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.

“The tale says that an orphan, rediscovering her parents’ home after many years of exile, had the surprise of finding herself there already – a double of herself, identical down to the smallest detail, who obviously greeted her as an intruder. Until the day when a neighbor (a skeptic) came to see them—with a cat. At the sight of it, the usurper jerked bolt upright with fright and took her true form again – that of a rat.” – Chris Marker, Coréennes, 19591

Aarti Sunder, 3 drawing after photographies, 2018.
Left: after a photograph by ADN-photographer Tautz in Hamhŭng, March 1960, Zentralbild no. 71248/2N, Bundesarchiv;
Middle: after a photograph from December 1958 by Zentralbild/ADN, 60537/1N and Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang, D.P.R.K.;
Right: after a photographed elevation “Hamhung Zentraler Platz“ by Konrad Püschel, photo album, 1/018378/28, Konrad Püschel Estate, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.

The reconstruction of the North Korean industrial city of Hamhŭng, which among other things included a youth club with a theater and film-projector—gifts from the German Democratic Republic (GDR)2—was part of a project of architectural internationalism undertaken by the GDR between 1955 and 1962. The GDR architect Konrad Püschel, who trained at the Bauhaus from 1926 to 1930 and was among the first group of students to study in Dessau, directed the first construction phase in Hamhŭng— between 1955 and 1959—as a “city building brigadier.”

Looking for photos from the Hamhŭng reconstruction in 2018, I landed on a user’s profile. Many of this user’s albums contain photographs of different cities and towns in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), including Haeju, Kaesong, Pyongyang and Wonsan. Other albums consisted of photos collections of places in East Germany—Brandenburg, Teltow, Wernigerode, etc. This geography of a contemporary, or post-1989, choice seems to reflect pre-1989 geopolitical entanglements the GDR had with North Korea, which this essay wishes to unpack through Konrad Püschel’s architectural work. One of the flickr-user’s albums, named “Hamhŭng,” contained 56 photographs dated March 2008, and included the following short description: “Hamhŭng (Hamhŭng) is the DPRK’s second largest city and an important industrial center. The old city was heavily destroyed during the Korean War and rebuilt with aid from the German Democratic Republic from 1955–62. Several buildings from that period show the influence of Bauhaus design. The project ended two years earlier than planned for political reasons.”3

Hamhŭng, Jongsong Street (former Wilhelm Pieck Avenue), 2008
Flickr, photo: © Moravius

Whoever created this flickr folder was very well-versed in the history of Hamhŭng’s reconstruction. The description contains information not easily retrieved, not the usual case with well-known Bauhaus projects. As with many other architectural projects undertaken abroad by the GDR—geopolitical geographies of “socialist friendship”4—the reconstruction of Hamhŭng by the city and building construction brigades from the GDR following the devastating war of 1950–53 has not yet been sufficiently researched on the level of architectural practice (micro-political), nor has it been sufficiently contextualized outside of Cold War protocols (macro-political). However, with respect to recent publications,5 it should be mentioned that the intensity of these debates is currently changing. Both this and my own curatorial research on Püschel’s participation in the Hamhŭng reconstruction project may also be based on concern over contemporary European political tendencies, which can be read as part of crises multiformes6 (multidimensional crises) or a “global swing to the right”7—phenomena connected to transgenerational symptoms emanating from the experience of speechlessness, discomfort, ignorance or breaks, one of the many consequences of the “transnational turn”8 of 1989. As if he could see into the future, in his book Coréennes from 1959—written after a trip to North Korea in the mid-1950s—Chris Marker described the figure of the search for remembering as an orphan, basing this description on a Korean fairy tale. With Chris Marker’s observation in mind, I view the project of remembering Hamhŭng in the present moment as an orphan of history. As such, it has to confront a historiography that now appears in the parents’ house, as Marker wrote, “after many years of exile”; a memory that has settled invisibly at the margins of history and that calls out the fascistic “usurper” of today, whose aim has been to replace the memory of revolution. This orphan’s lived experience appears in the form of “ephemeral bits, the off-cuts and the outtakes” that would have “would have vanished into the dustbin of history”9—i.e., whose habitat, if any, may be detected in the fringe zones of institutions and libraries, but foremost, in unspeakable bodies.

In the case of Püschel’s Hamhŭng project, the “embarrassing silence”10 about one of the largest post-war construction projects in the GDR is all the more astonishing since, in the first phase of both planning and implementation, Püschel led the project as an “urban planning brigadier,” one who studied at the Bauhaus Dessau with the likes of Hannes Meyer, Ludwig Hilbersheimer, Mies van der Rohe and other architects. While studying, Püschel was also involved in the construction of Walter Gropius’s Dessau-Törten housing estate, where he tested basic urban planning concepts for designing and building low-cost living spaces for working people—two decades before Khrushchev’s 1954 call for a socialist “industrialization of construction” was realized. Thanks to Püschel’s having studied at the Bauhaus, one can today locate comprehensive photographic documentation of his work in North Korea (1956-59), available in the archives of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation. It was this fact which first prompted bauhaus imaginista’s organizers to commission a research project. However, in the course of my examination of Püschel’s work in North Korea, I could hardly—with a few exceptions11—fall back on existing analyses of the Hamhŭng project. This gap in what is otherwise a meticulous documentation of the Bauhaus confirms the “embarrassing silence” that Fredric Jameson diagnosed in the narratives, archives and projects related to the brand of state socialism practiced within the GDR, noting that projects from the GDR are exposed to “systematic neglect” by “West Rhineland liberals and radical intellectuals alike,” who often morally categorized or silenced projects such as Hamhŭng “in the name of Stalinism and totalitarianism.”12 This silence seems to have been normalized over the years—perfect for the arrival of the orphan’s double that Chris Marker refers to in Coréennes. Revisiting her parents' home after many years of exile, the orphan—the parent’s lost daughter—was surprised to find herself there already, identical down to the smallest detail. She had never been mentioned, thus, had not existed. The orphan’s double greeting her as intruder. This double, erroneously and scrupulously had replaced the daughter after the revolution had taken place; she has been silenced, or went to exile; she is the figure who has settled imperceptibly at the margins of history.13 It is the silence of the West, however, that is now gradually being questioned—by projects such as bauhaus imaginista—and which today provokes the reappearance of these exiled voices, the orphans of history. An orphan, for example, who goes by the name Hamhŭng or Baubrigade (urban development brigadier), and who employs a practice outside conformism or dissidentism—meaning outside the binary extremes commonly used to depict socialist reality from a distance. This practice also calls for an analysis of the deviation from Soviet socialism, which the Hamhŭng project wanted to claim as early as the founding period of the GDR. Up until the early 1970s, the pre-war Bauhaus in Dessau was accused of “bourgeois cosmopolitanism” by the political elite of the GDR, irreconcilable with the ideological principles of the postwar peasant and workers state, although the “Activities of the Hannes Meyer Group in the USSR between 1930 and 1937”—as Püschel named an article he wrote for Form+Zweck in 1976—did move the orientation of the Bauhaus closer to the Comintern, the Fourth Communist International.

In 1931, Püschel accompanied Philipp Tolziner, a Bauhaus colleague, to Moscow. A short time after arriving, he was involved in the planning and realization of a “Sotsgorod” (socialist city) in the industrial city of Orsk in the Urals.14 After his work on the Dessau-Törten housing estate, this was another chance for Püschel to refine his work on modern urban planning processes. The GDR’s Hamhŭng project in North Korea, on the other hand, could already be understood as an act of self-determination taken by the newly founded state. While Moscow negotiated and collaborated with Pyongyang, exploratory talks between the DPRK and the GDR took place on the fringes of the 1954 Geneva Conference (“Otto Grotewohl told a North Korean delegate that his country would be willing to help rebuild one of the cities destroyed in the war”15), although East Germany was still far from being recognized as a sovereign state by the United Nations, and thus was relegated to the role of onlooker at the conference. That same year, a contract was signed between the two young countries for the reconstruction of Hamhŭng. This deviation from Moscow-oriented Soviet socialism could be one reason why the reconstruction under the direction of Püschel and his colleagues16 was not documented in the large-format journal Deutsche Architektur, although the Hamhŭng project was the most ambitious project the GDR had undertaken at that early stage in its existence, both as a socialist urban development project and as an “international solidarity” project. Founded in 1952, Deutsche Architektur was published by the GDR’s Deutsche Bauakademie—for many years under the leadership of editor-in-chief Kurt Liebknecht, architect and nephew of Karl Liebknecht—and regularly featured detailed documentation of urban development projects and buildings undertaken by the GDR, both at home and abroad, as well as building plans and speeches regarding the construction industry made by officials of the Central Committee of the GDR and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Such documentation of architectural projects is evidence of the profound role accorded to architecture for crafting the new socialist state that within a few years—with the closure of the wall on 13 August 1961—had turned into a communist dictatorship.

Neues Deutschland, 24 July 1954, p. 3.

Doreen Mende, Hamhung’s Two Orphans, installation view bauhaus imaginista. Moving Away: The Internationalist Architect, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2018.
Photo: Silke Briel

It is no coincidence that what differentiates the framework of the bauhaus imaginista research project is that it takes place outside the normative economies of academic discourse. The contemporary labor of re-narrating the postwar urban development project in Hamhŭng requires the use of para-academic research methods. These are often methods of artistic non-discipline or future-oriented speculation. It is precisely these methods with which the Hamhŭng project can be analyzed in relation to “entangled geographies.”17 My interest in Püschel’s work in North Korea was in its production conditions; a means of getting closer to the specifics of the GDR’s architectural internationalism. These also included the congeries of political, social and cultural elements that made possible the “planning of the reconstruction of the cities of Hamhung and Hungnam in North Korea by the DAG urban development brigade of the GDR.”18 The investigation of the conditions of production allowed us to consider both micro and macro-structural narratives of architectural, educational, social and political significance. In other words, with whom did the orphan “Hamhŭng” study? What did it see? What did it think? What did it disagree with? Who did it listen to? What books did it read? Which films did it watch? However, in contrast to the work of the architectural historian, who has to detail something like a history lesson as precisely as possible on the basis of found documents from the past, a “para-disciplinary tendency”19 of curatorial work in the field of art mobilizes an outside of historicity at the site of a “monster’s wounds.”20 This outside claims to articulate the gaze of these orphans of history, as Chris Marker would say: in other words, the outside of historicity casts a glance of the present, partly confronted with an “embarrassing silence” due to a politics of power or with the disapproval of the double, who perceives the orphan as an intruder. The view of the orphans mobilizes a chronopolitical present; an asymmetrical present in which affects of aversion and esteem mix to direct the authority of the document against itself as a method of historiography.

Doreen Mende, Hamhung’s Two Orphans, installation view bauhaus imaginista. Moving Away: The Internationalist Architect, Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, 2018.
Photo: Silke Briel

While my curatorial work attempted, with the help of archival material, to stay in close contact with a historical treatment of Püschel’s Hamhŭng project, it would also be a matter of critical reflection and articulation of this historical treatment in relation to questions of the present. In collaboration with the conceptual graphic designer Laure Giletti, this has resulted in a stratification of narrative strands, taking the form of a spatial installation with the title Hamhŭng’s Two Orphans (To Konrad Püschel). Between two and four text and image elements were placed on a total of 13 panels—in chronopolitical rather than chronological relation to each other. The form of articulation may move closer to the idea of montage, but I see the installation more as a research display consisting of a constellation of text and image elements raising a series of questions.21

Doreen Mende, Hamhung’s Two Orphans, 2018, three posters with questions for the visitors to take away.

As part of the installation, visitors had three A2 posters at their disposal to take away, each with a question—the idea being that visitors could literally carry into the city of the present the question of the undead of internationalism, the social contract of the city and the geopolitics of architecture. My contribution to bauhaus imaginsta is thus about a differentiation of Püschel’s urban planning work, on the basis of the urban planning project in Hamhŭng, with the idea of both (1) contributing to a diversification of the debate about the history of the Bauhaus as proposed by bauhaus imaginsta (in that it problematizes the Bauhaus beyond extremes of the Cold War—i.e., beyond the binary interpretative prerogative of Chicago vs. Moscow), as well as (2) to propose an architectural internationalism from the GDR that at the same time had a state-crafting and diplomatic function within the conditions of the Cold War.

Let us focus on Püschel’s own visual records for a moment: The collection of photographs of Püschel’s trip to North Korea in the 1950s includes a photograph of a young chemical worker in a laboratory.22 She has a writing pad in front of her which is open and upon which she might be documenting laboratory results. In her hands she holds a thermometer, while in front of her stands a shelf with numerous gas bottles, beakers and glass flasks. She is wearing a white protective coat. The room is flooded with daylight, which enters the laboratory through a large window, flowing through the shelf with the laboratory equipment and illuminating the right half of the chemical worker’s face. The chemical worker is almost imperceptibly smiling, provoking a gesture of a laughing look. Her eyes look to the left, as if she wants to look beyond the photographer, who cannot keep her from her work. Thus, her gaze leads her into the room, exceeding the encounter with the East German architect and photographer Püschel. Does she seek the gaze of a colleague in the room? Is she thinking of family members who survived one of the devastating battles in the first hot war of the global Cold War? … it’s a moment of work, waiting, research and gaze that might easily have found its place in Marker’s Coréennes: a moment with which Püschel makes an impression of North Korea for himself. That is, of the province Hamgyŏng-namdo and the people living there after the war, about which the GDR party newspaper Neues Deutschland was then reporting daily.

Püschel took plenty of photographs during his stay. He not only visited the provincial capital Hamhŭng, he also documented four forms of settlement construction in Hamgyŏng-namdo province, taken with a view to examining the power relations between different social orders. For example, he comments on the influence of Japanese colonization in Korea, which produced industrial buildings along the coastal areas, writing: “Here it is no longer the design that speaks, but only technology and economy.”23 This is also where a city planner speaks, who learned and rehearsed architecture as a design practice with Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Hilbesheimer at the Bauhaus in Dessau. Furthermore, Püschel’s photo albums contain photographic observations focusing on the natural landscapes of Hamgyŏng-namdo; as he writes in “Ein Überblick über die Entwicklung und Gestaltung koreanischer Siedlungsanlagen,” he visited the tomb of the parents of the founding king, Ri Song-Gä of the Choson dynasty, located near Hamhŭng; it also contains reproduced drawings of log houses belonging to the fire field farmers of the Kaima highlands, and a hand-drawn floor plan of Hamhŭng from 1956, etc.

In the photo album the landscape pictures are often combined as diptychs or triptychs. A factory installation—it could also be a collective farm—is photographed in color. All the other photographs are reproduced in black-and-white 35mm format. It is as if photographic observation provided a research tool to learn about a North Korean building history so as to understand both the historical structures left undestroyed by the Korea-Indochina war; as if the visual research of the region delivered a profound method for planning Hamhŭng’s postwar future, for the reconstruction of the city by the construction working group from the GDR is not only a project of “brotherly friendship,” undertaken in the context of the GDR’s internationalist reconstruction aid to North Korea, but also a comprehensive urban planning program (a residential city machine would be worth mentioning) for constituting a new socialist society after a war that had destroyed infrastructure and urban space and forced millions of people to flee. In other words, just as the founding of the GDR was a consequence of the Second World War, the establishment of the DPRK was also preceded by a war with a global dimension, who’s ceasefire was negotiated for months at the 1954 Geneva Conference of the United Nations.24 It seems as if it is the power of war, a power able to establish the modernist tabula rasa, is also considered the modernist principle of a Plan Voisin (translated literally as “neighborhood plan,” this was the name of Corbusier’s planned redevelopment of central Paris).

In North Korea, it was war itself that realized the utopian idea of a tabula rasa, enabling the building of a new city from scratch. The Second World War being only recently concluded, the partitioning of Korea after 1953 can be viewed as a symptom of the reorganization of a global social system orchestrated by competing powers, just like the formation of Europe’s so-called Iron Curtain, of which the Berlin Wall was a part. Notes Marker: “it’s naive to ask where the war comes from: the border is the war.”25 The Second World War was over, a Third World War had immediately begun: the Cold War. The Korean War was the first hot war of this global Cold War—begun only five years after the Second World War had ended. It is the devastating destructive power of these wars that creates the condition for constructing, spatializing, locating, delimiting, and programming a new—here socialist—society. The architect and Hamhŭng project interpreter Dong-Sam Sin writes: “As facilities to be planned for the functioning of life in the district, there are: district administration, cultural center with cinema, post office, police, bank, hotel, restaurants, department stores, polyclinic, pharmacies, craftsmen’s yard, central building yard, coal and other storage places, operation of street cleaning and garbage collection, fire brigade and finally, for the 11 or 12 residential complexes still schools, children’s facilities, shops and health facilities will be necessary. This will provide a crucial basis for the district’s planning and the second stage of the work in Hamhŭng can really get underway.”26 Atop the tabula rasa created by war, the construction working group envisioned a residential city machine, producing a socialist-Korean society in the entanglement of administrative, economic, vegetative, medical, logistical, productive, social and cultural principles that led to discussing “Korea[as] an example of proletarian internationalism.”27

Konrad Püschel, North-Korea trip, 1956–59.
Bauhaus Dessau Foundation I_018378_1_F

Konrad Püschel, North-Korea trip, 1956–59.
Bauhaus Dessau Foundation I_018378_55_F

Konrad Püschel, North-Korea trip, 1956–59.
Bauhaus Dessau Foundation I_018378_52_F

Besides the documentation of what existed, Püschel’s photo albums also specifically documents construction methods, North-Korean workers, technologies and different work phases of the construction of the city of Hamhŭng itself. Numerous photographs describe the step by step production of the “wall block,” a kind of slab used in prefabricated buildings, seemingly under the direction of Korean workers.28 Sometimes one photograph of the situation is not enough but several photos create a sequence, as if Püschel had wished for a film camera in order to follow the course of events. After all, we are in the 1950s, and Püschel is economical in his use of photographic material; we may assume that the pictures were taken with an awareness of material resources. Püschel’s detailed photographic documentation of the production of the slab wall blocks, the clay blocks and the pounding of the mortar suggests that these must be at least partly Korean construction technologies. It also confirms the production method described by Dong-Sam Sin—“The clay used from time immemorial for housing construction in Korea should be used as a building material.”29 Püschel’s focus, both on the existing landscape and architecture, as well as his structural analysis of a particular North Korean construction method and the involvement of North Korean construction technologies are essential features of the practice of a specific internationalism by the means of architecture—meaning, the realization of the reconstruction of Hamhŭng by GDR architects/town planners such as Püschel.

In summary, it can be said that the architectural internationalism of the GDR in Korea between 1955 and 1962 cannot be separated (a) from the inscriptions of war which generated the tabula rasa of modernity. As the anti-colonial author and architect Samia Henni avers, it is necessary to discuss the history of architecture—including that of the Bauhaus—in the context of imperialism and colonialism, with a focus on precisely those forms of practice that introduced an internationalist idea into imperial wars. Specifically, for the work of the Bauhaus-trained architect Konrad Püschel, his study (b) of existing Korean architecture and (c) his exchange with North Korean workers must be considered in relation to how it reflects this Cold War project as a form of architectural internationalism.30 This approach seems contrary to the radical-modernist utopia of the tabula rasa with the need to remember the past and the practice of a society involved in building a future. This relationship of different temporalities is complex. It is impossible to grasp this relationship as a historical event alone, but rather as a stratification of different time courses, in which the contemporary evokes the past as unfinished conversation. Its complexity becomes apparent when two orphans of history, whom we have called Hamhŭng and Baubrigade, reappear after many years of enforced silence, discovering their documents lying in inaccessible archives, not perceived, not complete, fallen speechless or simply overlooked. It is precisely in this situation that a project like bauhaus imaginista takes on the role of a skeptic towards the established and the categorized. It may not lead to a complete transformation of the supposedly established daughter (a.k.a. usurper of the throne) into a “rat,” as Marker described the moment of confrontation between the orphan and her double, but to the search for a language that reflects and transforms this unsettling encounter through a constellation of temporal layers.

  • 1 Chris Marker: Coréennes, Éditions du Seuil, 1959, p. 9 (English version, translated by Brian Holmes).
  • 2 “Der Klub gliedert sich in zwölf Abteilungen: er hat einen Theaterraum mit 500 Plätzen und eine Filmapparatur aus der DDR.” (The club is divided into twelve sections: it has a theater room with 500 seats and film equipment from the GDR.) Caption of Zentralbild/Tautz, 4.3.1960, 71248/2N, Bundesarchiv, BArch DL 2/4413.
  • 3 (Accessed: 2 September 2019). In September 2019 the album “Hamhŭng” had 18,281 views.
  • 4 Including, among other projects, a 16-class commercial school in Damascus, realized in 1956 as a cooperation project between Syria and the GDR (see: Hans Präßler in Deutsche Architektur, Vol. 6, 1957, issue 10, pp. 578–79). The Hai-Phong Glass Works, People’s Republic of Vietnam (see: Deutsche Architektur 13, Sept. 1964, p. 539). The government printing plant in Tema in Ghana (see: “Ghana: Regierungsdruckerei in Tema,” Deutsche Architektur 13, Sept. 1964, pp. 540–47).
  • 5 Hideo Tomita: “A Survey of Korean Settlements by Konrad Püschel, a Graduate of the Bauhaus,” The 13th Docomomo International Conference Seoul 2014, Korea, Session 17 (Asian Modernity) September 27, 2014. National Museum of Modern Art and Contemporary Art, Seoul, pp. 416–418; Norbert Korrek, “Konrad Püschel – Städtebauer in der Sowjetunion, Nordkorea und der DDR,” in: Philipp Oswalt (ed.) Hannes Meyers neue Bauhauslehre. Von Dessau bis Mexiko, 2019, pp. 483–96; Daniel Talesnik, The Itinerant Red Bauhaus, or the Third Emigration, PhD Thesis (2016) in Architectural History and Theory, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, New York, ABE Journal (Architecture Beyond Europe), Vol. 11, 2017.
  • 6 Felwine Sarr: Habiter le monde–Essai de politique relationnelle, Mémoire d’encrier, Montréal 2018, p. 11.
  • 7 Taken from a lecture by Arjun Appadurai, The Graduate Institute, Geneva, 25 April 2017.
  • 8 Terry Smith in: Hal Foster (ed.): Questionnaire on “The Contemporary,” October 130, Fall 2009, p. 51.
  • 9 Olivia Lory Kay: “Gathering in the Orphans: Essay films and archives in the information age,” in: Journal of Media Practice, Vol. 11, No. 3, 2010, p. 265.
  • 10 Fredric Jameson: The Ancients and the Postmoderns: On the Historicity of Forms, Verso Press, London and New York 2015, p. 253.
  • 11 Young-Sun Hong: Cold War Germany, the Third World, and the Global Humanitarian Regime, Cambridge University Press, New York 2015; Dong-Sam Sin: “Die Planung des Wiederaufbaus der Städte Hamhung und Hungnam in Nordkorea durch die DAG-Städtebaubrigade der DDR von 1955 – 1962. Eine städtebaugeschichtliche Abhandlung aus der Sicht eines Zeitzeugen,” (The planning of the reconstruction of the cities of Hamhung and Hungnam in North Korea by the DAG city construction brigade of the GDR from 1955–1962. An urban history essay from the point of view of a contemporary witness) PhD thesis, Hafen City Universität Hamburg, Hamburg 2016.
  • 12 Jameson: The Ancients and the Postmoderns, p. 253.
  • 13 At this moment, the right-wing populist party AfD misuses slogans of 1989-protests like “We are the people” for their state election campaign of 2019.
  • 14 See: Anna Abrahams, Sotsgorod: Cities for Utopia, 1996, 92 min.
  • 15 Young-Sun Hong: Cold War Germany, the Third World, and the Global Humanitarian Regime, p. 60.
  • 16 “The German working group consisted of the management (first leader was Fritz Seltmann, second comrade Präßler), the group for project planning and urban development (first leader and chief architect was comrade Hans Grotewohl, second chief architect Mr. Kurt Wickmann, afterwards Claus Peter Werner—only for building construction—and first urban development brigadier Mr. Konrad Püschel, afterwards Peter Doehler) (addition by the author), the building execution (afterwards intended as leader comrade Erich Seltmann) and the group Kfm. Department (Leader Comrade de Leuw). The group leaders are also deputies of the head of the working group. In 1956, the working group was expected to have about 150 members. The transport of family members (women and children) is ensured to a certain extent.” See: Sin: “Die Planung des Wiederaufbaus der Städte Hamhŭng und Hungnam in Nordkorea durch die DAG-Städtebaubrigade der DDR von 1955–1962,” 2016, p. 50.
  • 17 Gabrielle Hecht: Entangled Geographies: Empire and Technopolitics in the Global Cold War, The MIT Press, Cambridge 2011.
  • 18 Sin: “Die Planung des Wiederaufbaus der Städte Hamhŭng und Hungnam in Nordkorea durch die DAG-Städtebaubrigade der DDR von 1955–1962,” 2016.
  • 19 Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak: Death of a Discipline, Columbia University Press, New York 2003, p. 82.
  • 20 Elizabeth Freeman: “Time Binds, or, Erotohistoriography,” in Social Text 84–85, Vol. 23, Nos. 3–4, Fall–Winter 2005, p. 61.
  • 21 In addition to the photo albums of Konrad Püschel’s trip to North Korea between 1956 and 1959 and numerous notes by Püschel and the project interpreter Dong-Sam Sin, the documentation of the “Journey to Moscow” and the archives of the United Nations in Geneva for the 1954 Korea-Indochina Conference, and writings by the post-colonial historian Young-Sun Hong were all important materials. Young-Sun Hong publishes on the relations of Korea with divided Germany as an indicator of a “global humanitarian regime” of the Cold War, especially with regard to the emancipatory policies of the Asian-African Bandung Conference of 1955 or the Non-Aligned Movement. In addition, contemporary debates by anti-colonial author Samia Henni and architectural theorist Ines Weizmann sharpen the view of architectural practice in the mirror of war, imperialism and colonialism as strategic and creative elements.
  • 22 Inventory no. I_018378_1_F, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation.
  • 23 Konrad Püschel: “Ein Überblick über die Entwicklung und Gestaltung koreanischer Siedlungsanlagen” (An overview of the development and design of Korean settlements), Wissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift der Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen Weimar, Vol. 6, 1958/59, issue 5, p. 475.
  • 24 To this day, the conclusion of a peace agreement is the subject of foreign policy negotiations, ceremonies, arrests and political spectacles between North Korea and South Korea or the United States.
  • 25 Marker: Coréennes, p. 9.
  • 26 Sin: “Die Planung des Wiederaufbaus der Städte Hamhŭng und Hungnam in Nordkorea durch die DAG-Städtebaubrigade der DDR von 1955–1962,” p. 77.
  • 27 Max Zimmering: Land der Morgenfrische, Kongress Verlag, Berlin 1956.
  • 28 It should be mentioned at this point that many women workers can be seen on the photos of Püschel on the construction sites. They used so-called slat gauges to align the wall blocks, transport clay blocks or worked in the chemistry laboratory.
  • 29 Sin: “Die Planung des Wiederaufbaus der Städte Hamhŭng und Hungnam in Nordkorea durch die DAG-Städtebaubrigade der DDR von 1955–1962,” p. 70.
  • 30 With regard to Young-Sun Hong’s research, it should be mentioned that the presence of brigades from the GDR was in part regarded by the North Korean partners as highly problematic, as they “made the former Japanese rulers pale in comparison.” See: Hong: Cold War Germany, p. 69.
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This essay explores the connection between Walter Gropius and I. M. Pei, as well as the influence of the one on the other. After completing his studies, I. M. Pei worked with Gropius on plans for a university in Shanghai, which he subsequently realized in Taiwan, than in association with Chang Chao-Kang and Chen Chi-Kuan. → more

Bauhausmoderne und Chinesische Tradition — Franz Ehrlichs Entwurf für ein Haus des Handels in Peking (1954–1956)

In den frühen 1950er-Jahren bestanden gute diplomatische, politische und ökonomische Beziehungen zwischen der Volksrepublik China und der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. Beide, sich als sozialistisch verstehende Staaten, waren 1949 gegründet worden. In diesem Aufsatz geht es um die besondere Beziehung zur chinesischen Architektur, Kunst und Gestaltung, die Franz Ehrlich entwickelte. → more

Bauhaus and the Origin of Design Education in India

This article is an example of “writing by being,” because the author had the privilege of being part of the pilot “batch” of Indian design teachers. These students, many from an engineering background, were to be India’s future design educators, and their first exposure to design education took place at the newly-founded National Institute of Design, India’s first design institute, established in 1961 and inspired to a large measure by Bauhaus ideology. → more

Moving Away from Bauhaus and Ulm — The Development of an Environmental Focus in the Foundation Programme at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad

The National Institute of Design (NID) came into existence at the intersection of postcolonial aspirations to design a new nation and the new citizen and Cold War cultural diplomacy. It was located in Ahmedabad, a medieval western Indian city on the banks of the river Sabarmati, famous for its textile mills and as the place where Gandhi began his anti-British campaigns. Initially it was housed, perhaps quite appropriately, in a museum building designed by Le Corbusier where discussions began on the appropriate educational philosophy and pedagogy: Who would produce new lotas for the new nation? Who would teach them and how? → more

Contemporary Reflections on NID History — Teaching through the Design Archive

I often stage chance encounters for students with archival materials at the NID: a rare photograph of the building in construction, an odd handwritten scribble on a drawing by M.P. Ranjan, a stunning collection of sound recordings by David Tudor and John Cage. The amazement and wonder created by this staging becomes the starting point for the pedagogical value of archives. → more

On Behalf of Progressive Design — Two Modern Campuses in Transcultural Dialogue

“The Indian state has only existed for 13 years. And world history would be unthinkable without its unorthodox influence. India has delivered more new content in the last decade than any other country.” HfG Ulm founder Otl Aicher’s report on his trip to India in 1960 and the slides he took during his journey across the country are impressive observations of a country in upheaval. From today’s perspective, this material reads like an overture to the future collaboration between two design schools: the HfG Ulm and the NID in Ahmedabad.   → more

Design for Need — Der Milchkiosk von Sudhakar Nadkarni

Während der Designstudent Sudhakar Nadkarni 1965 an der HfG Ulm an seiner Diplomarbeit zur Gestaltung eines Milchkiosks für seine Heimatstadt Bombay arbeitete, reiste der deutsche Architekt und Designer Hans Gugelot an das 1961 gegründete NID in Ahmedabad. An beiden Schulen war man überzeugt, dass nur ein rational begründetes Design, das sich mit den grundlegenden Systemen der Gesellschaft, der Infrastruktur, der Gesundheits- und Nahrungsmittelversorgung befasst, die unmittelbaren Bedürfnisse der Menschen ernst nehmen kann. Der Milchkiosk-Entwurf ist ein herausragendes Dokument einer Gestaltungshaltung, die Design als ein Mittel zur Verbesserung des Alltags begreift. → more

●Photo Essay
Abraham & Thakore — NID Fashion

Like most designer start-ups, A&T started as a very small design studio. We began by designing and manufacturing modest batches of textile and fashion items, manufactured mostly on handlooms and tiny printing and embroidery sheds in India’s still pervasive small-scale industrial sector. And indeed, 25 years on, our supply chain is still reliant on and supportive of many of these small enterprises. → more

Habib Rahman — A Bauhaus Legacy in India

Habib Rahman, born 1915 in Calcutta, studied architecture at MIT under Lawrence Anderson, William Wurster and Walter Gropius, who taught next door at Harvard University. Gropius got Rahman his first job after graduation in his firm where Rahman worked until he returned to India in 1946. Ram Rahman’s account of his father’s legacy and his contribution to modernist Indian architecture. → more

Architects’ Congress

The passenger ship Patris II transported the participants of the 4th International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) from Marseilles to Athens and back. Bauhaus teacher Moholy-Nagy, travelling as a “friend of the new building movement” produced this half-hour soundless film as a travel journal. → more

Der CIAM-Protest — Von Moskau zur Patris II (1932)

Entgegen allen internationalen Erwartungen – schließlich waren Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Erich Mendelsohn und andere eingeladen – befand sich am 29. Februar 1932 kein moderner Architekt unter den Hauptpreisträgern der ersten Wettbewerbsrunde für den Palast der Sowjets in Moskau. → more

A Migratory Life—from Dessau to Moscow to Mexico — Hannes Meyer and Lena Bergner and the Arts

In this article Marion von Osten focusses on the curatorial research involved in two of the project’s four chapters: Moving Away and Learning From. She rethinks the importance of the migratory life of the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer and Bauhaus weaver Lena Bergner, starting with Meyer’s two-year directorship of the Bauhaus Dessau, the couple’s time working in the USSR (1931–1936), and, finally, their decade-long period as exiles in Mexico, which lasted from 1939 to 1949, the year they returned to Switzerland. → more

Die Sozialisierung des Wissens und das Streben nach Deutungsmacht — Lena Bergners Transfer der Isotype nach Mexiko

Lena Bergner wird normalerweise als am Bauhaus ausgebildete Textilgestalterin charakterisiert. In ihrem zehnjährigen Exil in Mexiko widmete sie sich allerdings der grafischen Gestaltung, fast ausschließlich für antifaschistische Projekte. Eine Ausnahme sind ihre weitestgehend unbekannten Leistungen im Bereich der visuellen Kommunikation für das mexikanische Schulbaukomitee. Hier verwendete sie Otto Neuraths „Wiener Methode der Bildstatistik“ (Isotype). Dieser Text erörtert den Transfer der Isotype von Europa nach Mexiko am Beispiel von Bergner und ihren möglichen Berührungspunkten mit Neuraths bildpädagogischen Methode und untersucht, wie sich die Isotype von propagandistischen visuellen Kommunikationsformen abgrenzt. → more

Praised, Sentenced, Forgotten, Rediscovered — 62 Members of the Bauhaus in the Land of the Soviets

In this interview with Astrid Volpert, she reviews her decades of research on Bauhäusler who emigrated to the SU and makes it clear that there were far more than seven of them heading east. Persons traveling from the Bauhaus to Russia were from eleven countries. They belonged to various denominations—there were Protestants and Catholics, Jews and atheists. Of the 15 women and 47 men, only 21 of them were members of communist parties. → more

The Moscow Bauhaus Exhibition Catalogue (1931)

When Hannes Meyer had emigrated to the Soviet Union in 1930, one of the first things he did was organizing an exhibition about “his” Bauhaus. As early as in February 1931 Meyer had the exhibition Bauhaus Dessau. Period of Hannes Meyer’s directorship. 1928-1930 already ready to receive the Moscow public. It was shown at the renown State Museum of New Western Art. This is the first English translation of the exhibition catalogue. → more

After the Ball — Hannes Meyer Presenting the Bauhaus in Moscow

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

“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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