Farnsworth House / Mies van der Rohe. Image
Modernism: The International Style that Wasn’t
在上世纪80年代和90年代，我曾经在两所建筑院校教授建筑历史。在那个时候，学生们要学习三个学期的课程，从古代开始，一直到现代主义，另外还有20世纪的建筑作品。我所用的课本是Spiro Kostof的《History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals》，这本书中，由于要表达的内容太多了，因此作者并没有在20世纪的建筑中花费大量笔墨。在课程的后三分之一，学生们会学习到诸如柯布西耶的《走向新建筑》、Reyner Banham的《第一机械时代的理论与设计》等内容，当时我就认为，应该以多角度、全面的方式让学生们了解了历史。
This article was originally published on CommonEdge as “Was Modernism Really International? A New History Says No.”
I taught architectural history in two schools of architecture during the 1980s and 1990s. Back then it was common for students to get a full three-semester course that began with Antiquity and ended with Modernism, with a nod to later twentieth-century architecture. My text for the middle section was Spiro Kostof’s magisterial History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. With many centuries to cover, he spent very little effort in dealing with the twentieth century. In the last third of the course, students read texts such as Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier and Reyner Banham’s Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. My colleagues and I felt that we offered students a pluralistic and comprehensive review of key developments in the history of the built environment.
Courtesy of 375parkavenue.com
Today things are quite different. If even two semesters are spent on World Architecture, students head quickly for the twentieth century and stay there for most of their mandatory history education. They get a heavy dose of “Modernism” in texts such as Kenneth Frampton’s Modern Architecture: A Critical History. They come away thinking that the Modern Movement was an inevitable and heroic development stemming from the culture of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Then they go on to study “theory” and read texts written by contemporary architects, with little grounding in where their ideas came from.
This historiography has been questioned during the past twenty years, but nothing has supplanted the “grand narrative” about Modernism as a reflection of a progressive, space-age zeitgeist. In fact, “Modernist” is a term now applied to just about any architecture that is published in establishment magazines—a flat roof and some glass curtain walls will earn the label.
It ought to be alarming to well-educated observers of our built environment that so many architectural writers and younger practitioners believe they are well-informed about twentieth-century architectural history. The Modern Movement began just after World War I and ended following the Second World War—it was victorious in its stated aim to banish all “historical” styles from acceptability among serious architects and urban planners. Architecture since the 1960s has varied throughout the world and much of it should not be labeled “modernist” by any good art historian.
Model of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye from Modern Architecture: International Exhibition [MoMA Exh. #15, February 9-March 23, 1932] Photo: Modern Architecture, International Exhibition. 1932. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photographic Archive
牛津大学出版社近期发表了一部关于现代主义的具有争议的著作，标题为《Making Dystopia: The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism》，作者是英国历史学家James Stevens Curl，Curl在其职业生涯中都在不断地研究不列颠群岛的建筑，研究重点是一些纪念碑、墓地等等，其学术成果颇丰。如标题所示，这本书并没有着重于那些上世纪欧洲与美国现代主义建筑兴起的历史现象，它反而展示了在1945年之前的一段具有争议的历史，而这段历史与人们的原有观念有些出入，其中也说明了该如何理解“国际式风格”的诞生甚至是被神化的过程。
Curl先是强调了这样一个事实，即尼古拉斯·佩夫斯纳（Nikolaus Pevsner）、Henry Russell Hitchcock、希格弗莱德 吉迪恩（Sigfried Giedion）、菲利普·约翰逊（Philip Johnson）并不是公正的学者，他们无法客观地评价当时的建筑，而是改变了某种建筑风格，而这种风格能够根据机器时代的时代精神来满足世界的需求，但是这也见证了机械化战争对于欧洲的重大影响。在战争停止之后，政治和文化背景发生了改变，法国、比利时、魏玛共和国的建筑师们都准备进行一场建筑革新，建造用于安置当时大量避难者的场所。
Oxford University Press has just published a controversial new assessment of the Modern Movement entitled Making Dystopia: The Strange Rise and Survival of Architectural Barbarism by the British historian, James Stevens Curl. Curl has spent his career researching architecture in the British Isles, with an emphasis on monuments, cemeteries, and freemasonry. His scholarly output is prolific. As its pithy title suggests, this new book doesn’t look kindly on the narrative presented by the major historians who chronicled the emergence of Modernist architecture in Europe and America during the last century. It does, however, present a cogent and well-argued history of the period before 1945 that should revise our understanding of how the “International Style” was invented and mythologized.
Curl first underscores the fact that Nikolaus Pevsner, Henry Russell Hitchcock, Sigfried Giedion and Philip Johnson were not disinterested scholars looking objectively at the architecture of their time, but rather had good reason to proselytize for a style of building that would transform the world according to the zeitgeist of a machine age, one that saw mechanized warfare destroy half of Europe. The political and cultural landscape was radically changing following the Armistice, and architects in France, Belgium, and the Weimar Republic, were primed for a revolution in building to efficiently rehouse a large refugee population.
Courtesy of Flickr User konigDaniel. ImageEinsteinturm / Erich Mendelsohn
“Making Dystopia”以1914年为起点，展示了经济与政治对于德国建筑师的职业生涯的影响，例如一部分人变得成功，一部分人变得默默无闻。其中的代表便是德国犹太人Erich Mendelsohn，他在柏林进行了近十年的建筑事业之后，便去往了其他国家，而其他建筑师的出现则更加模糊一些，但是他们的作品同样让人耳目一新。在大萧条来临之前，并没有所谓的主要设计策略，而是一种具有争议的风格正在适用于全球范围之中。
为了研究这些信息，Curl进行了大量的资料查阅，但是他没有必要去挖掘一些真正的批判性学术观点，这些观点是有关于柯布西耶（Le Corbusier）、密斯（Ludwig Mies van der Rohe），亦或是格罗皮乌斯（Walter Gropius）的。近期的学术成果表明，这些数据相比起二十世纪的传记都要更加复杂，但是重要的是，曾经写过现代主义运动“form givers”的历史学家们多少都抹去了一些事实，而这些事实与那些为法西斯工作的欧洲建筑师紧密相关，但是只要他们的作品符合先进的艺术与建筑理念，那这就是所谓的“现代”。
Using 1914 as a starting point, Making Dystopia shows how economics and politics influenced the careers of leading architects in Germany, allowing some to prosper and others to fade into obscurity. One was Erich Mendelsohn, a German Jew who was forced into exile after a very successful ten years of building around Berlin. Other architects appeared only in obscure journals and regional histories, so it is refreshing to see their work illustrated here. There was no dominant approach to design prior to the Depression, but a wide-ranging debate about an appropriate style for the new age occurred globally.
Curl did a lot of primary source research to unearth this material, but he did not have to look hard to find truly critical, scholarly views of the lives of Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, or Walter Gropius. Recent scholarship has unearthed a raft of new evidence showing these figures to be much more complex and unsavory than any twentieth-century biography might have revealed. Significantly, the historians who wrote about the “form givers” of the Modern Movement were complicit in hiding some unpleasant facts about European architects working for Fascist regimes, as long as they fit the correct account of the rise of avant-garde art and architecture that was seen as “modern.”
Whereas the heroic narrative of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s life recounts his reluctant exile from his native Germany to escape Hitler’s regime, we learn that in fact Mies sought support from the National Socialists once the Bauhaus had been closed, and received it. He worked under the Nazis for several years with nary a complaint before emigrating to the U.S. in 1937. Likewise, Le Corbusier sought the patronage of the Vichy government and wrote virulently anti-Semitic prose in journals of the period. Walter Gropius was a canny and unscrupulous opportunist who changed his allegiance several times before coming to the U.S. to teach and Harvard.
Villa Savoye / Le Corbusier. Image
在上世纪30年代早期，大西洋两岸几乎没有哪些所谓的“现代主义”建筑能够符合当时阿尔弗雷德·巴尔（Alfred Barr）、菲利普·约翰逊（Philip Johnson）、Henry Russell Hitchcock在第一次现代艺术博物馆中所提出的现代主义的定义，但是这并没有阻止他们提出相反的要求。他们的观众并不了解在战后重建项目中，以非传统的方式来进行的工作量，因此他们也更加容易相信在1932年国际式新建筑的传播。Johnson在过去的十年间在德国进行了多次研究，因此他有着斯图加特Weissenhofsiedlung以及其他建筑的许多照片信息，这也证明了欧洲一种使用得更加广泛的建筑风格的存在。
More damning than these revelations about the leading architects of the Modern Movement is Curl’s history of the pr campaign that was unleashed in Europe and the U.S. following the First World War to create a false inevitability for the emergence of a new style of building that featured flat roofs, white stucco walls, strip windows, and pilotis instead of columns.
Though by the early 1930s there was little “modernistic” architecture on either side of the Atlantic that fit the definition proposed by Alfred Barr, Philip Johnson and Henry Russell Hitchcock in their famous catalogue for the first Museum of Modern Art exhibition on architecture, that did not stop them from making extravagant claims to the contrary. Their audience had no information on how much rebuilding after the war was in non-traditional idioms, so they could be easily convinced about the “international” spread of the new architecture in 1932. Because he had traveled extensively in Germany during the previous decade, Johnson was able to obtain enough photos of the Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart and other buildings to suggest a wider acceptance of the style in Europe than was actually the case.
Courtesy of Wikimedia. ImageImperial Hotel Tokyo / Frank Lloyd Wright
对于英国工艺美术运动的误解，Curl有着明显的鄙视，该运动表露在Pevsner1936年出版的书《现代运动的先驱》之中，这本书后来更名为《现代设计的先驱》。这位德国历史学家由于其英国建筑系列而成为了格罗皮乌斯的激进倡导者，他认为格罗皮乌斯由于在德绍包豪斯进行教学，而成为了欧洲新运动的领导者。通过Werkbund而将包豪斯联系其中，Ruskin与Morris的英国追随者荒谬地扭曲了事实，但是Pevsner却沉着自信地完成了这些任务。C.F.A. Voysey由于其不喜欢的风格，而与Sir Nikolaus形成交集，M.H. Baillie Scott 与C.R. Mackintosh则并不希望和德国现代主义有任何联系。
Curl contends that Johnson and Barr ignored the connections between Bauhaus artists and the Third Reich in order to further their claims for the superiority of modern art. He is certainly correct in claiming that without Johnson’s influence European modernism would have taken longer to gain a foothold in the U.S., especially since Frank Lloyd Wright was put off by him after being excluded from the 1932 exhibition (he was later given a separate room). An objective survey of the most advanced and exciting buildings of the 1920s and 1930s would surely have featured America’s Art Deco skyscrapers, Detroit’s huge factories, and Wright’s Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. None of these caught the attention of Johnson, a Eurocentric critic of the Roosevelt administration with distinctly pro-German political sentiments. In many respects he set back appreciation of modern American architecture for decades by promoting his German heroes in the 1930s.
Curl has particular disdain for the misinterpretations of English Arts and Crafts architecture that appeared in Pevsner’s influential book, Pioneers of the Modern Movement (1936), later reissued as Pioneers of Modern Design. The German historian now lionized for his Buildings of England series was a fierce promoter of Walter Gropius, whom he identified as the leader of a new movement in Europe by virtue of his teaching at the Bauhaus in Dessau. Connecting the Bauhaus, through the Werkbund, with English followers of Ruskin and Morris was an absurd distortion of reality, but one that Pevsner accomplished with aplomb. C.F.A. Voysey “became cross” with Sir Nikolaus for associating him with a style which he “disliked.” M.H. Baillie Scott and C.R. Mackintosh wanted nothing to do with German modernism.
This challenge to the prevailing narrative is not trivial, nor is the record presented in Making Dystopia, with its large bibliography and careful endnotes. Once a lie is told, its proliferation becomes a matter of citation, a reference to the work of one of the four pillars of Modernist historiography. We cannot know that their feet were made of clay unless someone unravels the web of falsehoods that were spun decades ago. Curl’s book does this, and more, to set the record straight on how Modernism came to dominate world architecture by the mid-twentieth century. His first five chapters are dense and comprehensive, though he does not sustain that level of investigation in the concluding portion of the book, which deals with architecture since 1945.
Courtesy of Wikimedia. ImageMuseo Soumaya / FR-EE
不幸的是，一些建筑机构想要通过一些公开的评论还否定Curl的所作所为。诸如“The Spectator”之中的Stephen Bayley等评论家们不断抨击着Curl丰富多彩的当代设计趋势，其中有Parametricism与Blobitecture，另外，评论家们还忽视了其学术成果，但是却无法否定其结论。一些作家们认为他是一位奇怪且保守的人，但其实，他非常努力地进行着研究。如果人们能够了解这一点，那么便能理解他们对于近现代建筑历史的研究有时并不全面，例如后现代主义的兴起与衰落，以及菲利普·约翰逊（Philip Johnson）对于古典主义和解构主义的提倡，另外还有60年代CIAM对于英国发展的影响。
就像当代教育中所隐藏的那样，建筑历史的进程也并不顺利。但这并不是编造虚假历史的借口，为这些历史辩护错误的观点，而许多优秀的历史研究者都非常了解其中的问题所在。这就好像人们需要理解赖特的一系列背景信息，亦或是Richard Meier的私人问题，对于现代主义复杂历史的完整审视需要人们拥有一双明晰且批判的慧眼，而这些看法在弗兰姆普敦的书中，亦或是William Curtis所认可的文字中是不存在的。
Unfortunately, the architectural establishment has already tried to discredit Curl’s efforts with vituperative reviews in a number of publications. Critics (such as Stephen Bayley in The Spectator) have carped about Curl’s colorful, sometimes hyperbolic send-ups of contemporary trends in design, such as Parametricism and Blobitecture, ignoring the virtues of his scholarship and failing to refute his assertions. Mainstream writers cast him as a cranky, conservative stone-thrower, when in fact he has spent his life as a diligent researcher. Bearing that in mind he can be forgiven for some laxity in his synopsis of recent history, such as the swift rise and fall of Postmodernism, Philip Johnson’s promotion of both classicism and deconstructivism, and the influence of CIAM on British development during the 1960s.
Like so much that has been dumbed down in contemporary education, architectural history has not fared well under the watchful eye of the NCARB and ACSA. That is no excuse for the proliferation of false histories that defend untenable positions and faulty ideas because there are many fine historians who are well aware of defects in “standard” texts. Just as we need to understand Frank Lloyd Wright’s litany of bankruptcies and broken marriages, or Richard Meier’s longstanding sexual abuse of employees, a complete reckoning of the complex history of Modernism requires a clear-eyed, critical examination, something not found in Frampton’s Critical History or William Curtis’s highly praised text on twentieth-century architecture.
If we ignore books like Curl’s our cities and landscapes will continue to get the same insipidly abstract designs we have lived with for decades, and our profession won’t advance to meet the challenges of this troubled century. Putting flat roofs on a building in Bangladesh or central Africa to get kudos from critics in New York or London is as silly as wearing a grass skirt to go whale watching in Nome, yet many young architects will do just that in the name of Modernism—at least until they understand what that term really means.
© Iwan Baan
Mark Alan Hewitt是纽约地区的建筑师、作家、保护主义者，以及历史学家。他当前正在筹备一本关于神经系统科学和建筑设计的书。
Mark Alan Hewitt is an architect, author, preservationist and historian practicing in the New York area. He is currently writing a book about neuroscience and architectural design.
Villa Tugendhat / Mies van der Rohe. Image
© Iwan Baan
© Iwan Baan
© Thomas Lewandovski
© Thomas Lewandovski
© Thomas Lewandovski