Guest Lecture - "Photographic Modern Architecture and the 'Bauhaus-Debatte,' 1945-1953"
This paper investigates the impact of photographic architecture on postwar German architecture culture. As the American juggernaut of wartime and postwar construction gave German émigré architects Mies, Gropius, and Breuer the opportunity to build at an unprecedented scale, photographs of their work travelled to Germany in the late 1940s and early 1950s in exhibitions, journals, books, and snapshots. The rhetorical power of these images of remote steel and glass architecture designed by former citizens of Germany acted on a nation confronting destroyed cityscapes, the physical emblems of even greater destruction, and acted with particular force on members of the architectural community. Photographic imports also prepared the way for later building projects on German soil, such as the New National Gallery or the huge Gropius-Stadt, both in Berlin. While abstraction and the reductions of architectural publication were well established even before the war, nevertheless postwar architectural debate was newly ethically charged by the reality of ruined German cities set against the image of American Cold War might. Such a high-contrast historical moment helps clarify the role that photography played in shaping twentieth-century architecture on a global stage.