Richard Paulick and the Remaking of a Greater Shanghai 1933–1949

Coffee table with abstract murals, Modern Homes, Architeckturmuseum der TU München, in courtesy of the Richard Paulick Estate.

Known as a great designer, a convincing planner, a beloved educator, a resourceful leader, it is arguable, however, whether considered in terms of identity, ideology and style, if Richard Paulick (1909–1979) can be listed as a true Bauhausler. Paulick had always felt himself as “other” from his peers. A GDR modernist, who devoted the latter half of career to the industrialization and standardization of housing, and planning and building socialist new towns, yet whether during his Shanghai exile or later in Berlin, Paulick sometimes camouflaged his political ideals, which were of a decidedly mixed nature.

He claimed himself a true Marxist, while also serving as “a court-decorator of (Jewish) tycoon Sassoon’s and other local grandees”1during his time in Shanghai from 1933 to 1949. He was still suspected as a Bolshevik when he applied to migrate to the United State after the end of the Second World War, and while working for the Chinese Nationalist Government (as well as for American Missionaries). His politics shifted stylishly to fit the time and situation.

Examining his works, words and practice, it is clear Paulick was a modernist. This is especially true of his sixteen years in Shanghai. During the war years Paulick had rich opportunities for practicing in a variety of disciplines, and in doing so was able to transplant concepts from the modernist movement, profoundly shaping the future of Shanghai and influencing the academic and professional circles in which he moved. This article traces his life and work in Shanghai, inquiring into the “other modernity” that he developed during that period, especially during his work on the Greater Shanghai Plan from 1946 to 1949. I argue his experience in Shanghai shaped his way of thinking in the years following his return to Germany.

The Shanghai Exile

Dining Room, Modern Homes design published on China Journal, Vol. 3, 1936.

In the summer of 1933, Richard Paulick, the son of an SPD official and himself politically active on the left, hurriedly left Berlin. Transferring in Venice to the Asia-bound ocean liner SS Conte Rosso, he disembarked some weeks later at Shanghai’s Hongkou Harbor.2 Shanghai at the time was expanding at extraordinary speed, being that the city served as both a treaty port and a haven for refugees entering China. Meanwhile the Chinese hinterland was under-going great economic, political and cultural turmoil. The distinction between Shanghai’s relative affluence and the poverty of the vast countryside underscores the harsh contradiction between (Chinese) tradition and (Western) modernization. In the decades before the Second World War, China’s port cities had begun to play an increasing role in the political-economic life of Chinese society. With the end of the imperial period, modern transportation, telecommunication, science and technology, foreign and domestic capital, as well as information from the outside world, all poured into these open port cities. This transformation was one reason for the growing gap between urban and rural China. The 1911 Revolution, the first of its kind in China to originate in cities rather than rural areas, indicates this dawning awareness of the disparities between urban and rural, rich and poor, coast and the hinterland, would greatly affect the country’s future.

The wars of the first half of the twentieth century helped Shanghai further develop into a capital and industrial city. Before WWII, Shanghai had become the financial center of China and the Far East. Until Japan occupied Shanghai’s foreign concessions with the start of the Pacific War (Chinese parts of the city had been occupied in 1937) these areas had been largely shielded from warfare. Refugees poured into the ten square miles from all parts of the lower Yangzi, swelling the population from 1,5 million to 3 million in a few months3. Work remained plentiful. Due to well-established sea routes, Shanghai had emerged as one of the most important port cities on the eastern Pacific rim. Construction of railway lines and modern communication infrastructure strengthened Shanghai’s strategic position, helping it to earn the name, “Capital of modernity” (mo du). Furthermore, with its abundant capital resources and strong merchant class, Shanghai attracted extensive investments in industry and manufacturing. What it lacked in raw materials it made up for with its extensive water transportation system and almost infinite supply of cheap labors. Shanghai industry rocketed ahead between and during the wars, making it a hub of China’s textile, food processing and mechanical industries.

Because of its booming economy, in the 1930s Shanghai had become a paradise for adventurers as well as refugees. Before the Pacific War broke out, a population of more than three million resided on an area of land only 75 square km, with the size of the average household reached thirty-one people.4 As the most westernized and modern city in the nation, Shanghai was also site of the greatest polarization between rich and poor. Wealthy Chinese nationalists/capitalists, a growing administrative class of bourgeois compradors allied with imperialist powers, and those living in absolute destitution lived in the same place, yet their access to the city was distinctly different. The border of the concession areas witnessed sharp contrasts between modernity and tradition, advancement and regression, peace and gunfire.

The Modern Home, Modern Home, and Modern Homes

Upon arrival in Shanghai, Richard Paulick immediately began working for the Modern Home, an interior design firm established by his friend Rudolf Hamburger (1903–1980). After Paulick joined the firm, the Modern Home was transformed from a modest interior design firm into a much larger concern offering furniture, fabrics and interior decoration services: “the firm is now incontestably the best far and wide, in its line,” Paulick wrote in a letter to Walter Gropius in 1941.5 Offering all things necessary for the home, its business model made it appealing to wealthy home owners while also corresponding with the Bauhaus’s idea of breaking the boundaries between the arts, craftsmanship and industry, and improved construction techniques.

In 1934, the year after his arrival, the Modern Home was bought by the Sassoon family, who eliminated the indefinite article, changing the name simply to “Modern Home.” Its Chinese name was also changed from “锦花” (Pronounced “Jinhua”—“glory flowers” in Chinese) to “时代” (“Shidai”—a more accurate translation of its English name).6 From the beginning of his years in Shanghai, Paulick demonstrated his stylistic versatility and an ability to keep pace with changes in popular fashion, becoming highly successful as a commercial designer. He mainly referred to classic decorative styles—with necessary modifications, if required by clients—e.g., designing in the Louis XIV style, the most popular style among Shanghai’s merchant class.

By the end of 1936, with the threat of a total war haunting China, Modern Home was liquidated. Paulick, his brother Rudolf (1908–1964)7 and their fellow German exile, the architect Hans Werther8, started a new company, named by simply appending an “s” to the end of the Sassoon-owned firm—Modern Homes. With war approaching, modernism, functionalism and a simple, pared down design aesthetic began appearing more often in Modern Homes projects. Mixing materials such as wood, glass and chrome together, Paulick began experimented with a more streamlined style while at the same time introducing rich color patterns into his interior design schemes. For example, inlay sofas in contrasting colors became more fashionable during this period. Changes in Paulick’s design sensibility reflected the latest international artistic trends, but the hardships of wartime were another factor that lead to his increasingly modern design approach. Raw materials were in short supply, necessitating cost controls, while the bulkier classic furniture could not fit into smaller rooms. In a way, the introduction of rich colors could be seen as a way of compensating for the furniture’s lower quality.

Living room, Bedroom and showroom, Modern Homes design published in China Journal, Vol. 3, 1936.

Tango Bar interior, Modern Homes, Architeckturmuseum der TU München, courtesy of the Richard Paulick Estate.

Advertisements of Modern Homes could easily be found in China Journal, an English-language magazine promoting modern science and arts. In the winter of 1941, Paulick published an advertorial in the magazine introducing the latest trends in interior decoration, clarifying his developing approach to the relationship between art, taste, fashion and function:

"Interior decoration like all architectural arts and handicrafts is always subjected to two contrary groups of demands. On one side the group of art, taste and fashion, and on the other, the demands of comfort, climate, daily use, durability and affordability. Everybody knows that these demands are continually changing all over the world as well as in Shanghai, and it is the task of the artist to find the solution between these demands."9

With the end of the Pacific war in August of 1945, Modern Homes began receiving interior design commission and furniture manufacturing jobs for a series of important clients. The firm rented a spacious showroom on the fourth floor of the Sun Department Store on Nanjing Road, the largest department in Shanghai, attesting to its postwar success on the market. Modern architecture had begun to acquire greater respectability across the ocean. This trend soon was closely followed in Shanghai, leading to a sudden emergence of modern styling in the city by the end of the 1940s.

Coffee table with abstract murals, Modern Homes, Architeckturmuseum der TU München, in courtesy of the Richard Paulick Estate.

In 1948, together with his brother, his stepdaughter Evalore Hess, and his students Zhong Yaohua (1913–1998)10, Zheng Guanxuan, Li Dehua (1924–present)11 and Zeng Jian (1925–2011)12, Paulick founded the firm Modern Textile. Postwar scarcity had forced Richard to open his own weaving workshop to provide quality textiles for his furniture and interiors. He and his collaborators took great pleasure in textile design and production, an attitude also in line with the Bauhaus ethos.

Paulick’s designs for nightclubs, restaurants and bars inside the concession areas was further evidence of the postwar economic recovery. One representative work is the Tango Bar—done in a combination of contrasting colors, curves, collages and abstract patterns to emphasize its avant-garde appeal. By contrast, Paulick’s design for a high-end club like Silk Hat was a model of elegant restraint, proving again his ability to utilize different styles according to the requirements of different market niches. Rumor has it that he also designed many private residential buildings in the immediate postwar years—such as Sun Ke’s Mansion in Nanjing, and the Rong Yiren and Guo Dihuo Residences in Shanghai—although these projects have proved impossible to research due to a paucity of references. According to his former students, Paulick’s design touch is still visible at the Yao’s Garden (now part of the West Suburb State Guest Houses).

Towards a modern Chinese metropolis

In 1941, by chance an article in Life Magazine came to Paulick's attention. Its topic was Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer’s instituting of a Bauhaus-style design pedagogy at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Writing from Shanghai on July 6 Paulick wrote a letter to Gropius in Cambridge. He never received a reply, but nevertheless this letter brought him to a pivotal point in his wartime career, for the following year Henry Huang (1915–1975), one of Gropius’s Harvard students, returned to China to assume a teaching post at St. John’s University in Shanghai, where he had been hired to establish the Department of Architecture within the engineering faculty. Huang invited Paulick to join as the second full-time faculty member. The offer afforded Paulick a rare opportunity to teach during the Japanese occupation. It also placed him in an advantageous position to enter the field of town planning in postwar Shanghai, for after the war’s conclusion he was invited to serve on the Shanghai Commission of Public Works, the Huangpu River Crossing Engineering Board and, later, as a consultant for the Ministry of Railways (explaining the several design commissions for Chinese railway stations he would later be awarded).

With the end of WWII, the extraterritorial rights held by foreign powers were abolished, and three urban conglomerations—the Special Municipality of Shanghai, the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession of Shanghai—were consolidated under the nationalist government as the Municipality of Greater Shanghai. For the first time the city was governed under one political unit, enabling a truly comprehensive metropolitan plan to come into being. Compared to the prewar “Greater Shanghai Plan” of the 1930s, which was limited to the new civic center scheme at Kiangwan (“an architectural protest of the national revolution against imperialism,” as Paulick put it, “architecture [being] an inefficient tool in economic and political struggle”13 [he also wrote that “to plan towns as a separate secluded unit on the map would be paperwork only”14]), T. K. Chao (Zhao Zukang), the new commissioner of public works, initiated a large-scale planning program immediately after the end of the war, with enthusiastic support from the Municipal Council and the assistance of a large number of planners, architects and other technical experts.

The postwar Greater Shanghai Plan conceived by Richard Paulick and his colleagues followed a modernist schema: years of destruction having provided a fertile ground for radical progress. Paulick’s profile within the planners’ group was greatly improved by his success in convincing the planning board that Shanghai’s population would exceed 10 million in the next 25 years, and it was imperative that any future Shanghai plan be developed on a regional basis. Since overpopulation was already severe in Shanghai and its immediate environs, additional land would have to be incorporated into a proposed greater Shanghai region during the next 25–30 years.15 Taking a cue from England’s Garden City movement and neighborhood unit theory in the US, Paulick also argued that a decentralized model should be arranged in a hierarchical order, although he cautioned that planning for density should not follow the European or American models precisely. At the urban planning studios of St. John’s University, Paulick and his students had carefully tested ideal population densities for different urban regions, coming up with recommended ranges of from five to fifteen thousand people per square kilometer.

Yin Sze University Civil Engineering School, 1946-1949, Paulick & Paulick, Architeckturmuseum der TU München, in courtesy of the Richard Paulick Estate.

Yin Sze University Civil Engineering School, 1946-1949, Paulick & Paulick, Architeckturmuseum der TU München, in courtesy of the Richard Paulick Estate.

Yin Sze University Civil Engineering School, 1946-1949, Paulick & Paulick, Architeckturmuseum der TU München, in courtesy of the Richard Paulick Estate.

Central Terminal Nanking, 1946-1949, Paulick & Paulick, Architeckturmuseum der TU München, in courtesy of Richard Paulick Estate.

As previously noted, Shanghai owed its importance and growth to its strategic location midway along China’s coastline, at the mouth of the Wusong River. Between 1865 and 1935, Shanghai harbor experienced steady and nearly uninterrupted growth in shipping and commerce: in the 70 years succeeding the report’s writing, the port experienced an almost twenty-fold increase in tonnage moving through it.16 Its significance resumed immediately after WWII, obtaining a lion share of the foreign trade in the Pacific rim. Basing his observations on European port cities such as Rotterdam and Hamburg, Paulick argued that Shanghai’s port facilities should be greatly upgraded and clustered at the Wusong River’s mouth and in Hangzhou Bay. He thought the greatest mistake in the prior development of Shanghai harbor was allowing “pony-express” operations, which took advantage of the cheap cost of labor and land, to be scattered in intervals along Huangpu River. These prevented the introduction of mechanized cranes for loading and unloading ships.

First Draft, Greater Shanghai Plan, Dec. 1946. Shanghai Archives.

Paulick also strongly recommended building a comprehensive elevated throughway to connect outlying new-town developments with the city center. In his proposal, an aggressive throughway system and network of sub-arterial roads, accommodating industrial freight traffic and public transportation, would further define the planned independent urban units.

Much of the Greater Shanghai Plan was criticized for being unrealistic, and, in its rationale, which followed a Western model of organization, poorly suited to the Chinese situation. Interestingly enough, the critiques Paulick’s plan received were based on cost/benefit analyses—i.e., whether Shanghai could afford such a radical development project—rather than on cultural or identitarian concerns. Unlike the pre-war Kiangwan Plan, which articulated a distinctly Chinese-style of architecture and urban space, cultural concerns were never mentioned in the post-war discussions and debates. Paulick argued that while Chinese town planning should not apply European standards, industrialization and modernization were a commonly shared goal. Hence, social re-organization and the re-settlement of great swathes of the city population were inevitable. Another example of the imposition of a hyper-rational city planning strategy was a planned express gridiron system that paid no respect to the existing urban fabric. In fact, built urban space was not yet considered as urban heritage, but was viewed, on the contrary, as “evidence of imperialist powers and backwardness.”17 Later, this comprehensive grid plan was downsized—again, on the basis of economic considerations. It was not until 1952 that the Soviet architect Alexander Mukhin would criticize the road system plan’s emphasis on traffic and efficiency as inadequate for representing the spirit of the new socialist city.18

“A new science of urbanism was rapidly promoted,” wrote W. G. Hamburger, who at this time was the civil engineer in charge of port planning, “… the organization of the Shanghai City Planning Board is extremely modern and streamlined.”19 Though it was rare that a modernist faction could continue to dominate plan-making in the latter half of the 1940s, they were boosted by Chinese society’s strong urge to modernize after the end of the war, and the nationalist’s willingness to keep this dream alive as they muddled through the civil war period. Such grand schemes served as evidence of the regime’s progress in countering the crises of legitimacy dogging it in this period.20 A final draft was completed on June 6, 194921, but by this time the People’s Liberation Army had already taken over the city, and subsequently the plan was presented by T. K. Chao, the acting Nationalist Mayor, to the new Communist Mayor Chen Yi. At the time of this presentation, the city’s population stood at 6 million people.

The Greater Shanghai Plan Paulick helped to develop between 1946 and 1949 was the first time in Chinese history where city-building had been based on modern city-planning principles. For him it was a period of extraordinary professional experience. He had been instrumental in developing an ambitious modernist redevelopment scheme for a metropolis numbering many millions, while his peers struggled to survive. In a letter to his former Bauhaus friend Georg Muche he wrote, “I have the feeling that I won't find this degree of professional freedom anywhere else, having three official and three private jobs at the same time.”22 This experience also placed him in an extremely advantageous position after his return to the German Democratic Republic, a country that was itself facing the tremendous task of postwar reconstruction and socialist new town city-building.

Concentric Density Zone Model for Greater Shanghai, September 1947, Greater Shanghai Plan Outline Report, Shanghai City Archives.

Paulick’s Legacy

Shanghai Land Use and Throughway System Masterplan, May 1947, Greater Shanghai Plan, Shanghai City Archives.

When he left Shanghai on 1 October 1949, four months after the Communist took over, only one student from St. John’s University showed up at Richard Paulick’s farewell party.23 Faced with a change in political regime, most people chose to act cautiously. Paulick, his Chinese students and colleagues corresponded sporadically in the early 1950s, but after the nominal unity of the socialist bloc disintegrated, it became impolitic for Chinese and Europeans alike to mention Paulick’s 16 years in Shanghai.

As a foreigner who scarcely left Shanghai’s international settlement24 and was unable to speak the local language, Paulick remained unfamiliar with rural and inland China. Living amongst other European refugees, it is quite obvious, in retrospect, that Paulick’s condescending attitudes towards this “culture-less” society remained unchanged.25 At a time when 75 percent of Shanghai’s populace was illiterate, Paulick’s social and professional circles were restricted to an educated elite who could speak English or German. Nevertheless, he did develop an outstanding group of friends among his modernist peers, and helped to import a modernist design sensibility to China through his pedagogical and city-planning activities. He was one of very few Westerners who left behind solid evidence of Shanghai’s links abroad—through the connections he made between proponents of modernism in Germany and China, and between St John’s University in Shanghai and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Following the merger of St. John’s department of architecture with Tongji University, in 1952 the latter established the first urban planning program in China. Undoubtedly something of Paulick’s influence persisted there after his return to Europe.

Paulick never truly agreed with his peers. At St. John’s he attended faculty meetings no more than was necessary—“to spare [his] nerves” against the university’s “old fashioned” American colleagues from the South and Midwest, as well as the “Chinese brothers who have adapted their mentality and gestures.”26 He would later criticize many Bauhauslers for taking modernism for a style rather than a social movement, while at the same time regarding Bauhaus communists as “politically so untrained that uncertainty is the decisive factor.”27 Paulick believed a new Nazism would eventually rise again from capitalism, as “Nazism is rooted in our means of production, in their character, their technical development and ownership, which they are embedded in.”28 Following the parallel trends of modernist movement and socialist construction, later in his career Paulick devoted himself into the mass production of affordable housing. Many of his former students in China did so as well. Nevertheless, whether or not we can say contemporary cities are a triumph of modernism, socialism, or capitalism is a question yet to be answered.

  • 1 Paulick’s letter to W. Gropius, dated July 6th, 1941. Harvard Houghton Library, MS Ger 208: Walter Gropius papers.
  • 2 Paulick Legacy, Architecture Museum of Munich Technical University.
  • 3 Wen-hsin Yeh, Wartime Shanghai, Routledge, 1998, p. 4.
  • 4 Greater Shanghai Plan reports, First Draft, chapter one.
  • 5 R. Paulick’s Letter to w. Gropius, dated July 6, 1941. Harvard Houghton Library.
  • 6 North China Daily News (Shanghai), p. 179, 1933; p. 188, 1935.
  • 7 Rudolf Paulick graduated from Bauhaus under the direction of Mies van der Rohe in 1932.
  • 8 Hans Werther was a graduate of the Bauhochschule Weimar, the school that followed after the Bauhaus. Werther also came to Shanghai in the early 1930s. He committed suicide a few days after the opening of “Modern Homes”. Eduard Koegel, “German Modern in China (1930s)”, Bauhaus Annual Journal 01, p. 92.
  • 9 Richard Paulick: “Interior Decoration,” in: China Journal, Vol. 34, No. 4, Shanghai 1941.
  • 10 Zhong Yaohua received his bachelor of arts at Harvard University in 1935, with a concentration on civil engineering. He worked for the Shanghai Urban Planning Administration Bureau after 1949.
  • 11 Li Dehua graduated from St John’s University with diploma in architecture and civil engineering in 1945. He later taught at St. John’s and then Tongji University, and he was the first dean of architecture and urban planning at Tongji University established in 1987.
  • 12 Zeng Jian was one of the first architectural students at St. John’s University. He was the founder and a key figure of China Academy of Interior Design.
  • 13 Richard Paulick, Speech to officials of Shanghai City Government, January 4, 1946. Paulick legacy, Munich Technical University.
  • 14 From Paulick’s handwritten draft, unidentified year. Paulick legacy, Munich Technical University.
  • 15 The recommended expansion of the Shanghai municipal boundary was finally achieved thirteen years later under the communist government.
  • 16 “The Port,” Greater Shanghai Plan report, Shanghai City Archives.
  • 17 Self-criticism Report on Urban Planning Thoughts (chengsh guihua sixiang de jiancha baogao), May 27, 1955, p. 2, Shanghai Archives 138–2–9.
  • 18 Ibid.
  • 19 W. G. Hamburger: “The Work of the Shanghai City Planning Board,” in: The Far Eastern Engineer, Manilla, March 1948, p. 126.
  • 20 There had been several initiatives in the Municipal Council to cut the budget of planning from 1946 to 1949, but it was saved from complete cancellation by the Commission.
  • 21 According to my interview to Chai Xixian, a junior planner at the time, the actual date of competition is May 24, one day prior to the People’s Liberation Army took over the city. But it was intentioned dated on June 6, 1949 on the cover of the final report.
  • 22 Paulick’s letter to Georg Muche, April 11, 1949, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
  • 23 Based on a 2016 interview with Luo XIaowei and Zhao Zukang’s Dairy.
  • 24 Paulick became stateless in 1938, five years after his arrival, after the German Nationalist Socialist Consul in Shanghai refused to renew his passport.
  • 25 Paulick’s Letter to Walter Gropius, July 6, 1941. Harvard Houghton Library.
  • 26 Paulick’s letter to Georg Muche, April 11, 1949, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
  • 27 Paulick’s letter to Fritz Levedage, Sept. 1, 1949. Original text in German. Paulick Legacy. Technical University Munich.
  • 28 Ibid.
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Hannes Meyer arrived in the USSR just a couple of months after being dismissed from his position as Bauhaus director in October 1930. These months were filled with attempts by Meyer and his supporters to protest this decision through all possible means: media campaigns, open letters, student demonstration and court trials. After arriving in Moscow, Meyer carried on the fight against his unfair dismissal. → more

From Recognition to Rejection — Hannes Meyer and the Reception of the Bauhaus in the Soviet Union

The history of the Stalinist critique of the Bauhaus and Hannes Meyer has two chapters. The first chapter spans the time from 1929 to the Architects’ Congress in the Soviet Union in 1937; the second consists in the condemnation of the Bauhaus in the GDR that took place on the trip by East German architects to Moscow in spring of 1950. This text tells the story of the first chapter. → more

Meyer’s Russia, or the Land that Never Was

It is quite hard to know where to start with Hannes Meyer in Moscow. It’s hard because, while there is plenty of documentation on him and his team in the Bauhaus Brigade—as well as other Western designers and architects (of these, Ernst May is at least as significant as Meyer, as is the Dutch designer Mart Stam, and each went on to produce more substantial work than Meyer after their respective Russian episodes)—the legacy of his work there presents certain difficulties in evaluating. → more

Moving Away to the Other End of the World — Reflections on the Letters Between Tibor Weiner and Hannes Meyer from the DAM Archive

This article examines the correspondence between a teacher (Hannes Meyer) and his former student (Tibor Weiner), who met at the Bauhaus in Dessau, going on to live for a period in the Soviet Union. Each migrated to Latin America shortly before the outbreak of World War Two, and returned to Europe in the late 1940s. The surviving letters between Meyer and Weiner, preserved in the DAM Archive in Frankfurt am Main, are not only a testimony of comradeship but also a window into some key moments in the first half of the twentieth century. → more

●Artists Work
Bauhaus in Russia — Haunted Houses

The following material was produced during the photographic workshop Bauhaus in Russia: Haunted houses, which took place in the framework of the exhibition bauhaus imaginista. Moving Away: The Internationalist Architect at the museum of contemporary art Garage in Moscow. Through an open-call we invited participants from several Russian cities to take part in the visual research on both the visible and invisible legacies of the “bauhauslers”. → more

●Artist Work
To Philipp Tolziner

For the exhibition bauhaus imaginista: Moving Away. The Internationalist Architect at Garage Contemporary Museum of Art, the contemporary artist Alice Creischer has been invited to respond to the personal archive of Bauhaus architect Philipp Tolziner. She produced reading of material relating to the architect’s socialist backgrounds and his work in the Soviet Union.  → more

●Artist Work
Sketch One: Lotte and Hermina — Script-Reading and Screening by Wendelien van Oldenborgh

The script that the artist Wendelin van Oldenborgh created for bauhaus imaginista: Moving Away. The Internationalist Architect as a public moment is an insight into the development of her larger film project which will premiere as a contribution to the bauhaus imaginista exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, March 2019. It features archive material around the personas Lotte Beese and Hannes Meyer, Hermine Huiswoud and Langston Hughes. → more

Hamhŭng’s Two Orphans (To Konrad Püschel) — East German Internationalism in North-Korea Emerging through a Chronopolitical Lens

Doreen Mende’s work Hamhung’s Two Orphans, which borrows its title from a chapter of the cine-essay Coréennes (1959) by Chris Marker, proposes to trace the transformation of the Bauhaus’s relevance from its prewar internationalist modernity into elements of the GDR’s socialist internationalism when architecture operated as a state-crafting instrument during the global Cold War. → more

“All artists interlock!” — How Bauhäuslers created the “New Germany” and promoted the national economy

The Third Reich was in ruins, the surrender not yet signed. An architect painstakingly working his way through the debris to the Schöneberg town hall found a sign on the door of the building authority with his name. Appointed to office by the German Communist Party (KPD), city counselor Hans Scharoun immediately looked around for his people: “I’ve looked everywhere for you, where are you? Here we go!” → more

The “School in the Woods” as a Socio-pedagogical Ideal — Functional Analyses and Photographs by Peterhans

The building theory classes at the Bauhaus focused on imparting a functional understanding of architecture. Building had become a science. As a result, the ADGB Trade Union School was designed logically from the inside out. Walter Peterhans’ photographs of the school images illustrate both the architect’s intentions for the building and the environmental studies conducted by Bauhaus students. → more

●Artist Work
Scenes from the Most Beautiful Campus in Africa — A Film about the Ife Campus

Zvi Efrat, 2019, film stills from the exhibition video projection, 25 min, color, sound, English.
Courtesy of the artist. → more

The Legacy of Arieh Sharon’s Postcolonial Modernist Architecture at the Obafemi Awolowo University Campus in Ile-Ife Nigeria

The significance of Arieh Sharon’s postcolonial modernist architecture at Obafemi Awolowo University Campus at Ile-Ife is multi-dimensional. Built between 1960 and 1978, at first glance the campus core consists of an ensemble of modernist buildings. In this article Bayo Amole examines some of the physical and conceptual characteristics of the campus master plan and core area design in order to illustrate their significance as examples of postcolonial modernist architecture—identifying the most important aspects of their legacy, which has continued to guide the design of the campus as it has developed over the course of more than a half century. → more

Bauhaus Modernism and the Nigerian Connection — The Socio-Political Context of Arieh Sharon and the University Of Ife Design

It should be considered “against the run of play” for a Bauhaus-trained Israeli architect such as Arieh Sharon to have been named designer of the post-independence University of Ife. This paper examines how developments in the socio-political context of Nigeria and international politics—including history and policies in the education sector—“constructed” Sharon’s involvement in the University of Ife design and the spread of Bauhaus modernism to tropical architecture. → more

Nigerian Campus Design — A Juxtaposition of Traditional and Contemporary Architecture

The early to mid-twentieth century saw the International Style and modernism rapidly influence major Nigerian cities and towns, first as a result of colonialism and then independence. Discussing the architecture of two first-generation Nigerian Universities, the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University, this article builds upon the established discourse concerning how architects assimilated the International Style into the tropical climate and sociocultural context of Nigeria. → more

Colonial Architecture in Ile-Ife

The architectural heritage credited to the colonial intervention of the British in Nigeria is a blend of features imported by Europeans accustomed to a temperate climate, mixed with adaptations derived from the principles of modern architecture and concessions to the region’s tropical climate. As such, colonial buildings of this era can be regarded as a hybrid architectural style. → more

The New Culture School for Arts and Design — Launched in 1995

The New Culture School for Arts and Design in Ibadan, Nigeria has involved the development and construction of a space for creative people working in many different media in order to advance their professional proficiency in the fine arts, theater, music, film, photography, design, writing and more. → more

Nation Building through Campus Architecture — Israeli Architects Arieh Sharon and Eldar Sharon’s Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Campus in Ile-Ife, Nigeria, 1962–1976

The campus of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria, the first phase of which was built between 1962 and 1972, is a fascinating example of modernist architecture in Africa. As a case study of Africa’s assimilation of the modern style, its design is intriguing also due to the fact that it was built by Israeli architect Arieh Sharon (1900–1984), aided by his son, Eldar Sharon (1933–1994). → more

Beyond Cement and Iron — Contextualizing Israeli Architecture in Africa

My focus on construction and planning is not incidental. These fields played a crucial role in space-shaping processes during the first decades of the Israeli state, as well as in the construction of the territorial identity of its new citizens. Simultaneously, during the 1960s, the modernist construction projects undertaken in African countries post-independence were also evidence of a desire amongst newly independent African nations for postcolonial national unity. → more

Tropical Architecture / Building Skin

Like the modernist architecture that preceded it, tropical architecture was co-defined with modern bodies and the bodies of the tropics: initially those of colonizers but soon colonized bodies as well. The technologies of tropical architecture, based on a modernist rationalism adapted to tropical climatic conditions, were, in turn, offered as a developmental asset to colonized subjects, especially young people. → more

A Hot Topic — Tropical Architecture and Its Aftermath

Both the tropical architecture discourse in general and British notions of modernism in particular were embedded in larger discussions on climatic and culturally sensitive approaches to building developed within the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne—CIAM) from the 1950s onward—notions rooted in the hygienic and medical discourses of colonial occupation. → more

The Extension Buildings of the ADGB Trade Union School in Bernau — Documents of the Formalism Debate in the GDR

The former ADGB Trade Union School is regarded today as an icon of modern architecture. Designed at the Bauhaus under the direction of Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer together with the students of architecture, the building ensemble still stands as a paragon of collective work, reform pedagogical ideas and analytic architecture. Less attention has been paid to the extensions to the school, planned 1949–51 by Georg Waterstradt. These buildings stand as a valuable testimony to the vigor of GDR architecture. The “formalism debate” led to a rejection of Bauhaus architecture, and thus, the set of political-architectural principles exemplified by the Trade Union School. → more

Communistic Functionalist — The Anglophone Reception of Hannes Meyer

Philip Johnson described Hannes Meyer as a “communistic functionalist” whose most notable achievement was to have preceded Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as director of the Bauhaus. The position he assigned to Meyer was reinforced in the Bauhaus Exhibition of 1938 at MoMA. The particular view of the Bauhaus presented at MoMA in 1938 corresponds to the place of Meyer in the historiography of modern architecture in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. The view that Meyer’s work allegedly lacked aesthetic interest, rendering it irrelevant to an Anglophone audience. → more

Selman Selmanagić at the Crossroads of Different Cultures — From Childhood Years in Bosnia to Bauhaus Education and Travels

Selman Selmanagić’s childhood years in Bosnia, on the eve of the First World War, as well as his education in Sarajevo, Ljubljana and at Bauhaus Dessau between the two world wars, together with his work in Palestine and Berlin, shaped his worldview and experience with different cultures and traditions. Throughout his career, he perpetually strove to find contemporary answers for the challenges of the time he was living in. → more

The “Hungarian Bauhaus” — Sándor Bortnyik’s Bauhaus-Inspired Budapest School Műhely 1928–1938

One of the many Hungarians associated with the Bauhaus, painter and graphic designer Sándor Bortnyik (1893-1976) opened his art and design school, Műhely, in Budapest in 1928 to bring the Bauhaus’s sprit and some of its teaching methods into Hungary. Even if Bortnyik’s school did not have the scope of the Bauhaus, it was an efficient experiment in an independent form of institutionalized education in the field of modern graphic design and typography. → more

Biology and Educational Models in the Pacific Southern Cone

The Chilean encounter with second-order cybernetics in the early 1970s was an essential part of the modernization project the state had been promoting since the 1920s, a project which also encompasses the 1945 reform of the architecture school. But if one reviews the history of this project with greater care, one can identify the reform of the new art school of 1928, which was the product of a social movement that began after the First World War, and that was able to implement in the main school of art of the country, a “first year of trial” similar to the methodology of the Bauhaus preliminary course, influenced by the trends of the “Active” or “New” school of the time. → more

For the Faculty of Architecture at METU — Bauhaus was a Promise

“ARCH 101 Basic Design” is the title of the introductory course offered to the first-year students in the METU Faculty of Architecture (Middle East Technical University, Ankara). Since the establishment of the school, this course has been conducted with a very strong Bauhaus impact. → more

From Social Democratic Experiment to Postwar Avant-Gardism — Asger Jorn and the International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus

The project bauhaus imaginista would be negligent if it did not address the artist group referenced by its title, the Mouvement Internationale pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste (International Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus, or IMIB), founded in 1953 by Danish artist Asger Jorn together with a handful of French and Italian colleagues. Many of the theoretical and artistic positions advocated by the IMIB were developed dialectically in response both to the historical Bauhaus and the reconstitution of a Bauhaus-inspired pedagogical program at the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) in Ulm. → more

Letter from Asger Jorn to Max Bill — February 12, 1954

Asger Jorn read of Max Bill’s plans for the new Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm (HfG), a school modeled after the Bauhaus, in the British Architects’ Yearbook 1953, where Bill had placed a promotional article to attract prospective students and teachers. Excited by the possibility of participating in a new democratic pedagogical experiment and in pursuing his interest in fusing art and architecture, he wrote to Bill, inquiring about the role of art at Ulm and expressing his desire to secure a teaching position.

This is a translation of one of the letters Jorn send to Bill. → more

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