Dictionary of Art and Artists



History of

Architecture and Sculpture



















Part I. ARCHITECTURE - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
Part II. ARCHITECTURE - 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20,
Part III. ARCHITECTURE - 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29




By the onset of World War I, the stage was set for a modern architecture. But which way would it go? Would it follow the impersonal standard of the machine aesthetic advocated by Muthesius or the artistic creativity espoused by Van de Velde? Ironically, the issue was decided by Van de Velde's choice of Behrens' disciple Walter Gropius as his successor at Weimar. Yet the beginning of the war effectively postponed the further development of modern architecture for nearly a decade. When this development resumed in the 1920s, the outcome of the issues posed at the Cologne Werkbund exhibition in 1914 was no longer clear-cut. Rather than a simple linear progression, we find a complex give-and-take between modernism and competing tendencies representing traditional voices and alternative visions. This varied response has its parallel in the art of the period, which largely rejected abstraction in favor of Fantasy, Expressionism, and Realism.

Le Corbusier recorded the following incident from the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1909. The professor of structural design was sick, and his place had been taken by the chief Metro engineer who, when he announced he would be lecturing on the possibilities of reinforced concrete, was booed out of the room by outraged students. Clearly, for these young architects, concrete was a material which might be used for tunnels, dams or factories - but not for serious, artistic works.

Although the Englishman J. B. White had built a house completely out of concrete in as early as 1837, and the French businessman Francois Coignet had patented the insertion of "tension rods" in cement in 1856, the history of reinforced concrete only truly began with an invention by gardener Joseph Monier. He was looking for a frost-resistant material for water pipes, and thereby discovered the advantages of ferroconcrete. Combining liquid cement with iron produces an intimate compound with an organic character. The cement surrounds its iron bones just as muscles surround a skeleton. Monier did not appreciate the importance of the correct positioning of the iron cores and hence the distribution of tensile and compressive forces within the concrete. His 1867 patent for concrete flower pots, and his subsequent later additional patent of 1878 - the "Monier Patent" which he registered in a whole series of countries - nevertheless brought him profitable trade, since they covered almost every use of iron in mortar and concrete. This led among other things to a lengthy legal battle with Berlin master mason Rabitz, who had patented his own metal mesh inserts for plaster surfaces. Monier himself pursued increasingly eccentric ideas, even considering the possibility of ferroconcrete coffins.

His invention was made public through exhibition architecture such as that built in Trier in 1884, where businessman Conrad Freytag first saw the system. He acquired utilization rights for Southern Germany, while Gustav Adolf Wayss assumed the patent rights for Northern Germany. As a form of safeguard, Wayss performed extensive load tests on Monier vaults under scientific conditions and published the results in 1887 in a work entitled "The Monier System and its Application to the Construction Industry as a Whole". This "Monier Brochure" was widely published and encouraged hesitant construction authorities to approve its structures. In 1 900, however, in the "Handbook of Architecture", it was noted that its expensive nature would continue to delay "its widespread use in civic building" for as long as "Portland cement gets no cheaper and the process is protected by patent".

Further development stagnated; it was not until Frenchman Francois Hennebique applied the principle to all the essential elements of architecture -to supports, beams and slabs - and combined these into a "monolithic construction", that decisive advances were possible. Hennebique saw the fire-proof nature of the material as its main advantage, and therefore abandoned the previously exposed iron girders of the Monier construction system. Concrete protects corrosive iron and provides a "fireproof shell". Reinforced concrete further proved particularly suitable for use in factories in which steel structures were insufficiently resistant to corrosive fumes. This applied above all to the textile and chemical industries. In 1896 Hennebique produced transportable prefabricated houses, made in one piece, for level-crossing watchmen. By 1902 his successful company, together with its licencees, had planned over 7,000 commissions. An important factor in this success was undoubtedly Hennebique's own flexibility: in executing house facades, for example, he would seek to incorporate his clients' every imaginable wish. One result was that, in the early stages of many ferroconcrete structures, the material was not visible at all. The Dyckerhoff and Widmann company developed from owning a simple concrete goods factory to becoming specialists for gasometer basins, water reservoirs and ceiling vaults. These initially employed chiefly compressed concrete, as in Germany's first concrete bridge, exhibited at the Dusseldorf Trade and Art Fair of 1880. The use of concrete increased substantially after the turn of the century,- in 1913 company profits in the building sector increased from 4 to 31 million Marks, aided by such important buildings as the Breslau Jahrhunderthalle. The form of its ribbed ferroconcrete dome, with its impressive 65-metre span, is nonetheless that of a supporting steel framework. Its articulation into singular ribs produced significant moments of bending in the trusses and rings and thus required strong cross-sections, with the result that the weight of the overall building, despite its apparent lightness, was still considerable. The exposed concrete surfaces indicate, however, an extraordinary mastery of mould techniques.

Architects such as Auguste Perret and, later, Erich Mendelsohn sought to exploit the advantages of concrete. In 1905 Perret, together with his brothers Gustave and Claude, even founded the company "Perret freres entrepreneurs" specializing in concrete construction. Their works succeeded in deploying the structural advantages of reinforced concrete in particularly economical buildings

with sensible solutions to detail and balanced proportions. But it was left up to engineers such as Robert Maillart to find a way from traditional post and joist structures to practical new concrete forms. In
1912, for a grain store in Switzerland, he designed a joistless mushroom ceiling in which the supports converged in an organic, funnel-shaped curve into the flat ceiling. However, this only further heightened the difficulties of executing crucial details: if the transitions to the ceiling were inadequately resolved, fine cracks could form which could weaken the structure and enable moisture to corrode the iron.

When building his first bridges, engineer Eugene Freyssinet discovered just how inaccurate structural formulae regarding concrete behaviour still were. Contrary to the estimations of the regulations on reinforced concrete construction published in France in
1906, the bridges when built displayed dangerous settling tendencies which had to be corrected in subsequent alterations. Numerous innovations can be traced back to developments introduced by Freyssinet: vaults with rib superstructures, sliding formwork and, above all, decisive steps towards the introduction of pre-stressed concrete, in which initial stress enables tension members to carry much higher loads and to counteract the slow deformation of concrete. The airship hangers in Orly were built as large parabolic folded-slab constructions, whereby Freyssinet - as in the Paris Hall of Machines of 1889 - abolished the distinction between walls and ceiling. The principle is similar to that of corrugated iron or cardboard and enables extraordinary strengths to be achieved at low weight. The cross-section of the hangers corresponded to the central line of thrust of the dead loads, with the ribs broadening towards ground level. Function and form, like material quality and economic construction planning, were understood and executed as a uniform whole. While the first planetarium device, destined for the Deutsches Museum in Munich, was receiving its finishing touches at the Zeiss works in Jena in 1922, it was suggested that î dome suitable for projection trials should be built on the factory roof. The structure therefore had to be especially light, while still creating as exactly as possible a dome with a sixteen-metre diameter.

Planetarium inventor Walter Bauersfeld had the idea of building the dome out of a mesh of thin iron rods, whose juxtaposition in combinations of numerous small triangles would approximate the shape of a dome. Franz Dischinger of the Dyckerhoff and Widmann company succeeded in designing a dome surface composed of almost
4,000 rods having only 51 different lengths. With the aid of the newly-developed shotcrete method, the assembled mesh netting became a concrete shell whose surface of 400 square metres had the unbelievably low weight of three and a half metric tons. This same new method seemed appropriate for a new glass-cutting plant which the Schott Works were planning to build in Jena. Since the shape of the plant was not important, a round structure was again chosen, albeit this time with an extremely flat shell dome. At a diameter of 40 metres and a rise of barely eight metres, the shell was only six centimetres thick, which represented less than one-sixhundredth of its span. As in the municipal planetarium built in Jena in 1925, the mesh netting was laid in a system of parallel circles. The number of different rod lengths was greater than required by the earlier trial dome, but since the rods were assembled from the outer edge it was easier to build. This Zeiss-Dywidag construction method, as it came to be known, opened up entirely new avenues in architectural design.



The work of Frank Lloyd Wright attracted much attention in Europe by
1914. Among the first to recognize its importance were some young Dutch architects who, a few years later, joined forces with Mondrian in the De Stijl movement. Among their most important experiments is the Schroder House, designed by Gerrit Rietveld (1888-1964) in 1924.

The facade looks like a Mondrian painting transposed into three dimensions, for it utilizes the same rigorous abstraction and refined geometry (fig.
1179). The lively arrangement of floating panels and intersecting planes is based on Mondrian's principle of dynamic equilibrium: the balance of unequal but equivalent oppositions, which expresses the mystical harmony of humanity with the universe. Steel beams, rails, and other elements are painted in bright, primary colors to articulate the composition. Unlike the elements of a painting by Mondrian, the exterior parts look as if they can be shifted at will, though in fact they fit as tightly as interlocking pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Not a single element could be moved without destroying the delicate balance of the whole.

Rietveld's approach to the interior (figs. 1180 and 1181) reveals his background as a cabinetmaker in its use of unadorned "boxes" of space. However, the upper story can be left open or configured into different work and sleeping areas through a system of sliding partitions that fit neatly together when moved out of the way. While this flexible treatment of the living quarters was devised with the owner, herself an artist, to suit her individual life-style, the decentralized plan also incorporates a continuous, "universal" space which is given a linear structure by the network of panel dividers.

Despite the fact that it retains an allegiance to traditional materials and craftsmanship, which were equated by De Stijl with the self-indulgent materialism of the past, Schroder House proclaims a Utopian ideal widely held in the early twentieth century. The machine would hasten our spiritual development by liberating us from nature, with its conflict and imperfection, and by leading us to the higher order of beauty reflected in the architect's clean, abstract forms. The harmonious design of Schroder House owes its success to the insistent logic of this aesthetic, which we respond to intuitively even without being aware of its ideology. Yet the design, far from being impersonal, is remarkably intimate.

1179. GERRIT RIETVELD. Schroder House, Utrecht. 1924

GERRIT RIETVELD. Schroder House, Utrecht. 1924

Interior, Schroder House

Plan of the Schroder House
1181. Interior, Schroder House



Gerrit Thomas Rietveld

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld, (born June 24, 1888, Utrecht, Neth.—died June 25, 1964, Utrecht), Dutch architect and furniture designer notable for his application of the tenets of the de Stijl movement. He was an apprentice in his father’s cabinetmaking business from 1899 to 1906 and later studied architecture in Utrecht.

Rietveld began his association with the movement known as de Stijl in 1918. At about the same time he created his famous red-and-blue armchair, which, in its emphasis on geometry and in its use of primary colours, was a realization of de Stijl principles. In 1921 he designed a small Amsterdam jewelry shop, one of the first examples of the application of these principles to architecture. His masterpiece is the Schroeder House in Utrecht (1924), remarkable for its interplay of right-angle forms, planes, and lines, and for its use of primary colours. His mass-produced houses at Utrecht (1931–34) were closely related in style. He remained associated with de Stijl until it was dissolved in 1931.

From 1936 until after World War II, Rietveld devoted himself to furniture design. After the war he received a number of important architectural commissions, including the De Ploeg Textile Works (1956), Bergeyk; a housing development (1954–56), Hoograven; and the art academy (1962), Arnhem.

Encyclopædia Britannica




Walter Bauersfeld, Dyckerhoff & Widmann.


Walter Bauersfeld, Dyckerhoff & Widmann.
Planetarium, Jena, Germany, 1927

Walter Bauersfeld, Dyckerhoff & Widmann.

Planetarium, Jena, Germany, 1924-1925
Cupola netting during construction



Johan M. Van der Mey, Michel de Klerk, Peter L. Kramer.


Johan M. Van der Mey, Michel de Klerk, Peter L. Kramer.
"Scheepvaarthuis" Shipping Office in Amsterdam, 1912-1916

Johan M. Van der Mey, Michel de Klerk, Peter L. Kramer.
"Scheepvaarthuis" Shipping Office in Amsterdam, 1912-1916.
Stairwell with glasswork by W. Bogtman.

Michel de Klerk.
Apartment Block on the Sparndammerplatsoen in Amsterdam,

Michel de Klerk.
"Het Schip" Hausing Complex in Amsterdam, 1917-1921

Michel de Klerk.
"Het Schip" Hausing Complex.
Post Office hall with telephone booth

Michel de Klerk.
"Het Schip" Hausing Complex in Amsterdam, 1917-1921

Michel de Klerk.
"Het Schip" Hausing Complex.

Michel de Klerk.
"Stern" of the "Het Schip" Hausing Complex.

Michel de Klerk.
"Het Schip" Hausing Complex. Plan of the complex.



Fritz Hoger.


Fritz Hoger. Chile House in Hammburg, 1922-1924

Fritz Hoger. Chile House in Hammburg.
The "sharp" eastern tip

Fritz Hoger. Chile House in Hammburg. Plan



Gunnar Asplund.


Gunnar Asplund
"Listers Harads Tingshus", County Court in Solvesboorg, Sweden, 1917-1921

Gunnar Asplund.
"Listers Harads Tingshus", County Court in Solvesboorg, Sweden.
Court room

Gunnar Asplund.
Stockholm City Library, 1918-1927

Gunnar Asplund.
Stockholm City Library, 1918-1927
Steps leading up to the rotunda of the panoptic reading room

Gunnar Asplund.
Stockholm City Library.
Section and plan of the first floor


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