GHDI logo

Hannes Meyer, "The New World" (1926)

page 2 of 3    print version    return to list previous document      next document

The steady improvement of graphic, photographic, and cinematographic processes makes it possible to reproduce the world ever more precisely. Our visual image of the landscape today is more polymorphic than ever: hangars and dynamo halls are the cathedrals raised to the spirit of our age. The impression they make derives its over whelming power from the specific forms, lights, and colors of their up-to-the-minute elements: from radio antennas, storage dams, and iron trussing from the parabola of the airship, the triangle of the automotive warning sign, the circle of the railway signal, and the rectangle of the billboard; from the linearity of the lines of force in telephone cables, aerial trolley wires, and high-tension lines; and from broadcast towers, concrete pylons, flashing lights, and gasoline stations. Our children are already belittling the puffing steam locomotive, cool and measured in their confidence in the miracle of electrical power. [Gret] Palucca’s dances, [Rudolf] von Laban’s motion choirs, and [Bess] Mensendieck’s functional gymnastics outstrip the aesthetic eroticism of painted nudes. The stadium vanquishes the art museum, and bodily reality replaces beautiful illusion. Sport unifies the individual with the masses. Sport is becoming the advanced school of collective feeling: hundreds of thousands were disappointed by Suzanne Lenglen’s cancellation. Hundreds of thousands were shaken by [Hans] Breitensträter’s defeat. Hundreds of thousands followed [Paavo] Nurmi’s tenthousand-meter run on the cinder track. The standardization of our needs is manifest: the derby hat, the bobbed hairdo, the tango, jazz, co-op products, presized stationery, and Liebig’s meat extracts. The typecasting of intellectual fare is illustrated by our rush to Harold Lloyd, Douglas Fairbanks, and Jackie Coogan. Charlot, Grock, and the three Fratellinis forge the masses—beyond distinctions of class and race—into a community of fate. Unions, cooperatives, Co., Inc., cartels, trusts, and the League of Nations are the expressive forms of modern social agglomerations, radio and rotary presses their instruments of information. Cooperation rules all the world. Community rules over individual being.

Every epoch demands its own form. Our task is to lend new form to our world by modern means. However, the burden of our knowledge of the past weighs upon us, and our institutions of higher education betray the tragedy of obstacles strewn along our path to the new. The unrestrained affirmation of the modern leads to a reckless denial of the past. The institutions of our elders become obsolete, the gymnasia and academies. City theaters and museums lose their audiences. The nervous perplexity of the applied arts is proverbial. Freed of the ballast of classical airs, artistic conceptual confusion, or the need for a decorative wrapping, the witnesses of a new epoch rise in their place: trade fair, grain silo, music hall, airport, office chair, standard ware. All of these things are products of the formula, function times economy. They are not artworks; art is composition, while purpose is function. The idea of the composition of a harbor strikes us as nonsense; the composition, however, of a city layout, an apartment house ...? ? But building is a technical not an aesthetic process, and the purposeful function of a building always contradicts artistic composition. Lent ideal and elementary form, our apartment house becomes a residence machine. Heating, sunning, natural and artificial light, hygiene, weatherproofing, garaging, cooking, radio reception, optimum convenience for the housewife, sex and family life, etc., are all the path-breaking force vectors, the components of which are built into the house. (Homeyness and status are not leitmotifs of apartment construction: the first resides in the human heart and not in a Persian rug, the second, in the personal attitude of the occupant and not on the apartment walls!) Modernity puts new building materials at the disposal of our new housing construction: panels, rods, and rungs of aluminum and duralumin, eubolite, rubberoid, torfoleum, eternite, rolled glass, triplex plates, reinforced concrete, glass bricks, Faenza pottery, steel frames, concrete slabs and pillars, troilite, galalite, cellon, ripoline, inanthracene colors. We organize these building elements, in conformity to purpose and the principle of economy, into a constructive unity. Architecture as the further development of tradition or the creation of effect is no more. Individual form and overall contours as well as material colors and surface structure emerge automatically, and this functional understanding of building of all kinds leads to pure construction. Pure construction is the mark of the new world of forms. The constructivist form knows no fatherland; it is stateless and the expression of an internationalized way of thought. Internationalism is one of the virtues of our age.

first page < previous   |   next > last page