Title: The Space of Modern Architects. Walter Gropius between Europe and the USA
Authors: Kohlrausch, Martin #
Issue Date: 3-Jan-2009
Conference: Panel: ‚Celebrity in Motion: ‘The Spatial Experience of Fame in the Twentieth Century’ des ‘Annual Meeting’ der American Historical Association location:New York date:2-5 January 2009
Article number:
Abstract: Using the example of Walter Gropius and other modern architects who emigrated to the USA in the 1930s, this paper examines the connection between a new perception of space and the rise of the star-architect. The term ‘space’ in connection with architecture only arose in English in the 1930s, and its acceptance in the USA had less to do with the emergence of modern architecture per se – the famous exhibition book on ‘International Style’ hardly used the term – than with its popularization by leading European architects. Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, and Moholy Nagy all employed ‘space’ as a key term to define their cause, to identify and legitimize what was modern in architecture, and to establish a way of talking about it. ‘Space’ not only described a new form of perception but offered a non-referential category to discuss architecture and present it as a mental rather than manual profession, as limitless and detached from the earth. The concept of ‘space’ in turn propelled the architects into the limelight, turning them into celebrities on the American stage. Indeed, Sigfried Giedion’s seminal work ‘Space, Time and Architecture’ of 1941 marked both the successful incorporation of ‘space’ into American intellectual discourse and the rise to fame of its main protagonists. This paper examines the connection between novel ideas of movement in space and the establishment of a new kind of celebrity architect. Why did the concept of ‘space’ catapult modernist architects to fame before a conservative American public? How did it capture the social and cultural zeitgeist in the USA? What strategies did architects use to style the non-traditional approach of modern architecture as particularly American, breaking the connection – prevalent in Europe – between the concepts of a new order of space and a new order of society?
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Non-KU Leuven Association publications
# (joint) last author

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