Style Debates in Early 20th-Century German Architectural Discourse

Ubiquity Press
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Architectural Histories, 2018, 6 (1), pp. 17 - 17
Issue Date:
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In spite of the negative connotations ‘style’ has in contemporary architectural discourse, in early 20th-century Germany there was no consensus on the meaning or value of the concept amongst architects and critics. Although style was a dirty word for some like Hermann Muthesius, it represented the pinnacle of achievement for others like Walter Curt Behrendt. Against the backdrop of Behrendt’s famous Victory of the New Building Style, of 1927, were very diverse understandings of the term. This plurality was partly due to conceptual confusion between ‘the styles’ and ‘style’, but it was also a legacy of Gottfried Semper’s and Alois Riegl’s respective efforts to resituate style as a practical and historiographical tool. Although style was endlessly debated between 1910 and 1930 by German architects, critics, and intellectuals of all stripes, later scholars have either largely overlooked its significance or used the term as a way of describing a particular group of works with a narrow set of formal tropes. The debates, the conceptual confusion, and the incredible variety of opinion over style in early 20th-century discourse have not been addressed, especially in relation to practicing architects. This essay examines some of the intersecting positions of several important German practitioners to show how the notion of style served as a conceptual framework for divergent modern practices.
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