
[21] Sharp, p.3
[22] Pehnt, p.34
[23] Pehnt, p.41
[24] Pehnt, p.42
[25] Sharp, p.5
[26] Sharp, p.6
[27] Pehnt, p.167
[28] Benson, p118
[29] Sharp, p.18
[30] Benson p.100
[31] Pehnt, p.121
[32] Pehnt, p.127
[33] Pehnt, p.164
[34] Pehnt, p.166
[35] Pehnt, p.168
[36] Taut, Die Gläserne Kette, p.49
[37] Mathias Goeritz, "El manifiesto de arquitectura emocional", in Lily Kassner, Mathias Goeritz, UNAM, 2007, p. 272-273
[38] The Canadian Encyclopedia (http:/ / www. thecanadianencyclopedia. com/ index. cfm?PgNm=TCE& Params=A1ARTA0001394)
[39] The Canada Council for the Arts (http:/ / www. canadacouncil. ca/ prizes/ ggavma/ xh127240204281875000. htm?subsiteurl=/
canadacouncil/ archives/ prizes/ ggvma/ 2001/ 2001-01-e. asp)
[40] Frampton
[41] http:/ / archimon. bravepages. com/ noord-holland/ amsterdamschip. html
[42] http:/ / www. mitpressjournals. org/ doi/ pdfplus/ 10. 1162/ 1526381043320796;jsessionid=n_5xJRMLsgMegIOfxT
[43] Archinform (http:/ / eng. archinform. net/ arch/ 2543. htm)
Expressionist architecture 18

• Banham, Reyner (1972). Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. Third edition. Praeger Publishers Inc.
ISBN 0-85139-632-1
• Bletter, Rosemarie Haag (Summer 1983),"Expressionism and the New Objectivity," Art Journal, 43:2 (Summer
1983), pp. 108–120.
• Bletter, Rosemarie Haag (March 1981). "The Interpretation of the Glass Dream: Expressionist Architecture and
the History of the Crystal Metaphor, "JSAH" (Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians), vol. 40, no. 1
(March 1981): 20-43.
• Benson, Timothy. O. (et al.); Dimenberg, Edward (2001-09-17). Expressionist Utopias: Paradise, Metropolis,
Architectural Fantasy (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism). University of California Press.
ISBN 0-520-23003-5.
• Frampton, Kenneth (2004). Modern architecture - a critical history. Third edition. World of Art. ISBN
• Jencks, Charles (1986). Modern Movements in Architecture. Second Edition. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-009963-8
• Pehnt, Wolfgang (1973). Expressionist Architecture. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-34058-7
• Sharp, Dennis (1966). Modern Architecture and Expressionism. George Braziller: New York. OCLC  180572
• Oliver Stallybrass, and Alan Bullock (et al.) (1988). The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (Paperback).
Fontana press. p. 918 pages. ISBN 0-00-686129-6.
• Whyte, Iain Boyd ed. (1985). Crystal Chain Letters: Architectural Fantasies by Bruno Taut and His Circle. The
MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-23121-2

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