Bruno Taut’s Glass Pavilion

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Some speculative architecture that for once isn’t from Paris in 1900. Bruno Taut (1880–1938) gets labelled an Expressionist architect although it’s always a hazardous business connecting people in other disciplines to whatever art movement may be around at the time. The Glass Pavilion was a showcase structure commissioned by the German glass industry for the 1914 Werkbund exhibition in Cologne. The colour photo is a model from this V&A page where we learn that:

Bruno Taut’s structure demonstrated the various ways glass could be used in a building, but also indicated how the material might be used to orchestrate human emotions and assist in the construction of a spiritual utopia. Taut’s interest in this aspect of glass (explored more intensively during the First World War and later in his book Alpine Architecture and in the Glass Chain letters) had been stimulated by the writer Paul Scheerbart whom he had met in 1912 and who argued for an earthly paradise based on a new architecture of glass and colour. Subsequently, Scheerbart wrote Glasarchitektur (Glass Architecture) in 1914, which he dedicated to Taut, while Taut produced his Glass Pavilion and inscribed aphorisms from Scheerbart on the lintels of the 14 side walls. […] The glazed walls were topped by a dome of reinforced concrete ribs and a double skin of glass: reflecting glass on the outside and coloured prisms inside. In the interior, the colour effects produced by sunlight were enhanced by the reflections of the pool and water cascade on the lower level, visible through a circular opening in the floor. Two flights of glass steps enclosed with glass walls produced the sensation of descending to the lower level ‘as if through sparkling water’. The cascade was made of yellow glass, while the pool was of its complementary colour, violet. A mechanical kaleidoscope overhead projected images, an early version of a light show, intensifying the overall impression on the visitor.

All of which makes one wish there were more colour photos available. There’s another photo of the model here which shows a very different arrangement of light and colour.

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Le Corbusier apparently disliked Taut’s obsession with vivid colours, accusing him of being colour blind. There’s more about Taut’s philosophy of colour here. Taut wasn’t the only architect at the time interested in glass, his contemporary Hermann Finsterlin designed a “dream in glass” in 1920 that still looks radical today, as do many of Finsterlin’s other designs, all of them a good reminder that biomorphic architecture isn’t exactly new, it’s just become easier to build.

See also: Lebbeus Woods on Taut’s plan to refashion the Alps into a range of crystalline buildings.

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The cascade.

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The dome interior.

Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration #18

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Continuing the delve into back numbers of Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, the German periodical of art and decoration. There’s yet another frustrating jump in the numbers here, from volume 16 to volume 18 which covers the period from April to September 1906. Inside there’s more rectilinear interior design from the Wiener Werkstätte (above) as well as a great deal of less interesting interior design from elsewhere. The most notable feature of this edition is the article on the illustration work of Marcus Behmer, a member of Adolf Brand’s pioneering gay rights circle in Berlin whose drawings from this volume were featured in an earlier post.

As usual, anyone wishing to see these samples in greater detail is advised to download the entire number at the Internet Archive. There’ll be more DK&D next week.

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Continue reading “Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration #18”

The slow death of modernism

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“Soon to be picturesque ruins” was a slogan the Situationists used to enjoy posting on Parisian buildings but their rebuke to architectural hubris can be applied anywhere. St Peter’s College seminary building at Cardross near Glasgow was an example of post-Le Corbusier concrete construction which drew praise for its clean modernity in the 1960s. Today it brings only photographers and graffiti kids to its dereliction. Brian Dillon notes that the seminary

resembles nothing so much as the desolate and sentient “zone” in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 film Stalker: a place where snow falls slowly upon vacant altars, where stagnant pools are so full of rot that they look horribly alive even at the edge of winter, where a startlingly tame robin will perch on your head as you step delicately over the rubble. (More.)

Yes indeed, and Flickr is full of striking examples like these. Someone ought to take advantage of what Dillon calls the seminary’s “futuristic rot” and use the place as a film set before the decay becomes too hazardous or the building is demolished altogether.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The ruins of Detroit
Ephemeral architecture
The temples of Angkor
St Pancras in Spheroview
• The Stalker meme