Professor Gerald Adler
Qualifications: PhD, BA, Dip. Arch, RIBA
Gerald Adler is a graduate of the University of Sheffield. His practice experience has been with Kammerer and Belz in Stuttgart, Georg Heinrichs in Berlin, Burkard Meyer Steiger in Baden, Switzerland, Hampshire County Architects in Winchester, Koichi Nagashima in Tokyo, and Ted Cullinan in London.
He has recently completed a PhD on Heinrich Tessenow, and has given papers at the AHRA Nottingham and Kingston conferences. He is active in furthering a wider knowledge and appreciation of Tessenow and the position he represents-that of 'silent modernism'. He is currently researching the place of the ruin in the modern architectural imagination and gave a paper on this subject at the 2007 Cardiff 'Quality' conference.
He teaches both in the studio, where he runs the final design project of the degree programme, and in the lecture theatre and seminar room, convening modules in Cultural Context. He is engaged professionally with architecture, working as an Architects Registration Board Lead Examiner and is involved in validating European schools of architecture. He is currently researching the British architects Maguire and Murray, and was on the judging panel of the 2008 RIBA Dissertation prize.
- The architecture of the German Reform architect Heinrich Tessenow (1876-1950)
- A reappraisal of post-war British architecture from the 1950s to the 1970s, in the light of continental European 'silent modernism'
- 'Postcriticism' and the persistence of pragmatic rationalism from the 1950s to the present Paper (forthcoming): 'Form follows logo' to be delivered at AHRA 'Agency' International Conference, University of Sheffield
- AHRA representative, Kent School of Architecture, University of Kent
- Research Committee, Kent School of Architecture, University of Kent
- Heinrich-Tessenow-Gesellschaft, Hamburg
Research, Practice and Teaching affiliations:
- ARB (Architects' Registration Board) Lead Examiner
- Validation Panel member for AQA (Austrian Universities Quality Assurance) and OAQ (Swiss Universities Quality Assurance)
- RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Judging Panel, Dissertation Prize 2008
Current projects include:
- A monograph of the work of the British architects Maguire and Murray (1950s-1970s)
- Editing PhD on Tessenow in Hellerau: The Materialisation of Space for publication
- Developing paper given at KIASH International Conference September 2008 'The Ruins of Modernism' as book-length publication
- Setting up AHRA (Architectural Humanities Research Association) International Conference 2010, University of Kent. Theme: 'Scale'
|Module Code||Module Title||Information|
|AR322||House and Housing||Module Convenor and Tutor|
|AR552||Architecture and Landscape||Tutor|
|AR831||Urban Landscape||Module Convenor and Tutor|
|AR832||Research Methods and Analysis||Tutor|
|AR847||Urban Design Project:||Module Convenor and Tutor|
|AR848||Theory and History of Urban Design||Module Convenor and Tutor|
|AR999||Dissertation: Urban Design||Tutor|
As a late career researcher, I completed my PhD on Tessenow in 2004, after prolonged periods in practice and teaching. My first post-doctoral publication is forthcoming, the chapter 'Curating the Social, Curating the Architectural' in Chaplin, Sarah and Stara, Alexander (eds). (2009) Curating Architecture and the City. Abingdon. Routledge and arose from my paper delivered at the AHRA International Conference at Kingston University, December 2007.
Scale: Imagination, Perception and Practice in Architecture by Gerald Adler, Timothy Brittain-Catlin and Gordana Fontana-Giusti eds (2012) Abingdon: Routledge, ISBN: 978-0-415-68711-9
The latest AHRA (Architectural Humanities Research Association) book in its Critiques series has just been published. It contains a chapter written by KSA Deputy Head Gerry Adler on the subject of bioconstructivism in architecture. In 1926 the sometimes Bauhaus student Siegfried Ebeling had his book Der Raum als Membran (Space as Membrane) published in Dessau; here he began to rethink the periphery of a building, primarily in terms of energy flows. This manifesto, couched in the Expressionist fervour of its time, is at odds with the positivist direction in which Walter Gropius was leading the Bauhaus. Ebeling, who managed to straddle the materialist/idealist dichotomy of the Bauhaus from his workshop in the adjacent Junkers aircraft factory, is an intriguing example of an architect who summons up the contradictions and possibilities inherent in early bioconstructivist thinking.
Gerald Adler, ‘Energising the Building Edge: Siegfried Ebeling, Bauhaus bioconstructivist’, in Ruth Morrow and Mohamed Abdelmonem (eds), Peripheries (AHRA Critiques series,vol 8), Abingdon: Routledge, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-415-64029-9 (hbk); ISBN: 978-0-415-64030-5 (pbk).
Forthcoming book chapters:
The ARQ (Architectural Research Quarterly) has commissioned a paper 'Towards An Architecture Of De-Materialisation: Heinrich Tessenow's Festspielhaus, Hellerau (1910-1912)'. This is currently being edited by the journal.
Adler, G. (2019). Architecture Is Concealed unto Itself: Helmuth Plessner and his Influence on Twentieth-Century Architecture. Architecture Philosophy: The Journal of the International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture 3.The Human in Architecture and Philosophy: Towards an Architectural Anthropology
‘Architecture is concealed to itself: Helmuth Plessner and his influence on twentieth-century architects’
‘[…] man never returns. We have to renounce the romanticism of alienation and homecoming inherent in Marxism and admit to ourselves its illusionary character.’ Helmuth Plessner, 1969
Architectural anthropology is currently experiencing great traction, as a reaction to the perceived aridity and exclusivity of much contemporary philosophy and evincing a renewed interest in empirical methods of seeing the world and enacting changes in it. This is hardly surprising: most architects will act pragmatically, adjusting existing models of buildings and terrains in their attempt at balancing competing demands of site, client needs and organisational logistics. In recent years many have been under the impression that this was insufficient and intellectually weak: many architects sought solace in philosophy, and the thinking of choice was the Continental variety, especially that brand that was highly suggestive of architectural form-making. The fact that deconstruction held sway for so long, or that Gilles Deleuze’s rhizomes reminiscent of networks of circulation, structure and other architectural connective tissue should have largely replaced it as lodestar for the avant-garde, is testimony to this.
More recently, and productively, architects have found increased confidence in their innate nous, and have felt greater affinity with the quantifiable premises of the social sciences than with the airier descendants of Idealist philosophy. This paper examines the work of the German philosopher-anthropologist Hermann Plessner (1892-1985), one of the earliest modern thinkers in this tradition, beginning with his notion of ‘positionality’. His long career enables us to view his enduring relationship to a variety of architects. His view of humans as life-forms has obvious connections to today’s environmentalism, and is one that transcends any crude ideological, alienated reading of man. Plessner’s work has serious implications for an anthropological locus of architectural practice (one thinks of the work of Bruno Latour and Albena Yaneva); the political implications of his notion of humans as ‘ex-centric’ beings capable of self-reflection extend far beyond the world of building design. Finally the self-concealed nature of architecture, a play on the title of one of Plessner’s late texts, leads to a consideration of the enigmatic qualities of great buildings, to the ‘black box’ of both Reyner Banham and Latourian social scientists today.
Adler, G. (2012). Twentieth Century Architects: Robert Maguire & Keith Murray. [Online]. RIBA Publishing (20th Century Architects Series). Available at: http://www.ribabookshops.com/item/twentieth-century-architects-robert-maguire-keith-murray/75274/.Robert Maguire was still a student at the Architectural Association in London in the early 1950s when he designed his first church. A committed Christian and enthusiast for contemporary design, he was a leading figure in the liturgical reform movement that sought to find an appropriate, modern setting for worship. His design for St Paul, Bow Common in London’s East End was the first such church to be built in Britain, and was followed by a remarkable series of churches and other religious buildings in England in the 1960s and ‘70s designed together with the silversmith and designer Keith Murray, with whom he went into partnership in the late 1950s.
Adler, G. (2012). Robert Maguire & Keith Murray. London, UK: RIBA Publishing.Monograph on the work of the architectural practice Robert Maguire and Keith Murray.
Adler, G. (2018). Sauf aux Riverains: the riverine memorial of Georges-Henri Pingusson. in: Adler, G. and Guerci, M. eds. Riverine: Architecture and Rivers. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp. 145-158. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/Riverine-Architecture-and-Rivers/Adler-Guerci/p/book/9781138681781.Riverine has echoes in English of the sign you see on streets near to rivers in France: ‘sauf aux riverains’. This refers to the access given to locals to the narrow passageways leading down to the river, and seeks to bar ‘foreigners’ from getting too close to the water. In towns, most buildings like to keep a healthy distance between themselves and the flowing river, apart from those parts that have an intimate relationship with the water, such as landing stages and warehouses. Nonetheless, the general principle obtains, that urbanised rivers become embellished with raised embankments, raising houses and gardens well above the waterline, and out of harm’s way. We see this most clearly in those cities with well-developed riverside terraces, such as in Dresden with its Brühlsche Terrassen, in London with its Adelphi development of the late eighteenth century, and generally by the banks of the Seine in Paris, where the streets end abruptly in a precipitous canyon into which the river appears to be sunk, to be reached by narrow stone steps accessed through chinks in the closely packed bouquinistes lining either bank.
At the extreme eastern end of the Ile de la Cité, behind the chevet of the cathedral of Notre Dame, you find a low concrete mass split in two places by narrow stairs. Descending, you pass between a pair of concrete ‘grindstones’ and arrive at a hard, concrete courtyard, hemmed in by bush-hammered walls. Above, the sky, while ahead, you see and hear the Seine rushing past, its waters virtually level with the pavement at your feet. This was the scene designed by the French architect Georges-Henri Pingusson (1894-1978) and is his late masterpiece completed in 1962. The external sunken courtyard leads to a labyrinth of cave-like spaces that tunnel beneath the tip of the island; the whole ensemble is the monument to the deported, the place of ‘collective memory’ for Paris to remember those of its citizens, largely Jews, who were rounded up and deported during the German occupation of the Second World War, en route to being sent east to the extermination camps in the Reich.
Pingusson’s work is, to borrow the subtitle of the monograph on his oeuvre by Simon Texier, ‘la poétique pour doctrine’, and represents one of the great brooding and evocative spaces of modern architecture. Like the great bulk of his practice output hitherto, it is accomplished by recourse to simple geometries and everyday materials, yet manages to evoke an almost mythical atmosphere, as if one were descending into Hades, stopping awhile at the lapping waters before Charon, the ferryman, carries us off. The spatial configuration and material presence remind us of other, uncanny, riverside ensembles, such as the Traitors’ Gate at the Tower of London, the skateboarders’ undercroft at the South Bank, or Harry Lime being given chase through the sewers of Vienna, before they empty into the Danube. The location behind Notre Dame lends the memorial a sacred aura, while its location upstream from the site of the 1961 massacre of peaceful demonstrators against the Algerian War, led by the Paris police chief (and later convicted war criminal) Maurice Papon, further intensifies this, the most haunting of memorials to the infamies of the twentieth century.
Adler, G. (2017). Pragmatics: towards a theory of things. in: This Thing Called Theory. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, p. 179 to-190.‘Things’ in architecture include buildings, but depending upon the scale at which we observe and experience the world it also comprises streets, rooms, windows and nailheads. With the rise of the digital these hard, finite material things are rapidly melting into air. The fluidity of the modern world, à la Zygmunt Bauman, means that the traditional division between theory and practice, between what advanced architects one hundred years ago would have understood as the dichotomy of ‘architecture’ and ‘building’, no longer obtains.
This paper takes Reyner Banham’s initial essay on tradition versus technology (‘Stocktaking’, Architectural Review February 1960) as its starting point, but inverts his dichotomy. If, according to Elizabeth Diller, ‘…architecture is a technology that has not yet discovered its agency’, then it is surely the case that today it is technology in its globalised and commodified form that has become the new orthodoxy, in contrast to the freedoms suggested by a practice and theory of bricolage, the children of Ivan Illich and Lucien Kroll. Compare the certainties of the brand of any ‘starchitect’ with the serendipities of Patrick Bouchain.
For Bouchain, it is theory represented by imaginative narratives that structure design, evident in his discovery of the self-seeded roof of the wool and cotton auction house that he transformed into Roubaix’s La Condition Publique arts centre (2002-3). In a similar vein, the Californian architect and poet Jill Stoner has argued for a ‘minor’ architecture in which narratives of various stripes inform design decisions. On a more materialist tack, the list in the first paragraph will remind the reader of Heinrich Tessenow’s writings on the provenance of the things that make our houses, prescient of Bertold Brecht’s sentiments in his ‘Questions of a Reading Worker’. All point to the enhancement of architecture through the collaborative and creative agency of designer, user and builder: towards pragmatic theory.
Adler, G. (2017). Hall House. in: 100 Houses 100 Years. London, UK: Batsford (Pavilion Books Group), pp. 160-161. Available at: https://www.pavilionbooks.com/book/100-houses-100-years/.This short piece is my contribution for the year 1992 to the Twentieth Century Society book 100 Houses 100 Years. It concerns the house designed by the architects Proctor and Matthews for a site at Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk. It comprises a short description and characterisation of the design.
Adler, G. (2015). The German Reform Theatre: Heinrich Tessenow and eurhythmic performance space at Dresden-Hellerau. in: Setting the Scene: Perspectives on Twentieth-Century Theatre Architecture. Farnham, UK: Routledge, pp. 35-59. Available at: https://www.routledge.com/Setting-the-Scene-Perspectives-on-Twentieth-Century-Theatre-Architecture/Fair/p/book/9781472416520.An architectural study of Heinrich Tessenow's groundbreaking dance space in the garden city of Hellerau. The chapter places it within its Reform culture context, and analyses the aesthetic innovations of Tessenow.
Adler, G. (2013). Energising the Building Edge: Siegfried Ebeling, Bauhaus Bioconstructivist. in: Morrow, R. and Abdelmonem, M. G. eds. Peripheries: Edge Conditions in Architecture. Abingdon: Routledge. Available at: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415640305/.
Adler, G. (2012). Little Boxes. in: Adler, G., Brittain-Catlin, T. and Fontana-Giusti, G. eds. Scale : Imagination, Perception and Practice in Architecture. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 182-193. Available at: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415687126/.
Adler, G. (2012). Something out of the 'Ordinary'. in: The Cultural Role of Architecture: contemporary and historical perspectives. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp. 141-150.The architect Robert Maguire’s scheme for St Paul’s church at Bow Common, London (1958-60) is a design often overlooked in the roll-call of significant Brutalist architecture. In terms of religious buildings, Le Corbusier’s church at Ronchamp (1950-54) and Gillespie Kidd and Coia’s seminary at Cardross (1958-66) are frequently feted by architects, and by architectural historians. However, the Scottish seminary is today appreciated more for its status as a modern ruin, a cause the writer Brian Dillon has so eloquently espoused, than for its embodiment of human life. In this paper I examine a particular episode in British architecture, in which the architects’ deep engagement with a living, growing and questioning culture (in this case, the liturgical movement in the Anglican Church) led to the commissioning of a building whose use value continues unabated to this day, mitigating any descent into disuse and ruin.
St Paul’s, as well as the later churches Maguire designed with his partner Keith Murray, was adept at responding to the specific architectural culture of 1960s’ Britain in addition to the emerging new cult of the Church of England’s liturgical movement. What is fascinating is to revisit Bow Common and see its architectural largesse accommodate the kaleidoscope of cultures now present in London’s East End.
The chapter discusses this remarkable oeuvre and examines how it engages with its contemporary overlapping architectural, social, and communal cultures in a way which, in the words of Maguire,
serv[es] life through buildings... although that sounds pretentious, [...] I mean it at a rather simple level, in the sense of making things which help people in their lives as individuals or communities, rather than placing burdens on them [...].
Robert Maguire, ‘Something out of the ‘Ordinary’
Adler, G. (2012). Introduction. in: Scale: imagination, perception and practice in architecture. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp. 1-9.This introduces the overall theme of the book and gives a précis of each chapter.
Conference or workshop item
Adaji, M., Watkins, R. and Adler, G. (2017). Indoor Thermal Comfort of Residential Buildings in the Hot-Humid Climate of Nigeria during the dry season. in: Passive Low Energy Architecture (PLEA) Conference. Edinburgh, Scotland: PLEA, pp. 949 -956.The indoor thermal conditions in residential buildings in two locations in Abuja, Nigeria were investigated to understand the ideal conditions of occupants in this hot-humid climate. Understanding these conditions helps give an insight into what people are experiencing in their houses and how they adapt to the high temperatures. The study seeks to fill the gap in research of occupants’ thermal comfort in this area by providing empirical thermal comfort data from a city in the tropical region. During the study, 86 households responded to a post occupancy questionnaire to evaluate their building and how they adapt to high temperatures. A comfort survey questionnaire was administered to occupants of four low-income residential households to assess their perception of their thermal environment. These included two air-conditioned and two naturally ventilated buildings with the questionnaires having over 80% return rate. Simultaneously, physical measurements were taken in the living room, bedroom and outdoor spaces to evaluate the actual building performance and thermal environment. Most occupants in the residential buildings in this climate experienced thermal discomfort and were uncomfortable with their thermal environment as suggested by the results of the study. The data further suggest the preferred conditions are operative temperatures above 28°C.
Adaji, M., Watkins, R. and Adler, G. (2016). Thermal comfort of occupants during the dry and rainy seasons in Abuja, Nigeria. in: Making Comfort Relevant, 9th Windsor Conference,. UK: Network for Comfort and Energy Use in Buildings, pp. 542-565. Available at: http://www.nceub.org.uk/W2016/pdfs/proceedings/Proceedings_Windsor_Conference_2016.pdf.
Adaji, M., Watkins, R. and Adler, G. (2015). An Investigation Into Thermal Comfort In Residential Buildings In The Hot Humid Climate Of Sub-Saharan Africa: A Field Study In Abuja-Nigeria. in: 31st International PLEA Conference, Passive Low Energy Architecture.A field study was conducted to understand the real and preferred conditions of thermal comfort in low-income residential buildings in Abuja, Nigeria. Knowing the temperatures people are experiencing in their houses and the limits which residents can tolerate is a first step to proffer passive solutions to reduce discomfort. During the study, 40 people responded to a post occupancy questionnaire and two households were issued a comfort survey questionnaire. Physical measurements were taken simultaneously during the comfort survey in both an air-conditioned and naturally ventilated residential building. The ASHRAE and air flow sensation scale were chosen as voting scales. The results from this study show that during the monitoring period the average and maximum temperatures in an air conditioned residential building were 31°C and 34°C; and 33°C and 36°C for natural ventilated buildings in Abuja. This compares with the external average and maximum air temperatures of 31°C and 39°C.
Adler, G. (2008). Form follows logo. in: Architecture Humanities Research Association - AGENCY Conference.
Adler, G. (2007). The Quality of Ruins. in: 'Quality' Conference.The Quality of Ruins: The Ruins of Modernism
What justifies the tag ‘quality’ in architecture? Despite numerous attempts to define architectural quality it remains an elusive aspect of design which can only sensibly be perceived in hindsight, in relation to already existing paradigms.
The idea of the ruin throughout architectural history acts as a powerful lodestone as to the nature of quality in design. What a particular culture chooses to value as a ‘ruin’, from amongst the plethora of historical remains of artefacts, structures and landscapes, tells us more about its contemporary concerns than about any absolute historic value we might wish to attribute to remnants from the past.
Look at an institution at one remove from the strictly architectural. The National Trust has, through the course of the twentieth century, constantly revised its idea of what constitutes the national heritage, of which ruins are worth conserving, moving from ‘vernacular’ dwellings in the countryside, to country seats, to Cornish tin-mining engine houses, to housing for the working class.
In the outgoing decades of the twentieth century much of deconstructivist architecture took heroic designs of earlier periods of the century, particularly Russian Constructivism, and re-presented them as if in a ruined state. The contortions of Zaha Hadid’s structures, the red (rust?) industrial archaeology of Bernard Tschumi’s La Villette, re-enact the appropriation of the ruin in much the same way as John Soane (with Joseph Gandy’s help) did in the early nineteenth century.
Le Corbusier in the late 1920s developed an aesthetic that merged the certainties of stereotomic form with the architecture of the timber ruin (as Adolf Max Vogt has shown in his book Le Corbusier, the noble savage), while some ten years later in Germany Albert Speer developed his theory of ruin-value (Ruinenwert) with frightening consequences for the development of European culture. In both cases it was the idea of the ruin which cast light on the elusive quality of architecture striven for by both architects, producing a reversal of Auguste Perret’s dictum: ‘Architecture is what makes beautiful ruins.’ (L’architecture c’est ce qui fait les belles ruines.’)
In this paper I look in particular at the work of the architect Hans Döllgast in the rebuilding of the war-damaged Alte Pinakothek art gallery in Munich in the 1950s. The result is a work which bears testimony to the accretions – and degradations - of time, resulting in a building with a degree of historical layering akin to the architecture of the more widely-known Carlo Scarpa in the Veneto. I end the paper with an excursus on the theme of nature and art, and tentatively suggest how the ruin metaphor and organic design may happily coexist.
Adler, G. Dots and Dashes: Heinrich Tessenow’s ‘Binary Code’.
Guerci, M. and Adler, G. eds. (2018). Riverine: Architecture and Rivers. Routledge.Edited book based on a conference run with Gerald Adler in 2014.
Human settlements may be broadly divided between inland ones often located on high ground, such as the hill towns of Urbino and Jerusalem, those of inland plains such as Brasilia and Novosibirsk, and those located on waterways or rivers close to the sea, which form by far the great majority of cities. In this new volume we concentrate on the latter, and seek to tease out and explore architectural, planning, artistic and literary backgrounds to cities as diverse as Ahmedabad, Amsterdam, Isfahan, London, New York, Paris, Rome and Shanghai; that is, we are interested in human settlements whose origins depend upon rivers. And not just the cities proper, but also their hinterlands, or more precisely their riverine conditions up and downstream of their urban centres.
This book investigates the relationship between architecture and rivers at a number of scales, from the geographical/topographical, through the urban/infrastructural, down to that of the individual building or space. Here, we examine the interface between terrain and water through the techniques and cultures of landscape, urban, architectural and material history and design, and through cross-cultural studies in art, literature, as well as social and cultural history
Adler, G., Brittain-Catlin, T. and Fontana-Giusti, G. eds. (2012). Scale Imagination, Perception and Practice in Architecture. [Online]. Abingdon: Routledge. Available at: http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415687126/.Scale is a word which underlies much of architectural and urban design practice, its history and theory, and its technology. This book considers what is culturally specific about scale? And what does scale mean in a world where an intuitive, visual understanding is often undermined or superseded by other senses, or by hyper-reality?
With a visual essay in each section, this book is for students, academics and practitioners in architecture and architectural theory as well as of interest to students in a range of other disciplines including art history and theory, geography, anthropology and landscape architecture.
Introduction Gerald Adler 1.
Scale Excursus 1: The Scale of the Detail, Natalie Rozencwaig
Part 1: Scale Before the Twentieth Century
The Role of Small-Scale Images by Wenceslaus Hollar: the Rebuiling of London in the Late Seventeenth Century, Gordana Fontana-Giusti
Mildendo and Masdar: A Tale of Two Cities, Adam Sharr
Examining the Knots…Counting the Bricks’: John Ruskin’s Innocent Eye, Stephen Kite
The Worm’s Eye as a Measure of Man: Axonometry in Architectural Representation, Hilary Bryon
Scale Excursus 2: Scale in Recent Projects by MVRDV, Natalie de Vries
Part 2: Scale in Art and Perception
Colour Scales, Fay Zika
Scales of Interaction: Aligning the Qualitative with the Quantitative in Music and Architecture, Fiona Smyth
Architectual Scale: Psychoanalysis and Adrian Stokes, Janet Sayers
Sublime Indifference, Helen Mallinson
Measuring Up: Measurement and the Redefinition of Scale in Conceptual Art, Elise Noyez
Scaling Haptics – Haptic Scaling: Studying Scale and Scaling in the Haptic Design Process of Two Architects who Lost their Sight, Peter-Willem Vermeersch and Ann Heylighen
Scale Adjustment in Architecture and Music, Richard Coyne
Scale Excursus 3: Complex Ordinariness in Oxford: 'House after Two years of Living', Igea Troiani
Part 3: Scale in the Twentieth Century
Ethos Logos Pathos: Architects and their Chairs, Jonathan Foote
‘Halfway between the Electron and the Universe’: Doxiadis and the Delos Symposia, Simon Richards
Little Boxes, Gerald Adler
Scale and Identity in the Housing Projects of Coderch, Michael Pike
Politics and the Deliquescence of Scale: the Columbaria of Brodsky and Utkin, Michael Ostwald
Adler, G. ed. (2012). Scale: imagination, perception and practice in architecture. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.Scale is a word which underlies much of architectural and urban design practice, its history and theory, and its technology. Its connotations have traditionally been linked with the humanities, in the sense of relating to human societies and to human form. To build in scale goes virtually without saying in the world of ‘polite’ architecture, but this is a precept observed more often in the breach when it comes to vast swathes of commercial and institutional design. The older, more particular, meaning in the humanities, pertaining to classical western culture, is where the sense of scale often resides in cultural production. Scale may be traced back, ultimately, to the discovery of musical harmonies, or it may reside in the arithmetic proportional relationship of the building to its parts. One might question the continued relevance of this understanding of scale in the global world of today. What, in other words, is culturally specific about scale? And what does scale mean in a world where an intuitive, visual understanding is often undermined or superseded by other senses, or by hyper-reality?
This book contains a selection of the best papers given at the 7th International AHRA Conference, hosted by CREAte (The Centre for Research in European Architecture) at the University of Kent, Canterbury. It includes an introduction which sets the scene in terms of current architectural discourse, and is organized in three thematic parts, each with an introduction by one of the co-editors.
The chapters are grouped according to the following broad themes: Scale and the Post-Humanist Age, Scale in the Age of Digital Representation, and Scale and Globalisation.
Adler, G. (2004). Tessenow In Hellerau: The Materialisation Of Space.Germany’s first Garden City was founded at Hellerau in 1908; it represented different aspects of the Reform movement, and was a remarkable coincidence of progressive manufacturing (Karl Schmidt’s Deutsche Werkstätten furniture factory), housing and urban design (masterplanned by Richard Riemerschmid with significant contributions from Hermann Muthesius and Heinrich Tessenow) and cultural innovation (the Festspielhaus, promoted by the patron Wolf Dohrn who commissioned Tessenow) where the Swiss musical pedagogue Emile Jaques-Dalcroze established his school of eurhythmy.
Tessenow’s work, in the form of executed buildings, drawings, and writings, forms an architectural corpus which concludes many nineteenth-century concerns and lays the foundations for much of the technical and aesthetic agenda of the Neues Bauen of the 1920s and beyond. His nineteenth-century inheritance is emphasised by considering his work as a series of dialectical pairings representing the fundamental ‘spirit’ and ‘matter’ discourse of that era. The focus on ‘space’ and ‘matter’ of the late 1800s becomes the theoretical engine of the analysis of Tessenow’s work: in terms of ‘light’ (the ‘light box’ of the Festspielhaus) and ‘fabric’ (the aesthetics of flatness aided by Tessenow’s patented wall construction); ‘the grid’, where his work is related to contemporaneous concerns of Behrens and Lauweriks, and ‘the everyday’, which concludes with the parallel of his ‘ordinary’ designs with Muthesius’s encouragement of ‘the type’.
Tessenow’s architecture is interpreted as a critical development of Gottfried Semper’s ‘Four Elements’, and it is here that the overly simplistic dialectic of ‘spirit’ and ‘matter’ is found wanting, particulary as concerns the Semperian ‘hearth’ element. The thesis concludes by charting Tessenow’s changing critical reception throughout the twentieth century against its key architectural staging posts, and suggests that the lesson we might learn from him is to adopt a Humanist outlook incorporating an ethos both materialist and ‘spiritual’ in outlook.
Adler, G. (2007). Curating the social, curating the architectural. in: 4th Annual AHRA International Conference.Built works of architecture form vital aspects of our cultural heritage. However, the precise nature of what constitutes this heritage is called into question when it comes to considering buildings in their physical, social, and cultural contexts. Do we value, above all, a particular building’s ‘pure’ architectural pedigree, or is its social and communal value paramount?
However, a particular problem arises in the case of buildings whose cultural meaning has changed. Do we, in curating such a building, privilege its ‘architecture’ and suppress its ‘history’, or expose its cultural and social meanings at the expense of its design aspects? Or can a happy medium be struck?
If we transpose ourselves to a more charged, and polarised, situation the problem comes into sharper focus. One of the best examples is the fate of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Guard House (1816-18) in Berlin. One hundred years after its construction, in the aftermath of the First World War, it had fallen into disrepair, and in the final years of the Weimar Republic a competition was launched to remodel the building as a war memorial. This was won by Heinrich Tessenow in 1930. Over the next fifty years the building’s use and iconography accurately charted the vicissitudes of Germany as it swung from a liberal democratic republic (Weimar), to a totalitarian state under Hitler, to the workers’ paradise of the GDR until its final incarnation as the (united) federal republic.
Currently two minor buildings designed by Tessenow for a Jewish philanthropist from the years immediately prior to the outbreak of the First World War are facing conservationists and historians with similar questions as to the primacy of architectural form over more general cultural content. What should our response be towards buildings designed by Tessenow for a Jewish German nationalist organisation as they are currently faced with degradation? How do we distinguish a cultural and political heritage as distinct from a strictly architectural one?