A Critic Writes: Essays by Reyner Banham


The Glass Paradise

pg 33 – It is in Germany, in the months immediately preceding and immediately following the first World War, that we have to turn to find that prophetic tone, to the period bracketed by the completion of the glass wall of the Faguswerke, late in 1913, and the second, 1920, glass-tower project of Mies Van der Rohe. Both of these are accounted work of the part of reason, yet both, on examination, are found to have some curious cousins. Mies’s glass-towers have been justly called Expressionist, while their contemporaries, from Gropius side, include the first Bauhaus proclamation with its gushing rhetoric about buildings ‘like crystal symbols’ and a three-spired gothic cathedral on its cover.


Post war Belin

pg 33 there was an abberation that gripped a generation, and must have more in it than meets the eye. In fact, there is a great deal in it, a great deal of the Modern Movement’s disreputablel ancestry, but as far as the glass legend is concerned, there are two dominant strains, both traceable back to the Werkbund’s Exhibition in Cologne in 1914. The importance of that exhibition for the glass dream is known , and acknowledged in every history by an illustration of one of the staircases of Gropius’s office block in its glass hemicylinder. But that is only half the story

(talking about scheerbart)

pg 35 – Begins with something that was common knowledge to scheerbart and most of his readers, the glazed conservatory. This he envisaged becoming ever larger and more important until it had to be emancipated from the house, and set up independently in the garden. The glass-world citizen then abandons his old house and moves into the conservatory, which is aesthetically linked to the garden…. As a habitable environment, the conservatory-house, which Scheerbart seems to envisage as something like Taut’s glass Pavillion.


pg 36 “We stand at the beginning, not the end, of a culture-period. 

We await entirely new miracles of technology and chemistry.

Let us never forget it.”


pg 37 – But having set itself up as something more than a style, as a discipline of pure reason, it had to double-talk fast and frequently to explain its obsession with certain materials, particularly glass and that smooth white reinforced concrete that never existed outside architects’ dreams and had to be faked in reality with white rendering. Clearly, these materials were symbolic, they were totemic signs of power in the tribe of architects. 

pg 38 – (about scheerbart) Not only were his architectural writings known and in varying degrees influential among the generation of Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, but at a time when many spoke of steel and glass, he also spoje of water as the natural complement of glass. ..


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