Architecture historians have generally posited Kultur and Zivilisation as oppositional values, and aesthetic categories used to “classify” art and architecture production tend to support this division: representational versus abstract art, intuitive versus rational thinking, Gesellschaft versus Gemeinschaft, traditional versus modern, rural versus urban, handicraft versus machine-made. But many important architects, like Adolf Rading in Breslau, who were considered members of the avant-garde did not fully accept or reject modernizing tendencies but embraced modernization and modernism conditionally. In architecture, “modernization” resulted in the invention of new materials and construction or production methods (technology), and the design challenge of new building types like railroad stations, airports, and public housing. “Modernism” refers to the corresponding aesthetic renewal. The ideas and work of a group of architects residing in the Silesian capital city, Breslau, between 1918 and 1932 demonstrate one response to the Kultur-Zivilisation dichotomy. The group included such internationally renowned architects as Max Berg, Ernst May, Hans Poelzig, Hans Scharoun, and Rading. The Breslau group worked with the new formal language and shared the utopian aspirations and progressive politics considered central to the modern project. The architects embraced new materials, functional and rational approaches to space making, and public housing as a central contemporary problem, but they refused to reject history, were both intuitive and Romantic in their work, and regarded technology with suspicion. Their collective attitude could be described as the reconciliation of Kultur and Zivilisation. However it is defined, the Breslau work is important to consider because it gives a picture of the complex ways in which German artists and architects grappled with the simultaneous, and often conflicting, pressures of modernization during the Weimar era.
Research Article| November 01 2009
Deborah Ascher Barnstone; Modernism Reconsidered: The Kultur-Zivilisation Dichotomy in the Work of Adolf Rading. New German Critique 1 November 2009; 36 (3 (108)): 39–71. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-2009-010
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