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.

Selman Selmanagić was born in Srebrenica in 1905. This small mountain town in Eastern Bosnia, situated along important trade routes, was since Roman times well known for its silver mines (from which its ancient Latin name Argentaria originated). In the Austro-Hungarian years—during Selmanagić’s early childhood and youth—thick forests and healing waters around the town attracted many visitors to Srebrenica. This magical scenery determined his permanent attachment to nature, also stimulated by seasonal work on his family’s large estate.

Selmanagić’s childhood was determined by the encounter of two cultural and civilizational milieus, namely the East and the West (i.e. the shift from the Ottoman rule to the era of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Bosnia and Herzegovina). The beginning of the twentieth century was marked by the process of significant reforms in the fields of administration, education, economics, finance, arts and culture. The West’s influences were increasingly felt through the young intellectuals and artists who were sent to be educated in the capitals of Europe.

In the architecture of the time, the influence of the Vienna Secession was gradually emerging, replacing the earlier orientation towards neo-historical architectural styles. The leading names of architecture were the architects of the Land government, educated in Vienna, who established a direct and, by then, exceptionally strong and synchronous link to architectural trends in the larger cities of Central Europe, announcing the emergence of modern architecture in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Selman Selmanagić belonged to a traditional, devout, highly respected, wealthy, and well-educated family, open to the positive values of knowledge in general and new knowledge in particular. His father Alija (1878–1956), a Deputy in the Assembly of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia (1932–1936), completed his civil law studies in Istanbul in 1902. There he met his future wife Hayriye, who was of Turkish origin on her father’s side. Selmanagić’s grandfather, Omer Vehbi Pasha, was a high-ranking officer of the late Ottoman Empire, and maybe due to this fact and according to his wish, Hayriya’s first son was born in Constantinople. Constantinople/Carigrad/Istanbul as Selmanagić’s birthplace is mentioned in one of the early documents from his service in the State Railways of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians, the Sarajevo Directorate of 1923.1 From 1919 to 1923 he attended the State School of Crafts in Sarajevo, where he specialized in furniture making and carpentry, and in 1927 he acquired the title of a master of furniture making and carpentry at the Higher School of Crafts in Ljubljana.

After finishing his studies in Ljubljana, Selmanagić returned to Srebrenica where he worked on his family’s estate while simultaneously working as a carpenter for various local schools, repairing furniture. His decision to move to Germany was initially motivated by a desire to perfect his primary training as a carpenter, although at the time he knew no German and his family chose not to underwrite his adventure. While this decision in itself betrays Selmanagić’s adventurous spirit, the story of how he arrived at the Bauhaus was even more spontaneous. While on a train journey in Germany he had a chance encounter with a fellow-traveller, an Austrian who told him about the school. He at once decided to enroll there and study at the very source of European modern architecture, visual arts, and design. He arrived at the Bauhaus in 1929, after the school had moved to in Dessau.

Selmanagić’s ID card in Bauhaus Dessau (1929–32). Photo: Privatarchiv Selman Selmanagić.

Shortly before Selmanagić’s arrival in Dessau, the Bauhaus had in 1927 opened a Department of Architecture headed by Hannes Meyer who, became the school’s director in 1928. Meyer’s two-year-term of office involved a radical revision of the school’s programmatic and methodological concepts. Under Meyer, the new motto of the Bauhaus became “the needs of the people instead of the need for luxury.” Selmanagić began the Bauhaus Preliminary Course (Vorkurs) in October 1929, studying under Josef Albers, who focused on achieving the best possible product with the minimum expenditure in terms of material, energy and time. Selmanagić often recalled a moment from Albers’ Preliminary Course that illustrated his working method well. Selmanagić kept a German dictionary on his desk, which he pressed with a plank so that it opened like a fan, making it quicker and easier to use. When Albers noticed this practical “invention,” he praised it as a perfect example of studying the nature of material and the way it could be used. (It is worth noting that until his third year of study his family remained unaware of what he was doing and he was forced to manage his living and education expenses entirely on his own. Then in 1931, his father, who wanted to see concrete proof of his son’s educational progress before deciding to lend support to his continued studies, asked him to redesign the family house in Zvornik, Bosnia. This project earned him the appellation “le Corbusier of the Balkans” from his architecture professor Ludwig Hilberseimer.)

The stratification evident in Selmanagić’s cultural identity and professional career path was intrinsically formed in the encounter of different traditions, resulted in his eagerness to become acquainted with new and different cultures. His father was well-educated in Islamic philosophy and spoke Turkish, Farsi and French, which partially explains Selmanagić’s interest in the humanities and social sciences while he attended the Bauhaus, where, during his years at the Bauhaus (1929–1932), he avidly attended lectures by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, as well as the philosophers Rudolf Carnap and Otto Neurath, the psychologist Karlfried Graf Dürckheim, and art historian Karel Teige. Due to Selmanagić’s broad range of interests, his functionalism eventually evolved into something more than a utilitarian program—one informed especially by Dürckheim’s lectures on the psychology of form and his teaching on “perceived space”—becoming instead, a method based on the function of the synesthetic elements of experience, in both perception and design. His contact with the lectures of Paul Klee during his second semester—during which he was enrolled under strict conditions (“unter scharfer Probe”)—was crucial for his formative years since Klee’s work, with its rare and specific synthesis of Islamic tradition and analytical aspects of European modern painting, reflected Selmanagić’s own worldview.

According to Selmanagić’s own testimony, he was very impressed with Kandinsky’s lecture, “Abstract Elements of Form and Analytical Drawing” as well as with Klee’s course in Free Painting. Klee was concerned with the origins of form and made it clear that behind and above the rational factor on which he had to base his demonstrations there stood the element of intuition and that this element is both the primary and the final criterion in all creative activity.2 According to Selmanagić, Klee once pointed out that Bauhaus wanted to make the invisible—the study of life processes (Lebensvorgänge)—visible; a project that appeared to him as central to the Bauhaus pedagogy.3 On one occasion, Klee praised Selmanagić’s way of visual thinking to his colleagues in the class.4 What surprised Selmanagić was the fact that he was among the few students in the class who did not graduate from an Art Academy. A Non-figurative, analytical and conceptual mode of representation—characteristic of Islamic abstract painting and the arabesque—were both familiar to Selmanagić’s sensibility and childhood environment, close to Klee’s understanding that “art does not reflect what is seen, rather it makes the hidden visible.” As he wrote in 1928 in the Bauhaus journal:

“One learns to look behind the façade, to grasp the roots of things. One learns to recognize the hidden currents, the prehistory of the visible. One learns to dig below the surface, to uncover, to find causes, to analyze … One learns the special kind of progress that leads to a critical penetration into the past, in the direction of that which has existed before, on which future things will grow … One learns about the things that form a connection along the way between the cause and reality.”5

Two-years before Selmanagić’s arrival in Dessau, Klee made a drawing of a small rug (kilim) from the Berber region of Tunisia he had visited during the now-famous trip he took to North Africa in 1914. It is well known that Oriental rugs played an important role for modern, abstract painting and their influence was especially notable during the Munich exhibition of Islamic arts in 1910. Artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and Henry Matisse became fascinated with the rugs hung as paintings on the walls. An interest in non-European, pre-Modern praxes and techniques was at the core of the Bauhaus program; a search for a primordial language of forms synthesized with industrial technology. Bauhaus masters’ and students’ interest in the pre-modern materials, praxis, and craft techniques from North Africa, as well as North and South Americas, offered a possibility for multifaceted, intercultural translations within the framework of Bauhaus modernity in tacit contestation of the Eurocentric notion of “primitivism” in art and culture.6

Even Selmanagić’s first memories of the carpentry workshop in Dessau were strongly marked by this inherent duality between East and West. As an example, he mentions the exercise of designing a cabinet and the question that Professor Alfred Arndt asked them at a workshop during the second semester: “What is to be placed into this cabinet?” His subsequent explanation was that in each phase of the designing process one should start from the idea of the whole, the actual needs of the user, and the function of the object rather than the elements of design. Up until then, Selmanagić believed that the beauty of a cabinet strongly relied on “Arabic ornaments and rosettes.”7

Beside the increasing readiness to explore fresh principles of design, which focused on users’ needs, Selmanagić’s stay at Bauhaus also defined his worldview and his political orientation, presupposing a specific view on architecture as a phenomenon that must be understood, reflected upon, and conceptually defined “beyond the four walls.” The spirit of anti-fascism was a determining feature of his position from 1929 onwards, when he joined the Communist Party, to his involvement in illegal Communist cells in Berlin during World War II, and continuing on to his significant role in building up the new East German state from 1949. His remarkable openness for dialogue with various cultures and traditions (especially manifest during a dynamic stay in the Middle East during the 1930s) reflected Selmanagić’s spirit of internationalism and openness, an attitude that characterized the Bauhaus as a whole.

Selman Selmanagić in Dessau, 1930. Photo: Privatarchiv Selman Selmanagić.

An exmatriculation list of Bauhaus students from the Dessau and Berlin period underscores how cosmopolitan and variegated the student body was. In its later years, names of Slavic and Jewish derivations become more frequent, but there were also students of Anglo-American, Scandinavian, Italian and Japanese origin.8 In his notes on the Bauhaus, Selmanagić reported that upon initially enrolling in the Bauhaus Preliminary Course, his 55 fellow students were from all over the world.9

As passionately and impulsively as he had (almost accidentally) decided to enroll at Bauhaus, after graduating Selmanagić, guided by the wish to get acquainted with different cultures, left for the Middle East, staying for several years. The decision was in full agreement with his curious and somewhat adventurous mindset, always longing for new insights and experiences. He first stayed briefly at the studio of a former student of Poelzig’s, Seyfi (Nassih) Arkan in Istanbul (until March 1934). Although these were very dynamic years in the history of Ataturk’s young republic, and a time of substantial reform in Turkey’s social, political and cultural life—marked by a new openness to Western values— Selmanagić did not consider his time there especially fruitful, so he decided to leave for Afghanistan. He could not find an equally courageous traveling companion, as he recalled in a letter to his good Bauhaus friend Hajo Rose in 1935. In the meantime, Selmanagić had become fascinated with Palestine—the accelerated tempo of its development and its “different peoples, races, and religions.”10 He was especially fascinated by a strong contradiction between, on the one hand, the strong forces of modernity and progress and, on the other, the country’s firm reliance on tradition and established forms of life, arts and crafts:

“es gibt hier, wie nirgends anders den gegensatz von modernstem und primitivstem leben wie vor 2000 jahren. (wohnen, handwerk, kunst) deshalb habe ich mich entschlossen hierher zurückzukommen, und eine zeitlang da zu bleiben.”

(there is here, like nowhere else, a contrast between the most modern and the most primitive life from 2000 years ago. (living, crafts, art) that’s why i decided to come back here and stay for a while.)11

While working at the studio of Richard Kauffmann, and later in his independent practice, Selmanagić would witness how local architects opened up and created a specific synthesis of the local architectural tradition and the international style—which arrived with the immigration of a large number of Zionist modernist architects from the West (including a number of Bauhaus-trained architects: consequently, the echoes of the Bauhaus tradition could be felt outside Europe)—who incorporated a modernist design ethos with elements drawn from the local building tradition, defined, among other things, by the climate and the geographic position. From these experiences while a freelance architect in Palestine, Selmanagić gathered much experience and knowledge, gaining the ability to adapt the positive experiences of modernist architecture to local geo-climatic specificities, as well as the cultural and traditional needs and customs of specific communities.

Selmanagić on a construction site in Jerusalem (first on the left). Photo: Privatarchiv Selman Selmanagić.

At the same time, mindful of his own experience of growing up between two different cultures (a la turca and a la franga), he internalized and developed the best of what he had inherited from the cosmopolitan and the internationalist spirit, which likewise belonged to the pedagogical legacy of Bauhaus. This experience of living among different cultures also helped him in various situations later in life and demonstrated his extraordinary ability to initiate and maintain social contacts and interactions. His stay in Palestine coincided with the British Mandate period (1917–1948). For a period while living and working in Palestine during this challenging period, Selmanagić stayed at the Jerusalem studio of the prominent architect and urban planner Richard Kauffmann (from 12 August 1934 until 15 April 1935).12 He then worked as a freelance architect, at the very end of his Palestine years working on several projects for the Islamic community in Jerusalem. Although Kauffmann praised Selmanagić’s assistance in his atelier, stressing his “artistic gift in architecture” and “personal reliability,”13 the official immigration policy favored the employment of Jewish intellectuals.

In a letter to his Bauhaus friend Hajo Rose, Selmanagić described in details and with his characteristic sense of humor, the circumstances of living and working in Palestine, saying that “he was already in all races and religions (from Moses to the Communist International/Comintern)”:

“ich war schon in allen rassen und religionen. (von moses bis komintern) um bei juden arbeiten zu koennen hier muss man juedisch sein, bei arabern mohamedanisch [sic]. infolgedessen habe ich je nach der arbeitsstelle ‘die farbe gewechselt’, und man hat mir immer geglaubt. ich habe dabei gesehen dass es nur auf die aeussere form ankommt wenn ich ein rotes fez trage haelt man mich fuer einen mohamedaner [sic]. wenn ich es nicht trage, aber aus dem koran vorlese, glaubt mir niemand, sondern man sagt, das koenne ich ja auch gelernt haben. und wenn ich am sonnabend nicht arbeite glaubt man ich sei juedisch. die ganze sache ist verlogen. du kennst meine anschauung....”

(“i’ve been in all races and religions. (from moses to comintern) in order to be able to work for Jews you have to be Jewish, for Arabs you have to be mohamedan (sic). as a result, depending on the job, i ‘changed the color’ and people always believed me. i saw that it only depends on the appearance when i wear a red fez, they think i’m a mohammedan (sic). if i don’t wear it, but read from the koran, nobody believes me, but they say i could have learned that. and if i don’t work on saturday, they think i’m jewish. the whole thing is lying. you know my opinion ....”)14

As a man and architect, he always tried anew to meet the challenges of a dynamic historical epoch. More specifically, in his projects in Palestine he sought to make concrete his belief in modernity and the ideas of the Bauhaus. This flexibility in reacting to changing political conditions is further evidenced by his biography. At the beginning of 1939, Selmanagić left Palestine and, after a brief stay in Yugoslavia at the request of his communist Bauhaus group (including Albert Buske and Luise Seitz), he returned to Germany to take part in the resistance against National Socialism.15 With private building activity having come to a standstill after the war’s commencement, he worked in the building department and as a film architect at the UFA in Potsdam-Babelsberg until its conclusion. It was not until 1950 that he returned to his architectural career, augmented by his appointment as a professor at the Kunsthochschule in Berlin-Weißensee.

Selmanagić with his students, Kunsthochschule Weißensee, Photo: Privatarchiv Selman Selmanagić.

As a charismatic professor, Selmanagić encouraged his Weißensee students to analyze and deal with architectural projects connected with their respective culture/country of origin and to consider what possibilities lay in a contemporary redefinition of regional sensibilities. For instance, one of his fourth-year students from Peru proposed a project involving reconstructing the old Inca town of Machu Picchu in the framework of cultural historiography and monument protection, but also as a revenue source from economic and touristic activity.16

In every phase of his educational process, Selmanagić kept alive the words and postulates of his professors. Explaining the methods and aims of the workshop training practiced in the Bauhaus preliminary course Josef Albers used to say: “the best education is one’s own experience.”17 Selmanagić integrated his life experiences formed in his encounters with different cultures into the core of his educational program. Each experience could be very useful in this process. Albers once explained to his students:

“We know that this learning process through experimentation takes more time, entails detours and wrong directions. But at the beginning things do not always go right. Walking begins with crawling and speaking with baby talk. And mistakes that are recognized promote progress.”18

Growing, learning and working among different cultures, together with the Bauhaus pedagogical model of experimenting and “playing (which) develops courage,”19 enabled Selmanagić to eventually develop a strong personal character and a bold and brave attitude towards the world and challenges of the everyday life. As a designer and an exhibition architect, Selmanagić participated in the promotion of the GDR through fair pavilions worldwide, from his first projects in Prague and Stockholm shortly after the war up to fairs in Cairo, Thessaloniki, Utrecht, Vienna, Peking and Shanghai during the 1950s. The fair architecture and interior decoration of pavilions had an extremely important propaganda role: fairs were a “showcase to the world,” a picture of the “new society”20 in which Selmanagić manifested his talent in understanding differences in respective cultural and social contexts.

His childhood years in Bosnia, on the eve of the First World War, as well as his education in Sarajevo, Ljubljana and Dessau between the two world wars, together with his work in Palestine and Berlin, shaped Selman Selmanagić’s worldview and experience with different cultures and traditions. As a Bosniak/Bosnian Muslim he was a citizen of Europe; he possessed Slavic and Turkish origins; he was enchanted with rich and inspiring traditions of the Middle East and North Africa, but at the same time was fascinated by the spirit of progress and modernity. Most of all, he perpetually strove to find contemporary answers for the challenges of the time he was living in.

This text is a revised version of an article originally published under the same title in:
Berliner Denkmaldialog am 10. April 2018
Selman Selmanagić – eine europäische Biographie
Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung, Südhalle

  • 1 This document was issued on 8 January 1923. Source: Historijski arhiv Sarajevo/ Historical Archive Sarajevo, Ž-330; Box Nr. 469, Personal Dossier (Sel).
  • 2 For more detailed instructions on Paul Klee’s course, see: Hans M. Wingler: The Bauhaus: Weimar-Dessau-Berlin-Chicago, The MIT Press, Cambridge and London 1976, pp. 524–5.
  • 3 Der Architekt Selman Selmanagic: Wie komme ich dazu, das Telefon festzuhalten...!, Sonntag, kulturpolitische Wochenzeitung, 21 April 1985, p. 7.
  • 4 Heinz Hirdina: “Selman Selmanagić über das Bauhaus, Erinnerungen von Bauhäuslern an das Bauhaus,“ Aufzeichnung eines Gesprächs, in: Form und Zweck, Fachzeitschrift für industrielle Formgestaltung, No. 3, DDR–Berlin1979, p. 67.
  • 5 Paul Klee: “Exact Experiments in the Realm of Art,” bauhaus journal, Vol. 2, No. 2/3, 1928. Quoted in: Wingler: The Bauhaus, p. 148.
  • 6 This will be, among other interesting issues, in the focus of the international exhibition project Migrant Bauhaus: curatorial concept by Marion von Osten and Grant Watson, Vernacular Modernism, February 2017, pp. 27–40.
  • 7 Sonja Wüsten: “Selman Selmanagić,” Festgabe zum 80. Geburtstag, Kunsthochschule Berlin 1985, p. 8.
  • 8 Wingler, The Bauhaus, pp. 622–25.
  • 9 Hirdina: “Selman Selmanagić über das Bauhaus,” p. 67.
  • 10 Letter from Selman Selmanagić to H. Rose (Jerusalem, 1 October 1935). Source: Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Selman Selmanagić – Mappe 2/Fotocopy. Original in: Katja Rose 11/83 Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
  • 11 Ibid.
  • 12 Source: Certificate issued to S. Selmanagić by Richard Kauffmann (Jerusalem, 20 April 1935). Archive of the Selmanagić family in Berlin (as well as Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin, Mappe 1 – Persönliche Unterlagen, Zeugnisse).
  • 13 Ibid.
  • 14 Letter to H. Rose, 1 October 1935.
  • 15 See Sonja Wüsten and Simone Hain: Gegen die Diktatur des Auges. Selman Selmanagić zum 100. Geburtstag, in: Form und Zweck, No. 21, 2005, p. 78–99.
  • 16 Wüsten: Selman Selmanagić, p. 34.
  • 17 Josef Albers: “Practical Form Instruction,” bauhaus, Vol. 2, No. 2/3, Dessau 1928. Quoted in Wingler: The Bauhaus, p. 142.
  • 18 Ibid. p.142.
  • 19 Ibid.
  • 20 Andreas Butter: Neues Leben, Neues Bauen. Die Moderne in der Architektur der SBZ/DDR 1945 bis 1951, Verlag Hans Schiller, Berlin 2006, pp. 366–67.
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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

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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