Every famed design movement has an interesting story of how it managed to influence architecture and design through the years. Despite their impact, not all movements began with the same principles they managed to ultimately lead with, and Bauhaus is no exception. The clean-cut modernist archetype, which has pioneered modern architecture for a century now, was once an experimental design institution of expressionism, unbound creativity, and handcraft, bridging the styles of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts with Modernist designs.
Expressionism: The Latest Architecture and News
This article was originally published on July 28, 2016. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.
Six million yellow bricks on a hilltop just outside Copenhagen form one of the world’s foremost, if not perhaps comparatively unknown, Expressionist monuments. Grundtvigs Kirke (“Grundtvig’s Church”), designed by architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen Klint, was built between 1921 and 1940 as a memorial to N.F.S. Grundtvig – a famed Danish pastor, philosopher, historian, hymnist, and politician of the 19th century. Jensen Klint, inspired by Grundtvig’s humanist interpretation of Christianity, merged the scale and stylings of a Gothic cathedral with the aesthetics of a Danish country church to create a landmark worthy of its namesake.
It was decided in 1912 that Grundtvig, who had passed away in 1873, had been so significant to Danish history and culture that he merited a national monument. Two competitions were held in 1912 and 1913, bringing in numerous design submissions for statues, decorative columns, and architectural memorials.
The end of the First World War did not mark the end of struggle in Europe. France, as the primary location of the conflict’s Western Front, suffered heavy losses in both manpower and industrial productivity; the resulting economic instability would plague the country well into the 1920s. It was in the midst of these uncertain times that the French would signal their intention to look not to their recent troubled past, but to a brighter and more optimistic future. This signal came in the form of the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Decorative Arts and Modern Industries) of 1925 – a landmark exhibition which both gave rise to a new international style and, ultimately, provided its name: Art Deco.
Despite being born in the same era, Expressionism embodies an entirely different architectural sensibility to other proto-modernist movements like the Bauhaus. Its complex forms marked the creation of what we know as the modern metropolis and became one of the iconic architectural styles of the Roaring Twenties. Throughout Europe, over 1,000 expressionist buildings remain standing, yet many are forgotten and not properly preserved.
For the past four years, Niels Lehmann and Christoph Rauhut have been working to document these surviving expressionist landmarks, following their previous book “Modernism London Style.” Their new book, “Fragments of Metropolis – Berlin” presents 135 remaining expressionist buildings in Berlin and the surrounding area, and with your help this incredible collection documenting the landmarks of expressionism will be published, with colorful photography and detailed maps revealing their exact locations. Follow this link to become a supporter and learn more, or continue after the break to see a selection of images from the book.
Going back to the times when cinema was recorded with no colours or sound, the German film “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” by Robert Wiene is a masterpiece that utilizes fully stylised sets with abstract spaces to represent different scenes. It’s considered one of the most influential movies of German expressionism, since many of the film’s unusual characteristics (from the geometric nature of the sets to the actors’ costumes) were decades ahead of their time.
Have you seen this classic? What do you think about how silent-era films depict space? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.