Next Project

The Gray Cloth: Paul Scheerbart's and Bruno Taut's Glass Architecture: What Modernism Forgot

Part 2 Dissertation 2010
Amélie Conway
University College Dublin, Ireland
Glass is commonly associated with the presumed rationalism of modern architecture. Architectural historians directly link the glass exhibitions and botanical structures of the mid 1800’s to modern architecture. But this simple modernist storyline bypasses a large amount of other major influences that played an even more significant part in the development of meaning behind glass architecture.

My research is about one such forgotten character, left behind by the modern movement in its written history: Paul Scheerbart. That he, the author and advocate of Glasarchitektur, should also be named as a pioneer of glass architecture has sunk into oblivion. My dissertation, through Scheerbart’s various writings with an emphasis on his book Glasarchitektur and his novel Das Graue Tuch, brings to light his influence on architecture, particularly through his close collaboration with Architect Bruno Taut on the design of the GlasHaus.

Architectural historians view Taut and Scheerbart Expressionist work’s as being unrealistic and competing against a more rational interpretation of European destiny (whose monument was to be the factory). Consequently, the portrayal of Taut’s and Scheerbart’s architecture as only being fit for fantasises does no justice to the actual impact they had on built architecture and future generations of architects. This disparity is due to some simple facts: Taut (1880-1938) and Scheerbart (1863-1915) died before they had the opportunity to write their own history like other architects of the period. This contributed significantly to their being forgotten about, whilst architectural historians deemed the International Style the source of rebirth for architecture and shunned all other movements. Furthermore World War II created an overwhelming prejudice against anything that was German so this hindered the discovery of Paul Scheerbart’s interpretation on glass architecture.

All these factors resulted in Scheerbart receiving some attention as a literary figure in Germany for his eccentric tales and fantasies but the short historiography of English works examining his architectural fictions are considerably lacking, hence my dissertation tries to return to Paul Scheerbart his rightful place in history as the GlasPapa of glass architecture.

Amélie Conway

This dissertation showed outstanding analytical qualities, as well as opening a fresh and innovative perspective on the modern movement in architecture. The research was carried out with high level of rigour and expertise unexpected in an undergraduate student. The use of primary sources in German and their translation to English was crucial to shed light on a less published and commented author such as Paul Scheerbart. Her ability with the language allowed Amélie to explore original sources and to move far beyond the standard discussions of Scheerbart. The research of unpublished images also makes this a uniquely valuable dissertation. Throughout, Amélie showed a special interest and enthusiasm in the subject, and needed little guidance to achieve a well rounded piece of research.

Dr. Agustina Martire
• Page Hits: 17141         • Entry Date: 22 July 2010         • Last Update: 02 August 2010