Architecture and Modernism

1. Essential modernism: design between the world wars
Bradbury, Dominic. Yale, 2018

The area in which radical experimentations of modernism particularly connected with, and had an impact on, the lives of ordinary people was in applied design and architecture. This impressive volume lives up to its title as an essential work that documents the range of modernist design in its heyday, the 1920s and 1930s. Bradbury and the scholars and subject specialists who contribute essays to this project trace the developments and directions of design in furniture, lighting fixtures, ceramics and glass, industrial and product design, graphic design, and residential architecture and interior design. The discussion of residential architecture and interior design in particular demonstrates the overarching integration of all areas of modernist design in creating spaces and objects that transformed the experience of the viewers and occupants.
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2. Living on campus: an architectural history of the American dormitory
Yanni, Carla. Minnesota, 2019

Is the purpose of dorm living in college to learn to get along with others? That is the major theme of this exploration of student living arrangements in American educational institutions from the 18th century to 1968. As part of American academic culture, undergraduate dormitories have been seen as spaces that should shape students’ character. Students had little input into dormitories until the l960s; before then architects and administrators decided everything. Yanni (art history, Rutgers) writes about different styles and forms of dormitories, considering what she calls their “social historical meanings.” She examines dorms in many institutions, looking at accommodations that range from male dorms derived from colonial houses to high rises for men and women. Yanni deals with diversity, fraternity and sorority housing, and students’ viewpoints. Women’s dormitories and coed college living are examined. Sources of architectural forms and styles of structures existent and demolished are analyzed. The final chapter addresses the question of whether dormitory living is truly conducive to good education and good citizenship.
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3. Luxury and modernism: architecture and the object in Germany 1900-1933
Schuldenfrei, Robin. Princeton, 2018

The 19th-century Arts and Crafts movement highlighted (albeit unintentionally) the reality that modern architecture and design were financially out of reach for the working class that produced them. The eventual turn toward the design of prototypes for mass production exemplified by the German Bauhaus was intended to solve this dilemma. Schuldenfrei (Courtauld Institute of Art, Univ. of London, UK) tackles another paradox that emerged at the same time: the interest in producing objects of luxury available to a wealthy clientele to supplant factory produced goods, which were often poorly made. Because of the problematic relationship that luxury would have to a modernity intent on addressing social needs and because the culture of production highlighted high levels of craft that conferred value on these works, modern architects and designers strove to maintain a careful relationship with luxury, given the inaccessibility and elitism it conveyed.
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4. Montage and the metropolis: architecture, modernity, and the representation of space
Stierli, Martino. Yale, 2018

Stierli’s brilliant study is destined to embed montage indelibly in the heart of modernism. The introductory chapter provides a definition and theory of montage and a brief overview of the book’s highlights. The five main chapters present a montage of themes: chapter 2, “Photomontage and the Metropolis,” examines the impact of Paul Citroen’s montage Metropolis (1923) on Sigfried Giedion and the Bauhaus and Soviet artists; chapter 3 looks at photomontage in architectural representation; chapter 4, “Mies Montage,” sees Mies van der Roh’s early montage-based work as changing through his contact with the Dadaists; chapter 5, “Embodied Spectatorship,” focuses on Sergei Eisenstein’s new image theory, the concept of shock, and Eisenstein’s sources in Auguste Choisy, August Schmarsow, and the early perceptual psychologists. The final chapter, “Montage and the Metropolitan Unconscious,” provides an analysis of Rem Koolhaas’s Delirious New York (1978), with its debts to Walter Benjamin, Dali’s paranoid-critical method, and Dada’s exquisite corpse—all in the service of Koolhaas’s determination to uncover an unacknowledged, unconscious urban history in the place of conventional linear approaches.
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5. Palace of state: the Eisenhower Executive Office Building 
ed. by Thomas E. Luebke U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, 2018

Palace of State is noteworthy on several counts. It offers abundant new information on a key work of 19th-century public architecture in the US—a building that is well known but previously scantily examined. The book also offers extensive context on the great surge of ambitious public building construction during the Gilded Age—again a topic that has suffered from scholarly neglect. And there is welcome material on the building’s architect, Alfred Mullett (1834–90), who shaped the complexion of major federal buildings for more than a decade. The building’s then state-of-the-art technology and its demanding construction program are examined in detail. Palace of State looks not only at the building’s original function—it housed the Departments of State, War, and the Navy—but also at how those functions changed over time and the conversion of the building to executive offices for the president after WW II. The last of the book’s eight chapters is devoted to the meticulous restoration of many parts of the building’s fabric in recent decades.
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