Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture 1474275605, 9781474275606

This new volume addresses the lasting contribution made by Central European emigre designers to twentieth-century Americ

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Table of contents :
Introduction – Elana Shapira and Alison J. Clarke
Part One Social Transformation and Mass Consumption
1 Isotype and Architectural Knowledge – Eve Blau
2 (Mis)Understanding Consumption: Expertise and Consumer Policies in Vienna, 1918–1938 – Oliver Kühschelm
3 Shaping the Mass Mind: Frederick Kiesler and the Psychology of Selling – Barnaby Haran
Part Two Assimilation, Emancipation, and Modern Pluralism
4 Becoming American: Paul T. Frankl’s Passage to a New Design Aesthetic – Christopher Long
5 Paul László and the Atomic Future – Monica Penick
6 Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism – Pat Kirkham
Part Three “Outsiders” Perspectives and Cultural Critique
7 Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography: Victor J. Papanek Social Designer – Alison J. Clarke
8 Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender – Elana Shapira
9 Felix Augenfeld: Modern Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism – Ruth Hanisch
Part Four Emigration and Education—Bauhaus in the United States
10 György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”: From Education in Design to Design as Education of the Mind – Anna Vallye
11 The Architectonics of Perception: Xanti Schawinsky at Black Mountain College – Eva Díaz
Part Five Envisioning a Global Home
12 Between Culture and Biology: Schindler and Neutra at the Limits of Architecture – Todd Cronan
13 Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home – Felicity D. Scott
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Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture Edited by Alison J. Clarke and Elana Shapira

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc


Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2017 © Editorial content, Elana Shapira and Alison J. Clarke 2017 © Individual chapters, their authors, 2017 Alison J. Clarke and Elana Shapira have asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Editors of this work. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright material. The publisher apologizes for any errors or omissions in the above list and would be grateful if notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of this book. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. ISBN: HB: 978-1-4742-7560-6 ePDF: 978-1-4742-7561-3 ePub: 978-1-4742-7562-0 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress Cover design: Louise Dugdale Cover image: Frederick Kiesler, Space House. Detail of Staircase, Modernage Furniture Company, New York 1933 (© 2017 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private-Foundation, Vienna) Typeset by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd.

Contents Figures Contributors Introduction – Elana Shapira and Alison J. Clarke


Part One  Social Transformation and Mass Consumption


1 2 3

Isotype and Architectural Knowledge – Eve Blau (Mis)Understanding Consumption: Expertise and Consumer Policies in Vienna, 1918–1938 – Oliver Kühschelm Shaping the Mass Mind: Frederick Kiesler and the Psychology of Selling – Barnaby Haran

Part Two  Assimilation, Emancipation, and Modern Pluralism 4 5 6

Becoming American: Paul T. Frankl’s Passage to a New Design Aesthetic – Christopher Long Paul László and the Atomic Future – Monica Penick Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism – Pat Kirkham

Part Three  “Outsiders” Perspectives and Cultural Critique 7 8 9

Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography: Victor J. Papanek Social Designer – Alison J. Clarke Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender – Elana Shapira Felix Augenfeld: Modern Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism – Ruth Hanisch

Part Four  Emigration and Education—Bauhaus in the United States 10 György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”: From Education in Design to Design as Education of the Mind – Anna Vallye 11 The Architectonics of Perception: Xanti Schawinsky at Black Mountain College – Eva Díaz

xi 1

29 45 63 77

79 91 105 119

121 141 159 173

175 191



Part Five  Envisioning a Global Home


12 Between Culture and Biology: Schindler and Neutra at the Limits of Architecture – Todd Cronan 13 Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home – Felicity D. Scott





Figures 1.1 Josef Frank, Siedlung Hoffingergasse, 1921. Courtesy of Johannes Spalt. Site plan, Das Neue Wien, ed. Gemeinde Wien, 4 vols, Vienna, 1926– 1928, I, 274 1.2 Josef Frank, Sebastian-Kelchgasse, 1–3, 1928. Photograph c. 1930, Wiener Stadt und Landesarchiv, Vienna 1.3 (Top) Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum (GWM) installation in Volkshalle, Neues Rathaus, Vienna, c. 1926. From Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype collection © The University of Reading; (bottom) display techniques employed at the GWM, Vienna. From Otto Neurath, International Picture Language, 1936, picture 24 1.4 (Left) ISOTYPE techniques for putting signs together; (right) ISOTYPE examples of‚ “root idea and addition” and “guide picture.” Both from Otto Neurath, International Picture Language, 1936, pictures 17 and 18 2.1 Vienna’s dominant place in Austrian consumption: Data from mid1930s, author’s calculations. Sources: Statistisches Jahrbuch für Österreich 1938; Statistische Nachrichten 15 (1937) 2.2 “What is standardization?” Haushalt und Heim 4, no. 1 (1932) 2.3 Wall with empty advertising space, Vienna 1937. © MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, Joseph Binder estate, KI 14145-1233-23-1 2.4 Joseph Binder, Official poster for World’s Fair 1939. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, PI 4198, Photo: © MAK 3.1 Frederick Kiesler, Cover of Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and its Display, New York: Brentano’s, 1930. © 2016 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna 3.2 Frederick Kiesler, Shop window display, Saks Fifth Avenue, New York, 1928. © 2016 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna 3.3 Frederick Kiesler, The Space House exhibit, interior with Work and Play mural, New York City, 1933. © 2016 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna 4.1 Paul T. Frankl, Stoehr Apartment, New York, 1916; conservatory. Photo: Collection Paulette Frankl

30 31–32



48 50

54 55



73 81



4.2 Paul T. Frankl, Sketch for a skyscraper design, c. 1925. Pencil on paper, 6 ½ x 4 ½ in. (16. 8 × 12 cm). Collection Paulette Frankl 4.3 Paul T. Frankl, Woodweave chair, c. 1938. Birch, woven wood panels, and cloth upholstery. Photo: Collection Paulette Frankl 4.4 Paul T. Frankl, Living room, Frankl House, Coldwater Canyon, California, 1940. Photo: Collection Paulette Frankl 5.1 Paul László, “Dreamville—Good Old U.S.A.—A Planned Community,” c. 1947. Paul László, Interiors Exteriors (informally, the “Black and White Book”), 1947. Author’s Collection 5.2 Paul László, presentation boards for Atomville, U.S.A., 1950. Courtesy László Papers, Architecture and Design Collection (ADC), Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara 5.3 Paul László, longitudinal section and plan for “Emergency Shelter” for Mr. and Mrs. John Hertz, Project H-2, February 1955. Courtesy László Papers, Architecture and Design Collection (ADC), Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara 5.4 Paul László, bomb shelter for Mr. and Mrs. John Hertz. Children exploring the shelter, publicity photograph. Courtesy László Papers, Architecture and Design Collection (ADC), Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara 6.1 Photo of Eva Zeisel, c. 2000. Courtesy Brigitte Lacombe 6.2 Eva Zeisel, Items from Museum service: Castleton China Company, USA, 1946; MoMA exhibition, New Shapes in Modern China, designed by Eva Zeisel, 1946. Courtesy Brent C. Brolin 6.3 Eva Zeisel, Coffee table, USA, c. 1993. Courtesy of Eva Zeisel Originals. evazeiseloriginals.com 6.4 Eva Zeisel, Schmidt ironstone: Nihon Koshitsu Toki Company, Japan, 1964 7.1 Letter from Frank Lloyd Wright to Victor Papanek, Easter 1949. Courtesy of Victor J. Papanek, University of Applied Arts Vienna 7.2 Signed personal copy of Varda: The Master Builder by Henry Miller. © Victor J. Papanek, University of Applied Arts Vienna 7.3 Victor J. Papanek in army uniform c. 1944–5. © Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna. Photographer unknown 7.4 Front cover of Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, 1971. Courtesy Victor J. Papanek, University of Applied Arts Vienna 8.1 Frederick Kiesler, Space House, 1933. Photo: F. S. Lincoln. © 2016 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna 8.2 Bernard Rudofsky, Are Clothes Modern? Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1947, 31

83 86 87




100 105

107 111 111 123 131 132

134 144 148



8.3 Victor J. Papanek, Samisen chair, early 1950s. Courtesy Victor J. Papanek, University of Applied Arts Vienna 151 8.4 Carlo Mollino, Chair, reproduced in: Olga Gueft, “Mollino’s flexible fantasies,” Interiors, Vol. 112, no. 9, April 1953, 89 152 9.1 Edmund Engelman, Study of Sigmund Freud in Vienna, 1938. Chair by Hofmann and Augenfeld. © Freud Museum Vienna 160 9.2 Karl Hofmann and Felix Augenfeld, Weekend cottage for Muriel Gardiner, 1929–1930. © Ruth Hanisch 164 9.3 Felix Augenfeld, Beach house Augenfeld, Fire Island, c. 1957. © Avery Library, Columbia University 167 9.4 Felix Augenfeld and Jan Hird Pokorny, Townhouse and library Buttinger, New York, 1956–1958. © Avery Library, Columbia University 168 10.1 György Kepes, Advertisement for the Container Corporation of America, Fortune Magazine, 1939 178 10.2 György Kepes, Kinetic light space. From A.D., “Kepes Looks at Light; Sees Spots,” Interiors 110, January 1951 184–185 10.3 György Kepes, Light as a Creative Medium, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1965 Photograph by Nishan Bichajian. From György Kepes: The MIT Years, 1945–1977; Cambridge, MA: Hayden Gallery, MIT, 1978 186 10.4 György Kepes, Layout diagram for Light as a Creative Medium, 1965. György Kepes papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution 187 11.1 Xanti Schawinksy, Spectodrama: Play, Life, Illusion, 1936–1937. Black and white photographic collage, 16 × 20 in. The Xanti Schawinksy Estate 192 11.2 Xanti Schawinsky, Spectodrama 5: Sound and Chord Demonstration, 1936. China Ink on paper, 9.7 × 11.3 in. The Xanti Schawinksy Estate 193 11.3 Xanti Schawinksy, Spectodrama: Play, Life, Illusion, 1936–1937. From Helen Post Black Mountain College documentary photo collection, reproduced courtesy of Peter Modley 194 12.1 R. M. Schindler, Kings Road House, West Hollywood, 1922 207 12.2 R. M. Schindler, Oliver House, Los Angeles, 1933. Photograph by Julius Shulman, Gelatin Silver Print. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2004.R.10 208 12.3 Richard Neutra, Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, 1947. Photograph by Julius Shulman, Gelatin Silver Print. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2004.R.10 211 12.4 Richard Neutra, Tremaine House, Montecito, 1948. Photograph by Julius Shulman, Gelatin Silver Print. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2004.R.10 214



13.1 Installation view of the exhibition “Architecture without Architects,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 11, 1964, through February 7, 1965. Photo: Bernard Rudofsky 13.2 Bernard Rudofksy, Haus B auf Capri, 1934. Published in Monatshefte für Baukunst und Städtebau, January 1934 13.3 Bernard Rudofsky, “Orientation Plan,” 1938. Published in Domus, March 1938 13.4 Bernard Rudofsky, Virgilio Frontini House, São Paulo, Brazil, 1939– 1941. Photo-collage. Published in New Pencil Points, June 1943

222 226 227 229


Eve Blau is Adjunct Professor of the History of Urban Form at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She has written extensively on modern architecture and urbanism. Her books on Central European topics include The Architecture of Red Vienna 1919–1934 (1999/German, 2014); Project Zagreb: Transition as Condition, Strategy, Practice (2007); Shaping the Great City: Modern Architecture in Central Europe (2000). She is a Principal Investigator of the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, Reconceptualizing the Urban: Interdisciplinary Study of Urban Environments, Societies, and Cultures. In 2015 she was awarded the Victor Adler State Prize by the Republic of Austria. Alison J. Clarke coeditor,  is Professor and Chair of Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna, founding director of the Papanek Foundation, and principal investigator leading the Austrian Science Fund research project “Émigré Cultural Networks and the Founding of Social Design.” Former Smithsonian Fellow, recent Graham Foundation grantee,  she is cofounding editor of the journal  Home Cultures: Architecture, Design and Domestic Space, editor Design Anthropology: Object Cultures in Transition (2017), and author of forthcoming Victor Papanek: Designer for the Real World (MIT). Todd Cronan is Associate Professor of art history at Emory University. He is the author of Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism (2013) and articles on photographic “previsualization,” chance photography, orthodoxy, Max Ernst, Merleau-Ponty, Santayana, Simmel, and Valéry. He is completing a book on art and politics—Between Affect and Alienation: Rodchenko/Eisenstein/Brecht—and is working on a study of the mid-century modernisms of Schindler, Neutra, Charles & Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, George Nelson, and Garrett Eckbo. He is a founder and editor-in-chief of nonsite.org. Eva Díaz is Associate Professor of History of Art and Design at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She is the author of The Experimenters: Chance and Design at Black Mountain College (2015). Díaz was recently awarded a grant from the Graham Foundation to work on her new book After Spaceship Earth, analyzing the influence



of R. Buckminster Fuller in contemporary art. Her writing appears in magazines and journals such as The Art Bulletin, Artforum, Art Journal, Art in America, Cabinet, The Exhibitionist, Frieze, Grey Room, Harvard Design Magazine, and October. Ruth Hanisch is an independent Architectural and Design Historian based in Dortmund. She is an expert on the Viennese modern architecture and design and her essays were published in international exhibition catalogs and anthologies. She contributed to the exhibition project “Visionäre und Vertriebene. Österreichische Wurzeln in der modernen amerikanischen Architektur” (1995). Her current research is on the contribution of local traditions to the devolvement of Modern Architecture in Vienna. Barnaby Haran is Lecturer in American Arts at the Department of American Studies at University of Hull. He is the author of Watching the Red Dawn: the American AvantGarde and the Soviet Union (2016). He has written widely on American avant-garde and radical culture, with a special interest in photography and film in the interwar years and international cultural relations. His current research is on photographic culture in the 1930s. He is writing a series of articles on photography in the early years of the Great Depression, based on research enabled by a Postdoctoral Travel Grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art in 2016. Pat Kirkham is Professor of Design History at Kingston University, London, UK, and Professor Emerita at Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture, New York. She has written widely on design, film, and gender. Her many publications include Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of The Twentieth Century (1995); The Gendered Object (1996, ed. and contributing author), Women Designers in the USA 1900-1000: Diversity and Difference (2000, ed. and contributing author); Saul Bass: A Life in Design and Film (2011, LKP); and Eva Zeisel (2013, ed. and contributing author). Professor Kirkham knew Eva Zeisel well from 1999 until Zeisel’s death in 2011. Oliver Kühschelm is a lecturer at the Department of Economic and Social History, University of Vienna. His research focuses on the history of advertising and consumption. Past work includes studies on the history of the middle classes and on Austrian émigrés in Argentina and Uruguay. He has recently finished a book manuscript about buy-national campaigns in Austria and Switzerland, 1920–1980. He is the editor of Geld-Markt Akteure [Money Market Actors] (2015) and co-editor of Konsum und Nation [Consumption and the Nation] (2012), and Bilder in historischen Diskursen [Images in Historical Discourses] (2014). Christopher Long is University Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director of the Architectural History Program in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. He has published widely on modern architecture and design in Central Europe and the United States. His books include Josef Frank: Life and Work (2002), Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design (2007), The Looshaus (2011), Kem Weber: Designer and Architect (2014), and The New Space: Movement and Experience in Viennese Modern Architecture (2016).



Monica Penick is a design historian and educator. Her work, including Tastemaker: Elizabeth Gordon, House Beautiful, and the Postwar American Home (2017), ranges from an investigation of the influence of the American shelter press on modern design to an examination of the relationship between nationalism, regionalism, cultural identity, and architecture. She has taught at the University of Texas at Austin and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Penick is currently curating, with Christopher Long, an exhibition on the “democratization” of design within the Arts and Crafts Movement (to open at the Harry Ransom Center, 2019). Felicity D. Scott is Associate Professor, director of the PhD program in Architecture (History and Theory), and co-director of the program in Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture (CCCP) at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University. She was a founding co-editor of the journal Grey Room. In addition to publishing numerous articles in journals and edited anthologies, she has published Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics after Modernism (2007), Living Archive 7: Ant Farm (2008), Disorientation: Bernard Rudofsky in the Empire of Signs (2016), and Outlaw Territories: Environments of Insecurity/Architectures of Counterinsurgency (2016). Elana Shapira coeditor, is a lecturer in the Design History and Theory department at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. As the senior researcher in the Austrian Science Fund project “Émigré Cultural Networks and the Founding of Social Design,” she curated the international symposium “Émigré Design Culture” (2015). She is the author of Style and Seduction: Jewish Patrons, Architecture, and Design in Fin-desiècle Vienna (2016) and editor of the forthcoming Design Dialogue: Jews, Culture and Viennese Modernism (2018). Shapira has published extensively on modern architecture and design in major international books, journals, and exhibition catalogs. Anna Vallye is Assistant Professor of Art History and Architectural Studies at Connecticut College. She is the curator and author of Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis (Philadelphia Museum of Art: Fall, 2013; Museo Correr, Venice, Italy: Spring 2014). Vallye’s work is published in several anthologies, exhibition catalogs, and journals such as Grey Room and the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. She is currently writing a book titled The Management of Modernity: Modern Architecture and the Politics of State Governance, focused on the American careers of German-speaking architects and designers Walter Gropius, Ludwig Hilberseimer, György Kepes, and Martin Wagner.

Introduction—Émigré Cultures and New Design Dimensions Elana Shapira and Alison J. Clarke

The exile is the other of the other. That means, he is different for the others, and the others are different for him. He himself is nothing but the other of the others, and only in this way can he “identify” himself. And his arrival in exile allows the natives to discover that they can only “identify” themselves in relationship to him. […] For the exile threatens the “particularity” of the native and questions it in his alienness. Yet even this polemical dialogue is creative, as it leads to the synthesis of new information. Exile, in whatever form, is the breeding ground for creative action, for the new.1

Displacing design and polemical dialogues Exile Czech-German philosopher Vilém Flusser’s insight concerning the position of the exile in relation to a native raises questions about the nature of creativity within the “polemical dialogue” and the possibility of forming new design syntheses. This edited volume examines the ways in which émigrés and exiles actively fashioned new design, as well as anti-design languages, to convey their relation to European modernism and aims for integration within American society. Through these processes they claimed cultural authority, not only within American culture, but within a Westernized perception of new global orders. Moving beyond practical and cultural questions concerning the linguistic fluency of émigrés and exiles in relation to the American-English language, we consider the advantages and disadvantages of how other “languages” were translated in new contexts, particularly the translation of European design perspectives and experiences. The figures discussed, including the designers Paul T. Frankl, György Kepes, Xanti Schawinsky, Victor Papanek, and Eva Zeisel and the architects Felix Augenfeld, Josef Frank, Frederick Kiesler, Richard Neutra, Bernard Rudofsky, and R. M. Schindler, along with the sociologists Paul Lazarsfeld and Otto Neurath, all published significant and groundbreaking books


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

and articles in English, or taught at central academic institutions in the United States. The primary focus of this collection of chapters is the exploration of the ways in which the émigrés “Other’s” view of American culture resulted in alternative design languages constructed to address unfamiliar experiences. The concept of design language is applied here to ideological, as well as formal, design vocabulary and to the shaping of products and architecture as means of constructing collective identities and staking personal or group creative claims.2 Anti-design (also noted below as undesign) language in this context is the preference of ideological and adaptable design vocabulary, created in order to counter or contradict existing aesthetic formal schemes. Émigré and exile cultures are understood here in terms of their movements within an American as well as a global context. An approach well illustrated by émigré designer Bernard Rudofsky’s rejection of the publishing house Theobald’s offer to translate his book Are Clothes Modern? to other languages. Rudofsky, revealing a nuanced understanding of the importance of cultural rather than mere linguistic translation, argued: “Though I would like to see the book printed in non-English edition, I believe that a literal translation is not advisable. I’d rather at least partly, rewrite the text to fit the mentality, historical and economical background of the foreign country.”3 Furthermore, the volume addresses “émigré cultures” in the plural rather than singular, revealing the diversity of émigré experience while arguing that émigrés and exiles fashioned their design language in relation to earlier or parallel émigré cultures in the United States.4 The chapters consider an evolving awareness of both American and global communities, commodity culture, and the shaping of an emerging design/undesign vocabulary, while also examining the localized impact cultural and commercial American institutions had on the translation and facilitation of an “émigré discourse.” Notably, respective authors highlight the role specific journals and publishing houses had in the dissemination of émigré work. Therefore, this book is an historical investigation of practices analogous to, and including, our own contemporary conceptions of the role of design in society and its role in generating knowledge. It reconsiders the contributions émigré and exile designers and architects made toward the formation of new material communication systems, which are also discussed as systems of obtaining knowledge. A remaining, underlying question is whether émigrés promoted a shift in the twentieth century from an exclusive, Western perception of aesthetics to a more inclusive, global perception of such.5 In a vivid description of a new kind of educational practice employed at the School of Design in Chicago, directed by Bauhaus émigré László Moholy-Nagy, we are given insight into the creative, polemical dialogue the contemporary exile designer was broaching: The best way to achieve this [showing the signification in art and design] is by observing objects not yet stamped in everyone’s memory in worn-out formulae of the past. Instead of a face, tree, or human figure, which are always connected with traditional art, unusual objects and records are substituted. As the first stage in the study of line signatures, fingerprints, woodgrain are introduced.6

Introduction—Émigré Cultures and New Design Dimensions


Moholy-Nagy encouraged his students to write their signatures, not on objects familiar in everyone’s memory, but on unusual objects and records; in pushing them to move beyond their memory preferences, Moholy-Nagy’s design practice freed them from the sentimental attachment to past tradition and memories, allowing students to open their eyes to (through taking possession of) new objects. The architect and art historian (also László’s wife), Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, describes the émigré experiences in her essay “The Diaspora” (1965) in terms of the “agonies of the creative mind made homeless” and as a “comedy of errors played out by the alien mind anxiously disguised in native costume.”7 In her critical evaluation, she reviews German émigré architects in exile in relation to American and European progressive notions, for example drawing attention to Gropius’s and Breuer’s “ugly little houses” in Boston and Mies’ achievement in the Seagram Building in New York.8 Her criticism is best understood in relation to her prior, more substantial essay regarding critical contemporary issues, “Environment and Anonymous Architecture,” in Perspecta; a work which preceded her book Native Genius in Anonymous Architecture (1957). In her essay she promotes the ideal of architecture integrated in its environment, concluding with these thoughts: It is the supreme challenge to the individual excellence of the architect, and the most crucial justification of his profession, to balance these factors in a house design based on social, economic, historical, individual and topographic knowledge. It was this sort of house that helped the anonymous multitude to survive wars, revolutions, governments and economic crises by setting on the surface of their earth a testimony to infinity expressed through the temporal.9

Taking a cue from Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, this volume refers to “the agonies of the creative mind made homeless” and “the comedy of errors played out by the alien mind disguised in native costume,” seeing these psychological paradigms as sources of revolutionary progressive design still influencing design practices today. Migration and emigration and the experience of living outside the respective homeland were part of the dynamic of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and Central European experience in the first half of the twentieth century.10 Frederick Kiesler migrated from Czernowitz in the Bukowina to study in Vienna, where he stayed until the mid-1920s; Eva Zeisel worked in Hungary, Germany, and the USSR before returning to Vienna, which she would leave immediately after the Anschluss; György Kepes studied in Budapest yet settled in Berlin to work with László Moholy-Nagy at the Bauhaus in 1930; the Swiss Xanti Schawisnky worked in Cologne, continued to do so in Berlin, and then settled in Weimar, following the Bauhaus to Dessau and then, after the Nazis took over, fleeing to Milano and ultimately leaving for the United States. The questions that arise concerning this group of émigrés and exiles who “settled” in the United States are multiple but united by broader theoretical paradigms around the émigré experience. What role does memory of another place and time play in the formation of design language? Is it necessary to “reconstruct” the émigré designer’s experience of coexisting between a past (homeland) and a present (country) in order to understand their design work? What distinction, if any, did these designers make


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

between the concept of homeland (as a place of rootedness) and the concept of country (as a place to be invented/created/imagined)? When we consider the movement of the exile, what are the parameters taken into account when we say they “leave” their European culture (“old home”) to “settle” in the American culture (“new home”)? Might we also speak of émigrés’ movements as adaptations to “in-between spaces” (libraries, museums, and universities), and how might this configure identity?11 Did the involvement of other émigrés’ in the fully fledged American capitalist economy shape these designers’ and architects’ incipient American identification? What role do family, professional, and ideological networks play in the formation of new hybrid cultures of immigrant/culture of innovation/new citizen in specific historical settings?12 This book suggests that those who settled “in-between spaces” and those who adopted an American identity paved the way toward new pluralistic and inclusive agendas for “others” in society through new design vocabulary based on constructed hybrid cultures.13 In reconsidering the new modes of design communication established by émigrés in Europe and in the United States, it is helpful to consider philosopher and language critic Fritz Mauthner’s notion of language as a culture’s “common sensorium,” which is granted meaning by that culture’s customs and practices. What happens when a “culture’s language,” which is part of its operating equipment— specifically in providing communal memory (containing within its vocabulary the verbal expressions of its traditional customs and practices)14—is challenged by new historical conditions such as war, exclusion, and persecution, wherein the accepted social terms lose their meanings?15 Each of the chapters presented in this book refer to the ways in which émigrés formed “culture’s language” anew in their diaspora, as revealed in their social relations, the routes and geographies they traced, and the intellectual impressions they made. Through examination of designers’ biographies, cultural criticisms and debates, teachings, professional networks, emigration paths, adaptation to adopted cities, books written, exhibitions curated, and actual design and architectural works made, these studies assert that it was through hybridity that they asserted authority. The protagonists of this volume were confronted with world war experiences and shifting political conditions before, and parallel to, their arrival in the United States, which directly and indirectly influenced their careers and works. The First World War effected the decision of Paul T. Frankl to remain in the United States. The traumatic effects of this war influenced the questioning of canonized modernism and the promotion of responsible social design in the works of Josef Frank, Richard Neutra, Frederick Kiesler, and Bernard Rudofsky. Designers confronted totalitarian political systems: in the case of György Kepes (1920–1930) and Paul László, it was dictatorship in Hungary; for Otto Neurath (fleeing Austria in 1934), Joseph Binder (1935–1938), and Felix Augenfeld (1934–1938), it was the fascist takeover in Austria; working in fascist Italy were Xanti Schawinsky (1933–1936) and Bernard Rudofsky (1932–1938),16 and in Stalinist USSR was Eva Zeisel (1932–1937). Several designers experienced discrimination and persecution: Paul László, György kepes, and Xanti Schawinsky after the Nazi takeover in Germany in 1933; Josef Frank after the rise of Fascism in Austria in 1934; and Felix Augenfeld, Eva Zeisel, and Victor Papanek

Introduction—Émigré Cultures and New Design Dimensions


after the annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany in 1938. The outbreak of the Second World War directly affected designers such as Victor Papanek, who served as a United States soldier and began his correspondence with design and architectural colleagues as veteran soldier; and designers experienced the traumatic loss of close family members in the Holocaust such as László and Papanek. The effects of the 1950s Cold War is visible in the works of Paul László, who designed in reaction to the era’s atomic threats, and also of Bernard Rudofsky, who designed the United States government’s exhibition at the World Fair in Brussels in 1958.17 The chapters in this book refer to the practice of design as embedded in these lived émigré experiences, and in parallel offer new paths for research and debate.

Reception of the émigré and exile in the scholarly discussion Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture closely examines the careers of émigrés and exiles within personal, professional, and ideological networks and how such networks shaped architecture, design, and creative output in American culture between the 1920s and 1960s. In so doing, it expands upon recent scholarly discussions addressing the dynamics of emigration and the many faceted relations that émigré designers developed in countries they left or fled from, and in the United States where they finally settled.18 The editors’ aim is not only to reach a more qualitative understanding of what émigré and exile experience within the broader American community entailed, but to elucidate the ways by which, as parts of unique social, professional, and ideological communities, émigrés had lasting impact on American and global cultures. Working within their networks, these émigrés contributed to new design vocabularies without which their integration into their “host” culture, and their instigation of progressive cultural debates, might not have been envisioned. The work of art historian Sabine Eckmann, specifically the two recent essays “German Exile, Modern Art, and National Identity” (2007) and “Concerning Exile Art in the US” (2011), presents case studies relevant to the core discussion in this edited volume, including the reception of the Bauhaus in the United States (the marketing of the Bauhaus in the 1938 MoMA exhibition and its traveling version, “The Bauhaus: How it Worked”)19 and the fruitful cooperation between Frederick Kiesler and the American art collector Peggy Guggenheim (1942).20 In both the above-mentioned essays, Eckmann raises important questions concerning the reception of émigré artists and designers in the United States, addressing the instrumentalization of the Bauhaus designers to underscore American cultural superiority in mid-twentieth century.21 Eckmann’s critical argument is a key departure point for this volume: “to better understand how meaningful connections between these historical exiles and the contemporary global relevance of network theories can be instituted, […] to examine the very nature of these historical artistic and social (and political) networks.”22 Importantly, Eckmann critically refers to historian Sybil Milton’s question “Is there an Exile Art or Only Exile Artists?” concerning the creative output of émigrés and exiles in mid-century art and design in the United States.23 This question problematizes the subject of “exilic aesthetics” and the perspective of assimilation, acculturation, and


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reception processes of the émigré/exiles within American culture. Eckmann further offers a critical review of the German exiles’ changing modes of reception, also in relationship to the art scene and politics in Germany emphasizing the fluidity and temporality of the condition of exile.24 The reception of Austrian and Central European émigré and exile designers and architects in the United States has been an established area of scholarly debate for over two decades. In 1995, architectural historians Matthias Boeckl’s and Otto Kapfinger’s edited publication, Visionäre & Vertriebene: Österreichische Spuren in der modernen amerikanischen Architektur, based on a groundbreaking exhibition followed on from earlier scholarly work (in particular that of Ernest Wilder Spaulding’s The Quiet Invaders: the Story of the Austrian Impact upon America, 1968, Peter Weibel and Friedrich Stadler [eds.,] The Cultural Exodus From Austria, 1993) by showing previously unacknowledged networks of Austrian Jewish and gentile émigrés who exerted enormous influence in the United States and internationally. In their opening essay, Boeckl and Kapfinger outline the vital legacy of turn-of-the century Vienna in shaping the aesthetics and ethics of twentieth-century architecture. In the same volume, the historian Oliver Rathkolb identifies three waves of immigration: at the turn of the twentieth century, post-First World War, and with the expulsions or escapes due to the Nazi Anschluss in 1938.25 These three distinct immigration periods brought with them shared as well as distinct sets of circumstances; for example, those requesting political asylum after 1938 were expected to assimilate more readily. In this edited volume, the economic historian Oliver Kühschelm extends this thesis, highlighting other aspects of early emigration, such as the European conception of America as the “El Dorado” of mass consumption in the 1920s. Hence, as he explains in his chapter, it is not surprising that long before his actual emigration the graphic designer Joseph Binder had set his eyes on America as a place in which his developing expertise would thrive, thus representing a ticket to success. It is therefore interesting to look at how other Viennese émigrés reacted to the possibilities of mass consumption in the United States. Significantly, Boeckl and Kapfinger assert that Viennese émigrés brought with them a specific critical approach grounded in concrete references (e.g., preference for the influence of Otto Wagner, Adolf Loos, and Josef Hoffmann over that of Le Corbusier and Gropius), promoting a modern consciousness that, coupled with the experience of displacement, equipped them with a distinctive visionary capacity.26 The authors identify the émigré set’s avoidance of dogma and nationalism in favor of a liberal humanism, pointing, for example, to Josef Frank’s opposition to the development of new styles in favor of a unifying approach for the built form that included the following: Broad cultural historical and anthropological reflection on the question of housing, the critique of Eurocentric, one-sided rationalism in architecture and city planning as well as an essentially psycho-physiological view of the building, which Rudofsky as well as Frank, [Victor] Gruen, Augenfeld and [Hans] Vetter, Neutra and Kiesler shared at the core of their ideas.27

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In a later essay, Boeckl developed the notion of two critically different forms of modernisms that developed in the United States, distinguishing between Wiener Modernism and International Modernism.28 A few years later, in her essay “Wiener Interactions,” architectural historian Maria Welzig examined architect Josef Frank’s and the younger designer Rudofsky’s shared polemic against functionalism.29 A recent discussion concerning the input of the émigré designers and artists was presented in a special issue of Design History Journal (March 2015), edited by art historian Hennig Engelke and media scholar Tobias Hochscherf. In their introduction the editors review a range of theoretical approaches and consider the multifaceted influence of well-known, and lesser-known, émigré designers and artists from National Socialist oppression on today’s culture. In keeping with Eckmann’s approach, the authors note that personal and professional networks play a crucial role in our understanding of “how certain approaches and ideas were formed amidst crosscultural contexts.”30 In accordance with the historical biographical approach to the study of the émigrés, the authors grant importance to personal records, including diaries and correspondence, as a means of offering insight into subjective aspects of the diasporic condition.31 Engelke and Hochscherf assert that past examination of the émigrés’ relationship with the new country of residence should include examination of the positioning of the émigrés within public debates.32 The new research presented in this current book examines how oppositional stances in earlier debates in Europe, concerning consumption and modernism’s social agendas, prefigured the adoption or rejection of émigrés such as Joseph Binder, Josef Frank, and Felix Augenfeld by American culture. Though Engelke and Hochscherf open their introduction with reference to Flusser’s view of the experience of exile as productive through the dialogic encounter with a foreign culture, later on they recommend going “beyond Flusser’s claims about the productivity of exile and the multi-facetted nature of cultural contact,” asserting instead the approach of theorists such as Homi Bhaba, who advocates that “by looking at migrants’ cultural contributions one could interrogate the constructedness of culture and national identity.”33 In contrast, this edited volume addresses the issues examined by Bhaba, namely cultural transformation and cultural constructions, in terms of the émigré consciously fashioning new design languages as a result of their polemical positioning and critical task as translator of earlier languages. In this book we try to offer different ways of understanding the reception of émigrés. We consider, for example, why Josef Frank’s social agenda failed in its reception, and how Rudofsky’s critique of consumption was hailed at the MoMA, New York (a token of recognition and an invitation to participate in American culture).34 Thus, we try to trace the factors which cast some European design ideas as translatable and others as untranslatable into American culture. The chapters examine the political design debates that Europeans engaged in prior to emigration, such as the opposition of Viennese educational, open-modern trend against a German experimental and formal, modern Bauhaus trend. We follow a theoretical lead set by philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin in the sense understanding translation as a form. To quote Benjamin: “Translation is a form. To comprehend it as a form, one must go back to the original, for the laws governing the translation lie within the original, contained in the issue of


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

its translatability.”35 Yet, Benjamin suggests that the task of the translator is to renounce everything the original desires to say, “exiling” it from the original burden of meaning, not only by refusing to find what was there in the original but also by reducing the original to “pure language.”36 Could it be that Rudofsky and other émigrés discussed in this book succeeded in creating new American/global meaning through “exiling” their design vocabulary (“text”) from the burden of the original Austrian, German/ Central European meanings? In answering this question, we refer to theater historian Patrick Primavesi’s observation that in Benjamin’s chapter “The Task of the Translator,” translation is an act of destruction of the original work, a disassociation from an original intent, and, ultimately, an act of expropriation.37 Consequently, beyond the question of which ideas were translatable and which not, this book examines the “translator” émigré designer as an agent of destruction and reconstruction. Primavesi refers to the following Benjamin quote: For any translation of a work originating in a specific stage of linguistic history represents, in regard to a specific aspect of its content, translation into all other languages. Thus, ironically, translation transplants the original into a more definitive linguistic realm, since it can no longer be displaced by a secondary rendering. The original can only be raised there anew and at other points of time.38

Primavesi argues that translation according to Benjamin is an irreducibly violent performance of loss of the original, using terms such as “displacement” and “temporary,” which evoke our topic of the exile.39 We suggest that Flusser’s reference to creative “polemical dialogue” is part of the émigrés’ tactic in “interrupting” American culture as well as performing the “loss of parts and details” of the original design language they left behind. It should be stated, though, as well, that the experience of the exile was not reducible to one type. Thus, the “polemical dialogue” of transition from an identity in Europe to an identity in the United States is not easily characterized. David Kettler’s description of the exiled German literature scholar and philosopher Hans Meyer is helpful in elucidating how little traction there is in pointing to a “common” exile experience.40 Furthermore, beyond consideration of differences between exiles in terms of the social structures and frameworks they came from is the consideration of the varying degrees to which exiles sought to erase such markers. Particularly, in the new American context we see the way the translator’s notion of “destruction” and “transplantation” was applicable to émigrés’ Jewish identities. Scholars have already pointed out the ambivalent reception of the Jewish intellectuals and designers, referring to anti-Semitic discourse as well as the wish of émigrés to distance themselves from their Jewish identification.41 In a recent exhibition, “Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism,” curator and art historian Donald Albrecht has argued that Jewish architects and designers—many first-generation, but also second-generation, émigrés—played a critical role in the creation of a distinctly modern American domestic landscape. Yet, he observes that many of them distanced themselves from their Jewish identification in order to secure their position in mainstream American life.42 Historian Gavriel Rosenfeld

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offers a different view concerning Jewish architects and their reclamation of Jewish identification, claiming prominent designers “strove to create new universal norms that would be welcoming to all, including outsiders like themselves,” and further “strove to create a modern, revolutionary, and universal form of architecture as a way of becoming insiders in a society remade in their own image.”43 Referring to Isaac Deutscher, the Austro-Hungarian-born Polish writer and political activist who moved to England at the outset of the Second World War, Rosenfeld suggests how the pursuit of universalism became “a subtle marker of Jewishness in its own right.” Isaac Deutscher’s notion of the “The Non-Jewish Jew” (1968) regards rebellious Jews who rejected the limitations of Jewish religion and pursued the universal in their thinking and activities. Consequently, Rosenfeld argues that Jews who strove for non-Jewish status “could never entirely escape their heritage.”44

Assimilation and “Translation in Design” By the fact that, as mentioned earlier, Languages relate to one another as do media of varying densities, the translatability of languages into one another is established. Translation is removal from one language to another through a continuum of transformations. Translation passes through continua of transformation, not abstract ideas of identity and similarity.45 The role of language is to obtain knowledge and enable communication. Notwithstanding Benjamin’s statement on the process of translation as continuous transformations, wherein he rejects the “abstract” ideas of identity and similarity, we question whether we can address these same terms differently—looking at chosen identifications rather than identity and the seeking of “similarity” as concrete factors involved in the émigrés’ process of creating her or his new design vocabulary through translations. Émigré and exile designers and architects secured an American identity in different manners: contributing to the World Exhibition in New York (Joseph Binder with a poster 1939); exhibiting in prominent department stores that symbolized the American dream (Kiesler designing the store window for Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, 1928, and Lázsló designing the interiors of Saks Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles. c. 1940); gathering in Bohemian coffeehouses in New York (Rudofsky with colleagues Constantino Nivola and Xanti Schawinsky, whom he may have met in his years in Fascist Italy in the mid-1930s); obtaining prominent American clients in Hollywood (first, Paul T. Frankl, in 1940, and, shortly after, Paul László, opened their stores in Hollywood, Los Angeles; Frankl’s clients included Cedric Gibbons, and László’s clients Garry Cooper, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, as well as émigrés Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder); designing central art galleries (Kiesler, 1942) or exhibiting their works at MoMA, New York (Bernard Rudofsky 1944, Eva Zeisel 1946); purchasing summerhouses in Cape Cod (following Walter Gropius in the summer of 1937, Marcel Breuer, Xanti Schawinsky, Bernard Rudofsky, György Kepes, Serge Chermayeff, and others);46 designing modern houses and socializing during the summers in Eastern


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Long Island, in the Hamptons, and specifically at Constantino Nivola’s legendary house (1948–1949) with a garden designed by Bernard Rudofsky (1953–1956), also visited by Frederick Kiesler, who rented a house not far from Nivola’s home; Nivola’s house was also visited by other prominent artists, designers, and architects such as Le Corbusier;47 teaching in prominent American academic institutions (Frederick Kiesler at Columbia University 1937–1941, Eva Zeisel at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn 1939– 1952, Xanti Schawinsky at Black Mountain College 1936–1938, György Kepes at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) 1947–1974, and Victor Papanek, at Ontario College of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Purdue University, California Institute of the Arts and Kansas City Art Institute); and reaching the cover of Time magazine (Richard Neutra, August 15, 1949). We can also trace how networks among the émigrés contributed to their processes of identification in their new country. Some closely cooperated with the most recognized Bauhaus émigré networks, while some initiated the connections and cooperations even before their actual emigration. According to Neutra, Gropius visited Los Angeles in 1928 and admired Neutra’s Jardinette Appartment (1927). Neutra himself taught one month in Dessau Bauhaus also to intensify the connections with German designers in 1930.48 Philip Johnson secured the European avant-garde network in his “Modern Architecture: International Exhibition” at the MoMA, 1932, where Neutra exhibited next to Mies van der Rohe as “imagined community” based on shared style. Other designers are known to have established personal relationships with one another: Kiesler’s friendship with Xanti Schawinsky and Mies van der Rohe, for example. The artist Josef Albers invited Rudofsky to lecture at Black Mountain College in the summer of 1944, who then in turn asked Annie Albers and Irene Schawinsky to participate that same year in his MoMA exhibition “Are Clothes Modern?”49 As previously mentioned, Rudofsky eventually published his book Are Clothes Modern? with the Bauhaus publishing house Theobald in Chicago.50 László Moholy-Nagy was among the first to discuss with Paul Theobald translating and publishing Bauhaus émigrés’ books in the United States. Two chapters in this volume address Moholy-Nagy’s influential position, specifically his influence on Kepes and Schawinsky through his creative works and writings in both Bauhaus Germany and the United States. György Kepes had connections with the New Bauhaus in Chicago, Xanti Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College.51 These Central European émigrés all met at the Aspen Institute, founded in 1950 by the son of a German immigrant, Walter Paepcke, president of the Container Corporation of America, who also supported the New Bauhaus in Chicago.52 It is critical to note, however, the extent to which émigrés cooperated closely with prominent American colleagues through book publications. Frank Lloyd Wright wrote an introduction for Paul T. Frankl’s book.53 Schindler and Papanek worked and studied for a short period with Frank Lloyd Wright, and Sibyl Moholy-Nagy wrote her book, Native Genius in Anonymous Architecture, mentioned above, as a tribute to Wright. For his part, Kiesler chose Buckminster Fuller’s photographer F. S. Lincoln to photograph his Space House (1933), while Papanek would invite Buckminster Fuller to write the introduction for his pioneering book, Design for the Real World (1971). Others worked for, or simply shared clients from, the same families. Edgar Kaufmann (son of a German émigré and a wealthy Pittsburgh businessman), owner of Kaufmann’s department store

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and a philanthropist, who had briefly studied at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna in the late 1920s, supported his father’s decision to hire Frank Lloyd Wright (Fallingwater in the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania, 1936) and, then, a decade later he hired Richard Neutra (Kaufmann’s “Desert House” in Palm Springs, California, 1946); these commissions resulted in two American architectural masterpieces.54 Here we might again refer to Sibyl Moholy-Nagy’s critical reflection on the positioning of the émigré and exile designers in the Diaspora. In viewing the complex networks that straddled multiple spheres including the professional, the social, the personal, and the intellectual, how much of the émigré “cultures” discussed in this edited volume were conscious construction, entailing émigrés’ self-reflection on their “displaced condition”? How much of the émigré cultures were actually based on their positioning in relation to the European cultures of debate that developed in the 1920s and in the early 1930s? In order to explain the condition of emigration as producing new design, we acknowledge that, as noted above, repeated identity shifts which had already occurred in Europe, and which were sharpened through various decisive markers, hold particular significance: departures from Europe before and after the First World war, the rise of fascism, campaigns against “degenerate art” and “bolshevist design,” and the beginning of systematic persecution of Jews. All of these were factors which caused the formation of new language to accommodate crisis situations and frame essential perceptions of belonging to a certain place, culture, society. The diverse positions taken by émigrés and exiles in the American culture of debate are further examined in this volume. As mentioned previously, émigré designers were partly supported by commercial and cultural institutions but also by leading personalities themselves critical of American culture, such as the sociologist, historian, and cultural critic Lewis Mumford, who was already known and respected in Germany.55 In 1931, Mumford criticized the current modernist trends in design in a manner that echoed similar debates in Germany at the time in a seminal essay, “Culture and Machine Art” printed in the publication of the American Union Decorative Artists and Craftsmen (AUDAC), whose founding members included Paul T. Frankl and Frederick Kiesler:56 Our modern industrial esthetics, then, requires for its success, an ethical reorientation to life, and a corresponding change in many venerable habit and institutions. We can enjoy these new forms to the full only when we no longer ask them to satisfy irrelevant interests: the impulse to display oneself, the impulse to dominate one’s fellows, the impulse to demand homage, not for what one is, but for what one has. For the lack of such a spiritual conversion, a good part of modern industrial art is so only in name … … Standardization at a high level will give us freedom and new opportunities for cultural expression. Standardization at a low level, with luxury and sensuous display as its main aim, will give us a culture even lower than that of the Carthaginians, for it will endow a vast servile population with the vices of its masters. Modern industrial design presents a sharp alternative. The road branches: we must make a choice.57


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Following a polemical essay Mumford published in the New Yorker in 1947 promoting architecture defined by “organic” principles and guided by ecological and cultural concerns, against architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock and the current favoring the machine metaphor, its formal criteria, style oriented and symbolic, represented in the “International Style,” MoMA organized the symposium “What is Happening to Modern Architecture?” in spring 1948.58 Mumford was also attacked by prominent émigré architects such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and Richard Neutra. Yet, following this symposium Mumford was offered a chance to promote an alternative American-émigré progressive agenda through initiating cooperation with the Polish émigré architect, urban planner, and educator, Matthew Nowicki, at North Carolina’s State College (1948–1952).59 A question that surfaces as various relationships between American sponsors and émigré designers are examined is whether émigré and exile designers and architects were expected to deliver the means for a “spiritual conversion” in consumerist America. Was the infusion of an émigré culture seen as an opportunity for a new design discourse, with empowering abilities to secure freedom and new opportunities? Did émigré designers and architects fashion themselves according to the expectations of American institutions, where they were invited as “the translators”? The Austrian émigré Felix Augenfeld, designer of the famous Freud armchair, was asked by his younger friend Bernard Rudofsky to write a promotion for him in MoMA’s public relations text for the “Are Clothes Modern?” exhibition in 1944. Augenfeld set about describing his Viennese friend: Bernard Rudofsky is of the disapproving kind. His disapproval of the institutions of this world reaches a very unusual degree of intensity, a degree which makes his keen displeasure turn into creative Impulse … He considers human dwellings the crowning failure of mankind and has therefore made architecture his main profession. Like every Viennese he likes music and the stage.60

For MoMA, Rudofsky’s exhibition was a clear challenge to existent gender-based biases in clothing: “a brief investigation into the arbitrary distinction between the sexes as shown in their dress—the Western identification of the skirt with femininity and the trousers with masculinity, and the Oriental reverse of this.”61 Yet, even though Rudofsky fashioned his critical design agenda also against the promotion of Bauhaus modernism, he positioned himself both socially and professionally as noted above in relation to the Bauhaus émigré network. Considering that the Bauhaus was the most dominant émigré professional network in New York, Boston, and Chicago, the successful assimilation into the American architecture and design establishment of its key figures Mies, Gropius, and Breuer set a model against which less-known émigrés’ might fashioned their design agendas. Recent studies have highlighted the Bauhaus’s loss of its progressive agenda and its depolitization in its adaptation into the American context62 while, on the other hand, noting the ideological conflict concerning socially oriented design between the American Joseph Hudnut and the émigré Gropius at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD).63 Regarding the success stories of émigrés in the United States, scholars have compared, for example, the careers of Gropius and Marcel Breuer.

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The latter’s success is explained by Breuer’s lack of interest in politics and ability to meld the formalistic Bauhaus style with other contemporary trends for Aalto and Le Corbusier, adding a touch of Frank Lloyd Wright’s individualistic approach to architecture.64 In 1955, Peter Blake, a prominent émigré architect who started his career as a curator of Architecture at the MoMA and later served as critic and editor for the influential journal Architectural Forum, identified the influence both Gropius and Breuer had as teachers at Harvard University, further commenting that Breuer’s success could be attributed to a reciprocally fruitful relationship the designer had with his new American context: The proof of the impact of Gropius and Breuer’s work at Harvard is the fact that only half a dozen years after their arrival in Cambridge, almost every major architectural school in the United States had radically changed its program to follow Harvard’s lead. And it is now common knowledge among architects that the students with whom Gropius and Breuer worked in those prewar years are today among the most creative designers and planners in North and South America. … It is only fair to point out that Breuer learned a great deal from what he now began to see in America.65

Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture expands on past discourse concerning the contribution of prominent Central European émigrés, while offering alternative perspectives on the Bauhaus heritage in the United States by addressing lessons drawn from György Kepes and Xanti Schawinsky and their coming to terms with American culture. It is critical to allow nuance in discussing group achievements, precisely because émigrés had not only differing motivations but also different schooling, and particular agendas at an individual level. Therefore, moving away from the focus on prominent career trajectories, this volume proposes a novel and critical approach to aspects of careers of canonized architects and designers as yet unexplored; simultaneously, it also looks to the output of less-known designers who acted outside the central narratives, and explores the lasting influence of their design as models of translations.

Émigré design canon—Survival through design contra “Game of Roulette” A central question that accompanies the subject of émigré and exile designers and architects is how they engaged as “newcomers” with American culture, without being confined to the margins of that same culture. This edited volume argues against the notion that émigré designers were caught in a “game of roulette,” meaning that their careers were “formed by unique combinations of foresight and haplessness, good and bad planning, influential contacts and their absence, benign fortune and wretched bad luck.”66 The émigré protagonists of this book show how their heritage and positioning in the European avant-garde, or even specifically in the Viennese social setting prior to


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their arrival in United States, was critical to their reception in American culture. The astute choice of professional and ideological networking shaped their careers and their progressive agendas. Further in contrast to the idea that design was of crucial importance for the émigrés in staking out “a place” between their own professional identities and the cultures of their adopted homes,67 this edited volume suggests that émigrés’ creative negotiations regarding concepts of place and culture helped them form progressive design and undesign languages. This book examines for the first time how different émigré cultures in design and architecture evolved between the 1920s and the 1960s, and promotes the critical contribution and authority of émigré designers in progressive design trends not only in American culture but more broadly within twentieth-century design and architectural history. The five sections and individual chapters examine concepts of design language and social transformation, exploring how design secured the right of men and women to participate in cultural and political scenes. In the first part of the volume, “Social Transformation and Mass Consumption,” the authors reconsider the background and the heritage of émigrés to the United States in order to understand their positioning in the European avant-garde, where they stood in debates over social agendas in design, and eventually how they were acclaimed within American culture. These chapters examine the positioning of architect Josef Frank, sociologist Otto Neurath, graphic designer Joseph Binder, sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, and designer Frederick Kiesler in debates in Europe and the United States concerning the autonomy of the citizen and consumption. In 1934, both Otto Neurath, pioneer of pictorial education, and architect Josef Frank emigrated from Austria, to the Netherlands and Sweden, respectively. Neurath published a book titled Modern Man in the Making (Knopf, 1939), yet his work was not well received in the United States. In 1941, Frank emigrated to the United States and settled in New York. He taught architecture at the New School of Social Design however, unsatisfied, returned to Sweden in 1947. While the New School of Social Design allowed Josef Frank a platform in United States, central design and art institutions responsible for facilitating émigrés’ and exiles’ works such as the MoMA in New York did not welcome his complex, collective social projects and their socialist agenda. In the book’s opening chapter “Isotype and Architectural Knowledge,” Eve Blau examines Neurath’s and Frank’s progressive social agendas, critically considering their positions in the mainstream European modern movement. Both figures were drawn to the modernizing and socially driven urban project of Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM), a new international organization of architects concerned with the city; they realized the social potential of modern architecture in the late 1920s and early 1930s, as they had been drawn earlier to the similarly motivated projects of the Bauhaus and Deutscher Werkbund. Yet, both the architect and the sociologist became thoroughly disillusioned with CIAM, as they had with the other institutional structures of the modern movement in the interwar period. Indeed, both Frank and Neurath soon fell out with these organizations. Frank resigned from CIAM after the organization’s second meeting in 1929 because it seemed to be split (as he put it) between the “pathos-filled functionalism” espoused by German adherents of the neues Bauen, who dominated congress discussions, and the “elitist formalism” of those who, like Le Corbusier, opposed that ideology. According to Blau, Neurath’s didactic International

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Picture Language and Frank’s critico-architectural practice shared Austrian Social Democracy’s core conviction that Bildung (education) was the principal means of advancing the social interests of the working class. For both of them, the education of the working class involved not only the transfer of knowledge, but “the teaching of how to argue”—an effort to enlarge the scope for political decision-making and agency on the part of the users of Neurath’s International System Of Typographic Picture Education (ISOTYPEs) and Frank’s buildings. They saw this education as the tool for creating a common basis for discussion and decision, which they both saw as the foundation of a democratic society. In his chapter “(Mis)understanding Consumption: Expertise and Consumer Policies in Vienna 1918–1939,” Oliver Kühschelm examines the politico-economic background of professional experts who emigrated to the United States. He discusses the motivation of a group of Austrian consumer experts who left Vienna in the mid1930, before the Anschluss. Positioning the cases of graphic designer Joseph Binder and Sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld within a broader historical economic context, Kühschelm argues that there was an additional factor (apart from political and racist repression during the Austro-Fascist period) which caused experts in consumption to consider leaving Vienna. Austrofascism adopted a patronising attitude toward consumers. Joseph Binder was among the most distinguished commercial artists in Vienna, while Paul Lazarsfeld had established the Wirtschaftspsychologische Forschungsstelle, which combined social and marketing research in the late 1920s. He is best known for its study of unemployment among textile workers in the village of Marienthal but equally did a lot of work for commercial clients. While the Austro-Fascist regime (1934– 1938) exhorted the population to behave as Austrian patriots, it did not care much to understand what consumers might need or want; Austrofascist corporatism had little use for the notion of a standard of living as benchmark of progress. Therefore, in the 1930s Austria’s economic performance ranged close to the bottom end in Europe. The job perspectives of both Binder and Lazarsfeld shrunk on both the government and the business side, impacting on their motivation to try and pursue a better career path in the United States. Yet, different paths were taken by émigrés regarding their understanding of economic opportunities in the United States. Barnaby Haran’s “Shaping the Mass Mind: Frederick Kiesler and the Psychology of Selling” explores two contrasting versions of shaping Americans’ spending habits. While designer Kiesler’s theories concerning the psychology of selling attempted to balance practicality with the utopian idea of a harmonious social totality, those pioneering commercial propaganda, such as Edward Bernays, had the ultimate aim of generating consumption. As Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Bernays (an Austrian-American whose family arrived in the United States when he was an infant) had special insight into the psychological factors that underlay the purchasing habits of the masses. According to Haran, throughout his career Kiesler consistently aimed to ameliorate the interrelations of citizens, whereas Bernays specialized in public relations campaigns. Bernays’s more purposeful exploitation of the mass mind may have served as a thematic foil to qualify the social dimension of Kiesler’s department store polemics regarding the “psychology of selling.” Yet, Haran suggests that Kiesler used commercial opportunities (such as designing the store windows of Saks Fifth Avenue in New York)


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

advantageously to expand his understanding of the spatial interactions of humans and objects, and the social relations of design. The book’s second part, “Assimilation, Emancipation and Modern Pluralism,” addresses the fashioning of a contemporary American aesthetic language through examination of three successful émigré designers in the United States: Paul T. Frankl, Paul László, and Eva Zeisel. Paul T. Frankl arrived in San Francisco, California, as early as 1914. In his chapter, “Becoming American: Paul T. Frankl’s Passage to a New Design Aesthetic,” Christopher Long considers how Frankl’s striving for “Americanness” lies in accordance with a broadly held vision on the part of Americans about their lives and lifestyles. In this process, Frankl served as both an activist and respondent. Observing the national mood and broad trends in home styles, he crafted his own personal and specific response, and as his individual expression was broadcast through movies and periodicals, it in turn influenced Americans’ hopes and ideals. Frankl’s popular success relied upon his ability to stay just ahead of the public, discerning popular taste before people could articulate precisely what they wanted. What he made was American in the sense, as Long argues, that it “spoke fluently about widely held yearnings.” In his search for Americanness, Frankl’s course took him from making direct symbols (his Skyscraper line of furniture) to a mostly nonspecific modernist imagery (his tubular steel furniture of the late 1920s and early 1930s, for example, or his later streamlined woodweave chair), and, finally, to an idiom that simply expressed and encapsulated American requirements for living. In creating and distributing his furnishings and interiors, he both fulfilled Americans’ desires and further fired their hopes. Paul László, according to Monica Penick in her chapter “Paul László and the Atomic Future,” claimed his identity as an American designer designing an urban scheme for life in “Atomic Age America,” Atomville. With its partial realization in the émigré John Hertz Bomb Shelter, Atomville marked a watershed moment in László’s career. Similarly to Frankl, who arrived more than two decades before him to the United States, László began his career as a “European interior decorator.” Penick points out that many of László’s early clients in the United States were familiar with his European work. Most shared his background: they were Central European émigrés, the majority spoke László’s native Hungarian or German, and many, like László, were Jewish. According to Penick, it was László’s ability to design what mattered most to his clients and his community at any given moment, and to define and redesign his own identity accordingly, which secured his successful career in the West Coast. A different perspective on the question of integration is presented in Pat Kirkham’s chapter, "Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism." Concerning the question raised in this volume regarding the émigré’s task as translator, the perspective of Zeisel, who worked in several countries in Europe as well as in Russia before arriving to the United States, is particularly indicative of this process. This chapter examines the career of a woman émigré designer who went on to become a major figure in twentieth-century design, especially renowned for the design of mass-produced tableware. Zeisel was born in Hungary in 1906 into an haute bourgeois family of intellectual distinction and died over a century later in the United States, the country to which she emigrated in

Introduction—Émigré Cultures and New Design Dimensions


1938. Kirkham closely examines Zeisel’s career, which was at once groundbreaking and orthodox in gender terms. Kirkham reconsiders Zeisel’s strong female role models, the gendered nature of pottery making when Zeisel trained in a male-dominated guild system, and her experiences as a designer. Examining Zeisel’s American career as a designer, Kirkham critically shows how Zeisel juggled work, marriage, and motherhood. Furthermore, this chapter focuses on a designer who criticized the interwar European modern movement in architecture and design, and thus it offers a means of reviewing the interwar and postwar design periods through a lens other than that of the accepted narratives of modernism. Part three in the book, “‘Outsiders’ Perspectives and Cultural Critique,” reconsiders how different perspectives were developed by émigrés Victor Papanek, Frederick Kiesler, Bernard Rudofsky and Felix Augenfeld within the opposition trend in American consumerist and high-brow cultures. This edited volume addresses the question of the identifications of the émigrés and exiles, and the variability within these categories. There are those émigrés who experienced professional discrimination yet made the choice to emigrate to secure their careers, such as Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe,68 and émigrés, such as Raymond Loewy, who emigrated earlier to the United States. There were those who fled as youths, such as the pioneer of socially responsible design Victor Papanek, leaving behind secure lives and possessions, simply to save their lives. In her chapter, “Real and Imagined Network of an Émigré Biography: Victor J. Papanek Social Designer,” Alison J. Clarke traces the formative career of Viennese émigré designer Victor Papanek, scrutinizing the various identifications he made with other émigrés and Americans. Clarke argues for the crucial relevance of understanding émigré design “careers” as a network and intersection of figures, places, and social relations (real and imagined). Her chapter casts light on a leading figure of twentieth-century design, whose formative life and networks as an émigré have previously been entirely unacknowledged, yet are seen to have had a vital impact on the founding of transnational design and social activism in the latter part of the twentieth century. Elana Shapira examines the early works of three prominent Viennese émigrés and their handling of the question of gender in her chapter, “Kiesler, Rudofsky and Papanek: the Question of Gender.” According to her analysis, these three émigrés questioned gender norms in mid-century America. Frederick Kiesler’s Space House (1933) tried to question social habits/ address social anxieties from both male and female perspectives; Rudofsky’s exhibition, “Are Clothes Modern?” (1944), addressed the subject of body reclamation by both men and women, yet emphasized the female perspective; and Papanek’s Samisen chair (early 1950s) reconsidered the political aspects of a “human fit” in design in relation to woman. In a novel manner, Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek reworked lessons drawn from Viennese modern architect Adolf Loos regarding the reclamation of the body, the relationship between fashion and architecture, and the identification of bad design with social decline. They further evoked surrealist visions to challenge conservative social conditioning as well as modern, functionalist conditioning of consumption habits, tapping into notions of the uncanny and positing new relationships between biological, machinic, societal, and political systems. Despite reinscribing gender categories in their works, the question


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

of gender these designers raised helped them develop iconoclastic methods in design; they aimed to empower men and women to move beyond limiting gendered narratives and to claim responsibility over their bodies and minds. Ruth Hanisch in her chapter “Felix Augenfeld: Modern Architecture, Psychoanalysis and Antifascism” offers another perspective on emigration and design by looking at this lesser-known protagonist, who nonetheless still represents the positioning of the émigré between diverse networks. For example, Hanisch discusses how Augenfeld tapped into the network of American psychoanalyst Muriel Gardiner, whom he met through his contact with the Freud family, and who would later grant him the affidavit to New York. Hanisch further examines the networks of those Austrian designers, also in American exile, who were officially opposed to the Bauhaus ideological dictations, and the network of Austrian émigrés, prominent protagonists of Viennese culture, who invited Augenfeld to design their house on Fire Island (South of Long Island, New York). Hanisch quotes Augenfeld’s promotion of the ideal of the anonymous designer in his essay, “True Modernity” (Innen-Dekoration, 1929), as a product of his Viennese program; a critical development of Loos’s attack against the “artist designer” in favor of the “anonymous tailors,”69 which could have set a critical reference to Bernard Rudofsky’s groundbreaking exhibition more than 35 years later, “Architecture without Architects.” Viennese émigrés such as Kiesler in his text accompanying the exhibit of the Space House at Modernage and Papanek in his book Design for the Real World critically positioned their work also in relation to the Bauhaus heritage in the United States.70 Yet, it is the aim of this edited volume to further open the discussion concerning the contributions of Bauhaus designers to American culture. In relation to two Bauhaus designers, the Hungarian Kepes and the Swiss Schawinsky, it is interesting to note again Benjamin’s reflection on the task of the translator: The task of the translator consists in finding the particular intention toward the target language which produces in that language the echo of the original. This is a feature of translation that basically differentiates it from the poet’s work, because the intention of the latter is never directed toward the language as such, at its totality, but is aimed solely and immediately at specific linguistic contextual aspects.71

Schawinsky’s lessons regarding obtaining knowledge through theater might encapsulate a process of “translation” in the sense of acting beyond a reliance on verbal communication. He spoke for an ability to comprehend and learn through the movement of a dancer in space, which shows the development of the Bauhaus ideal in the United States: Man’s intelligence is obviously based on other faculties besides verbal thought. He is able to perceive with his ‘inner eye’ and ‘inner ear’ concept of forms and tonal structures that may be stimulated by motion, color or sound (the ‘body intelligence’ of a dancer, for example, may express as fundamental a principle as may be found in a verbal textbook or in a graphic illustration).72

Introduction—Émigré Cultures and New Design Dimensions


The book’s fourth part, “Emigration and Education—Bauhaus in the United States,” presents a different perspective on progressive design education, initiated by two lessprominent Bauhaus designers. In her chapter, Anna Vallye offers a critical reexamination of what she regards as the “current scholarly consensus that the vanguardism of Bauhaus ideology faltered in its American reincarnations, swept under by the adoptive country’s pragmatism and utilitarianism, just as much as by its steady commitment to the precepts of liberal capitalism.” In her chapter, “György Kepes’s ‘Universities of Vision’: From Education in Design to Design as Education of the Mind,” Vallye examines Kepes’s development of the idea of “educating vision” with a plan for a “University of Vision,” which dates back to the period of Second World War. Vallye shows how Kepes remained invested in the social potential of an “education of vision” yet linked it to an ideology of American political life, adapting it to the concrete dynamics of American academic institutions, especially the renowned MIT School of Architecture in Boston. Vallye further traces the origins of this ideal in the dualistic system of German philosophy of Idealism and in the philosophy and works of the émigré Bauhaus designer László Moholy-Nagy, who as previously noted settled in Chicago and established a school of design called “the New Bauhaus” in 1937. Kepes’s promotion of this idea resulted in a collected essays volume titled The Education of Vision, which he edited in 1965. Eva Díaz traces Schawinsky’s stage drama as offering new perception in her chapter, “The Architectonics of Perception: Xanti Schawinsky at Black Mountain College.” Díaz argues that in the mid-1930s, while teaching at Black Mountain, Schawinsky developed his drama theory and stage design, which involves multimedia productions that examine elementary phenomena such as space, motion, light, sound, or color from scientific-, technical-, and performance-based perspectives. Schawinsky’s work as a painter also addressed the dissolution of a medium’s boundaries and focused on process, for instance his Track series, which he “painted” with the aid of a car. Díaz’s chapter reconsiders the new work in Schawinsky theater productions, specifically reconstructing his play Spectodrama: Play, Life, Illusion (1936–1937) at Black Mountain College in relation to the lessons of the Bauhaus theater. Schawinsky challenged social habits and conservative judgments and addressed the subject of social subjectivity. Schawinsky’s Spectodrama is an early performance of abstract theater in the United States and shows Schawinsky’s conception of theater as an ordering of space. Schawinsky further developed Bauahaus aims to modernize experience, using theatrical means, implicating a theatrical “total experience,” as a method for obtaining knowledge. The book’s fifth section, “Envisioning Global Home,” addresses how the émigré figures of Neutra, Schindler, and Rudofsky critically reacted to dislocation and how their roles as architects and designers determined their modes of surviving and coping in a new global home. In his chapter, “Between Culture and Biology: Schindler and Neutra at the Limits of Architecture,” Todd Cronan analyzes the contrasting approaches of émigré designers to the United States, students of the fathers of Viennese modernism Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos. Cronan points out Neutra’s critical approach of designing through a biological lens. In his autobiography, Neutra wrote: “Everywhere, it appeared to me


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

human beings, in mixture and in clash, held nevertheless a common denominator beneath their biological individuality—in spite of ethnic variety.”73 Unlike Neutra, Schindler showed virtually no interest in a biological justification for his forms; form was a human construct and a human achievement. And space—the defining feature of culture—was an expression of, and a model for, the “limitless powers of the human mind.”74 Cronan carefully reviews Neutra’s emphatic commitment to an ideal—to an imagery of change, variety, and duration—which defined itself against Schindler’s vision of architecture as “space-forms,” which was visualized and created in the architect’s mind. If Neutra’s design spaces are oriented around the changing forms of water and the changing view through a thermopane window, then Schindler’s spaces are organized around a human system of modular units. The opposition between Neutra and Schindler is one between the management of experience on the one hand and the spatial realization of the architect’s mental representation on the other. Ultimately, this is a difference about what architecture is and what kind of agency an architect exercises. In the final chapter, further critical questions with respect to the émigré’s creative experience and expectations within the new country context are contemplated. Can a cultural institution serve as a replacement for the utopian home of an émigré designer? Should we think of exhibition arrangements as “re-assemblies” of the émigré’s varied experiences, fragmented memories, and unique impressions? The departure point for Felicity D. Scott’s chapter, “Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home,” is Rudofsky’s reaction to the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy at the end of the First World War. Scott examines his groundbreaking exhibition at the MoMA, “Architecture without Architects,” as the designer’s response to life as an émigré architect. This chapter suggests to understand Rudofsky’s experience as an émigré architect through the peculiar suspensions, fragmentation, and polemical rearticulations in his built forms, which seem to harbor multiple geographies, histories, cultures, and ways of life. Scott points out that, through his designs, Rudofsky protested the “so-called progress” of industrialization, and that he also ironically suggested that the places illustrated in Architecture without Architects “may in fact represent utopia.” The multitude of images he deployed were, in fact, as Scott describes, effectively rendered without place, time, economics, or history; abstracted from context they circulated easily via the carefully crafted semantic vehicles of his exhibition and catalog. He maintained a conflicted relation to the discipline: he was at once most “at home” within its institutions, such as MoMA, while always adopting the stance of an outsider looking in. Scott argues that within “Architecture without Architects,” architecture (both modern and vernacular) has become a radically decontextualized phenomenon, a practice or technology of habitation that refuses connection to any singular place, while attaching to (and detaching from) modernist polemics. This edited volume charts new paths for understanding the contributions of émigré and exile designers and architects to a progressive culture of debate. It shows how these émigrés’ innovative ideas and practice played a crucial historical role in fashioning new perceptions for individuals and communities and further how their legacy continues to impact on contemporary discourse, method and theory today.

Introduction—Émigré Cultures and New Design Dimensions


Acknowledgments We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Austrian Science Fund and its funding of the research project FWF-25725 “Émigré Cultural Networks and the Founding of Social Design,” situated in the Department of Design History and Theory, University of Applied Arts Vienna. We would like to thank Bryleigh Morsink for her contributions to this research project and invaluable assistance.

Notes 1 Vilém Flusser, Von der Freiheit des Migranten: Einsprüche gegen Nationalismus (Bensheim: Bollmann Verlag, 1994), 109; Translated in: Iain Boyd Whyte, “Nikolaus Pevsner: Art History, Nation, and Exile,” RIHA Journal 0075 (October 23, 2013): 3, http://www.riha-journal.org/articles/2013/2013-oct-dec/whyte-pevsner (accessed April 11, 2015). 2 We apply an art historical open reading of “style” presented in Martin J. Powers, “Art and History: Exploring the Counterchange Condition,” The Art Bulletin 77 (September, 1995): 384. 3 Bernard Rudofsky (New York) letter to Paul Theobald (Chiacgo) on October 7, 1945 (Theobald Archive in Chicago Art Institute). 4 We reexamine the thesis that there was no “single shared experience” as argued by Whyte: “If there is a scholarly consensus on the state of exile, it is that there is no single and shared experience of exile. Instead, there are multiple individual biographies, each with wildly varying contours, formed by unique combinations of foresight and haplessness, good and bad planning, influential contacts and their absence, benign fortune and wretched bad luck” (Whyte, “Nikolaus Pevsner: Art History, Nation, and Exile,” 2015). 5 Gülsüm Baydar Nalbantoǧlu, “Beyond Lack and Excess,” Journal of Architectural Education 54, no. 1 (September 2000): 20–27. 6 Citation from Louis Kaplan, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Biographical Writings, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1995), 27–28. Original text: School of Design in Chicago catalog, 9. Hattula Moholy-Nagy Archives, Ann Arbor. Michigan. We further develop here Louis Kaplan’s argument regarding Moholy-Nagy’s creative process of practicing the act of signing, meaning also “signification,” by focusing attention on how design plays a part in the construction and deconstruction of identity (ibid., 21f). 7 Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, “The Diaspora,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 24 (March 1965): 24. 8 Ibid., 25. 9 Sybil Moholy Nagy, “Environment and Anonymous Architecture,” Perspecta: The Yale Architectural Journal 3 (1955): 2–7, 77 (here cited 77). 10 The literature addresses the subject of Vienna as the magnet of talented young men and women in order to assert relation between migration and innovation. Michael John and Albert Lichtblau, Schmelzstiegel Wien—einst und jetzt. Zur Geschichte und Gegenwart von Migration und Zuwanderung und Minderheiten (Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 1990); Moritz Czáky, Das Gedächtnis der Städte. Kulturelle Verflechtungen—Wien und


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

die urbanen Milieus in Zentraleuropa (Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2010). Gary Cohen and Johannes Feichtinger (ed.), Understanding Multiculturalism and the Habsburg Central European Experience (New York–Oxford, 2014). Elisabeth Röhrlich (ed.), Migration und Innovation um 1900 (Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 2016). Marsha L. Rozenblit, The Jews of Vienna, 1867–1914. Assimilation and Identity (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983). 11 We further develop here a pioneering research addressing also the critical influence of Central European émigré designers and scientists on American culture in Peter Weibel, Beyond Art: A Third Culture, a comparative study in cultures, art and science in 20th century Austria and Hungary (New York: Springer and Vienna, 2005). According to Weibel: “Although culture is indeed influenced by national traditions, it is not confined to national territories. It is possible for national traditions to live elsewhere, in a third place, in other places. Culture is a heterogenous project—a ‘third space’” (ibid., 4). 12 Wolfgang Neurath, “Innovation und soziale Netzwerkanalyse,” in Innovationsmuster in der österreichischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Wirtschaftliche Entwicklung, Unternehmen, Politik und Innovationsverhalten im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Rupert Pichler (Innsbruck, 2003), 73–91. 13 For further discussion concerning émigré inhabiting in-between spaces, see Caroline B. Brettel, “Theorizing Migration in Anthropology. The Social Construction of Networks, Identities, Communities, and Globalscapes,” in Migration Theory, Taking across Disciplines, 2nd edition, ed. Caroline B. Brettell and James F. Hollified (New York and London: Routledge, 2008), 113–159 (specifically 120–125). 14 We refer here to the discussion of Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin of Fritz Mauthner’s critique of language in their Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York, London: Simon & Schuster, 1973), 121–127. 15 In his account on “Moholy-Nagy and CIAM travel to Greece,” about the meeting of the fourth Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (summer 1933), after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in Germany, Czech-Swiss historian and critic of architecture, Siegfried Giedion, who later taught at Harvard University (1938–1947), argued: “One of the great difficulties of our culture rests with the fact that we have lost our common vocabulary. When representatives of science and art, philosophers, architects, or historians meet, there exists no basis for mutual consent but rather a morbid fear that any definite formulations might be misinterpreted or misused by opposition groups.” (Quoted in: Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, moholy-nagy, Experiment in Totality, New York: harper & brothers, 1950, 91.) 16 An interesting reference to address the influence of the aesthetics in fascist Italy on the works of Rudofsky and Schawinsky would be Walter Benjamin’s observation as to how fascism was able to “utilize the remnants of auratic symbols and their mystical authority to keep the ‘masses’ from pursuing their own interests” (Simonetta PalascaZamponi, Fascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s Italy, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1997, 9). 17 Rika Devos, “A Cold War Sketch. The Visual Antagonism of the USA vs. the USSR at Expo 58,” Revue Belge de Philologie et d’Historie 87 (2009): 723–742. 18 Burcu Dogramaci, “Netzwerke des künstlerischen Exils als Forschungsgegenstand—Zur Einführung,” in Netzwerke des Exils, Künstlerische Verflechtungen, Austausch und Patronage nach 1933, ed. Burcu Dogramaci und Karin Wimmer (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2011). 19 Sabine Eckmann, “German Exile, Modern Art, and National Identity,” in Caught by Politics: Hitler Exiles and American Visual Culture, ed. Sabine Eckmann and Lutz Koepnick (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 106–108.

Introduction—Émigré Cultures and New Design Dimensions


20 Sabine Eckmann, “Concerning Exile Art in the US: Networks, Art Worlds and the Fate of Modernism,” in Netzwerke des Exils, Künstlerische Verflechtungen, Austausch und Patronage nach 1933, ed. Burcu Dogramaci und Karin Wimmer (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 2011), 444–446. 21 Eckmann, “German Exile, Modern Art, and National Identity,” 106–108. 22 Eckmann, “Concerning Exile Art in the US: Networks, Art Worlds and the Fate of Modernism,” 2011, 437. 23 Reference to Sybil Milton’s question in her essay “Is There an Exile Art or Only Exile Artists?” in Exit: Literatur und die Kunste nach 1933· Studien zur Literatur der Moderne, No. 17, ed. Alexander Stephan (Bonn: Bovier, 1990), 83–89, is presented in Eckmann, “Concerning Exile Art in the US: Networks, Art Worlds and the Fate of Modernism,” 2011, 433. 24 Eckmann, “German Exile, Modern Art, and National Identity,” 95–104, 108–118. 25 Oliver Rathkolb, “Zeithistorische Rahmenbedingungen,” in Matthias Boeckl and Otto Kapfinger, Visionäre & Vertriebene: Österreichische Spuren in der modernen amerikanischen Architektur (Berlin: Ernst & Sohn Verlag für Architektur und technische Wissenschaften GmbH, 1995), 43–49. 26 Boeckl und Kapfinger, Visionäre & Vertriebene, 1995, 26–27. 27 Ibid., 20. This is a translation of German original text. 28 Matthias Boeckl, “Wiener Moderne versus International Style, Bemerkungen zur Architekturemigration aus Österreich in die Vereinigten Staaten,” in Architektur & Exil, ed. Bernd Nicolai (Trier: Porta-Alba-Verlag, 2003), 101–113. 29 Maria Welzig, “Wiener Wechselwirkungen,” in Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky, ed. Monika Platzer (Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 2007), 76–95 (here 87–89). 30 Henning Engelke and Tobias Hochscherf, “Between Avant-Garde and Commercialism Reconsidering Émigrés and Design,” Journal of Design History 28, no. 1 (2015): 3. 31 Ibid., 4–5. 32 Ibid., 5. The authors refer to two important sources regarding the role of émigré designers and artists in the debates, Charlotte Benton, A Different World: Émigré Architecture in Britain 1928–1958 (Riba Heinz Gallery, 1995), and Martica Sawin, Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1997). 33 Engelke and Hochscherf, “Between Avant-Garde and Commercialism Reconsidering Émigrés and Design,” 5. 34 We refer here to the refusal of the publishing house in New York to translate to English Josef Frank’s book Architektur als Symbol (1931) and Rudofsky’s exhibition at the MoMA “Are Clothes Modern?” 1944. For Frank’s short career in New York, see Christopher Long, Josef Frank: Life and Work (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002), 21–31. For discussion on Rudofsky’s exhibition “Are Clothes Modern?,” see this volume, chapters by Shapira, Clarke and Scott. 35 Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator” (1921), in Walter Benjamin Selected Writing Vol. 1: 1913–1926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2002), 254. 36 Ibid., 257–260. 37 Patrick Primavesi, “The Performance of Translation: Benjamin and Brecht on the Loss of Small Details,” The Drama Review: TDR 43, no. 4 (Winter 1999): 53–59, here 54, German Brecht European Readings. 38 Benjamin, “The Task of the translator,” 2002, 258. Primavesi uses a slightly different translation in his text.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

39 Primavesi, “The Performance of Translation,” 1999, 54. 40 David Kettler, “A German Subject to Recall: Hans Mayer as Internationalist, Cosmopolitan, Outsider and/or Exile”, in: New German Critique, No. 96, Memory and the Holocaust (Duke University Press, Fall 2005), 171–181, 177. Referring to Mayer’s essay “Innere und Äussere Emigration” (Inner and Outer Emigration, 1972), Kettler argues “that inequalities in social standing, wealth, and ideological acceptability led to differing fates. Antithetical differences in motivation, moreover, make it even less possible to speak of the exile as a unified community.” Regarding the importance of carefully differentiating between the terms exile, refugee, fugitive, émigré, and migrant, see also Engelke and Hochscherf, “Between Avant-Garde and Commercialism,” 2015, 2. 41 Karen Koehler, “The Bauhaus, 1919–1939, Gropius in Exile and the Museum of Modern Art, NY, 1938,” in Richard A. Etlin, Art, Culture, and Media under the Third Reich (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 295–296, 301. Daniel Bessner, “Rather More than One-Third Had No Jewish Blood: American Progressivism and German-Jewish Cosmopolitanism at the New School for Social Research 1933–1939,” Religions 3 (2012): 99–129; Donald Albrecht, “AvantGarde Belongs Neither to Gentile Nor Jew,” Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism, Exh. Cat. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, 2014, 13–27. 42 Albrecht, “Avant-Garde Belongs neither to Gentile nor Jew,” 13, 27. 43 Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, Building after Auschwitz: Jewish Architecture and the Memory of the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011), 97. 44 Ibid., 96f. 45 Walter Benjamin, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man” (1916), in Benjamin, Selected Writing (1913–26), ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 1996), 70. 46 Peter McMahon and Christina Cipriani, Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape (New York: Metropolis Books, 2014). 47 Alastair Gordon, Weekend Utopia: Modern Living in the Hamptons (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001). Gordon suggests that the modern utopian architecture played a role in fashioning certain communal ideals (ibid., 15). Constantino Nivola, “Le Corbusier: Research Directed toward Poetry,” JAE (Search/ Research) 32, no. 4 (May 1979): 30–31. 48 Thomas S. Hines, Richard Neutra and the Search for Modern Architecture (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 75, 326 (endnote 18), 96–97. 49 Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain College (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 96. 50 On the Bauhaus connection of this publishing house, see Victor Margolin, “Paul Theobald & Company, Publisher with a New Vision,” Printing History 9, no. 2 (1987): 33–39. 51 See chapters by Vallye and Díaz. 52 For Schawinsky‘s performance “Spectodrama” in Aspen Design Conference in 1953, see Eva Díaz, “The Architectonic of Perceptions: Xanti Schawinsky at Black Mountain College.” 191–200. Regarding the career of Paepcke and his support of émigré designers in the United States, see http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=67 53 Frank Lloyd Wright wrote the foreword in the form of a letter," My dear Frankl - You ask me to write a foreword to your book" (Paul T. Frankl’s New Dimensions: The Decorative Arts of Today in Words and Images, New York: Payson & Clarke, Ltd., 1928).

Introduction—Émigré Cultures and New Design Dimensions


In return, Frankl dedicated his book New Dimensions: The Decorative Arts of Today to Wright: "To a great American architect and creative artist FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT." 54 See Cronan’s chapter in this volume. Another American Jewish family which engaged Wright and Neutra were the sisters Harriet (nee Press) Freeman and Leah (nee Press) Lovell. Harriet’s husband, Sam Freeman, hired Wright to build their home in Hollywood Hills (Samuel Freeman House, 1923), and Leah and Philip Lovell hired first Austrian émigré, R. M. Schindler, for Newport Beach House (Lowell Beach House, 1926) and later Neutra for Lovell Health Houses, Dundee Drive Los Angeles (Lovell House, 1927–1929). The latter praised as an example of International Style in, above mentioned, celebrated exhibition at the MoMA in 1932. 55 M. David Samson, “Unser Newyorker Mitarbeiter: Lewis Mumford, Walter Curt Behrendt, and the Modern Movement in Germany,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 55, no. 2 (1996): 126–139. 56 See chapters by Haran, Long and Shapira in this volume. 57 Lewis Mumford, “culture and machine art,” AUDAC publication 1931, 10. 58 For more information about Mumford’s essay in the New Yorker and this symposium, Gail Fenske, “What Is Happening to Modern Architecture?” Arquitectonics: Mind, Land & Society, special issue Joseph Muntanola (ed.), Architecture and Virtuality, Barcelona, Vol. 20–21 (February 2011): 17–30 (here 17f.) 59 Eric Bellin, “A Certain Brand of Humanism: Lewis Mumford, Matthew Nowicki, and the Architectural Pedagogy of North Carolina State College, 1948–1952,” ACSA International Conference, 2012, 331–337. 60 MoMA Press Release “Tradition Challenged in Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition, Are Clothes Modern” November 27, 1044 (MoMA_1944_0049_1944-11-27_44112747.pdf). 61 Quoted in Shapira, Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek, 146. 62 Koehler, “The Bauhaus, 1919–1939, Gropius in Exile and the Museum of Modern Art, NY, 1938,” 2002, 287–315. An earlier reference to the exclusion of social agenda from the Bauhaus exhibition appears in: Franz Schulze, “Die Bauhaus-Architekten und der Aufschwung der Moderne in den Vereingten Staaten,” in Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eckmann, Exil, Flucht und Emigration, europäischer Künstler 1933–1945, Exh. Cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Munich and New York: Prestel 1997), 225–233. Schulze also points out how chief curator in the MoMA Alfred Barr played a central role in Joseph Hudnust invitation of Walter Gropius to teach at Harvard. 63 Jill Pearlman, Inventing American Modernism, Joseph Hudnut, Walter Gropius, and the Bauhaus Legacy in Harvard (Charlottesvile and London: University of Virginia Press, 2007). Jill Pearlman, “Joseph Hudnut’s Other Modernism at the Harvard Bauhaus,” JSAH 56, no. 4 (December 1997), 452–477. 64 Kathleen James, “Die Änderung des Programms von der deutschen Bauhaus-Moderne zum amerikanischen Internationalismus,” Exil, Flucht und Emigration, europäischer Künstler 1933–1945, 1997, 248–251. 65 Peter Blake (ed., and notes), Marcel Breuer: Sun and Shadow, The Philosophy of an Architect, book design and cover by Alexey Brodovitch (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1955), 140. 66 Whyte continues “The results of this game of roulette, in which a human life is the ball that spins capriciously towards its final resting place, are predictably diverse. For the least fortunate, exile means the loss of all that was of value; for the most fortunate, it heralds the start of a new adventure that offers boundless rewards” (Whyte, “Nikolaus Pevsner: Art History, Nation, and Exile,” 2015).


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

67 Engelke and Hochscherf, “Between Avant-Garde and Commercialism,” 2015, 5. 68 Peter Hahn, “Bauhaus und Exil: Bauhaus-Architekten und Designer zwischen Alter und Neuer Welt,” in Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eckmann, Exil, Flucht und Emigration, europäischer Künstler 1933–1945, Exh. Cat. Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Munich and New York: Prestel 1997), 211–224. 69 “ ‘My apartment for me as my friends and guests is the incarnation of modern living comfort: a place of joie de vivre, incomprehensible contentment. The name of the creator? It is neither known nor anybody asked for it’  We are not as far as that for a long time yet! The ‘original creation’ is still rated highly. The pieces of furniture, that authorship and year are written in the face of, are the aim of the wondering, beholding eye instead of being silent witnesses of the undivertedly passing liberated gazes." See Hanisch, Felix Augenfeld: Modern Architecture, Psychoanalysis and Antifascism, 170, endnote 13. 70 Kiesler criticized in his text on “The Space House,” Le Corbusier, Mies van Rohe and J. J. P. Oud for starting their work with an idea of an house and disregarding the need for a unified theory regarding architecture as threefold consideration of social, tectonic and structural (Frederick Kiesler, “The Space House,” Hound & Horn, March 1934, 292). Papanek further criticized: “The Bauhaus was in a sense a nonadaptive mutation in design, for the genes contributing to its convergence characteristics were badly chosen” (Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World, second edition, Chicago: Academic Chicago Publishers, 1985, 31). 71 Benjamin, “The Task of the translator,” 2002, 258. 72 Xanti Schawinsky, “From Bauhaus to Black Mountain,” The Drama Review: TDR 15, no. 3 (Summer, 1971), 40. 73 Richard Neutra, Life and Shape [1962] (Los Angeles, CA: Atara Press, 2009), 230. See Cronan, Between Culture and Biology, 203. 74 Schindler, “Modern Architecture: A Program,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. August Sarnitz (New York: Rizzoli, 1988), 42. See Cronan, Between Culture and Biology, 204.

Part One

Social Transformation and Mass Consumption


Isotype and Architectural Knowledge Eve Blau

Between 1924 and 1926, the philosopher of science and political economist Otto Neurath and the architect Josef Frank collaborated on the design and organization of a new institution in Vienna: the Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum (GWM; Museum of Society and Economy).1 The Museum was dedicated to disseminating information about worker housing and the many other social and cultural institutions that were part of Red Vienna’s radical project to reshape the capital of the new Austrian republic along socialist lines. The centerpiece of that project: the construction of 400 communal housing blocks, known as Gemeindebauten (city council buildings), in which workers’ dwellings were incorporated with a vast new infrastructure of social and cultural institutions, had been launched in September 1923. Distributed throughout the city, the new buildings would (by the time the program and Red Vienna itself came to an end in 1934) provide Vienna with both a large amount of new living space—64,000 units in which 200,000 people or one-tenth of the city’s population would be rehoused, as well as kindergartens, libraries, medical and dental clinics, laundries, workshops, theaters, cooperative stores, parks, sports facilities, and a wide range of other public facilities.2 The task of the new museum was to make the building forms and spaces, their various uses, and the relationship of the building program as a whole to the larger objectives, social policy, and cultural programs of Red Vienna both clear and meaningful to a politically organized, but multiethnic, multilingual, and semiliterate working-class population. Otto Neurath’s didactic International Picture Language, International System of Typographic Picture Education (ISOTYPE) and Josef Frank’s critico-architectural practice shared the core conviction of Austrian Social Democracy that Bildung [education] was the principal means of advancing the social interests of the working class. For both philosopher and architect, the education of the working class involved not only the transfer of knowledge, but “the teaching of how to argue”—an effort to enlarge the scope for political decision-making and agency on the part of the users of Neurath’s ISOTYPEs and Frank’s buildings, creating a common basis for discussion and decision, which they both saw as the foundation of a democratic society.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Modern language and social transformation Between 1925 and 1934, Neurath and a team of graphic designers, typographers, and scientific experts at the museum (GWM) focused on developing an international picture language, which Neurath described as a system of optical representation for presenting social-scientific facts to a culturally diverse, working-class population with little or no formal education; a system known at first as the “Wiener Methode” [Vienna Method] and later by the acronym “ISOTYPE” (which he developed further at the International Foundation for the Promotion of Visual Education in The Hague after his emigration to Holland in 1934) was part of a comprehensive effort to give visible, tangible, and easily comprehensible form to abstract social and political ideas.3 Neurath had enormous confidence in the efficacy of architecture as an instrument of social transformation. In his view, architecture and mass housing could perform important political as well as material functions. The design and construction of new forms of collective dwelling spaces that not only provided shelter but also fostered new forms of socialized urban living could, he maintained, be an important factor in the gradual socialization of the economy as a whole.4 Frank conceived his own architecture in relation to a complex notion of tradition in terms of a dialectic of type and idea.5 His cooperative Gartensiedlung Hoffingergasse (1920–1921), for example, differed from the other Gartensiedlungen designed under the auspices of the ÖVSK [Oesterreichischer Verband für Siedlungs und Kleingartenwesen/Austrian Union of Settlements and Allotment Gardens], which tended (with the exception of those designed by Adolf Loos) toward vernacular village imagery and picturesque site planning. By contrast, Frank’s site plan is purposefully anti-picturesque; the rows of uniform houses are rationally aligned with the interlocking grid of the existing streets and the new paths and lanes inserted between the long, narrow allotment gardens in the interior of the blocks, which (after all) were the raison d’être of the garden settlement itself (Figure 1.1). The street fronts of the houses are undecorated, faced with rendered cement in earth tones, and overlaid with

Figure 1.1  Josef Frank, Siedlung Hoffingergasse, 1921. Courtesy of Johannes Spalt. Site plan, Das Neue Wien, ed. Gemeinde Wien, 4 vols, Vienna, 1926–1928, I, 274.

Isotype and Architectural Knowledge


wall trellises for climbing roses and other plants. For Frank, the unity of the whole and uniformity of the parts were as important for the conception of the Gartensiedlung as was the connection between house and allotment garden. They expressed the democratic principle and equal status of all members of the cooperative.6 In the large Gemeindebauten that Frank subsequently designed for the municipality of Red Vienna, he followed his own dictum that it was not enough for modern architecture to be sachlich, buildings needed also to say something larger about the human condition and modern experience.7 Consequently, Frank engaged the Gemeindebau typology as both a syntactical and socio-spatial problem (Figure 1.2). Frank’s buildings are uncompromisingly modern—with flat roofs, smooth stucco-faced walls devoid of applied ornament, rational plans, simple cubic massing, and elegant proportions. But they are also responsive to custom and place (filled with small-scale adjustments to established patterns of use and circulation) and highly individualistic in terms of color and detailing: for example, the walls of the Wiedenhofer-Hof (1924), are orange-red, the window surrounds are painted white, the metal balcony railings are green; the walls of Sebastian-Kelch-Gasse, 1–3 (1928) are alternately sky blue, sandstone red, and gray-green; lettering on the facades is dark blue; and the balconies, with railings made of industrial wire mesh, were originally painted brick red. In light of their progressive social and political commitments, it is interesting to consider the interaction of Neurath and Frank with the leading institutions through which the Modern Movement itself operated in the 1920s: the Dessau Bauhaus, the Deutscher Werkbund, and in particular the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM).


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 1.2  Josef Frank, Sebastian-Kelchgasse, 1–3, 1928. Photograph c. 1930, Wiener Stadt und Landesarchiv, Vienna.

Isotype and Architectural Knowledge


Old Sachlichkeit versus new Sachlichkeit (upholding Bildung vs. the spectacle of “Modernism”) It is not surprising that both Neurath and Frank were drawn to the modernizing and socially driven projects of the Bauhaus and Deutscher Werkbund. Neurath in particular sympathized with the technical, socially driven agenda of the neues Bauen and especially with the Dessau Bauhaus, whose director, Walter Gropius, was determined to make the school a center for research into the industrial production of housing. The Bauhaus’s commitment to principles of “functional” design and “scientific,” technically grounded processes of production was reinforced when Hannes Meyer became director in 1927 and sought to align the school with his own commitments to technocratic Marxism, rationalism, and internationalism. During Meyer’s tenure as director between 1927 and 1930, Neurath and Frank were invited to lecture in Dessau; they also forged connections with other institutions of the modernist avant-garde in Germany during these years.8 In 1927, Frank was invited to participate in the Deutscher Werkbund’s Weissenhofsiedlung Exhibition in Stuttgart. Organized by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Weissenhof was a building exhibition intended to showcase the new architecture and demonstrate its international reach. Frank was the only Austrian invited to participate. The following year he was a founding member of CIAM, a new international organization of architects concerned with the city, and with realizing the social potential of modern architecture; Neurath became the only nonarchitect member of the Congrès in 1933.9 It is not surprising that Neurath and Frank were also drawn to the modernizing and socially driven urban project of CIAM in the late 1920s and early 1930s, as they had been drawn earlier to the similarly motivated projects of the Bauhaus and Deutscher Werkbund. Nor is it surprising that both architect and sociologist became thoroughly disillusioned with CIAM as they had with the other institutional structures of the Modern Movement in the interwar period. Indeed, both Frank and Neurath soon fell out with these organizations. At Weissenhof, Frank ran into direct conflict with the exhibition organizers. The contention, ostensibly over design, involved a fundamental disagreement over the interpretation of Sachlichkeit [objectivity], one of the foundational concepts of German modernism. Frank resigned from CIAM after the group’s second meeting in 1929, because the organization seemed to be split (as he put it) between the “pathos-filled functionalism” espoused by the German adherents of the neues Bauen, who dominated the congress discussions, and the “elitist formalism” of those who, like Le Corbusier, opposed that ideology.10 Neurath’s own brief association with CIAM in 1933 ended acrimoniously after one unsuccessful attempt at collaborating on the development of graphic techniques for visualizing the “Functional City.”11 Frank and Neurath also became disillusioned with the Bauhaus, especially after Hannes Meyer was forced to resign in 1930 by reactionary elements both inside and outside the school. The significance of Frank’s and Neurath’s conflicts and disagreements with the Bauhaus, the Deutscher Werkbund, and CIAM—and the profound ideological


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

differences to which they point—have received little scrutiny by historians of architecture, while historians of science who have concerned themselves with interactions between modern architecture and the philosophy of science, and social and design theory during the interwar decades have tended to misread the terms of the architectural Sachlichkeit discourse. Peter Galison, for example, misses the subtle but all-important distinction Neurath draws between the Alte Sachlichkeit (which designated a concern for “realism” in architecture, a “straightforward attention to needs as well as to materials and processes,” that was “rooted in problems of function, commodity, health and production but not bounded by a narrow functionalism”12) and which he associates with Frank’s designs for the GWM (Figure 1.3), and the Neue Sachlichkeit of the Bauhaus, and consequently fails to recognize the fundamental differences between Frank’s conceptions of rationalism, objectivity, and Sachlichkeit and those of the central protagonists of the neues Bauen.13 Those differences are key to understanding the modernist projects of Neurath and Frank and their relation to the mainstream Modern Movement. If we examine them more closely, it will become clear that the Viennese not only disagreed fundamentally with the Bauhaus and neues Bauen on the issue of Sachlichkeit, but that their opposition to this cornerstone of Modern Movement doctrine constituted both a well-developed critique of German modernism, and a conception of the modernist architectural project that—politically and architecturally—was radically at odds with those of the Bauhaus, the Neues Bauen, Deutscher Werkbund, and CIAM in the late 1920s and early 1930s. To Josef Frank the ideology of Neue Sachlichkeit was both compliant and complicit in objectifying the needs and desires of the working-class subject. He found the “cultivated unsentimentality” of its detached point of view particularly problematic.14 “[E]very human being has a certain measure of sentimentality which he has to satisfy,” Frank wrote. The industrial worker, who “lives altogether solemnly” requires “sentimental surroundings” because rest “presupposes a superfluous, perfunctory activity that extends beyond the necessary,” one that engages the mind as well as the body and therefore provides distraction from the sobriety of the industrial workplace. The modernist “demand for bareness,” he charges, “is made particularly by those who think continuously, or who at least need to be able to do so, and who can obtain comfort and rest by other means. Their entertainment is of a higher intellectual order; they have books and pictures […] in this case playful embellishment is unnecessary.”15 In his principal theoretical work, Architektur als Symbol. Elemente deutschen neuen Bauens [Architecture as Symbol. Elements of New German Building, 1931], Frank challenges the functionalist claims of German modernism and argues in favor of a nondoctrinal, empathetic modern architecture. Modern German architecture may be sachlich, practical, in principle correct, often even charming, he suggests, but it remains lifeless because it has so little to say about modern human experience, the multiplicity of our world, human feelings and desires that are a fundamental part of modern life, and its symbol: modern architecture.16 Frank’s attacks on the new German architecture were reciprocated by his German colleagues. His contributions to the Werkbund’s Weissenhofsiedlung—two houses

Isotype and Architectural Knowledge


Figure 1.3  (Top) Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum (GWM) installation in Volkshalle, Neues Rathaus, Vienna, c. 1926. From Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype collection © The University of Reading; (bottom) display techniques employed at the GWM, Vienna. From Otto Neurath, International Picture Language, 1936, picture 24.

that he had furnished according to his principle of assemblage with an assortment of tables and chairs, patterned carpets, and brightly colored fabrics—were attacked by the Werkbund’s own chief of press relations, who judged the interiors to be “femininely appointed,” “middle-class,” and “provocatively conservative.”17 Frank retaliated by attacking the functionalist claims of the new German architecture, charging that they actually undermined the very relationship between design and industrial production that the Modern Movement purported to promote. “Today we pretend to search for the thing as such; the chair as such, the carpet as such, the lamp as such, things that already


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

exist to some extent. As a matter of fact, we are actually looking for the occupational possibilities which arise from them.”18 As an example, Frank illustrates a series of Bauhaus-designed handles, comparing them to readily available, commercially produced, evolved (rather than invented) designs. The Bauhaus handles “all consist of basic geometric shapes. They are therefore very ‘simple’, but are less suitable for use by the hand. Handles for the same functions, as they look normally, and as they are produced by industry […] fulfil a function, but who would call them ‘functionalist’?”19 The point Frank is making here is that the Bauhaus designs derive less from a consideration of function, simplicity, or ease of use than from an aesthetic preference for certain classically derived forms, geometric solids, and a machined “look.” Much of the functionalist rhetoric regarding machinemade forms, Frank charges, is likewise merely a smokescreen for aesthetic preferences. Neurath framed a similar argument in “Rationalismus, Arbeiterschaft und Baugestaltung” [Rationalism, the Working Classes and Building Form], published in Der Aufbau in 1926. He begins by declaring that the need to regard the building as a kind of machine is self-evident and yet it happens very rarely. The reason, he suggests, is a fundamental misconception of the relationship between the machine and the building. That relationship is not a matter of appearance but is instead a matter of the appropriateness of its component parts to the tasks that the architectural object (like the machine) is designed to perform. One can only judge if a machine is well designed, Neurath asserts, if one understands its inner workings.20 The same holds true for architecture. Neurath deplored the emphasis in German Modernism on external appearances, which he saw as a bourgeois phenomenon fostered by high art, particularly the constructivist machine art of even socially engaged artists like Fernand Léger. The problem, as Neurath wrote in reference to Léger’s “Scaffold” (exhibited in Vienna in 1926), is the assumption made by modern artists and architects that the rationalization, known to the worker through his familiarity with machines and with political, union, and collective organizations, is given form in paintings filled with disembodied machine parts, and that these images evoke the visual sensation of stepping onto the shop floor of a modern factory. But this play of external appearances has little to do with either the substance of the machine or its significance for modern society. The idea that the worker will see himself and his role in society represented in the mechanistic imagery of modern constructivist painting is a grave misconception. Constructivism, Neurath asserts, seems satisfied to make a spectacle of rationalism rather than to strive for a deeper engagement with its principle; it is a form of romanticism that evades reality.21 This, according to Frank, is also one of the principal reasons why the “new architecture” has so little appeal for the working classes. The worker resists the forms of the new architecture, not because they are incomprehensible to him, but because they are in fact illogical. For example, today “the whole world is endeavouring in every respect to organize life as pleasantly as possible, and therefore railway carriages and ships are made like houses, as far as is feasible, while German architecture is determined to operate the other way round and model homes on sleeping cars in which one can sleep for a night if absolutely necessary.”22

Isotype and Architectural Knowledge


In order to develop a real understanding of Wohntechnik (the technicalities of housing design), the worker must be given adequate visual information by which to judge the effectiveness of design. Usefulness or functionality and the expression of function are by no means the same thing, Neurath points out. A functional building does not necessarily appear to be so. Nor is a building that looks functional necessarily actually functional. Form is not an indicator of performance. Furthermore, neither the fact nor the appearance of usefulness has anything directly to do with an absence of applied ornament. Prewar worker tenements were objectionable, but not because they were decorated with columns and pilasters that supported nothing (although useless, these features did not affect the way in which the buildings functioned), but because their plans did not fulfill the material purposes of dwelling. Pure functional form (Zweckform), Neurath insists, is only an idea, its material realization in built form can never be merely functional. Functionalism in architecture is a principle, not a quality of form. Furthermore, there is no correspondence in architecture between formalist avant-gardism and social radicalism, which actually shapes the life of the masses in a new way.23 How to educate a politically organized, but semiliterate and multiethnic urban proletariat toward such high levels of awareness? That was the problem and the challenge Neurath set himself in the GWM and the goal toward which his collaboration with Frank was directed. It was not just a matter of developing in the working class an appreciation for unornamented simple forms and efficiently planned spaces. Rather the task was to develop discrimination of a very high order: the ability to distinguish between appearance and substance at every level of the work. From the foregoing, it seems clear that Neurath’s description of Frank’s designs for the spaces of the GWM as “overflow[ing] with the old Sachlichkeit,” purposefully situated Frank’s work and the museum itself in the conceptual world of the old Sachlichkeit and (implicitly) outside that of the new Sachlichkeit and the contemporary Neues Bauen informed by it.24 It also provides insight into the didactic pictographic language of type forms developed by Neurath at the GWM.

Viennese Transfer Principle for Social Development Projects In his architecture Frank further developed Otto Wagner’s pedagogy and Adolf Loos’s criticism, which had shaped Viennese modernism as a dialectic between type and individuality, convention and innovation. Frank carried the Viennese investigation into type and language forward in the 1920s. He also redirected it, away from the critique of bourgeois cultural values in which it had been embedded in prewar architectural debates, toward the development of an architectural program that could engage and mitigate the enormous political, economic, and social dislocations within Austrian society after the First World War and the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire. With regard to typification, Frank saw the Taylorized planning efforts of the German Reichsforschungsgesellschaft für Wirtschaftlichkeit im Bau- und Wohnungswesen (Rfg, German housing research organization)25 as a pointless functional differentiation of space that replaced the traditional proletarian dwelling typology with a schematic


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

spatial organization that evinced little knowledge of (or interest in) working-class Wohnkultur. The rationalized domestic plan was, in Frank’s view, just another manifestation of the reductive codes of the Neue Sachlichkeit that sought to free architecture from the cultural baggage of the past by substituting machine imagery for traditional building forms. The Taylorized plan, according to Frank, rejects cultural type (conceived in terms of historically evolved building forms associated with custom and use) in favor of a conception of function that reduces domestic life to a highly reductive set of simple and repetitive daily routines. Frank’s Gemeindebauten buildings embody his notion of a nondoctrinal, empathetic modern architecture that is alive to the variability of human desire and experience, and that serves rather than dictates use. Frank’s concept of simple, straightforward building has little in common with the rich allusions and Grossförmigkeit (largeness of scale and conception) of the Gemeindebauten, such as Karl Ehn’s Karl-Marx-Hof, which were designed by architects of the Wagner School. But the careful attention to the particularities of site, and the manifold ways in which Frank’s buildings accommodate individuality and differences are also far removed from the deracinated and “deliberately cultivated unsentimentality” of German Neues Bauen.26 In opposition to its reductive codes, Frank advocated “a new architecture born of the whole bad taste of our period, of its intricacy, its motleyness, and sentimentality, a product of all that is alive and experienced at first hand: at last, an art of the people instead of art for the people.”27 Spare and empathetic, typical and idiosyncratic, the contradiction-filled modernism of Frank’s architecture resists the narrowly defined functionalism of the Neue Sachlichkeit. Frank’s dialectical conception of type in architecture—as the intersection of social and spatial practices—has much in common with the concept of “customs” that informed Neurath’s pictorial language of ISOTYPE. Although ISOTYPE picture language, as Neurath stipulated, is not to be understood as a sign-for-sign parallel of word language, the individual figures nevertheless function like words in syntactical relationship to each other and can be used “again and again to make quite different statements.” In International Picture Language, Neurath elaborated two principal methods of combining figures (Figure 1.4). The first involves superimposing one image on another (as, for example, in the conjunction of shoe and factory to signify shoe factory), a combination described by Neurath as joining “root idea and addition,” where one is the dominant form and the other a qualifying figure. In the second method, a sign can be placed outside the “root picture” (as, for example, in the figure combining worker, shoe, and machine to signify shoes produced by machine), where it functions as a “guide picture”; providing an adjunct to, rather than showing a quality of, the root idea. There are, of course, many more rules for the combination of signs, as well as for the use of color and scale differences in ISOTYPE, but the governing principle in the composition of all signs as teaching tools is that they are “memorable,” and that their “meaning” is both easy to grasp and sticks in the mind.28 Each “teaching-picture” is designed to visualize all the important facts in a statement in “a simple, straightforward way.” This involves eliminating all the inessential details so that, “at first look you see the most important points, at the second, the less important points, at the third, the details, at the fourth, nothing more—if you

Isotype and Architectural Knowledge


Figure 1.4  (Left) ISOTYPE techniques for putting signs together; (right) ISOTYPE examples of‚ “root idea and addition” and “guide picture.” Both from Otto Neurath, International Picture Language, 1936, pictures 17 and 18.

see more, the teaching picture is bad.”29 Because of its simplicity the picture can be kept in the memory far better than either a verbal description of the same facts or a more complex image. Frank’s antifunctional polemics have often been interpreted (inaccurately) as antimodern.30 Quite the contrary, Frank upheld an ideology of modern architecture that was both affirmative and politically committed to the principles of social democracy, to individual freedom and ethical equality. It was from these beliefs that his revulsion for totalizing, self-referential systems derived, and particularly his aversion to German Neues Bauen and the ideology of Neue Sachlichkeit. Frank’s own architectural position eluded his contemporaries as it has subsequently baffled architectural historians; his opposition to dogma and programmatic statements of purpose made it difficult to identify a theoretical position in either his architecture or writings.31 In fact, Frank’s


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

most important text, Architektur als Symbol, might best be understood (in terms analogous to the “anti-philosophical philosophy” of logical positivism) as the “antitheoretical theory” of his nondoctrinal architectural modernism. Neurath ran into trouble with the CIAM during his brief and resoundingly unsuccessful collaboration with Cornelius van Eesteren, chair of the fourth congress in 1933, dedicated to “The Functional City.” The topic was to be examined through analytical maps of thirty-three cities drawn to the same scale, employing a unified system of symbols and colors developed by van Eesteren to render “invisible phenomena accessible to the eye.”32 Neurath, as an expert in visualization and communication, was requested by van Eesteren to present the Vienna Method for visualizing urban problems at the 1933 congress. It was hoped that Neurath’s ISOTYPE language (with its intention to “bridge the gap between architectural symbols and symbols used for the representation of social facts”) would constitute a “perfect sign language for town planning.”33 The architects also anticipated that Neurath’s collaboration would lend scientific authority to the CIAM planning efforts and help to make their specialized knowledge accessible to nonspecialists—and especially to city officials charged with making decisions regarding their implementation. Neurath’s presentation was not well received. The reason, according to Neurath, was that the architects were looking for a method of translating the complicated into the simple, a top-down process of “popularizing knowledge.” The Vienna Method was not designed for that purpose; its objective was the “humanization of knowledge,” a process that moves in the opposite direction: “from the simplest to the most complicated” to “build up more comprehensive knowledge.”34 But the main problem, from the perspective of both the CIAM architects and Neurath, lay in the “limits” of the Vienna Method; its unsuitability to the architects’ purposes of rendering “invisible phenomena accessible to the eye.” To Neurath, the notion of invisible social phenomena was pseudo-rationalism, speculation, and entirely at odds with his own sociology, which was founded on a physicalist view of economics. Material conditions of life (housing, mortality and birth rates, nutrition, working hours, coal production, unemployment, etc.) were the significant indices of the wellbeing of a society; not “invisible” economic laws. It was these physicalist features of the economy that Neurath’s team of designers “transformed” into the typographic figures of ISOTYPE, and which were designed to describe social and economic facts as contingent and material, in relative rather than absolute terms. The limitations of such a system for delineating universally applicable principles of “functionalist” spatial planning are obvious. The architects’ universalizing project was antithetical to the purposes of ISOTYPE and to the political philosophy underpinning it. “Much city planning,” Neurath wrote later, “is full of pomposity, with a totalitarian undercurrent, pressing forward some way of life […] The dictatorship of planning is a danger in itself.” In the didactic project of ISOTYPE, he asserted, “the either–or is important.”35 One of the principal didactic purposes of ISOTYPE, for Neurath, was “the teaching of how to argue.”36 The transformation of social information into pictorial form was a process of abstraction and generalization that was intended to open the figure to multiple and disparate readings.

Isotype and Architectural Knowledge


Conclusion Here, Otto Neurath’s social-philosophical-pedagogical project intersects directly with Josef Frank’s architectural project, and the cultural and political significance of both become apparent and of critical importance to our understanding of the Viennese critical heritage in modern design and architecture. Frank argued for a similar relationship between the architectural object and social facts. In Frank’s practice, the modern architect—in addition to providing space responsive to the needs of modern life—is charged with the communicative functions of the “transformer” to shape in architectonic form a dense information transfer about the social world in a way that leaves the object itself open to multiple interpretation and to change over time and through use. The architect’s role in designing modern living space, according to Frank, is to provide a scaffold, a framework for dwelling; it is not to dictate uses or the placement of furniture and other objects. That is the business of the inhabitants. “The living-room is never unfinished or finished, it lives with the people who inhabit it.”37 Modern architecture conceived in this way leaves enormous scope for agency and decision in the practice of everyday life (in the political sense of Michel de Certeau) of the individual.38 Correspondingly, Neurath conceived customs broadly, as encompassing a wide spectrum of social attitudes, practices, and habits of mind; as forms of established learning and stabilized behavior that expand and change over time and through history. According to Karl Müller, they established for Neurath the “praxeological foundations of the social world.”39 In Neurath’s sociology, habits and stable routines of behavior expand in all possible directions through processes of “extrapolation” (the processes by which knowledge, learned through experience in a particular context, is applied to other contexts), and/or by means of “coherences” (by the drawing of synchronous connections between customs in a given social-spatial domain). ISOTYPEs function in this way—by induction or analogy formation (to represent diachronic processes) and by deduction (to depict synchronic structures).40 Neurath never developed a grammar of ISOTYPE or a set of rules (beyond general principles of combination) that would have transformed the Vienna Method into a semantically concise picture language because, as he wrote, “I do not accept semantics.”41 Semantic systems are closed systems from which extralinguistic facts have to be excluded.42 Neurath was philosophically opposed to such closed systems. His ISOTYPE language is founded on the idea that the sign is not arbitrary but is instead rooted in the world. ISOTYPE figures are isomorphic in relation to the perceptual world of their viewers. Furthermore, as pictorial signs, they have “analog surplus value”; they carry a potential manifold of information that extends considerably beyond the capacity of verbal language. The importance of the “analog surplus value” of the visual sign for Neurath was twofold: it made the “teaching picture” easy to read, and it opened it up to multiple readings. In other words, it was at the same time both clear and indeterminate. Its purpose was to aid in “the teaching of how to argue.”43 The ISOTYPE figure is pictorial, but it is not realistic. Picture language, Neurath asserted, “is an education in clear thought—by reason of its limits.”44


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

By devising modes of communication that were nonlinear, plural, and open to multiple readings and uses, Neurath in his ISOTYPE system and Frank in his architecture sought to foster both critical thinking and open-mindedness in the people using them. In both cases, the perceived limitations of their projects—the “weak” semantics of ISOTYPE and nondoctrinal theory of Frank’s modern architecture— were politically motivated and intentional. The communicative functions of the architectural object and the “teaching picture” were historically rooted and in each case depended on a very particular understanding of tradition. “Within the transfer of tradition, there may also appear a transfer of not always being dependent on tradition; it is the element of democratic freedom. It implies that there are many parallel opinions, habits, and patterns of conduct, which may be acknowledged institutionally as well as theoretically.”45 This pluralistic and contradiction-filled notion of tradition informs the complex historically rooted dialectics of the modernist projects of Neurath and Frank. By making the accumulated knowledge of the past (itself a history of innovation) available to the present, the transfer of tradition enables future innovation. Disciplines that dismiss tradition, Neurath admonished, and that “stay exclusively with the present”—whether in constructing the theoretical framework for a modernist practice of architecture or for universally applicable principles of urban planning—“will very soon only be able to understand the past.”46

Notes 1 This chapter is an abridgment of Eve Blau, “Isotype and Modern Architecture in Red Vienna,” in Use Matters: An Alternative History of Architecture, ed. Kenny Cupers (Abingdon-on-Thames: Routedge, 2013), 15–34. For a more extensive treatment of the relationship between the projects of Neurath and Frank, see, Eve Blau, “Isotype and Architecture in Red Vienna: The Modern Projects of Otto Neurath and Josef Frank,” Austrian Studies 14 (2006): 227–259. It seems likely that Neurath and Frank met in the context of the logical positivist movement in Vienna. Frank participated in some of the meetings of the Vienna Circle (to which Neurath and Frank’s brother, Philipp, a theoretical physicist belonged) both before and after the First World War. He also collaborated with Neurath on various projects related to the social and cultural programs of Red Vienna. See: Christopher Long, Josef Frank. Life and Work (Chicago, IL and London, 2002); Encyclopedia and Utopia. The Life and Work of Otto Neurath (1882–1945), ed. Elisabeth Nemeth and Friedrich Stadler (Dordrecht, Boston, MA and London, 1996). Concerning their cooperation: Eve Blau, The Architecture of Red Vienna, 1919–1934 (Cambridge, MA and London, 1999), 160, Wolfgang Hösl and Gottfried Pirhofer, “Otto Neurath und der Städtebau,” in Arbeiterbildung in der Zwischenkriegszeit, Otto Neurath—Gerd Arntz, ed. Friedrich Stadler (Vienna: Löcker Verlag, 1982), 140–148, 157–161. 2 See Blau, Red Vienna, 387–401.

Isotype and Architectural Knowledge


3 See, Otto Neurath, International Picture Language/Internationale Bildersprache, trans. Marie Neurath (Reading, 1980; facsimile reprint of London, 1936), 18. For Neurath’s publications on picture education, see Arbeiterbildung in der Zwischenkriegszeit, ed. Stadler. 4 Otto Neurath, Empiricism and Sociology, ed. Marie Neurath and Robert S. Cohen (Dordrecht and Boston, MA, 1973), 257. 5 See further Hermann Czech, “A Mode for the Current Interpretation of Josef Frank,” A+U 11 (November 1991), 20–30. 6 See Blau, Red Vienna, 88–133. 7 Frank, Symbol, 11. See Blau, Red Vienna, 303–320, 376–380. 8 See Peter Galison, “Aufbau/Bauhaus: Logical Positivism and Architectural Modernism,” Critical Inquiry 16/iv (Summer 1990): 709–752 (711, 710). 9 See Richard Pommer and Christian F. Otto, Weissenhof 1927 and the Modern Movement in Architecture (Chicago, IL and London, 1991), and Long, Josef Frank, 103–118. 10 Long, Josef Frank, chapter 5. 11 See Andreas Faludi, “Otto Neurath and Planning Theory,” and Enrico Chapel, “Otto Neurath and the CIAM—The International Picture Language as a Notational System for Town Planning,” in Encyclopedia and Utopia, ed. Nemeth and Stadler, 201–213 and 167–180. 12 Stanford Anderson, “Sachlichkeit and Modernity, or Realist Architecture,” in Otto Wagner. Reflections on the Raiment of Modernity, ed. Harry Francis Malgrave (Santa Monica, CA, 1993), 323–360 (340). 13 Galison, “Aufbau/Bauhaus,” 723–724. 14 Quotation from Fritz Schmalenbach, “The Term Neue Sachlichkeit,” Art Bulletin 22 (September 1940), 161–165. 15 Josef Frank, “Der Gschnas fürs G’mut und der Gschnas als Problem,” in Deutscher Werkbund, Bau und Wohnung, exhibition catalog (Stuttgart: Karl Krämer Verlag, 1927), 48–57. Excerpted and translated into English by Wilfried Wang as “Flippancy as the Comfort of the Soul and as a Problem,” 9H 3 (1982): 5–6. 16 Josef Frank, Architektur als Symbol. Elemente deutschen neuen Bauens (Vienna: Verlag von Anton Schroll & Co., 1931), 135. 17 See Long, Josef Frank, 108. 18 Wang, “Flippancy,” 6. 19 Josef Frank, “Rum och Inredning,” Form 30 (1934): 217–225 (23). 20 Otto Neurath, “Rationalismus, Arbeiterschaft und Baugestaltung,” Der Aufbau 4 (1926): 49–52 (49, 51). 21 Ibid., 52. 22 Frank, Symbol, 131. 23 Otto Neurath, “Kommunaler Wohnungsbau in Wien,” Die Form 6, no. iii (1931): 106–110 (106). 24 Letter from Neurath to Frank, April 7, 1940, Papers of Otto and Marie Neurath, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Vienna), quoted in Nader Vossoughian, “Facts and Artifacts. Otto Neurath and the Social Science of Socialization” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2004), 241. 25 Alexander Klein, “Versuch eines graphischen Verfahrens zur Bewertung von Kleinwohnungsgrundrissen,” Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst und Städtebau 11 (1927): 296–298. 26 Quotation from Schmalenbach, “The Term Neue Sachlichkeit,” 61.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

27 Frank, Symbol, 188. 28 Neurath, International Picture Language, 27–73; Michael Twyman et al., Graphic Communication through Isotype (Reading: University of Reading, 1975). 29 Neurath, International Picture Language, 23. 30 See, for example, Franz Roh’s critique of Architektur als Symbol, in Das Neue Frankfurt, in Long, Josef Frank, 122–123; Pommer and Otto, Weissenhof, 234, note 20. 31 See, for example, Pommer and Otto, Weissenhof, 234, note 120. 32 Enrico Chapel, “Représenter la ‘ville functionnelle’. Chiffres, figurations et stratégies d’exposition dans le CIAM IV,” Les Cahiers de la recherche architecturale et urbaine 8 (May 2001): 41–50. 33 Otto Neurath, “Visual Representation of Architectural Problems,” Architectural Record 81 (July 1937), 56–61. 34 See Faludi, “Otto Neurath and Planning Theory,” 201–214, and Chapel, “Otto Neurath and the CIAM,” 231–232. 35 Neurath, Empiricism and Sociology, 247. Robert J. Leonard, “‘Seeing Is Believing’: Otto Neurath, Graphic Art, and the Social Order,” in Economic Engagements with Art, ed. Neil De Marchi and Craufurd D. W. Goodwin (Durham, NC and London, 1999), 468–475, discusses Neurath’s economic views in relation to the ISOTYPE charts and to displays in the Social and Economic Museum. 36 Otto Neurath, “Visual Education—Humanisation versus Popularisation,” ed. Juha Manninen, in Encyclopedia and Utopia, ed. Nemeth and Stadler, 245–335 (304). 37 Josef Frank, “Die Einrichtung des Wohnzimmers,” Innendekoration 30 (1919): 416–421. 38 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life [1974], trans. Steven Rendall (Berkeley, CA and London: University of California Press, 1984). 39 Karl Müller, “Neurath’s Theory of Pictorial-Statistical Representation,” in Rediscovering the Forgotten Vienna Circle. Austrian Studies on Otto Neurath and the Vienna Circle, ed. Thomas E. Uebel (Dordrecht and Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers1991), 223–251 (240). 40 Müller, “Neurath’s Theory,” 242–244. 41 Ibid., 237. 42 Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics [1916], trans. Wade Baskin, intro. Jonathan Culler (Fontana: Collins, 1974). 43 Neurath, “Visual Education—Humanisation versus Popularisation,” 245–335 (304). Emphasis in the original. 44 Neurath, International Picture Language, 22. 45 Ibid., 229. Emphasis added. 46 Otto Neurath, “Nationalökonomie und Wertlehre,” Zeitschrift für Volkswirtschaft, Sozialpolitik und Verwaltung 20 (1911): 52–114 (52); quoted in Cartwright et al., Philosophy between Science and Politics, 5.


(Mis)Understanding Consumption: Expertise and Consumer Policies in Vienna, 1918–1938 Oliver Kühschelm

“American Poster Art Lags” was how the Milwaukee Journal summed up the message of graphic designer Joseph Binder in January 1935.1 Binder, who was counted among the most distinguished commercial artists of Vienna, had traveled across the Atlantic to teach Americans “how to go modern,” as another article put it.2 The American Magazine of Art quoted him explaining, “There is a Henry Ford style just as there is a style of Louis XIV […]. And since we are living in a Henry Ford age, our art should reflect the qualities of that age. European artists have gone further than American artists in this modern style.”3 This was Binder’s sales-pitch to the US public, and whatever the factual merits of his claim, it worked for him. In 1936, he emigrated to the United States and continued his successful career. Binder belonged to a specific set of people that represented professional expertise in consumption. This chapter will combine economic, social, and political perspectives to trace the Viennese history of consumption-related expert knowledge in the 1920s and 1930s. Vienna, in both its fin de siècle version and its “red” interwar incarnation, has long received broad scholarly attention. The (forced) emigration of renowned scientists and artists in the 1930s only increased Vienna’s reputation as a former hotbed of modernity.4 The fascination with art, philosophy, and high culture sometimes overshadows the fact that Vienna was the metropolis of an industrializing state and that the emergence of mass consumption together with the corresponding professional expertise forms an essential part of this story. Following the path of British and American scholarship, history of consumption has by now become a booming research area in German-language historiography.5 Even so the history of consumption in Austria is still underresearched, although integrating consumption into the narratives of contemporary history can open fresh perspectives on Austrian and Viennese society.6 In 1910, Vienna counted with two million inhabitants, which made it one of the biggest cities in the world. Since it also served as the capital of an Empire, many of its wealthiest citizens lived there. Consequently, it was a fertile ground for the formation of professional expertise in consumption. The fall of the Habsburg Empire resulted in a dramatic loss of political power and economic clout for the former metropolitan


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

elites. This raised heavy doubts about the viability (“Lebensfähigkeit”) of the newly founded Austrian Republic, which governed only a small state and had to grapple with the consequences of a war that had depleted the economy. It took some years to make up for lost ground but it did not turn out all bad. If starting from a low level, Austria achieved high overall growth in the decade from 1920 to 1930.7 It did not fare worse than Hungary or Czechoslovakia, and Austria’s growth rates exceeded those of western and northern Europe. Admittedly, Austria’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita remained worlds apart from the corresponding numbers for the United States, and in 1929 the figure for neighboring Switzerland was more than double that of Austria. However, the GDP only gives a rough impression of overall wealth and does not account for its distribution among different social strata. While the middle classes found it hard coming to terms with a diminished position in society and the polity, the 1920s were not a bad time for the urban working class. Mass consumption expanded during the Republic’s first decade and, as we will see, the buildup of expertise in consumption continued in Vienna during the 1920s. It came under pressure in the following decade when economic and political processes conspired to derail innovation in the field.

Basic concepts Defining traits of modern societies are the rise of the social figure of the “expert” and a widely shared disposition to trust their expertise.8 Since the late nineteenth century, it became a career to claim systematic knowledge of consumption and consumer behavior to assess needs and desires.9 This class of experts considered themselves to be capable of crafting persuasive messages or shaping products according to what was good for the people or the producers or both. Expertise in consumption drew on different areas of knowledge and it was not the exclusive realm of an established profession. Advertisers fit in the category as well as designers, architects, economists, sociologists, statisticians, the technocratic elite of the cooperatives, and managers in retail or marketing representatives of big companies. Admittedly many of these professions were not new, not even advertising. But new elements were added to the job description. Experience and craftsmanship remained important, but a growing group of consumer experts exalted scientific knowledge. Joseph Binder provides a good example. He repackaged visual art as “graphic design”: “The new style is chiefly based on the construction of forms,” which is how it made poster art fit for the “Henry Ford age.”10 A wealth of recent research has investigated the approach of “social engineering,” which characterized the experts of this era.11 Their work hinged on the conviction that society was a problem to solve and that the means to solve it was the careful application of ever more adequate social techniques. The term is tailored to analyze social, political, and economic processes in European and North American societies in a period that stretches from the early twentieth century to the post–Second World War era. It can also be read as a more specific version of Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality, which he introduced in his late work. It has by now made large inroads in the social and some in the historical sciences.12 It can be of good service for conceptualizing

(Mis)Understanding Consumption


research in the political history of consumption.13 Foucault defined governmentality as an articulation of power that “has the population as its target,” which it describes and normalizes through statistical methods, and “the political economy as its major form of knowledge.” The latter is the science of circulation of people as well as goods, within and across states.14 In the late nineteenth century, knowledge about the population as consumers became an essential tool of governing, which as Foucault pointed out is not the exclusive task of the state. Governmentality is an attractive analytical concept precisely because it does not treat the state as a giant towering over society. This is not to deny that forms of public ownership played a crucial role in the relatively backward Austrian economy but to avoid opposing society and a monolithic state with the latter then casting a long shadow over the former.15 Instead of neatly separating state and society, or state and market, governmentality opens up a continuum. It invites to chart the dispersion of governmental techniques across institutional actors and social fields. Companies employed the same governmental techniques as state bureaucracy and the many parastatal organizations of different interest groups. We have to think of trade unions, business organizations, cooperatives, housewives’ or advertisers’ associations, chambers of labor and commerce—to name but a few institutional actors that governed consumption in Austria. Expertise in consumption was neither the domain of private business nor the exclusive object of state bureaucracies but fed into the development of governing techniques for societies of mass consumption.

Social democracy as a catalyzer of expertise in consumption Vienna played an even more dominant role within the small state that was the Republic than it had done in the Habsburg Monarchy. In 1934, 28 percent of the Austrian people lived in Vienna but—if we base a rough estimate on the available data from income taxes16—an impressive 55 percent of upper- and upper-middle-class Austrians resided in the capital.17 The density of goods that we can consider as emblematic of a modern lifestyle was almost beyond comparison. There were, for example, seven passenger cars per 1,000 inhabitants in Vienna, only three in the rest of Austria and just one in the province with the lowest car density (see Figure 2.1). In 1919, after the franchise in communal elections had been fully democratized, the Social Democratic Party began its rule over Vienna and tried to raise the standard of living of the popular classes.18 While “Red Vienna” became most famous for its scheme of social housing, its involvement in the enabling and shaping of consumption did not stop there. Continuing the policy of the so-called municipal socialism that their Christian social predecessors had begun, the city extended its reach ever further with the help of companies that it owned or co-owned. These companies provided many basic services but also communicated the vision of widely shared affluence. In the 1920s, broad wealth remained a consumerist daydream, which nevertheless prepared the ground for what would become a reality in the century’s second half. The communal electric power company started to push for the electrification of the kitchen and promoted electric cookers as well as washing machines and vacuum cleaners.19 The city also co-owned the Vienna Trade Fair. Its founders had wanted it to


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 2.1  Vienna’s dominant place in Austrian consumption: Data from mid-1930s, author’s calculations. Sources: Statistisches Jahrbuch für Österreich 1938; Statistische Nachrichten 15 (1937).

promote international commercial exchange but while it only achieved limited success on this front, the people of Vienna loved the spectacle.20 The fair showcased the latest fashions and innovations in consumer goods although they often were out of reach for the masses. For example, visitors admired automobiles, which most of them could not afford. Any company, public or private, that engaged in advertising could not avoid using the service of yet another communal enterprise. In 1921, the city council had established the Gemeinde Wien—Städtische Ankündigungsunternehmung (GEWISTA), which together with its subsidiary Wiener Plakatier-AG (WIPAG) dominated billposting in Vienna.21 Advertising consumer goods and promoting the common good, polishing the reputation of the social democratic government, and creating an attractive image of “Red Vienna” fit together quite well. This activism amounted to city branding avant la lettre. It established “Red Vienna” as an international brand that even survived the forced removal of the Social Democratic Party from the levers of communal power.22 Consumer policies required getting a grip on numbers. Who was the target group, how many were they, what was their acquisitive power, which were their needs? The nation-state was the horizon of many such questions partly because state administrations provided numbers to answer them. Furthermore, the First World War had represented a huge leap toward establishing the nation-state as the default version of statehood. It typically was supposed to be equipped with a national economy that ensured a national standard of living. However, the Republic of Austria was ill suited to make sense of these political and social concepts. The viability of an Austrian state was hotly disputed, and Austrians, above all from the middle classes, thought of themselves

(Mis)Understanding Consumption


as belonging to the German nation. On the level of the federal state, looming disaster, rather than any aspiration to broad wealth, prompted knowledge production about consumption. In 1920, driven by the emergencies of extreme scarcity and rampant inflation, the federal office of statistics got into the business of calculating indices of living costs. However, it was not the federal state that undertook the most serious effort to collect data on consumer habits, and it was not the nation-state perspective that drove the attempt. In 1925, the Viennese Chamber of Labor, a parastatal agency under social democratic hegemony, began to survey the household expenses of working class families. Admittedly, the survey included only between sixty and seventy households. This pales in comparison to the number of about 2,000 households that the German office of statistics used for the same kind of investigation in 1927/28.23 But the Viennese Chamber of Labor carried on with its research for a period of ten years. For all its shortcomings, the survey thus provides the best available data for interwar Vienna. They hint to an improvement of the living conditions of the urban working class in the 1920s.24 In 1912, expenses for basic needs such as food, rent, heating, clothes, and cleaning had represented 77 percent of the budget of a working-class household. Until 1930 their share fell to 59 percent. This left more money in the pocket for stimulants, personal hygiene, furniture, transportation, education, entertainment, and even the occasional holiday in the countryside.25 “Red Vienna’s” engagement with expertise in consumption went beyond the municipality commissioning professionals in advertising and design to do work for the city. It rather was an extensive and fluid network of organizations and experts, be they practitioners or intellectuals, that aligned themselves with a social democratic vision of society.26 The most detailed report about the survey on household expenses is a long article from 1937 written by Benedikt Kautsky, secretary of the Chamber of Labor, who acted as its chief economist.27 Another social democratic economist, Otto Neurath, founded the Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum and developed his picture language as a means of transferring scientific knowledge about society and economy to the broad public.28 In the late 1920s, sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld established the Wirtschaftspsychologische Forschungsstelle that combined social and marketing research. It is best known for its study about unemployment among the textile workers of the village Marienthal but it equally did a lot of work for commercial clients.29 Among the organizations affiliated with social democracy, consumer cooperatives were the most consistent voice of consumer interests.30 Since the 1890s, parallel to the expanding economy, the cooperative movement had grown. Their numbers more than tripled in the period from 1895 to 1913, when Cisleithania registered over 1,400 consumer-cooperatives.31 Not each and every cooperative aligned itself with a socialist worldview, but the majority did. In spite of Marxist doubts about the cooperatives’ role in overcoming capitalism, social democracy came to regard them as the third pillar of the workers’ movement.32 Karl Renner, the first prime minister of the Republic and the most prominent representative of the revisionist right wing of the Social Democratic Party, acted as chairman of the cooperate wholesale society. During the First World War, their role as distributive network for rationed food strengthened the position of the cooperatives, and in its aftermath they demanded, if eventually without success, the establishment of a Chamber of Consumers. This would have brought the


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 2.2  “What is standardization?” Haushalt und Heim 4, no. 1 (1932).

full integration of consumers into the corporatist power-sharing arrangements that characterized the Austrian polity. While they did not achieve this goal, the cooperatives, which initially had been local organizations, made important steps toward more centralized organizational structures. In 1920, the Viennese cooperative counted 160,000 members and owned 160 stores. Cooperatives also possessed an increasingly broad array of production facilities.33 In the 1920s, they were firmly established as important players on the consumer market but they harbored larger aspirations than

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profit making, and they did not limit their ambition to Austria alone. Well connected to sister organizations in other European countries, they expected to lead consumers into a cooperative—and thus enormously better—world. Amid the economic depression of the 1930s the cooperative’s wholesale society chose the programmatic title “Follow me to paradise!”34 for its popular revue. The home magazines of the cooperative best represent an educational zeal that formed part of a transnational discourse on how consumers had to learn rational choices and efficient behavior (Figure 2.2). It was geared toward achieving what Victoria de Grazia has called a “Fordist consumption regime.”35 Addressing housewives an article in Für Haushalt und Heim echoed their presumed doubts: “Ah, standardization, this is something modern, […] which we will hopefully not be bothered with.”36 The magazine made it clear that such a dismissive attitude was wrongheaded. Standardized products were beneficial to housewives because unregulated variances of shapes obstructed the replacement of lost or damaged components, for example the lid of a preserving jar. Efficient products enabled and demanded efficient usage. From the perspective of the company magazine, the sofa one could buy in the cooperative warehouse implied the challenge to persuade readers to comply with the social engineering ambition of the cooperative: “In the small, but oh so beautiful, modern living spaces, we have to try to be very practical.”37 As the ideal home consisted entirely of products that the cooperatives provided,38 it would constitute the smallest building block of a cooperative universe of consumption. If this vision bore a striking resemblance to what Fordist capitalism had on offer, there was a difference that cooperatives viewed as essential. Consumers had a say in cooperative democracy, which they lacked as clients of private business. However, cooperatives did neither refrain from a paternalist attitude toward ordinary consumers nor did they overcome the hierarchization of gender roles: The management felt sure that (female) consumers needed the guidance of (male) professionals.39 In early 1934, Für Haushalt und Heim wanted to convey to its readers an impression of the enormity of the progress that humanity had made since the 1870s.40 The headline “Pictures talk” referred to a diagram provided by the Gesellschaftsund Wirtschaftsmuseum. Otto Neurath’s isotypes visualized the increase in world population as well as in the overall production of wheat, sugar, cotton, coal, and in the number of ships. The magazine suggested that the diagram might fill the reader with wonder about humankind’s splendid progress. But why then had poverty not yet ended, and how could there be overproduction when people suffered from hunger? Planning would offer a remedy. The magazine introduced different versions of the planning ambition: First, it explained at some length the US experiment of a New Deal, and then it mentioned as alternatives the “total state” or the corporatist organization of the economy. But it regarded none of them as satisfying because they all suffered from a huge flaw. They forgot about consumers while consumer cooperatives, as the magazine emphasized, had been wise enough to put them center stage. Since March 1933, the Austrian government had been heading toward dictatorship, and within a month it would have crushed social democracy in a brief civil war. Nevertheless, in this article from January 1934, consumer cooperatives unabashedly presented their approach as the blueprint for a planned economy in the true interest of consumers. If societies around the globe followed their recipe, they would finally witness the


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

dawning of an age of reason. The article did not mince words and promised, “All the insanities of the present would end.” The magazine quickly mentioned the ingredients of the elixir that would cure the world: uniting consumers, educating them to buy only cooperative goods, registering their needs, and setting production goals accordingly. Together this yielded a “closed, planned economy.” There was no need to go into details and to fret about how individual households lived and consumed. It was sufficient to get a grip on the overall quantities. Although the article gave a simplified version of cooperative economic thinking, one should take the vision seriously. It was social democratic consumer engineering at its boldest and most optimistic.

Cultural incomprehension, political persecution, and economic depression In September 1933, Engelbert Dollfuß, the Austrian chancellor, held a programmatic speech on the Trabrennplatz. In March he had seized on a moment of confusion to get rid of parliamentary control and had turned elected government into dictatorial rule. He needed to legitimize this break with the constitution and galvanize support. He therefore used a mass gathering of the Fatherland Front to set out basic tenets of the regime’s ideology. In a famous passage of his speech, he sketched an emblematic scene from the patriarchal lifeworld of traditional peasantry: “In the farmhouse where the peasant sits down at the same table with his laborers after their common work, eating his soup out of the same bowl—there you find a real sense of corporative belonging, a true corporative attitude. And their relationship becomes even nobler when they kneel down together to say their prayers.”41 Dollfuß came from a peasant family and had made a career as an expert in agricultural policy. He was steeped in the cultural imaginary of the catholic-conservative milieu, which served as a major source for the party ideology of Christian socials. This party had put Dollfuß at the helm of government and backed his reach for authoritarian rule.42 It is obvious that the quoted passage did not depict peasant life as it was but enshrined an ideal that Dollfuß opposed to what he saw as the misguided Marxist penchant for class war. It is equally obvious that this conservative ideal did not offer much guidance to a country that had long embarked on becoming a highly industrialized and urbanized society. Holding up an imaginary of agrarian subsistence meant to declare war on a secular, hedonist consumer culture that was already in the making. National socialism, too, praised the German peasant and reveled in an agrarian imaginary of rootedness to the soil. Quite different from the Austrian regime it also promised a high standard of living and an age of affluence for the master race. The regime’s actual policies focused on rearmament rather than on enhancing consumption, and yet the propagandistic success of “virtual consumption,”43 the expectation of a bright future that would bring wide access to consumer goods, contributed to stabilizing the regime. The sight of an emboldened Germany on the road to great power and great wealth also put pressure on the dictatorship in neighboring Austria. An example of how the Austrian government reacted to this uncomfortable situation was its emulation of the Nazi regime’s push for increased motorization. Hitler himself adopted the vision of

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the people’s car and the regime made this project a central piece of its propaganda. The Austrian government had indirect ownership of the car manufacturer Steyr-DaimlerPuch and, unsurprisingly, wanted the company to develop a small cheap automobile, Austria’s people’s car.44 In 1936, the company duly presented the Steyr 50 to the public. The press hailed it as an “Austrian wonder.” The car indeed was an engineering feat and could boast an attractive design. It also constituted a challenge to Nazi Germany whose own people’s car still remained a phantom. But the Austrian version was a phantom, too, at least in one crucial respect. A people’s car was meant to be affordable. However, the costs of buying and maintaining the Steyr 50 far exceeded what most people were able to spend. The company calculated that it would take a monthly income of at least 1,000 schilling. According to data for 1934, less than 18,000 Austrians filed taxes for a personal income that met this requirement. In a show of honesty one newspaper ad proclaimed that the Steyr 50 had made “the dream of thousands come true.” At that time Austrians were a population of 6.8 million. Evidently the car was not a product for the common people but a positional good. This is how it really fit into the frame of a conservative ideology, as did a tradition of luxury craft that Vienna had inherited from its imperial past and that the government was interested in retaining. While the regime accepted the function of luxury consumption to symbolize social hierarchy, it did nothing to enhance the consumption of the working class. Under heavy pressure from international creditors but also following its own ideological preferences, the Austrian government stuck to austerity throughout the 1930s.45 When signs of recovery finally showed, they barely reached consumers. The performance of the Austrian economy was no match to the roaring comeback of the German economy. Employment remained in scarce supply throughout the 1930s. It is thus no wonder that consumption stayed depressed. In 1937, sales in household effects represented a mere 58 percent of the sales from 1929, and the figure for foodstuff was 78 percent.46 Low demand impacted upon professionals who mediated between producers and consumers. From 1928 to 1935 turnover in newspaper advertising decreased 37 percent.47 The contraction of this particular market is highly significant because advertising acts as an indefatigable promoter of faith in consumer culture. It is a stabilizing force of capitalism. Consequently a sharp downfall in advertising expenses does not only bode ill for business perspectives; it also indicates that political trouble may lie ahead for the government. Urban landscapes with empty advertising spaces do not look pristine; they look drab and betray a lack of confidence in the future. This is the message that two artifacts from the Joseph Binder collection at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts seem to convey. They are photographs, most probably from late 1937 when the graphic designer Joseph Binder had already settled in the United States.48 The photographs showed advertising space on a long street wall (Figure 2.3). However, the only advertiser was the dictatorial regime that had its official symbol painted on the panels in between empty spaces. What catches the onlooker’s attention is the near complete lack of commercial advertisings. For Binder the pictures must have represented an eloquent warning against the idea of returning to Austria. Binder, born in Vienna in 1898, had begun work as a graphic designer in the aftermath of the First World War.49 By designing advertising posters and company logos, he achieved an international reputation, which brought him invitations to the United States to lecture


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 2.3  Wall with empty advertising space, Vienna 1937. © MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, Joseph Binder estate, KI 14145-1233-23-1.

on commercial art. After crossing the Atlantic several times, in November 1936 he decided to set up shop in New York. This soon turned out to be a good career move. He won the competition for the official poster of the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and acquired commissions from private business and the public sector. Positioning the New York landscape in front of the globe, the poster for the world’s fair shows a red ship heading toward skyscrapers that serve as a metonymic reference to the metropolis (Figure 2.4). Binder reframed a New York experience that tourists crossing over from Europe were familiar with—as well as émigrés like himself. Esthetically, the poster represented what any contemporary would have considered emblematically modern but Binder’s stylistic choices also brought into play his status as a new arrival. The graphic designer applied reductive compositional principles derived from Cubism and De Stijl. The poster thus represented the latest European artistic trends.50 Binder’s emigration of course was no singular occurrence. Since February 1934, political repression made life difficult for social democratic intellectuals. Otto Neurath left for the Netherlands. Paul Lazarsfeld went to the United States, where he pioneered audience research. The young psychologist Ernest Dichter, who had worked for Lazarsfeld’s Wirtschaftspsychologische Forschungsstelle, also emigrated to the United States. He became the leading figure in motivational research, a key technique of marketing that inspired the highest expectations and equally aroused a lot of suspicion among the critics of corporate America.51 While these three prominent Austrian émigrés had been affiliated with social democracy, Joseph Binder had not exposed himself politically. Although he took on commissions from “Red Vienna” too, he did most of his work for private clients. For him, leaving Austria seems to have been

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Figure 2.4  Joseph Binder, Official poster for World’s Fair 1939. MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art, PI 4198, Photo: © MAK.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

a business decision. In this respect, however, his case bears surprising resemblance to the story of Lazarsfeld, who first went to the United States on a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation in September 1933. At that time the Social Democratic Party still ruled Vienna. Lazarsfeld’s principal goal seems to have consisted of learning about recent developments in market research and social psychology. He wanted to deepen his knowledge and make contacts that would benefit him professionally back in Europe. However, while the Dollfuß-Schuschnigg regime did not close the Forschungsstelle, its business languished and Austria’s overall economic and political prospects did not brighten up during Lazarsfeld’s stay in North America. He thus only briefly returned to Vienna in summer 1935 and soon left again to establish himself in the United States.52 The cases of Binder and Lazarsfeld point to an additional factor, apart from political and racist repression, that caused experts in consumption to consider leaving Vienna. In the 1930s, Austria’s economic performance ranged close to the bottom end in Europe. The perspectives shrunk on both the government and the business side. At the same time in the United States the New Deal opened up job possibilities for social engineers in a plethora of government programs.53 Business likewise presented opportunities because it pushed for rationalization and sought to increase its knowledge about consumers. This led to a wave of innovations in advertising, marketing research, and retail organization. European emigrants that brought fresh ideas were well suited to play an important role in this story. In the mind of Europeans, by the 1920s the United States, “America,” had become the Eldorado of mass consumption—or from a conservative vantage point: an epicenter of moral corruption.54 It is hence not surprising that long before his actual emigration Joseph Binder had set his eyes on America as a place where the expertise that he was building represented a ticket to thrive professionally. He used the idea of America as a yardstick to measure perspectives in Europe. When he first visited Berlin in the 1920s, he was impressed by the capital that had the image of being Germany’s most American city.55 In a letter home, Binder compared the streets of Berlin with the junction at the opera of Vienna. Commonly considered the center of Austrian urbanity, it now seemed a “weak attempt” at claiming the status of a modern metropolis. The young graphic designer admired the huge light advertisements in Berlin, which he praised as “really grandiose.” He concluded: “I believe New York is not that much different from the Potsdamer Platz, Leipziger and Friedrich Straße. The shop windows [are] of huge size, a lot of light, but always a bit cheap.”56 Berlin inspired him as a European stand-in for America that he had no first-hand experience of. His enthusiasm corresponded a dire assessment of Vienna’s future: “We will be a provincial place, there is nothing that can help it; without a hinterland a big city cannot hold its ground. It’s a shame. It makes one green with envy.” This opinion reflected the common sense of Viennese elites and middle classes, who mourned their city’s fall from imperial grace. In an equally typical way, Binder spotted how to convert the Viennese heritage into a sales proposition for an Americanized environment. He observed a lack in taste, which he as a Viennese graphic designer, modern but with a distinct style, would be able to remedy. When he arrived in New York, which years before he had imagined as similar to Berlin, he declared that it was “a wholly different world, truly gigantic.” It

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all seemed strange to him, and referring to the slogans he saw, clearly a metonymy for US-business culture, he used an expression of resigned admiration (“Da können wir einpacken”). The idiom suggested that an Austrian graphic designer could not hope to get a foot into the advertising market of the United States.57 But this of course was exactly what he intended and achieved.

Conclusion With the breakup of the Habsburg Monarchy, Vienna lost most of its former importance as an economic center but still conserved some of its luster as a hub of ideas. Consumption had been emerging as an area of professional expertise since the late nineteenth century. In the 1920s, many fascinating developments in the field were connected to the institutional and intellectual network of “Red Vienna.” The Dollfuß-Schuschnigg regime liquidated the social democratic network and hence dislodged expertise in consumption. It marks a rupture as the regime did not aspire to understand mass consumption and abhorred its leveling effects. It rather found its ideal in an imaginary medieval Europe. It dreamed of an unspoiled rural world with eternal hierarchies. This cultural stance went along with austerity as an economic policy maxim, which further aggravated the impact of the Great Depression. Unemployment rose drastically while mass consumption plummeted and did not recover. The Austrian regime’s political repression and indifference, even hostility, to mass consumption, undermined the prospects for professionals whose fortune was wedded to the rise of modern consumerism. Although it had not been alone in sponsoring expertise in consumption or requiring its service, the importance of “Red Vienna” had resided in setting a culturally liberal tone and in caring about the masses and their acquisitive power. If this gave rise to new branding practices and innovative forms of marketing research, it may look like a surprising bridge between social democracy and a key technique of capitalist enterprise. This technique then seems to reveal its progressive roots.58 However, it rather points to aspirations of social engineering as the common ground of a governmentality that encompassed communal institutions as well as private business. While the Dollfuß regime in crucial respects tried to opt out of modernity, the engineering of consumption was neither inherently progressive nor a capitalist instrument to further alienation. It was really beyond such Manichaean distinctions. In order to understand key developments in Austrian society, it is important to look into the formation of expertise in consumption, to trace its expansion in the 1920s, and to analyze the setbacks it suffered during the following decade. Furthermore, in the transnational story of how mass consumption developed as a field of professional expertise, emigrants from Vienna played a conspicuous role. This makes it relevant to look at the environment that had shaped their approach. In the 1930s, some of them left for the United States, the most modern consumer society of the era. There they could put their knowledge and skills to good use. The successful careers of the graphic designer Binder and the sociologist Lazarsfeld are cases in point.


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Notes 1 “American Poster Art Lags, Says Viennese,” Milwaukee Journal, January 9, 1935. MAK, Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Joseph Binder estate, KI 14145-907-84. 2 “Vienna Art Evangelist Tells How to Go modern,” Milwaukee Journal, January 20, 1935. MAK, Joseph Binder estate, KI 14145-907-82. 3 Joseph Binder, “Developing the Present Day Style,” American Magazine of Art 29, no. 7 (1936) : 464–469, 486. 4 Peter Weibel and Friedrich Stadler, eds., Vertreibung der Vernunft: The Cultural Exodus from Austria, 2nd rev. and enl. ed. (Vienna/New York: Springer-Verlag, 1995); Christian Fleck, Transatlantische Bereicherungen. Zur Erfindung der empirischen Sozialforschung, Suhrkamp Taschenbuch Wissenschaft (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2007). 5 To get a quick overview of the trajectory that research has followed since the 1990s, see Hannes Siegrist, Hartmut Kaelble, and Jürgen Kocka, eds., Europäische Konsumgeschichte. Zur Gesellschafts- und Kulturgeschichte des Konsums, 18. bis 20. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 1997); Heinz-Gerhard Haupt and Claudius Torp, eds., Die Konsumgesellschaft in Deutschland 1890–1990. Ein Handbuch (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2009). 6 For an overview, see Susanne Breuss and Franz X. Eder, eds., Konsumieren in Österreich. 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, Querschnitte 21 (Innsbruck/Vienna: StudienVerl., 2006); a pioneering work in the history of consumption: Roman Sandgruber, Die Anfänge der Konsumgesellschaft. Konsumgüterverbrauch, Lebensstandard und Alltagskultur in Österreich im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, Sozial- und wirtschaftshistorische Studien 15 (Vienna: Verl. für Geschichte und Politik, 1982). Apart from his own publications Sandgruber’s book unfortunately did not trigger broad research in Austria. 7 The assessment is based on the GDP-data from the Maddison project: http://www​ .ggdc.net/maddison/maddison-project/data.htm (accessed October 20, 2015). 8 Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991), 22, 26–36. 9 For a comprehensive study about advertisers, see Gerulf Hirt, Verkannte Propheten? zur “Expertenkultur” (west-)deutscher Werbekommunikatoren bis zur Rezession 1966/67 (Leipzig: Leipziger Univ.-Verl., 2013). 10 Binder, Developing, 469; see also André Dombrowski, “Joseph Binder: GrapicDesigner, Teacher, Advertising Theorist,” in Joseph Binder. Wien—New York, ed. Peter Noever (Vienna: MAK, 2001), 53–77, esp. 67; René Schober, “Joseph Binder. Österreichische Plakate bis 1938” (unpublished master thesis, University of Vienna, 2012), 65–67; Anita Kern, Grafikdesign in Österreich im 20. Jahrhundert, Design in Österreich 2 (Salzburg/Vienna: Pustet, 2008), 85–89; Adelheid von Saldern, “‘Alles ist möglich.’ Fordismus—ein visionäres Ordnungsmodell des 20. Jahrhunderts,” in Theorien und Experimente der Moderne. Europas Gesellschaften im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Lutz Raphael (Köln: Böhlau-Verlag, 2012), 155–192. 11 Thomas Etzemüller, ed., Die Ordnung der Moderne: social engineering im 20. Jahrhundert, Histoire 9 (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2009); “Strukturierter Raum—integrierte Gemeinschaft. Auf den Spuren des social engineering im Europa des 20. Jahrhunderts,” in Theorien und Experimente der Moderne. Europas Gesellschaften im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Lutz Raphael (Köln: Böhlau-Verlag, 2012), 129–154; Kerstin Brückweh et al., eds.,

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Engineering Society: The Role of the Human and Social Sciences in Modern Societies, 1880–1980 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). 12 Ulrich Bröckling, Susanne Krasmann, and Thomas Lemke, eds., Governmentality: Current Issues and Future Challenges (New York/London: Routledge, 2010). 13 So far it is more common to employ the concept for the analysis of a postmodern or neoliberal consumer culture: Christopher Mayes, “Governmentality and Consumer Culture,” in The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies (Malden, Mass: John Wiley & Sons, 2015), 339–342. 14 Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–78 (Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 108. 15 See Ernst Hanisch, Der lange Schatten des Staates: Österreichische Gesellschaftsgeschichte im 20. Jahrhundert (Vienna: Ueberreuter, 1994). 16 “Die Einkommensteuer für das Jahr 1934,” Statistische Nachrichten, hg. Bundesamt für Statistik 15 (1937): 38–39. 17 Middle class: yearly income between 3,000 and 10,200 Schilling; upper (middle) class: more than 10,200 Schilling. Adapted from: Emanuel Januschka, Die soziale Schichtung der Bevölkerung Österreichs (Vienna/Leipzig: Thalia, 1938), 24. 18 Siegfried Mattl, Wien im 20. Jahrhundert, Geschichte Wiens 6 (Vienna: Pichler, 2000), 45–49. 19 Susanne Breuss, “Verliebt in einen Kobold. Zur kulturellen Konstruktion haushaltstechnischer Konsumgüter—am Beispiel des Staubsaugers,” in Konsumieren in Österreich. 19. und 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Breuss and Eder, 124–146, esp. 130. 20 Heinrich G. Neudhart, Wiener Internationale Messe. Vorgeschichte, Anfänge und Entwicklung bis zur kriegsbedingten Einstellung 1942 (Lohmar: Eul Verl., 2011); “Wiener Messe,” Der österreichische Volkswirt 21 (1929): 1324. 21 Christian Maryska, “Internationales Niveau. Grafikdesign und Werbewirtschaft um 1930,” in Kampf um die Stadt. 361. Sonderausstellung des Wien Museums, ed. Wolfgang Kos (Vienna: Czernin, 2010), 184–191, 186. 22 Siegfried Mattl, “Die Marke ‘Rotes Wien’. Politik aus dem Geist der Reklame,” in Kampf um die Stadt. 361. Sonderausstellung des Wien Museums, ed. Kos, 54–63. 23 Claudius Torp, Konsum und Politik in der Weimarer Republik (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011), 50. 24 Franz X. Eder, “Privater Konsum und Haushaltseinkommen im 20. Jahrhundert,” in Wien im 20. Jahrhundert: Wirtschaft, Bevölkerung, Konsum, ed. Franz X. Eder et al., Querschnitte (Innsbruck: Studien-Verl., 2003), 201–285, esp. 205–208. 25 Data source: “Der Lebensstandard von Wiener Arbeitnehmerfamilien im Lichte langfristiger Familienbudgetuntersuchungen,” Arbeit und Wirtschaft 13, no. 12 (suppl. 8) (1959): 10; for a methodological discussion, see Torp, Konsum, 38–40. 26 See the chapter on politically engaged scholarship in Red Vienna in Janek Wasserman, Black Vienna: The Radical Right in the Red City, 1918–1938 (Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press, 2014), 158–187, esp. 61. 27 Benedikt Kautsky, Die Haushaltsstatistik der Wiener Arbeiterkammer 1925–1934, International Review for Social History. Supplement in Volume II (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1937); Günther Chaloupek, “Marxismus und österreichische Wirtschaftspolitik: Benedikt Kautsky als ökonomischer Theoretiker der Arbeiterkammer,” in Reformismus und Gewerkschaftspolitik. Grundlagen für die Wirtschaftspolitik der Gewerkschaften, Günther Chaloupek, Peter Rosner, and Dieter Stiefel (Graz: Leykam, 2006), 35–74, esp. 36. 28 Nico Wahl, “Information als Allgemeingut. Otto Neurath und die Wiener Methode der visuellen Kommunikation,” in Kampf um die Stadt. 361. Sonderausstellung des Wien


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Museums, Kos 54–63; for a recent account of Neurath’s life, see Günther Sandner, Otto Neurath. Eine politische Biographie (Vienna: Zsolnay, 2014). 29 Jan Logemann, “European Imports? European Immigrants and the Transformation of American Consumer Culture from the 1920s to the 1960s,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute Washington DC no. 52 (2013): 113–133, esp. 119–121. 30 Gabriella Hauch, “From Self-Help to Konzern: Consumer Cooperatives in Austria, 1840–1990,” in Consumers against Capitalism? Consumer Cooperation in Europe, North America, and Japan, 1840–1990, ed. Ellen Furlough and Carl Strikwerda (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999), 191–219; Fritz Baltzarek, “Die geschichtliche Entwicklung der Konsumgenossenschaften in Österreich,” in Verbraucherpolitik und Wirtschaftsentwicklung, ed. Anton E. Rauter (Vienna: Europaverlag, 1976), 169–241; Johann Brazda, “Die Entwicklung der Konsumgenossenschaften bis 1918—vom Konsumverein zum genossenschaftlichen Netzwerk,” in 150 Jahre Konsumgenossenschaften in Österreich, ed. Johann Brazda and Siegfried Rom (Vienna: Eigenverl. des FGK, 2006). 31 Baltzarek, “Entwicklung,” 177. 32 Ibid., 199; Brazda, “Entwicklung,” 55–67. 33 Baltzarek, “Entwicklung,” 213. 34 “Komm mit mir ins Paradies [Cover],” Für Haushalt und Heim 4, no. 11 (1932). 35 Victoria De Grazia, “Changing Consumption Regimes in Europe, 1930–1970: Comparative Perspectives on the Distribution Problem,” in Getting and Spending: European and American Consumer Societies in the Twentieth Century, ed. Susan Strasser, Charles McGovern, and Matthias Judt (Cambridge/New York/Oakleigh: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 59–83. 36 “Was ist Normung,” Für Haushalt und Heim 4, no. 1 (1932): 3. On standardization and the modern home: Mikael Hård, “The Good Apartment. The Social (Democratic) Construction of Swedish Homes,” Home Cultures 7, no. 2 (2010). 37 “Das Sofa für die Kleinwohnung,” Für Haushalt und Heim 4, no. 7 (1932): 3. 38 See, for example, the comic-strip “Die zwei Hexenmeister,” Für Haushalt und Heim 4, no. 3 (1933): 2. 39 Andrea Ellmeier, “Handel mit der Zukunft. Zur Geschlechterpolitik der Konsumgenossenschaften,” L’Homme. Zeitschrift für feministische Geschichtswissenschaft 6, no. 1 (1995): 62–77. 40 “Bilder sprechen,” Für Haushalt und Heim 6, no. 1 (1934). 41 Engelbert Dollfuß and Edmund Weber, Dollfuß an Oesterreich: eines Mannes Wort und Ziel (Vienna: Reinhold, 1935), 32. I use the English translation from an otherwise rather dubious forum entry: http://www.theapricity.com/forum/showthread. php?150805-Engelbert-Dollfuss-Austrian-Patriot (May 10, 2015). 42 There is a long and ongoing scholarly discussion about the fascist character of the regime. For an overview, see Florian Wenninger and Lucile Dreidemy, eds., Das Dollfuß-Schuschnigg-Regime 1933–1938. Vermessung eines Forschungsfeldes (Vienna: Böhlau, 2013); Irene Reiter-Zatloukal, Christiane Rothländer, and Pia Schölnberger, eds., Österreich 1933–1938. Interdisziplinäre Annäherungen an das DollfußSchuschnigg-Regime (Vienna: Böhlau, 2012). For the political history of consumption the corporatist aspect of the regime’s ideology is key. 43 Hartmut Berghoff, “Consumption Politics and Politicized Consumption: Monarchy, Republic, and Dictatorship in Germany, 1900–1939,” in Decoding Modern Consumer Societies, ed. Hartmut Berghoff and Uwe Spiekermann (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 139–143.

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44 For the following, see Oliver Kühschelm, “Automobilisierung auf Österreichisch. Zwei Anläufe einer Nationalisierung von Kleinwagen,” in Konsum und Nation. Zur Geschichte nationalisierender Inszenierungen in der Produktkommunikation, ed. Oliver Kühschelm, Franz X. Eder, and Hannes Siegrist (Bielefeld: transcript, 2012), 163–194. 45 Gerhard Senft, “Economic Development and Economic Policies in the Ständestaat Era,” in The Dollfuss/Schuschnigg Era in Austria: a Reassessment, ed. Günter Bischof, Anton Pelinka, and Alexander Lassner (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2003), 32–55. 46 “Die Wirtschaft Österreichs von 1918 bis 1938,” Monatsberichte des Österreichischen Institutes für Konjunkturforschung no. 1–2 (1945): 32–39, especially 37. 47 Wirtschaftsstatistisches Jahrbuch, ed. Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte in Wien, 11 (1936), 102 (table 36). 48 MAK, Joseph Binder estate, KI 14145-1233-23-1 and 2. I thank Peter Klinger for pointing me to these photographs. The online database attributes them to Julius Klinger, another renowned graphic designer who supposedly sent it to his colleague Binder. Klinger’s name indeed figures on the back of the envelope that contains the two photographs. But the name is only the first item of what seems to be a list of materials and there is no inscription on the back of the photos. Therefore, the attribution, while it would make the artifacts more interesting still, cannot be conclusively established. 49 Schober, “Binder,” 92–96. 50 I thank Elana Shapira for her observations on the poster. 51 See Stefan Schwarzkopf and Rainer Gries, eds., Ernest Dichter and Motivation Research: New Perspectives on the Making of Post-War Consumer Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Vance Packard’s bestseller The Hidden Persuaders (1957) made Dichter a marketing celebrity. 52 Christian Fleck, Etablierung in der Fremde. Vertriebene Wissenschaftler in den USA nach 1933 (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2015), 333–354. 53 Ibid., 361–365. 54 Adelheid von Saldern, “Transatlantische Konsumleitbilder und Übersetzungspraktiken 1900–1945,” in Die Konsumgesellschaft in Deutschland, 1890–1990: ein Handbuch, ed. Haupt and Torp, 390–402. 55 Claire Colomb, Staging the New Berlin: Place Marketing and the Politics of Urban Reinvention post-1989 (London/New York: Routledge, 2012), 46; Saldern, “Konsumleitbilder,” 397. 56 Joseph Binder, Letter, n.d. MAK, Joseph Binder estate, KI 14145-1235/c. 57 Joseph Binder, Letter to Carla Binder, August 9, 1933. MAK, Joseph Binder estate, KI 14145-1235z. 58 Stefan Schwarzkopf makes this argument for the British case: “A Radical Past? The Politics of Market Research in Britain, 1900–1950,” in The Voice of the Citizen Consumer: A History of Market Research, Consumer Movements, and the Political Public Sphere, ed. Kerstin Brückweh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 29–50.


Shaping the Mass Mind: Frederick Kiesler and the Psychology of Selling Barnaby Haran

Frederick Kiesler’s 1930 book Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and Its Display (Figure 3.1), published in New York by Brentano’s, is one of the strangest artifacts from the great period of experimentation in the interwar years, being equally a howto guide for window display designers, a survey of modernist design, a treatise on consumer spending, and an analysis of the dynamics of multidimensional spatiality. Reflecting Kiesler’s passage from the Viennese avant-garde to an uncertain career as a jobbing designer in New York from 1926, the book melds the author’s utopian design principles with the practical expediencies of fitting department store windows in Manhattan, foregrounding his own recent Saks Fifth Avenue displays (Figure 3.2), wherein he placed goods against a simple alternating geometric and curvilinear backdrop (which I have discussed in depth elsewhere).1 Uniting the International Constructivist polemics of his De Stijl “Tensionist Manifesto” (which he reprinted in the book) with the boosterist savvy of a New York adman, Kiesler ventured far beyond the nominal task of chronicling modern window display trends by proposing “a giant laboratory serving entire retaildom” and crystalline glass-fronted department stores and by imagining such exotic yet prescient devices as television screens, electrical lighting experiments with the so-called “aura frames,” and “sales robots.”2 Furthermore, while not quite systematic in his rhetoric, Kiesler demonstrated an acute, if intuitive, grasp of marketing techniques in his ruminations on engaging customers through what he called “the ideology of the show window,” advising designers: “You must create demand. You must stimulate desire. That is why show windows, institutional propaganda, and advertising were created and why their importance is continually increasing.”3 In this chapter I examine Kiesler’s thoughts on marketing, considering how his espousal of techniques to generate sales brought him within the context of the emergent practice of public relations by comparing his ideas with those of a fellow Austrian in New York, the commercial propaganda pioneer Edward Bernays. While Kiesler and Bernays both participated in a discourse on shaping the mass mind, I do not claim that the former was a “hidden persuader” of the latter’s stripe. Throughout his career Kiesler consistently aimed to ameliorate the interrelations of citizens, whereas Bernays’s


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 3.1  Frederick Kiesler, Cover of Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and its Display, New York: Brentano’s, 1930. © 2016 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna.

infamous PR campaigns, such as the cigarette-suffragette antics of the “Torches of Freedom” march in New York, were orchestrated solely to shift units. Rather, I situate Kiesler as an innovative avant-garde designer whose theoretical insights into sales techniques reflect intelligent and expedient adjustments to shifting professional circumstances, geographical locations, audiences, and socioeconomic contexts. In this

Shaping the Mass Mind


Figure 3.2  Frederick Kiesler, Shop window display, Saks Fifth Avenue, New York, 1928. © 2016 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna.

regard, Bernays’s more purposeful exploitation of the mass mind therefore serves as a thematic foil to qualify the social dimension of Kiesler’s department store polemics— as a means of gauging the character and extent of his sales patter in order to ascertain the degrees of consistency and disparity of the “psychology of selling” with his overall project. Laura McGuire reasonably argues that Kiesler’s Saks windows involved the pragmatic “capitulation” of an impoverished avant-garde visionary to commercialism.4 I would also suggest that he used these opportunities advantageously to expand


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

his understanding on the spatial interactions of humans and objects and the social relations of design. Kiesler’s emergence as a polymath designer and a leading figure of the Viennese avant-garde in the early 1920s certainly did not indicate a future career as a retail proselytizer. Born in 1890 in Cernowitz, an outer reach of the Habsburg Empire that now belongs to Ukraine, Kiesler studied in Vienna at the Institute of Technology and the Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1910s. His mechanical stage designs for Karel Čapek’s RUR at the Berlin Theater am Kurfürstendamm in 1923 established a reputation for technical and formal innovation that crystallized the following year when he curated the Internationale Ausstellung neuer Theatertechnik (International Exhibition of New Theater Techniques) in Vienna, which boasted his geometric “L and T” (Leger und Träger, or “layer and beam”) display system. An orthogonal assemblage of exhibition panels, the L and T system was a device that took objects off walls and plinths into central exhibition space, augmenting the viewer’s affective engagement with the works. The exhibition also included his spiraling “Space Stage,” which eschewed proscenium and illusionary settings—a circular, centrally located construction that enabled the audience to experience multiple perspectives on a proximate rather than “peepshow” performance. Kiesler proposed “open stage” performances predicated upon “the systematic cooperation of man and object” to construct “the sound body of a new society.”5 His “City of Space” model of the same year, a template for a suspended metropolis made of adaptable parts, witnessed a growing affinity with the ideas of Theo van Doesburg, the founder of De Stijl, who had organized the 1922 Congress of International Progressive Artists and the Constructivist Congress, the events that instigated the alliances of “International Constructivism,” and who liaised with Kiesler after witnessing a performance of RUR. Kiesler’s theory of Tensionism, which first appeared in manifesto form in De Stijl in April 1925, provided the conceptual underpinning of the “City in Space” as “a system of spans (tension) in free SPACE” to suit modern “elasticity of living,” corresponding with van Doesburg’s principles of equilibrium and mutability in design and society.6 Jane Heap, editor of the New York avant-garde journal The Little Review, which was largely responsible for introducing De Stijl to an American audience through publishing van Doesburg’s writings in her magazine and exhibiting his work at the Little Review Gallery, admired Kiesler’s designs and curatorial management of the Austrian section at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, and encouraged him to travel to the United States. Arriving in New York in 1926 at Heap’s behest to collaborate on the International Theatre Exposition, an expanded version of the 1924 theater show, Kiesler began a patchy career phase of partial successes and unrealized plans. By 1928 he was sufficiently penurious to endure eviction from his lodgings, but rescue came in the form of a commission from Saks Fifth Avenue to produce window displays for its flagship store on Fifth Avenue and 49th Street in Manhattan. Applying the L and T system to the Saks displays, Kiesler recalled how he “simply took out all the side walls which separated the fourteen windows and created a free rhythmic background throughout the entire window space. Each window seemed to continue into the next. Expansion was the basis of the rhythmic effect and continuity.”7 An account in

Shaping the Mass Mind


Women’s Wear Daily detailed the performative aspect of his displays, stating that “the backgrounds seem to possess something of a stage property quality.”8 In conceiving a kinetic, interactive window in Contemporary Art, Kiesler invoked the theatrical avantgarde and made special reference to Constructivism, demonstrating his adaptation of vanguard theoretical principles to a commercial setting: “The direct contact between such a display stage and the passerby has been anticipated by the newest stage direction where the contact between actor and audience is sought” (Meierhold, Tairoff, Reinhardt’s “The Miracle”—the “Endless Theatre”).9 The Women’s Wear Daily notice also cited the windows’ modernity: “Here a suggestion of a cylinder, there a glint of brass or the spectacle of a mirror, and again the dull reflection of iron are expressive of the industrial age.”10 This effective system was modern, versatile, and inexpensive, which perhaps explains why Saks retained this provisional display for nine years. The Saks window displays were successful enough to warrant Brentano’s to commission a pamphlet entitled “The Modern Show Window and Store Front,” which Kiesler expanded, with assistance from Frank Jellinek and Alfred Auerbach, into Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and its Display in 1930. If the Saks windows represented Kiesler’s sophisticated introduction of modernist (specifically Tensionist) forms into an American commercial environment, then Kiesler’s book presents the modern display designer in the department store as a harbinger of new standards of taste, ideally placed to influence the aesthetic sensibilities of an eager, ingénue American audience. He hailed the department store as “the true introducer of modernism to the public at large. It revealed contemporary art to American commerce.”11 Fittingly, his account situated the European avant-garde émigré as the trendsetter of American modernism whereby “the department store acted as the interpreter for the populace of a new spirit in art.”12 Citing the seminal role of his own Saks windows, Kiesler explained how: in 1928 a new era began in American retail and manufacturing life. The modern art of the Old World started to take possession of the New World. American business discovered in it an art not only new in itself, but also new in its application as an immense selling force. Characteristically, America used it first for one great purpose: increased prosperity through increased sales.13

Besides Kiesler’s significant personal role, this Americanization of modernism in the department store—streamlining creative innovation toward maximizing profit—was the latest development in a decades-long process of integrating artworks with goods in a commercial setting. As Neil Harris has demonstrated, the foundational New York department stores, such as Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, B. Altman, and Wanamaker’s, of the late nineteenth century capitalized on the public enthusiasm for perusing novelties at events such as the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, drawing from such culture and trade fairs that “were mass encounters with the art and objects of the modern world, dramatic, persuasive, self-consciously designed to produce a maximum effect, and having as much influence upon the knowledge and taste of the American public as all the art museums put together.”14 In the mid-1920s, an “art-in-industry” movement developed in the American department store through the hiring of modernists such as Kiesler, Louis Lozowick, and Georgia O’Keeffe to


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

create displays, and through exhibitions of modern art and design, most notably the 1927 “Art in Trade” show at Macy’s. Lozowick’s 1926 Lord and Taylor fashion catwalk and window displays predated Kiesler’s Saks commission in applying Constructivist stylistic characteristics in a New York department store. Furthermore, the MachineAge Exposition, an event of May 1927 that Heap organized subsequent to her parting company with Kiesler, amalgamated machine art with actual machines (such as machine guns and airplane propellers) according to a Constructivist-inspired rubric of “architecture, engineering, and the industrial arts,” as the legend on a poster for the show featuring an axonometric El Lissitzky-esque design by Lozowick stated. Kiesler’s Saks windows and Contemporary Art book were therefore important contributions to an extant trend rather than catalysts. For Kiesler, the store designer was “impressario of the store,” directing a performative encounter between the display and the passersby, aligning the affective transformations of Constructivist theater productions with the department store balance sheet.15 He dubbed the display designer the “modern Cagliostro,” in reference to the eighteenthcentury occultist, magician, and Freemason. Unlike this notorious spy and trickster who traded in illusion, Kiesler’s “modern Cagliostro” was benign, a marketing magus who charmed passersby into becoming customers through arresting arrangements of stock. Another candidate for the title of “modern Cagliostro” was the public relations expert, whose principal figure was Bernays, the pioneering “father of spin” and a fellow Austrian émigré in New York, who was famously Sigmund Freud’s nephew. The Vienna-born Bernays (whose parents emigrated to the United States in 1892 when he was an infant) was, alongside his main occupation as a highly successful publicist, a theorist on the psychology of consumer spending habits and, more broadly, mass behavior. As Valentina Sonzogni points out in a recent article on parallels between the practices and theories of Kiesler, Bernays, and Victor Gruen, the pioneer of the shopping mall, many commonalities are evident in the theme of the psychology of selling in Kiesler’s Contemporary Art and Bernays’s 1928 book Propaganda.16 Sonzogni shows too Kiesler and Bernays may have been socially acquainted in the 1940s.17 If Kiesler found that “contemporary art reached the masses through the store,”18 then Bernays was the uncredited mastermind of the “art-in-industry” movement, using O’Keeffe’s art as a model for Altman’s window displays, adapting Kees van Dongen’s paintings for Cheney Brothers’s silks, and acting as the publicist for the American commission to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, whose report stimulated Macy’s “Art in Trade” show. Kiesler enthused how “newspapers carried reports. Controversies arose. Wherever a newspaper was opened, in the remotest villages, the syndicated reports of the sensational novelty brought a knowledge of the coming revolution in taste.”19 This was largely Bernays’s doing—a mode of deep publicity as a stimulus for interest in commodities through elevating aesthetic associations combined with media saturation. Bernays’s “art-in-industry” activities were part of a mission to cultivate sales through the creation of events and trends, and the orchestration of their coverage in newspapers and periodicals, for the benefit of the retailers and manufacturers who commissioned his promotional acumen. Kiesler was a participant in this process but, unsurprisingly, the stimulation of sales was not his primary motivation.

Shaping the Mass Mind


From distinctly different perspectives, Kiesler and Bernays reflected on the psychology of selling. In a publicity pamphlet for his book, Kiesler claimed that its major appeal to retailers was “increased sales through methods which exercise calculated psychological effects on customers. It harnesses the principles of psychology to the wheels of industry.”20 In an unpublished transcript, entitled “Putting Merchandise on the Spot,” Kiesler developed this thought: “To make your merchandise appeal, be three men in one: merchandiser, showman, psychologist.” He told designers, “You are forced to do better than any Freudian professor. You test your public without squeezing their past or future out of them. You must know instantaneously. Your instrument is instinct.”21. Peppered throughout his statements and writings, Kiesler’s comments on psychology were sporadic but pertinent. A 1926 New York Times quoted Kiesler discussing a projected “laboratory of modern stage” for a “fourth-dimensional theatre”: “I will build a laboratory of the modern stage and the faculty of this institution will have three chairs—psychological, scientific and artistic,” albeit explaining that “the psychological chair will be filled by the Princess Matchabelli, the scientific chair by Dr. Bess Mensendieck and the artistic and scientific part of the laboratory will be under my direction.”22 The fourth-dimensional theater would harmonize all aspects of the performance and audience experience, removing physical and psychological barriers—likewise the “City of Space” would avoid walls, as these were “armories for body and soul.”23 In Contemporary Art, Kiesler used the term “psycho-function” to explain the psychological effects of design in terms of correlations of mind and body with the subject’s environment.24 As Stephen Phillips and McGuire have shown, Kiesler perhaps derived more inspiration from the writings of the American philosopher William James than from Freud, especially in relation to the disruption of habits of spatial experience.25 McGuire points out that Kiesler was probably familiar with Freud’s writings, and invoked terms in his article on the 1933 “Space House” from the 1920 essay “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” such as “anabolic” and “catabolic,” but “whether [he] was actually a Freudian, and ascribed a psychoanalytical meaning to these terms outside of their normal scientific usage is an open question,” noting wryly that “Kiesler never mentions any of Freud’s ideas in any identifiable way. This, however, was not unusual, in that Kiesler rarely attributed his thinking to any sources other than himself.”26 If Kiesler’s psychology of selling loosely invoked Freud’s ideas, then surprisingly Bernays’s writings made only cursory references to his uncle’s ideas, despite the familial connection and his overseeing of the American dissemination of the Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis in 1919. In Propaganda, Bernays wrote: “Human desires are the steam which makes the social machine work. Only by understanding them can the propagandist control that vast, loose-jointed mechanism which is modern society.”27 However, his purpose was not explicitly the control of the Freudian unconscious, a literal application charged by Adam Curtis in the documentary series The Century of the Self, but a tactical maneuvering of the mass mind.28 Bernays was more technical than theoretical, and his writings consist largely of anecdotes about successful campaigns and recommendations about influencing the masses. His principal sources were studies of the crowd, such as Gustav Le Bon’s nineteenth-century treatises, William Trotter’s 1916 Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, and, in particular, Walter Lippmann’s


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Public Opinion of 1921. Lippmann argued that the habits, tastes, and, ultimately, identities of modern citizens derive from “stereotypes,” set dispositions based on hardwired preconceptions, stating, “We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them.”29 Accessing the stereotypes of the masses enables the swaying of public opinion—Lippmann cited the case of German propagandists exploiting domestic religious tensions in 1914 by manufacturing rumors about Catholic priests encouraging Belgian snipers.30 Bernays’s 1923 book, Crystallizing Public Opinion, explored how the public relations counsel should apply the manipulation of public opinion to the marketplace to “create those symbols to which the public is ready to respond [and] find those stereotypes, individual and community, which will bring favorable responses [as] the appeal to the instincts and the universal desires is the basic method through which he produces his results.”31 Kiesler and Bernays shared a preoccupation with the habits of consumers. Kiesler located the spending patterns of consumers in habitual behavior: “What makes people purchase? Real and artificially stimulated needs. Usually artificial needs become genuine needs. Habit asserts itself and makes them vital … artificial needs create civilization. And here are lying the biggest possibilities of creating demand by manufacturers and retailers.”32 At one level, he echoed Bernays, who opened Propaganda with the notorious statement that “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.”33 Deriving his formulations from Lippmann, Bernays saw habits as indicators of the uniform behavior of a mass in which the individual “must yield to group needs. This sacrifice of freedom on the part of individuals in the groups leads its members to resist all efforts at fundamental changes in the group code.”34 Lippmann had noted that the modern mass was fearful of unfamiliarity: “They mark out certain objects as familiar or strange, emphasizing the difference, so that the slightly familiar is seen as very familiar, and the somewhat strange as sharply alien.”35 But a habitual impulse toward conformity governed the need for endless conspicuous consumption, and thus simultaneous hunger for novelties and fear of unfamiliarity made the mass, for Bernays, amenable to coercion through media manipulation. Kiesler, conversely, aimed to jolt habitual behavior through affective stimulus rather than sway, and broadly invoked the techniques of defamiliarization and dehabituation, intrinsic to the formalist agenda of Soviet Constructivists such as Osip Brik and Vsevolod Meyerhold, but also William James’s less-combative philosophical meditations on the multiplicitous character of habits. As Phillips notes, “Kiesler attempted in his laboratory to extend James’s theories to the plastic arts by developing flexible systems that continuously supported and encouraged multiple changing habits.”36 While for Bernays, “Psychological habits … are shorthand by which human effort is minimized,” Kiesler’s seemingly similar advice—“Spare the customer any effort. She is often very busy, tired, and undecided”— was more generous and reciprocal and less concerned with exploiting habits than their rejuvenation and realignment.37 In Propaganda, Bernays asked, “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it?.”38 Bernays answer was to target the mass through a total media assault through what he termed “the mirrors of the public minds—

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newspapers, advertising, motion pictures, and radio.”39 For example, when approached by American velvet manufacturers, Bernays fabricated a fashion for the material in Parisian couture, and then directed the American press toward this apparently spontaneous development. As he recalled in Propaganda: The editors of the American magazines and fashion reporters of the American newspapers, like-wise subjected to the actual (although created) circumstance, reflected it in their news, which, in turn, subjected the buyer and the consumer here to the same influences. The result was that what was at first a trickle of velvet became a flood.40

In this regard, Bernays’s total media strategy was ironically closer than the vanguardist Kiesler to the mass engagement of Productivism, the Soviet branch of Constructivism that reconfigured artists as factory producers publicizing the revolution through the dissemination of posters. If his agenda involved maximizing the mass reception of the message, then, by contrast, Kiesler’s invocation of the masses was more nuanced. Kiesler’s assessment that “the expression of America is the mass, and the expression of the masses, the machine” certainly chimed with the Americanist rubric of Constructivism, which pitted American technological futurity against old-world whimsy and traditionalism.41 Soviet Constructivists conceived the “mass-machine” matrix as “the Communist expression of material constructions,” namely the technological mentality needed to construct Communism from the ruins of Tsarism.42 The chief American forum for the “mass-machine” discourse was New Masses, a communist-oriented magazine that championed Soviet Constructivism. New Masses editor Michael Gold lauded Meyerhold’s theatrical Constructivism as “a technique for capturing the swift powerful movement of the Machine Age”; and his colleague in the political theatrical group the New Playwrights Theatre, Em Jo Basshe, stated: “There is a union of dictatorship today: the Mass and the Machine. They go hand in hand.”43 Kiesler seemingly had no involvement with the New Masses crowd outside of a notice about his 1929 Film Guild Cinema, which included a furious attack on Hollywood by Theodore Dreiser in favor of Soviet films.44 With its multidimensional screenoscope— an optimistic device to show films on the ceiling and walls as well as the screen—the cinema was the venue for the American screening of Dziga Vertov’s Constructivist masterpiece The Man with a Movie Camera. Yet, despite these anecdotal links, Kiesler had no truck with New Masses’s revolutionary appeal to the masses. While in 1930 the Austrian émigré designer Paul Frankl praised “the newcomer Frederick Kiesler, a fiery and revolutionary genius from Vienna,” it is clear that his engagement with political revolution was negligible.45 Having had minimal involvement in the socialist housing projects of “Red Vienna” before emigrating, Kiesler was not discernibly sympathetic to leftism in Europe or America, but maintained throughout his career a fundamental belief in the transformative capabilities of design by enhancing social relations in a total reform of spatial experience. Kiesler was more generically liberal than leftist, unlike most Constructivists or his cultural contemporaries in Red Vienna, and had few affinities with the agendas of American radical cultural groups. The following note for display designers shows him to be more canny than ideological:


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

“Too much may reap for you the name of a radical. Radicals are not liked by the public. (They disturb the nap of the standardized mind).”46 When Kiesler invoked the mass-machine matrix, he echoed Heap’s tributes to the engineer as a modern creative paradigm rather than leftist espousals of Americanism. In “Machine-Age Exposition,” Heap proclaimed “a great new race of me in America: the Engineer,” who “has created a new mechanical world,” corresponding with the “Engineerism” of Constructivists such as M. Lavinsky’s statement that “the artist-engineer creates objects at a tempo a million times more intensive, and so justifies his mission to bring about tomorrow’s progress,” but crucially subtracting revolutionary contingency for a spiritual and aesthetic rationale.47 Kiesler’s comments about the mass-machine belonged to a design discourse that mixed myth with pragmatism as a means of promoting modernist forms, materials, and manufacture, evident in Frankl’s observation that “contemporary expression in decorative arts is the logical and necessary outcome of a new spirit manifest in every phase of American life … this spirit finds expression in skyscrapers, motor-cars, airplanes, in new ocean liners, in department stores and great industrial plants.”48 Albeit concerned with the practical role of mechanical production in creating new materials for designs, Kiesler’s mass-machine model had a pronounced social dimension. Tensionism, his International Constructivist and specifically De Stijl concept, proposed the equality and harmony of elements in design and society, through the negation of static constructions, in particular walls, in favor of the mutable and interactive “organic” architecture for the “creation of new kinds of living, and, through them, the demands which will remould society.”49 Kiesler’s version of the American mass-machine involved a formula for the display designer to apply to actual relationships with individual passersby in real time and space, rather than collectively via mass media. While Kiesler and Bernays both emphasized mass engagement, they occupied differing positions about the importance of the individual. Bernays saw the individual as “a cell in the social organism” that was suggestible to propaganda through targeted campaigns: “Touch a nerve and at a specific spot and you get an automatic response from certain specific members of the organism.”50 For Kiesler, the opposite stood: mass engagement consisted of multiplied individual encounters. In the May 1932 issue of Buckminster Fuller’s Shelter, Kiesler detailed plans for a “Space Theatre” in Woodstock, writing that “the public is not to be received as a unit mass but as a changing flux of independent groups.”51 The individual was neither a sole entity nor a herd member, but a point in a relational axis. In defining the 1933 “Space House,” constructed for the Modernage Furniture Company showroom in New York, he wrote: “The house must act as a generator for the individual. His generated forces are to be discharged to the outer world. The outer world: his own family or any outer group.”52 The Space House witnessed the fruition of Kiesler’s architectural thesis of a full integration of flexible “segments,” according to a tripartite principle of “social” (more relational than societal), “tectonic” (spatial arrangements), and “structural” (structures and materials) factors in balance.53 The sociality of the “Space House” was complex. Kiesler prioritized this prototype over the mass dwellings of Functionalist Siedlungen: “The detached one-family house remains a necessity in spite of apartment houses and collective living in workers units.”54 Yet, it differed from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City federalist automobile-oriented

Shaping the Mass Mind


quilt of monad family dwellings because Kiesler located the individual in variations of intersubjective relationships and habitation patterns in a flexible space that facilitated solitary privacy or communal interaction—“indoor and outdoor living, individually and as groups.”55 The Space House featured “Work and Play” murals (Figure 3.3) that emphasized the construction’s status as a domestic node in a societal network. Intriguingly, the

Figure 3.3  Frederick Kiesler, The Space House exhibit, interior with Work and Play mural, New York City, 1933. © 2016 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

work panel was a blown-up photograph of manual laborers that strongly resembles the proletarian aesthetic of the international worker photography movement, in magazines such as the German AIZ or the Soviet Proletarskoe foto. It also recalls the iconography of labor that emerged in the early years of the Depression, such as Lewis Hine’s “human document” of the troubled Empire State Building construction process in Men at Work, and Margaret Bourke-White’s corporate photo-stories of American, German, and Russian industrial scenes in Fortune.56 Contingent to the working world, the Space House was a social domicile for the individual to dispense energies into the community through the building’s mutable tectonics. The encounters of flexible window displays and passersby at Saks and in Contemporary Art were coextensive with this principle. For Kiesler, the department store was a social agent as much as a theater or cinema: “The store’s role is expanding. It is no longer a limited commercial factor in the life of the community. It is beginning to exercise a social and cultural influence. Department stores are rapidly becoming social centers; and there are signs that their cultural force will become stronger.”57 Yet, sales maximization was a secondary function to his principal aim of improving lived experience through ergonomic designs. In an unpublished manuscript entitled “Some Notes on Show Windows,” he discussed the original motivation for store displays: “Stronger reason than mere selling. Entertainment during leisurely walks. Two hours for lunch. Corso. Lounging while lunching. Meeting friends. Terraced boulevard cafes. Walking not motoring; talking not shouting; living not acting.”58 A melancholic, if enigmatic, tone sometimes pervades Kiesler’s writings, in contrast to Bernays’s genial regaling of public relations war stories. In this same note, Kiesler wrote mournfully of a society pummeled by hyperstimulus: Do we have time for show windows? Swarming morning crowds; impetuous lines in lunch rooms. That weary hour before dinner. Our evenings; after the theatre, have you watched the throng moving like a black stream, coherent one to the other? A single mass of emigrants in the land of sorrows and unbeloved labor (habit convicted labor) gazing straight into the million lights of advertising with eyes that no longer react.59

To look into a store window was not sheepish subsumation to the group code or the relinquishing of agency, but an opportunity for a harmonization of elements in a pleasurable encounter. As he put it: “Now you have a purchaser and merchandise. So close and yet so far apart. Why is their union so constrained?.”60 The window display and the individual passerby were points in the human and environmental interchange that he subsequently defined as Correalism, which existed on the apex of technological change and “expresses the dynamics of continual interaction between man and his natural and technological environments.”61 Correalism aimed to enable the individual citizen’s agency in a balanced network of provisional social spaces. Similarly, he advanced “Magic Architecture” as a “generator” for “joyful living” with “sociological roots in a society of free will and sacrifice.”62 After all, Kiesler was, fundamentally, a reformist of social space.

Shaping the Mass Mind


Notes 1 See Barnaby Haran, “Magic Windows: Friedrich Kiesler and Department Store Constructivism”, in John Welchman, ed., Sculpture and the Vitrine (London: Ashgate), 69–94. 2 Frederick Kiesler, Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and Its Display (New York: Brentano’s, 1930), 74, 103, 120. “Plans Laboratory of Modern Stage”, New York Times, 15 March 1926, 19. 3 Ibid, 69, 79. 4 Laura McGuire, “Space within—Frederick Kiesler and the Architecture of an Idea”, PhD Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 2014, 133. 5 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 48. 6 Frederick Kiesler, “The City in Space”, Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna, 1925, n.p. 7 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 108. 8 “New Saks Fifth Avenue Window Sets Reflect Ultra in Display Background”, Women’s Wear Daily, 24 March 24, 1928, Lillian and Frederick Kiesler Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, n.p. 9 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 110. 10 “New Saks”, n.p. 11 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 66. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid. 14 Neil Harris, “Museums, Merchandising, and Popular Taste: the Struggle for Influence”, in Ian M. G. Quimby, ed., Material Culture and the Study of American Life (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1978), 140–174. 15 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 72. 16 Valentina Sonzogni, “Sconfinamenti. Dall’alloggio Sociale al Centro Commerciale, Dalla Psicoanalisi Alle Pubbliche Relazioni, Dalle Belle Arti Alle Vetrine Commerciali”, Bloom, 20 (January–March 2014), 12. 17 Ibid. 18 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 66. 19 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 67. 20 Frederick Kiesler, The Modern Show Window and Store Front (New York: Brentano’s, 1929), n.p. 21 Frederick Kiesler, “Putting Merchandise on the Spot”, undated manuscript Austian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna, 2. 22 “Plans Laboratory of Modern Stage”, New York Times (15 March 1926), 19. 23 Kiesler, “City in Space”, n.p. 24 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 87. 25 Stephen Phillips, “Toward a Research Practice: Frederick Kiesler’s Design-Correlation Laboratory”, Grey Room, No. 38 (Winter 2010), 108; McGuire, 229. 26 Frederick Kiesler, “Notes on Architecture: The Space-House”, Hound and Horn (January–March 1934), 292–297; McGuire, 227, 298. 27 Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Horace Liveright Press, 1928), 52. 28 Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self, Episode 2: The Engineering of Consent, television documentary, BBC and Zodiac Media, 21:00, 24 March 2002. 29 Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New York: Harcourt and Brace Co., 1921), 59.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

30 Ibid, 67. 31 Edward Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion (New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1923), 103. 32 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 71. 33 Bernays, Propaganda, 9. 34 Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 100. 35 Lippmann, Public Opinion, 59. 36 Phillips, “Toward a Research Practice”, 108. 37 Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 98; Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 80. 38 Bernays, Propaganda, 47. 39 Bernays, Crystallizing Public Opinion, 96. 40 Bernays, Propaganda, 29. 41 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 67. 42 Alexei Gan, “From Constructivism”, 1922, trans. John Bowlt, in Stephen Bann, ed., The Tradition of Constructivism (New York: Viking Press, 1974), 39. 43 Em Jo Basshe, “Theatre, Mass, and Machine”, Daily Worker (19 March 1927), 6; Michael Gold, “Loud Speaker and Other Essays”, New Masses (March 1927), 5. 44 Theodore Dreiser, “Dreiser on Hollywood”, New Masses (January 1929), 17. 45 Paul Frankl, Form and Re-Form: A Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1930), 15. 46 Kiesler, “Putting Merchandise on the Spot”, 3. 47 Jane Heap, “Machine-Age Exposition”, The Little Review (Spring 1925), 22; M. Lavinsky, “Engineerism (Fragment of a Paper Read at INKhUK)”, 1922, Art into Life: Russian Constructivism, 1914–1932 (Seattle: Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington and New York: Rizzoli, 1990), 80. 48 Frankl, Form and Re-Form, 3. 49 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 48. 50 Bernays, Propaganda, 28. 51 Frederick Kiesler, “A Festival Shelter: The Space Theatre for Woodstock, N.Y.”, Shelter (May 1932), 42. 52 Kiesler, “The Space-House”, 294. 53 Ibid. 54 Ibid, 293. 55 Ibid, 294. 56 Margaret Bourke-White, “Soviet Panorama”, Fortune (February 1931), 60–63; Lewis Hine, Men at Work: Photographic Studies of Modern Men and Machines (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1932). 57 Kiesler, Contemporary Art, 75. 58 Frederick Kiesler, “Some Notes on Show Windows”, unpublished manuscript, Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna, n.d., 4. 59 Ibid, 4. 60 Ibid, 1. 61 Frederick Kiesler, “On Correalism and Biotechnique: A Definition and Test of a New Approach to Building Design”, Architectural Record (September 1939), 61. 62 Frederick Kiesler, “Magic Architecture”, unpublished manuscript, 1936, in Siegfried Gohr and Gunda Luyken, eds., Frederick Kiesler, Selected Writings (Stuttgart: Verlag Gerd Hatje, 1996), 34.

Part Two

Assimilation, Emancipation, and Modern Pluralism


Becoming American: Paul T. Frankl’s Passage to a New Design Aesthetic Christopher Long

In his book Autobiography, written in the early 1950s, Paul T. Frankl records his first impressions of the United States, where he arrived in the spring of 1914, on his way to observe the preparations for the forthcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco: “And here I was, gazing at ‘America the beautiful,’ the new world— eager to see what place architecture retained in a young country, not hemmed in with traditions, not crammed full of monuments and palaces that belonged to another age.”1 But after finding no one he met interested in “contemporary architecture,” Frankl’s giddy admiration soon grew into disillusionment: My visits to the States had been all I could have wished for and a great deal more. My eyes had beheld the beauty that was America. I saw much and learned even more, but my search for new expressions in architecture was in vain. Instead I discovered the greatest country in the world, unaware of its greatness, copying the meaningless outworn forms of architecture of bygone days and bygone countries, a giant, slumbering, waiting to be awakened to the lead the world.2

Although Frankl never explicitly states it in his book, by the time he sat down to write it nearly four decades later, he viewed himself as one of a handful of designers who had been charged with the special mission of rousing the sleeping nation, aiding it to secure its proper place in the modern world. In the process, Frankl, like so many other émigré designers of those years, would discover in himself—or, better, invent—his own Americanness, his own expressive power as a designer. The exact issue, though, is not that Frankl achieved the formation of a new aesthetic and a new identity, for that is manifest and given in his life’s story. It is, rather, as the art historian Wanda Corn wrote describing Barbara Novak’s thesis in her book American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism, and the American Experience: “Not of matter of what is American in American art, but how it is American.”3 Or, to put it slightly otherwise: what is compelling and important about reexamining Frankl’s work and career is that it allows us to chart precisely his march toward a novel way of conceiving design, and


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

how he sought to match it with his surroundings, first in New York and, later, in Los Angeles. It is not that his process was unique, but that it was, at least for the sizeable group of Central European architects and designers who arrived in America roughly in the period from 1910 to 1940 (from the Austrians R. M. Schindler and Richard Neutra to the Germans Lucian Bernhard and Kem Weber), so very typical. In Frankl’s story, ignoring some of the peculiarities of his own work, what we have is a representative tale of the ways in which “modern” and “American” were assembled together, and how “modern American design” came to be formed and accepted. That so many of the makers of the new American style were not American at all but became so is central to the history of the period. The “how” remains paramount, for it is reflective of the broader trend toward a distinctive American expression. Frankl’s efforts, his long and persistent quest for Americanness, reveals much about how the new aesthetic was conceived and forged. After his first sojourn in the United States in the spring and early summer of 1914, Frankl arrived back in San Francisco in late August aboard the steamship Korea, after the long passage from Yokohama, Japan.4 At the time, he was still a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (technically, because his father had been born in Pressburg, now Bratislava, Slovakia, then part of the kingdom of Hungary, he was Hungarian). His hasty departure from Japan had come in response to the outbreak of the First World War in Europe. After leaving San Francisco, he had been on an around-theworld trip, touring Kyoto. Uncertain of what to do in response to the eruption of the war and unable to return to Austria, he decided to seek refuge in the United States. After considering his options, he elected to wait out the war in New York.5 Frankl’s journey to Americanness—his full embrace of American culture and, eventually, his role in fabricating an American modernism—however would not commence fully for nearly another decade. When he first set foot in New York, his immediate mission was to attain self-sufficiency. He quickly secured a job designing advertisements for the International Art Service, a firm operated by several other recent arrivals from Central Europe.6 Although the firm worked exclusively with American clients, its designs drew from the latest techniques in the field, developed over the previous decade in Austria and Germany: the language of the late Jugendstil, with its reliance on flattened imagery, color blocking, and geometric patterning. Frankl might readily have been producing almost identical work had he remained in Berlin, where he had completed his architectural studies and had first worked; his early design efforts showed barely a hint of his new location. When it became apparent that the war would not end quickly and that Frankl would have to remain in New York, he decided to establish his own design studio. He signed a lease for a space in the newly completed Architects Building on Park Avenue and began advertising his services as a designer of modern interiors. But what Frankl proffered his clients for the next two years was little more than the dominant reform aesthetic of Berlin and Vienna on the eve of the war: a revived classicism—the neo-Biedermeier— infused with the elements of the Jugendstil, especially its Viennese variant. His largest commission of this time, the design for the Stoehr Apartment on Park Avenue, completed in 1916, is characteristic of these efforts (Figure 4.1). The spaces, which were later extensively documented in the Central European design journals Die bildenden

Becoming American

Figure 4.1  Paul T. Frankl, Stoehr Apartment, New York, 1916; conservatory. Photo: Collection Paulette Frankl.



Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Künste and Innen-Dekoration, show his continuing fealty to modern Austrian and German design, as it was then understood.7 Evident in them are his borrowings from the Biedermeier and his direct application of Jugendstil motifs—and, even, Viennesemade objects, including a small ceramic sculpture (on the vitrine to the left in the photograph) designed by Michael Powolny, then a central figure in Wiener Werkstätte. Frankl carried out several other commissions for interiors in this period, including beauty salons for Helene Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, and a large apartment for fashion designer Lady Duff-Gordon (Lucy Christiana, née Sutherland).8 An article by New York designer B. Russell Herts in House and Garden in April 1917 described Frankl as a leader in the trend toward an American modern design aesthetic: “Mr. Paul Frankl, an architect from Germany, is strongly imbued with the continental art of the secession, but his designs are, in a measure, personal, and must therefore become more and more impressed with the growing American spirit.”9 In truth, aside from a few accommodations to American life, such as built-in closets, which were still uncommon in Austria and Germany, there are few suggestions of contemporary American life in his works of those years. Whether Frankl might have gone on to develop a personal style in the modern American spirit, as Herts had suggested, remains an open question because in 1917, with the US entry into the war, he became an enemy alien and was compelled to return to Austria. To judge from his creations of the period, however, an immediate conversion appears to have been unlikely: Frankl was still very much wedded to the language and ideas of the prewar reform movement, and it is likely—in spite of what he later would write, which has an air of inevitability concerning his interests in American design—that he was still considering a return to Europe after the war and building a practice in either Berlin or Vienna. His experiences in war-torn Turkey, where he was assigned as a military advisor in the last year and a half of the war, and in Vienna, to which he returned at war’s end, however, built in him a resolve to return to New York. The sad state of the Austrian economy, devastated by the loss of the war and the dissolution of the empire, had, in particular, much to do with his decision to go back to New York. Frankl, who had remarried after the war (his first wife had died in 1918), was determined to start a new life and rethink his ideas about the new design. But when he arrived back in the city in 1920, his efforts to rebuild his practice proved more daunting than he expected. The fortunes of modernism in the country were at low ebb then, as Americans turned back to historic revivalism. And Frankl himself initially showed no particular interest in devising a distinctly American aesthetic, whether modern or not. For the first several years after coming back, he sold European imports— mostly handcrafted items and folk art—from his new store on East 48th Street. He had no desire to repeat the disastrous experiment of his friend Joseph Urban, who established a branch of the Wiener Werkstätte on lower Fifth Avenue and nearly went bankrupt after it became all too apparent that Americans found little appeal in modern Viennese design.10 Frankl and his wife Isa made annual buying trips to Europe, importing large quantities of ceramics, textiles, and other goods. These provided him with a steady income, and, though at times he was frustrated by the lack of opportunity to design and sell modern pieces, he was also wary of going against public taste (Figure 4.2).

Becoming American


Figure 4.2  Paul T. Frankl, Sketch for a skyscraper design, c. 1925. Pencil on paper, 6 ½ x 4 ½ in. (16. 8 × 12 cm). Collection Paulette Frankl.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

It was only in 1924 that Frankl first began pursuing the idea of an American design aesthetic. This came, as Frankl’s ideas so often would, out of his response to a simple problem. He had acquired a summer place, a small cabin in Bearsville, near Woodstock, New York, and needed some furnishings. He bought a few pieces—“early American,” or simple eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century vernacular furnishings of that sort that had filled the local farmhouses—in local junk stores. It struck him that such designs might be salable in his shop, and, more, that they represented something indigenous, a look that was distinctly American (though, in truth, many of the forms came more or less directly from the English vernacular). After returning to New York in the early fall, he designed a collection of pieces—chairs, beds, tables, beds, and dressers—based on those he had purchased, though modified and made more plain, and had them made by a local cabinetmaker. He called the new line “Peasant Furniture,” a label he thought would be in line with the other folk-inspired articles he was already selling in the shop. The designs were direct and straightforward—in some measure, thus, they were already modern— but they wanted for a more pronounced linkage to American realities and outlooks.11 Frankl recognized the problem. He had for more than a year by then been speaking out for the need for developing a modern American aesthetic—even taking his crusade on the road by giving public talks in various cities in the East and Midwest.12 But he was himself unsure of what that new aesthetic might consist of. His epiphany came the following summer while staying at the cabin in Bearsville—in a natural and unforced way, as he later wrote in his book Autobiography: I had an assemblage of books littered all over the house, amongst them profusely illustrated architectural tomes, large in format, some coverless, awkward to handle, impossible to fit into any existing space. To straighten things out and bring order to chaos, I went after some boards and with a saw set to work fitting the case to the books, since the books would not fit a case… The result was a corner bookcase with a rather large, bulky lower section, and a slender, shallow upper part going straight to the ceiling. It was a natural—the top of the lower part formed a table to hold a lamp, flowers, magazines, and the like. It had a new look: the neighbors came and said: “It looks just like the new skyscrapers.”13

That autumn, after returning to New York, Frankl began designing all kinds of “Skyscraper Furniture” (as he came to call his new line): corner towers, bookcase and desk combinations, desks, and chairs. Many were custom designs, bespoke products for his well-to-do clientele. Their appeal lay very precisely in their direct association with the city’s great towers and, more especially, with the fact that the skyscraper as a building form was intrinsically American, a forceful visual representation of the country’s exceptionalism. Yet even more, the new skyscraper look had come to Frankl without deep reflection, arising out of the most basic necessity. Writing about his discovery, he observed: The design not even put to paper with a pencil was developed solely from the need it filled—call it functional if you must—its appeal, its utilitarian purpose, like water flowing into crevice and crannies to find its own level. The impact, like its

Becoming American


big brother, the setback skyscraper, a typical expression of ourselves and our time. Unknowingly, almost effortlessly, I had accomplished what I had been striving for, expressing the creative spirit of the time that had prompted it.14

The whole thing for Frankl was thus intrinsically American because it was so direct and practical. He would continue to produce Skyscraper pieces—in an impressive array of varieties—for the next five years. He would owe a great part of his mounting notoriety to the fact that his designs were readily graspable as distinctively American symbols. Americanness in this first full blush of Frankl’s crusade for modern American design had resulted from a borrowed imagery: the great ziggurat-like skyscrapers of Manhattan, which were already suffused with their own messages about modernity. Frankl’s own personal journey to Americanness, too, came in this period. He had begun the process of acquiring American citizenship upon his arrival from Europe in 1921, and he soon came to see and present himself as American—despite the fact that he retained a noticeable German accent and European manners. More and more often in his writings he also referenced his own strivings to find a new American design language. He became progressively more vocal in his aspirations as the decade wore on, often writing or speaking out on the topic. Between 1927 and 1930, he authored two books, New Dimensions: The Decorative Arts of Today in Words and Pictures and Form and Re-Form: A Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors, a home study course on modern interior design for Arts and Decoration magazine, and some dozen articles in journals and newspapers; and he missed few opportunities to speak to groups of people interested in the new design.15 For the first several years of the 1930s, during the height of the Great Depression, Frankl continued his efforts to formulate a new American aesthetic. But much of what he produced—a tubular steel sofa, various tables of metal and glass, and spun aluminum lamps—differed only in small ways from what was being made in Europe in that period. Frankl was also a leader in AUDAC, the American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen, an organization that had as its expressed aim to further the development of modern American design and manufacture. So many of the members were recent arrivals from Central Europe, however, that they sometimes held their discussion in German rather than in English, and in considerable measure both the tenor of the organization and the works of many of its members were still rooted in European concepts of design and manufacture.16 The decisive shift in Frankl’s efforts in fact did not come until after he moved to Los Angeles in 1934. In his last years in New York, he had barely eked out a living. He had been forced to close his large shop on East 48th Street and move to a smaller space on Madison Avenue. In Los Angeles, with rents far lower, he was able to find a large building on Wilshire Boulevard, on the Miracle Mile, in the heart of the city’s western shopping district, and he set about transforming it into an elegant showroom. One of the featured designs in the new “Frankl Galleries” during his first years was his “Speed chair,” a large, low upholstered lounge chair, with beveled arms inclining downward and rearward, which gave the piece the look of the popular new streamlining. The idea itself was not American per se—its spread had very much to do with Erich Mendelsohn’s designs of the early post–First World War period and the growing field


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

of aerodynamics—but it had by then already become a familiar component of much of American design, dispersed through the works of Norman Bel Geddes, Henry Dreyfuss, Raymond Loewy, and others. Frankl’s own streamlined works drew from what was already becoming an established formal vocabulary, and his contributions were mostly unremarkable. In two instances he did produce startlingly original ideas: his “Propeller chair” of 1937 and his even more extraordinary sweeping woodweave chair created the following year (Figure 4.3), in which he came up with powerful

Figure 4.3  Paul T. Frankl, Woodweave chair, c. 1938. Birch, woven wood panels, and cloth upholstery. Photo: Collection Paulette Frankl.

Becoming American


contributions to the new look; but both were essentially one-offs, with little discernable impact on the wider design scene. Frankl’s signal impact on American modernism came instead in a quieter and less affected fashion, as a steady outcome of his growing understanding of the distinguishing form of American living. It had its basis in a stated casualness, an attempt to move away from rigorously controlled living environments, which were reliant upon symmetry and an architectonically driven placement of furnishings. The ideas came to him only gradually. In his last period in the Madison Avenue shop, he had begun to develop a look that emphasized long, low forms and textured surfaces, the latter often achieved through nubby fabrics and rough wall coverings, such as Japanese grass cloth. It was only after he had spent several years in Los Angeles that he would work out its last components: the use of deliberate asymmetries, an expanding lexicon of other stylistic influences, including traditional Asian and Mexican design, new materials (pony hide and denim, for example), and natural “objects,” including driftwood and plants.17 Frankl’s designs for interiors in the late 1930s and early 1940s embraced the full range of these ideas. They were at once manifestly new, yet somehow familiar—relaxed and “easy,” but also stridently demonstrative of a new vision of elegance. The living room he created for his own house in Coldwater Canyon in Los Angeles, in 1940 (designed with Edward Durrell Stone), presented a luxe version of this concept, sumptuous and materially rich (Figure 4.4).18 What is also evident in the space is his appeal to normal,

Figure 4.4  Paul T. Frankl, Living room, Frankl House, Coldwater Canyon, California, 1940. Photo: Collection Paulette Frankl.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

everyday living, to the possibilities of inhabiting spaces that conformed directly but gently to the needs of their occupants. They never appear “compulsory” in the manner that was so common in the modernist interiors of the time. Each place, each moment is attuned to a quotidian use—and, more especially, to a longing to elevate the moments of daily life. Whether, for example, in the Frankl House living room one occupied the main seating area, with the sofa and coffee table, or worked at the adjacent desk surrounded by a built-in bookcase, the experience Frankl intended to be pleasant and visually attracting. But the whole was also subdued. Plants and myriad textures served to mitigate the sharper lines of the furniture and surrounding architectural frame; muted light and carefully tuned colors (lost in the black-and-white images) served to complete the scene. What is also apparent in Frankl’s later interiors is the extent to which he sought to normalize—to make acceptable for most people—the language of modernism. The spaces are cozy and warm, even while carefully avoiding older, premodern patterns of arrangement or a reliance on historical forms. Indeed, what is especially arresting is the extent to which his new design language is not dependent upon specific imagery. It is satisfying and homey without recourse to kitsch or to tired expressions of domesticity. It is novel yet peculiarly au fait. It is also inherently American, though one would be at pains without some reflection to describe exactly how. It is precisely here, though, that Frankl’s full contribution to American modernism comes into view. The living room of his house in Coldwater Canyon—and, for that matter, his many other interiors of this period and later—voice a truth about American life, or, at least, the vision many Americans held at the time about what their lives could be. They suggest the possibilities of a new prosperity—still a dream for many in those last years of the Depression—and, also, a concept of leisure, a powerful amalgam of graceful living and ease. They reflect a domestic outlook opposed to the world of work, a place to withdraw but also a site for active engagement with the pursuit of pleasure. They are resolutely upper-middle class, yet they somehow still fall within the scope of most people’s aspirations. That the look Frankl made was disseminated—and to some extent devised— for motion pictures (for he often sold furniture to the leading studios, and he was close to Cedric Gibbons, then the art director for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and that so widely influenced Americans’ perceptions about how they should live and what they should aspire to was no mere accident. Over the course of the decade roughly from 1930 to 1940, Frankl would observe a changing mode of American desires and distill from them a modus for developing and framing spaces. He became increasingly less concerned with imagery per se—and even less so with specific symbols—and far more intent upon fostering a design aesthetic that conformed to American reality. His recourse to a relaxed way of living grew out of a recognition that Americans wanted a release from the austerity and challenges of the workaday world. His stress on style and sophistication emanated from his observation that Americans aspired to a new prosperity. And his “softened” modernism was a response to his understanding of broad American taste: that the great majority of people wanted the new style, but in a form that was neither as alarming nor as “difficult” as that presented by the European or American avant-gardes. The fact that the new aesthetic that he and a handful of

Becoming American


others working in Los Angeles at the time (such as J. R. Davidson and Paul László) concocted became the standard idiom for contemporary interiors in the movies and home shelter magazines, and that it was so readily accepted by the public, was an indication that they read the conditions and mood correctly. By the early 1940s, though, Frankl began to recognize that the aesthetic he had made was simply not attainable for many. It was too expensive, too dependent on having a “designer” assemble it. When local furniture manufacturer David Saltman (part owner of the Brown-Saltman company) presented him with the opportunity to create a line of inexpensive furniture for the middle-class market, Frankl accepted it at once. The venture was cut short by Saltman’s early death in an automobile accident, but in the years after the Second World War, Frankl continued his efforts to make his work more broadly available. For a time, he produced individual furniture pieces and suites for the Johnson Furniture Company, a mass manufacturer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. But more significant and more far-reaching was his collaboration with architect and developer Cliff May. May’s “ranch house” idea, which he had first explored in the late 1930s, was intended to be the perfect suburban dwelling: a low-slung, free-standing domicile, set into the landscape and surrounded by green spaces, and, also, decidedly comfortable and informal—an idyllic place to find relaxation and escape. After the Second World War, May designed and built many such houses (more modest versions of his first, grand prewar ranch houses), and he asked Frankl to put together and install the interiors. Frankl’s answer was to forge a more understated, and, by extension, less expensive, version of his “Hollywood” look: unfussy, familiar, and warm—places for entertaining but also for family activities. If his ultra-stylish 1930s interiors in Los Angeles had been ideal backdrops for adult soirees and after-work cocktails, his ranch house interiors of the later 1940s were adapted for gatherings with parents and children, and their friends. They were the picture-perfect expression of the new “station-wagon way of life” (as one 1950s magazine write-up had it), one that would become the face of postwar American suburb.19 His modernism became saturated with representations of a happy and carefree home life. The key, then, to understanding the “how” of Frankl’s striving for Americanness lies with its concordance with a broadly held vision on the part of Americans about their lives and lifestyles. In this, Frankl served as activist and respondent. Observing the national mood and broad trends in home styles, he crafted his own personal and specific response. As his own very individual expression was broadcast through movies and periodicals, it, in turn, influenced Americans’ hopes and ideals. And then Frankl would try to catch that spirit and give it new form in his designs. His great skill was to stay just ahead of the public, discerning what people wanted but could not precisely articulate. What he made was American in the sense that it spoke fluently about widely held yearnings. But it would take him nearly three full decades before he would find this way of making. In his search for Americanness, Frankl undertook a course that took him from making direct symbols (his Skyscraper line) to a mostly nonspecific modernist imagery (his tubular steel furniture of the late 1920s and early 1930s, for example, or his later streamlined woodweave chair), and, finally, to an idiom that simply expressed


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

and encapsulated American requirements for living. And in creating and distributing his furnishings and interiors, he further fired those hopes. He became in that way both an author and an annalist of the modern American design story.

Notes 1 Paul T. Frankl, Autobiography, ed. Christopher Long and Aurora McClain (Los Angeles: DoppelHouse Press, 2013), 30. 2 Ibid., 30, 33. 3 Wanda M. Corn, The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915–1935 (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1999), xiv; Barbara Novak, American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism, and the American Experience (New York: Praeger, 1969), 9. 4 Passenger and Crew Lists, Honolulu, Hawaii, August 21, 1914, for the steamship Korea. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. 5 Frankl, Autobiography, 30–33. 6 Christopher Long, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2007): 26. 7 See Dagobert Frey, “Arbeiten eines österreichischen Architekten in Amerika (Paul Theodor Frankl),” Der Architekt/Die bildenden Künste 1, no. 12 (1916/1918): 137–148; and “Wie wohnt man in Amerika?” Innen-Dekoration 29 (1918): 27–31, 33–38, 40–43, 76. 8 Long, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design, 30–31. 9 B. Russell Herts, “What Is Modern Decoration?” House and Garden 31 (April 1917): 92. 10 See John Loring, Joseph Urban (New York: Abrams: 2010), 37–42; and Long, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design, 49–50. 11 Long, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design, 55–57. 12 Ibid., 50–51. 13 Frankl, Autobiography, 73. 14 Ibid., 72–73. 15 Paul T. Frankl, New Dimensions: The Decorative Arts of Today in Words and Pictures (New York: Payson and Clarke, 1928); Form and Re-Form: A Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1930); and The Arts and Decoration Home Study Course Covering the Modern Movement as Applied to Interior Decoration and Kindred Subjects (New York: Arts and Decoration, 1928). 16 See Frankl, Autobiography: 91–96. 17 Long, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design, 115–137. 18 Ibid., 141. 19 Frances Heard, “The Station Wagon Way of Life,” House Beautiful 92 (June 1950): 103–109.


Paul László and the Atomic Future Monica Penick

In 1950, the Hungarian-born designer Paul László sketched a plan for the “construction of the future.” He called it “Atomville, U.S.A.” He envisioned an underground city, a subterranean panacea that offered humanity’s best hope for thriving and—in the worst case—surviving in Atomic Age America. Atomville was progressive if not quite revolutionary, and László’s dream stood in colorful contrast to the dark dystopian nightmares that many of his contemporaries imagined. It was fully utopian, including its imaginative home of the future, and like nearly everything László designed, it was comfortable, convenient, and glamorous. Despite its futuristic outlook and on-trend imagery, the project was never realized. Yet, Atomville, U.S.A. represents a pivotal moment in László’s long career: it marked his shift from “European interior decorator” to “American designer.”

László in Los Angeles In May 1936, Paul László fled Germany for the United States. He was forced to leave his home and a successful design practice in Stuttgart for an uncertain—but surely more stable—future. He booked one-way passage on the luxury steamship SS Washington, for a seven-day journey that would take him from Southampton to New York.1 He was 36 years old, and he traveled alone. He registered a minimal profile on the ship’s manifest: his occupation was architect, and his race was “Hungarian.” This last fact was legible, but crossed out (likely by the ship’s crew); “Hebrew” was written in its place. He claimed, for the record, that he was fluent in Hungarian, German, and English, but this was not quite true. As he would later confess, he “couldn’t speak a word of English.”2 Like many designers of Jewish faith or descent, László, who was half Jewish, sought to escape a precarious situation in Germany. The economic depression had hit with significant force, and sociopolitical conditions—especially for Jews—began to deteriorate soon after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor in January 1933. Conditions worsened as government policies, employment, education, and culture came increasingly under Nazi control.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

By 1935, László had an exit plan. He was fortunate, and had time to prepare. He applied for entry into the United States through the American Consulate in Stuttgart, a difficult process eased by the personal help of the consular who happened to live in a László-designed apartment.3 Despite immigration quotas, he received his visa on the grounds that as an architect, he “would contribute to the American cultural life.”4 László’s circumstance was grim, but he traveled in style: he came with fifteen pieces of polished black luggage, a new green Borsalino hat, and money (funneled, despite prohibitive laws, from Germany to Switzerland to New York). He came, too, with a professional reputation. When he arrived in New York in 1936, he had a network of friends and followers in place, both European and American, and a publicist to help launch the next phase of his career. He expected to step off the ship as a famous man, onto a red carpet and into a media frenzy of flashing camera bulbs. But when László disembarked, there was no red carpet and no publicist. He arrived like most other émigrés, and was shuffled off the gangway into the “L” queue. This unexpected and disappointing start was of no consequence: he had already fallen in love with America. The fame would come soon enough. Many émigré designers of his generation stayed on the East Coast, but László was bound for California, propelled by a romantic vision of life in a “semi-tropical wonderland where dollars grew on palm trees.”5 László’s success story, as he told it, began the moment he arrived on the west coast. On that first morning, he rented a two-bedroom apartment on Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills, bought a car on Wilshire Boulevard, and ate a $1 lunch at the famed Brown Derby. That afternoon, he joined the social club in town: Westside Tennis. He was an avid player, but the club was also a perfect spot to meet potential clients. Westside was, after all, where many of Hollywood’s wealthy elite came to play.6 Two days later, he had his first design commission. László was no stranger to rapid success. His rise in Europe had been equally quick. After brief studies in Vienna, he spent two years training at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart. He left school to work for a series of reputable architects, but at the age of 23, he struck out on his own. He opened (and closed) his first studio in Paris in 1923, and moved back to Vienna in 1924. After three fruitful years, he returned to Stuttgart to work as a freelance designer. In Stuttgart, he developed a reputation for restrained modern houses and sleek, sophisticated interiors. His work was elegant, with an understated luxury that relied upon exquisite craftsmanship, sumptuous materials, coordinated color schemes, vibrant textiles, and custom furnishings designed by László himself. He was dedicated to quality and coherence—his houses and apartments were of a piece, in the best Gesamtkunstwerk tradition—but he was more concerned with meeting his clients’ needs. When László came to Los Angeles, his methods, standards, and style were well established, and he was accustomed to working with clients who could afford them. He set about building his new architectural empire, and, with no professional publicist, relied on three strategies: self-published promotional materials, publicity generated by the publication of his own home (completed in 1937), and word-of-mouth marketing. This three-pronged approach worked well. His self-cultivated image as a successful “European interior decorator” offered him a considerable advantage, especially within

Paul László and the Atomic Future


the émigré community in Los Angeles.7 Many of his first clients knew of his European work. Most shared his background: they were Central European émigrés, the majority spoke László’s native Hungarian or German, and many, like László, were Jewish. Some who fit this profile were also wealthy, including his first client, the shoe magnate Walther Loewendahl, Jr. (whose father had earned his fortune with Bat’a in Berlin and Vienna).8 Clients also came to László through his growing social circle at the Westside Tennis Club, which was patronized by executives from the nearby Twentieth Century Fox and MGM studios. With these connections, László built a loyal clientele among transplanted Central European filmmakers and producers, including the famed Fritz Lang, William Wyler, and Henry Blanke. This was perhaps László’s ticket into the Hollywood film community; by the early 1950s, he began to design for movie stars and socialites, most notable among them Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Hutton, and Gloria Vanderbilt. Most of these first clients, like the German-born shoe purveyor Werner Illing, asked László to design lavish houses that recalled, if not repeated, designs he had perfected while in Europe. He happily obliged, and soon he was in high demand. He opened a showroom and offices on Rodeo Drive, and from here, launched a range of highly successful projects. In these years, he worked under a string of professional titles: European interior decorator, interior designer, architect, furniture designer, and, by 1947, industrial designer. Because his European work was decidedly modern (and German), the American architectural press often called him “Bauhaus”—though he neither trained nor taught at the famous school. László was mindful of cultivating a precise professional reputation, but he understood that to compete in Los Angeles, he had to be malleable. And he had to offer a wide range of services. But increasingly, and especially after the Second World War, he began to insist more and more on one label: “American.” László’s desire to identify and be identified as American stemmed from an intimate “connection” that he felt to the United States. Late in his life, he claimed that he had not been “emotionally married to . .. Hungary nor Austria nor Germany”—but he was in “love” with America.9 This love affair, as he called it, inspired him to imagine an entirely new urban existence for his adopted homeland. He continued to design single-family homes, the mainstay of his prewar practice, but began to experiment with large schemes that included office buildings, warehouses, factories, hospitals, schools, churches, community centers, theaters, public parks, and transportation networks. By 1947, László found himself amid a worldwide frenzy in which every enterprising designer seemed to offer a comprehensive plan for a better world, postwar.

From Dreamville to Atomville László was a man of far-reaching talent, but he was neither urban planner nor grand utopian thinker; he was eager, though, to follow the latest design trends and progressive thinking. He looked to the experiments of architects that he admired most, such as Le Corbusier’s Contemporary City (1922), Plan Voisin (1925), and Radiant City (1930).


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

László may have been intrigued by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City (1935), though he openly disliked the architect’s egotism. He was certainly aware of the many visionaries working in Los Angeles, including the Austrian émigré Richard Neutra (who promoted his own “Rush City Reformed” in 1928), or the most imaginative designer of them all, Walt Disney. Disney, too, was engaged in planning the future of America: his own Tomorrowland, a “daring land of dreams and hopes,” would open in 1955 just thirty miles from László’s studio.10 And so László found himself in the company of pioneers when he began to sketch his own future America. He published the first of these in his 1947 design catalog, in a two-page spread titled “Dreamville: Good Old U.S.A.—A Planned Community for California” (Figure 5.1).11 Dreamville had all of the right components to become a postwar success: it was planned, comprehensive, optimistic—a carefully orchestrated dream city. Though László intended Dreamville as a national solution, he designed the prototype for California, the center of wartime exodus and postwar expansion. László organized Dreamville around a functional core comprised of government and cultural centers, and flanked by zones for business, religion, education, healthcare, and housing. He included large tracts of land for leisure activities, specifically sports and theater. He proposed adjacent areas for the two most critical “modern” services: communications (radio and television), and transportation (rail and aerial). His formal scheme relied on varied building types and layered landscapes, both dominated by three unmistakably Corbusian slab skyscrapers (a hotel, government office, and cultural facility). These monuments of postwar modernism— contemporaneous with Harrison and Abramovitz’s United Nations Building—hovered above open green spaces, plazas, and a pedestrian promenade. Dreamville was never built, but László incorporated the core elements into his next vision for the American future: Atomville, U.S.A. In 1950, László drafted his first scheme for Atomville, proclaiming that the “future is … upon us.”12 But this was a very different future. Unlike the monumental Dreamville, Atomville was understated and underground. What had happened in the three years since Dreamville? László’s architectural thinking had certainly evolved, but more importantly, the world around him had changed. Two crucial events surely influenced him: one involved politics, the other involved building.

Figure 5.1 Paul László, “Dreamville—Good Old U.S.A.—A Planned Community,” c. 1947. Paul László, Interiors Exteriors (informally, the “Black and White Book”), 1947. Author’s Collection.

Paul László and the Atomic Future


The first was a decisive moment with far-reaching consequences. In September 1949, US President Harry S. Truman broadcasted an alarming statement: the Soviets had tested an atomic bomb. Their experiment with the A-bomb, and Truman’s public acknowledgment of it, “hit with a terrific impact.”13 Though officials urged Americans to remain calm, the Defense Department (despite media claims) began to quietly implement a new Cold War policy. They increased military defense efforts, and encouraged nonmilitary “Civil Defense” activities. Three months after his announcement, Truman established the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), and the agency began to publish “educational” materials. The FCDA used a range of media, including posters, pamphlets, magazines, television, and film. The goal of each production was the same: to teach Americans how to survive an atomic attack. The most widely circulated of these was the 1950 pamphlet and subsequent film Survival Under Atomic Attack, and the 1951 film Duck and Cover in which an animated Bert the Turtle offered survival tips for school children. Duck and Cover had millions of viewers, and prompted bomb drills in nearly every school in America—including in Los Angeles, where László’s son attended elementary school. The second event that must have inspired László began to unfold in Los Angeles in late 1949. The barrage of survival propaganda motivated inventors, architects, and builders to take action. They began to design, market, and build civilian bomb shelters (and later, fallout shelters).14 Most shelter purveyors, like the American Safety Bomb Shelter Company, employed an existence minimum philosophy: they provided shelter for basic survival for the shortest necessary period. But for László, survival was only one consideration among many, and he was never a minimalist. He was worried about large-scale problems, especially national security. The threat of atomic warfare was real, as was László’s concern that the US Military was unprepared to mobilize. As an Angelino, he understood just how inadequate the nation’s transportation infrastructure really was. In one of his rare written pieces, he described the “choking American community” rife with “archaic transportation bottlenecks” that were inconvenient for civilians and disastrous for the military (this was penned in 1950, six years before the Federal-Aid Highway Act would help build nearly 43,000 miles of national interstate highways).15 László was also worried about the modern house, the core of his own design practice and a booming segment within American architecture. Though he lived in Los Angeles among some extraordinary single-family homes (exemplified by Arts & Architecture’s Case Study Houses), László lamented the majority of what was brought to market. In his view, mass developers like Henry Kaiser and Fritz B. Burns—who built thousands of homes in Southern California—advertised “modern” subdivisions, but produced the “same old-fashioned house.”16 The only “advance” that he saw was in “salesmanship.”17 The housing market would be ruined, or so he feared, by fast-talking developers and “flashy” designers who were eager to load American homes with lowquality furniture, gadgets, and gimmicks. László designed Atomville in response to this demise (Figure 5.2). He believed that in the atomic age, Americans would need “upgraded” cities and technologically advanced houses, but that space would be limited, at least above ground.18 And so with Atomville, he proposed a model for subterranean living with a “futuristic outlook.”19


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Atomville sat on László’s drawing boards for four years, until 1954, when he reintroduced the scheme in two venues: at a lecture for the Westwood Village Art Association held at the University of California-Los Angeles, and in a Popular Mechanics article.20 Together, the five-page magazine story and the media coverage of the UCLA talk revealed a comprehensive urban plan, complete with a prototype house. László planned Atomville as a radial city. He placed “Downtown” at the center, and extended streets outward in concentric rings. In plan, his concept resembled a “colossal wheel” (or perhaps—unintentionally and imprudently—a target with Downtown as the bull’s eye).21 He connected outlying transportation ports and residential zones to the hub of the city through a series of highways or “spokes.” He laid out an aerial transportation network, an essential component to his scheme informed by the tangled streets of Los Angeles. “Supersonic airliners” connected the city to the outside world, a “helicopter bus” connected the airport to the city, and airor land-based taxis connected Downtown to the residential suburbs. Each house had a rooftop landing strip, so that residents could commute to work by private convertiplane or helicopter (and park in the adjacent “flyport,” Atomville’s version of the mid-century carport). László later added a series of chair cableways, akin to a ski resort’s chair lift, to link the residential zone to the central airport, administrative building, services, and community centers.22 The heart of László’s project was his “home-of-the future” (see Figure 5.2).23 He designed the Atomville house as a prototype for a larger system of semi-prefabricated “look-alike” dwellings, standardized underground burrows concealed beneath landing strips and landscaped parks.24 The subterranean plan conserved topside land and offered protection from atomic attack. It also eliminated aboveground clutter, a necessity for safe air travel that gave László an aesthetic bonus: he could eliminate “unsightly” telephone poles and electrical lines that he felt blemished the American cityscape.25 Despite the subterranean site, László designed the Atomville house in much the same way he designed for suburban Los Angeles: the house was isolated from its neighbors, and sized to shelter one family in 1,800 square feet of enclosed space on approximately one acre of land; dense arrangements and multifamily apartments were rendered obsolete by the ease of travel. László designed the house with a thick, curved shell roof supported on splayed concrete piers; this was the signature design element. The roof defined the home’s formal shape, its visual style, and perhaps most importantly, its futuristic character. The view most frequently published, rich with biomorphic and space-age imagery, revealed a major transformation in László’s work. His style had shifted from the restrained elegance of prewar Europe to the exuberant playfulness of postwar California. Though László himself recognized that it was “difficult to make a line [between] what is European, what is American,” he used Atomville to make a statement, and it was undeniably “Americanist.”26 László’s roof did more than establish the visual identity for the house (and for the designer’s new direction): it provided a multifunctional platform. It offered protective cover in case of atomic attack, it hid the house from overhead view, it concealed its standardized form, and it provided a landing zone.

Paul László and the Atomic Future


Figure 5.2  Paul László, presentation boards for Atomville, U.S.A., 1950. Courtesy László Papers, Architecture and Design Collection (ADC), Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara.

He specified a shell width of approximately sixty feet and a depth of ten feet, so that the roof (in section) could double as the home’s mechanical core. The structure was composite, built from an outer earthen shell and a bed of reinforced concrete fitted with hollowed spaces, or “tubes,” to carry utility lines and services. Through this concealed core, the atomic family accessed water, sewer, air conditioning, telephone, and a “supply of atomic energy for heating, lighting, and power.”27 The imbedded tubes also carried a pneumatic delivery system, through which the family could receive any household good that would fit through the tube’s diameter.28 Beneath the concave surface of the shell roof, László divided the interior into three zones: living, sleeping, and play. Each zone opened onto a recessed courtyard or terraced lawn, open to the sky above. While exterior passageways were limited, indoor and outdoor spaces were visually connected through full-height, inclined windows. He wanted the underground house (or more accurately, the semi-subterranean interior) to be filled with light, and devised two additional features: a system of Lucite skylights, and a sunken swimming pool and patio where dwellers could regularly “soak up the sunlight.”29 The living areas, which included the dining room and kitchen, were spacious and space-age. He outfitted the house with, among other things, a “sight-and-sound” intercom, a televised screen-based shopping system (that predated Amazon.com by four decades), and a mobile “conveyor-dishwasher” that removed, washed, dried, sterilized, and stored dishes. László was enthusiastic about his push-button domestic conveniences. Alongside his more ambiguous “advances in community child care,” he believed that a technologized home would “provide the housewife of the future with a great deal of spare time.”30 He


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

may have believed in the “unprecedented progress” that he planned, but as historian Ruth Schwartz Cowan later documented, such advances only made “more work for mother.”31 The Atomville house was certainly liberated from the doldrums of America’s mass-market housing developments, but the Atomville woman was forever trapped. Though many elements of the Atomville house and domestic lifestyle were experimental, László guaranteed the same high level of quality, comfort, convenience, customization, and luxury that he had practiced since the mid-1920s. The house was partially prefabricated, but he refused to embrace the aesthetic of standardized mass housing. Each Atomville family, presumably under László’s guidance, would customize their interior spaces, furnishings, and decorative scheme according to their “personal choice.”32 László would have controlled the design of each interior, as he did with all of his projects, “right down to the last ashtray.”33 And his customizations were not cheap: in a market where the average price of a new home was $25,000, a László house ranged (in 1952 dollars) between $50,000 and $1 million.34 Despite the cost, László added one final and necessary element to complete his Atomville house: an integrated bomb shelter. The house was below grade, but it was partially clad in glass; this exposed design would surely fail under atomic attack. His design for the sealed-blast bomb shelter unit would not. For László, Atomville—even with its defensive shelters—held the “promise of permanent peace,” and “a whole new way of life.”35 It was a compelling model, and a beautiful design. But why didn’t it sell? Why didn’t Americans move underground? Perhaps the fear of atomic warfare and total annihilation was not as great as the media suggested. Perhaps the fear of overturning imbedded domestic traditions was greater. Perhaps Americans were not ready to abandon what had become the most powerful symbol of personal identity and national democracy: the detached (aboveground) single-family home with its large lawn and two-car garage. Americans certainly wanted the technological advances that Atomville offered, but the concept was, in the end, too radical. No matter how sophisticated or luxurious the packaging, László could not sell Atomville to the average American. He failed, too, to sell the idea to the US government as a model military installation (that would compete with the advanced underground facilities built across Europe).36 But even here, he could not generate interest.

The Hertz bomb shelter A small component of Atomville was appealing, at least to one client: John D. Hertz. Hertz, a Central European émigré and founder of the Yellow Cab Company and Hertz Rental Car, lived with his wife in a ranch house on 180 acres in Woodland Hills, on the northwest edge of Los Angeles. They had hired architect Roland E. Coate to design their house in 1946, but by 1952 Mrs. Hertz was ready to renovate. Her daughter, Leona Hertz Saks—who had recently purchased and remodeled László’s 1951 Perlberg House—suggested that she call László.37 Mrs. Hertz commissioned László for what he described as a “big” remodeling job, but it was John D. Hertz who wanted “everything.” By 1954, this included a bomb shelter.

Paul László and the Atomic Future


Hertz’s request for a bomb shelter was no passing fancy. He had been involved in and funded credible atomic research. He was connected to the US Air Force, the US Atomic Energy Commission (through his friend, AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss), the Lovelace Foundation, and through Strauss, to Edward Teller, the Hungarian-born American physicist widely recognized as the “father” of the hydrogen bomb. Through his friends, Hertz had access to the latest scientific research that suggested a bomb shelter was a good survival investment. And these same friends could provide him—or his chosen architect—with the necessary design specifications to complete such a project. Archival drawings suggest that Hertz initially tasked Roland Coate with the job, but by late 1954 or early 1955, hired László in his stead.38 László wanted the job, though he knew little about designing the complex structure. But he learned quickly. With Hertz’s assistance, he assembled a team of experts to design a shelter to offer “protection against A and H bombs.”39 The team included László, Don Bartels and John J. Thompson (both from László’s office), Major Robert Crawford of the US Air Force Western Regional Office of Scientific Research, and James Clark, the Lovelace Foundation’s head engineer. Eric Barclay served as general contractor, though he too had no experience building a bomb shelter. László and his team spent nearly a year designing the project (Figure 5.3). They labored over every detail: from the cylindrical shape, to the overall dimensions, the

Figure 5.3  Paul László, longitudinal section and plan for “Emergency Shelter” for Mr. and Mrs. John Hertz, Project H-2, February 1955. Courtesy László Papers, Architecture and Design Collection (ADC), Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 5.4  Paul László, bomb shelter for Mr. and Mrs. John Hertz. Children exploring the shelter, publicity photograph. Courtesy László Papers, Architecture and Design Collection (ADC), Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Paul László and the Atomic Future


slope of the escape tube, the escape hatch, the living area, folding bunks in the sleeping space, the chemical toilet, the safe (for “money and guns”), the water storage unit, the ventilation system, the power system for the hydraulic elevator, the phone, and the radio systems. László, in consultation with Hunts Food Corporation, even specified canned goods marked with the correct shelf life. He designed the Hertz shelter—like every other László project—down to the last ashtray (or in this case, the last Geiger counter). Even with Hertz’s connections and status, the project was difficult. The team simply had no design precedent and no construction guidelines. The City of Los Angeles had yet to establish building codes for private shelters. The Municipal Code had no provisions for the water storage, contained sewage, fire prevention, power generation, or ventilation systems that László had proposed. Even the specified hot plate in the kitchen became a permitting issue. After many delays, Hertz was granted approval (and several variances); construction began in the fall of 1955. The construction crew, led by Barclay, excavated a site behind Hertz’s house (Figure 5.4). They assembled the shelter on site, from #3 gauge corrugated steel that measured ten feet in diameter.40 Each unit was lowered into the trench by crane, and joined together by hand-placed bolts. The crew sealed each end of the cylinder with thick concrete, and poured a twelve-inch thick concrete tube for the escape hatch. They waterproofed the joints with treated burlap and mastic, and finished the interior surfaces with a waterproof layer of cork and “Insul-matic” Mastic.41 László finished the shelter as a modest “temporary” dwelling, a distinction that Hertz had to notarize for the City. When completed, the shelter could accommodate fourteen people and sleep eight (the Hertz family and servants). The shelter was, in the end, simply functional. It was not luxurious, it was not glamorous, and it was not finished in the typical “László style.” But it did carry the typical László price tag. The bomb shelter was built, but László’s larger utopian dreams never materialized. He must have felt some frustration with the failure of Dreamville and Atomville, and, to some extent, the Hertz bomb shelter—a problematic project that ended with a lawsuit and the sale of the house (Hertz sued László over delays and won; the family sold the house, complete with its functioning bomb shelter, in 1957).42 The Hertz project was one of László’s last residential projects. This, too, marked a watershed moment in the designer’s career: five years later, he had refocused his practice to design, among other commercial projects, luxurious retail spaces.

Conclusion The success of László’s vision for life in Atomic Age America, however, did not depend on a realized urban scheme or a constructed underground dwelling; the success instead hinged upon his remarkable ability to gauge what mattered most to his clients and his community at any giving moment, and to define and redesign his own identity accordingly. On the heels of Atomville, László dropped “European” from his professional title and added “American.” By the time he published his final promotional catalog in 1963, he proudly displayed his standing as a “Member of American Society of Industrial Designers.”


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Atomville, with its partial realization in the Hertz Bomb Shelter, marked a watershed moment in László’s career. This project positioned him among a matrix of progressive designers who worked in the United States in the immediate postwar years. And perhaps more importantly for an émigré designer who had built his first career in 1920s and 1930s Germany, it secured his newly declared status as an “Americanist” designer.

Notes 1 László set sail from Southampton, England, on May 21, 1936, and arrived in New York on 28 May. For immigration records, see “Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at New York, New York, 1897–1957,” Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (National Archives, Washington, D.C.: T715-5809; Line: 22). 2 Paul László and Marlene L. Laskey, Designing with Spirit (Los Angeles: University of California, Los Angeles, Oral History Program, 1986), 74. 3 László designed the American Consul Apartment interior in 1930, and presumably the consul general resided here. Leon Dominian served as consul in Stuttgart from 1930 until 1935, and was succeeded by Samuel W. Honaker. Notably, Stuttgart was one of only four consuls in Germany that granted immigration visas. For more on the roles of the American consul, see Christoph Strupp, “Observing a Dictatorship: American Consular Reporting on Germany, 1933–1941,” GHI Bulletin no. 39 (Fall 2006). For German immigration processes and policies, see Richard Britman and Alan M. Kraut, American Refugee Policy and European Jewry, 1933–1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987). 4 László and Laskey, Designing with Spirit, 69. 5 Paul László, “Biography,” unpublished, 1954: 3. László Papers, Architecture and Design Collection (ADC), Art, Design & Architecture Museum, University of California, Santa Barbara. 6 The Westside Tennis Club (3084 Motor Avenue, Beverly Hills) was adjacent to or part of the Beverly Hills Country Club. For a brief history, see www.beverlyhillscc.com. 7 Upon his arrival, László began circulating his 1936 promotional catalog, titled “Paul László/Architect/An European Interior Decorator.” This fifty-five-page book (selfpublished and printed in Germany) showcased his design work completed across Europe between about 1924 and 1936. Author’s Collection. 8 László’s first commission in Los Angeles was remodeling the Loewendahl Shoe Showroom for Walther Loewendahl, Jr; he designed one of his first houses for this same family in Pacific Palisades in 1937–1938. The Loewendahls (who were Jewish) came to New York in 1933 and later moved to Los Angeles. They knew of László’s work in Europe, and László acknowledged that the younger Loewendahl (who spoke both German and English) was of great help at the start of his career. László, “Biography,” 4. László Papers. 9 László and Laskey, Designing with Spirit, 70. 10 “Welcome to Disneyland,” (map and brochure), Disneyland, Inc., July 17, 1955. 11 Paul László, Interiors Exteriors, 1947: 88–89. Author’s Collection. 12 “Paul László,” promotional booklet [informally, the “McCulloch Book” after the cover image], c. 1963: 54–55. Author’s Collection.

Paul László and the Atomic Future


13 “Truman Says Russ Have A-Bomb,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1949: front page. 14 William Rowles (Santa Monica, California) registered one of the first patents for a residential bomb shelter in December 1949 (granted September 1953). United States Patent Office, US2653468 A. 15 László, Presentation Board for “Atomville, U.S.A.” (1950/1954). László Papers. 16 Ed Rees, “For Art (requested),” letter to Grace Brynolson (TIME magazine), May 15, 1954. László Papers. 17 Ibid. 18 László, Presentation Board for “Atomville, U.S.A.” László Papers. 19 Ibid. 20 Ed Rees documented the lecture in “For Art (requested),” May 15, 1954. László Papers. The media coverage was Carson Kerr, “At Home, 2004 A.D.,” Popular Mechanics (October 1954): 154–56, 266, 268. 21 I thank Christopher Long for bringing the “target” resemblance to my attention during discussions at the 2015 Papanek Symposium (Vienna, Austria, May 2015). 22 The form is not surprising—László was also an avid skier. László, “A-Ville” plot plan, March 19, 1956 with revisions April 3, 1956. László Papers. 23 Kerr, “At Home, 2004 A.D.," 266. 24 Ibid. 25 Rees, “For Art (requested).” 26 László and Laskey, Designing with Spirit, 116. 27 Kerr, “At Home, 2004 A.D.,” 266. 28 László’s pneumatic tubes were a fascinating technological addition to Atomville— but their use was not new. He may have been inspired by the Poste Pneumatique, a network of underground tubes that had moved mail beneath Paris (through the Haussmannian sewers) since 1866. He likely knew of similar postal networks in London (1853), Berlin (1865), Vienna (1867)—and later in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis. See Sandra L. Arkinghaus, Down the Mail Tubes: The Pressured Postal Era, 1853–1984 (Ann Arbor: Michigan Document Services, 1985). 29 Rees, “For Art (requested).” 30 Kerr, “At Home, 2004 A.D.,” 268. 31 Ruth Schwartz Cowan, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York: Basic Books, 1983). 32 Kerr, “At Home, 2004 A.D.,” 268. 33 Rees, “László and the Lion’s Tongue.” László Papers. 34 For László’s “showplace modern homes,” see Ed Rees to Terry Colman (TIME), “Architect László,” August 6, 1952. László Papers. 35 Kerr, “At Home, 2004 A.D.,” 156. 36 László learned from his ex-military friends that American installations were outdated, and failed to keep pace with protective underground facilities constructed in Germany, Sweden, and Denmark. He sent his proposal to the US Air Force in 1956 for “consideration and evaluation” for installation planning. László to Office of the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, March 13, 1956: 2. László Papers. 37 Leona Hertz married Julian Saks, of the Saks Fifth Avenue family, and they purchased the Perlberg House in about 1952 (shortly after the house was completed, the Perlbergs sold and moved to Palm Springs). Mrs. Saks commissioned László to add six additional bedrooms for her domestic staff, and complete other renovations. László and Laskey, Designing with Spirit, 144–147.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

38 See, for example, archival drawings and brief correspondence (dated 1954) between John D. Hertz and architect Roland Coate; however, by early 1955, László was on the project. See Coate Papers, ADC. 39 John D. Hertz to City of Los Angeles Board of Building and Safety Commissioners, April 1, 1955; Hertz Emergency Shelter File, László Papers. 40 Armco Corrugated Pipe Company fabricated the pipe for the project, with assistance from Jackson Iron Works. “Hertz Emergency Shelter, Specifications for Armco Corrugated Pipe,” February 15, 1955. László Papers. 41 Ibid. 42 When Hertz sold the house at 5975 Shoup Avenue, it was converted into the Pinecrest School (which remains open at this writing).


Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism Pat Kirkham

A major figure in twentieth-century design, especially for mass-produced domestic tablewares, Eva Zeisel (Figure 6.1) was born in Hungary in 1906 into an haute bourgeois family of intellectual distinction, and died over a century later in the United

Figure 6.1  Photo of Eva Zeisel, c. 2000. Courtesy Brigitte Lacombe.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

States, the country to which she emigrated in 1938. She did not take the name Zeisel until she married Hans Zeisel in 1938, but for the sake of consistency I refer to her as Zeisel throughout this chapter. As a case study of an émigré designer, this differs from many others for two main reasons. First, it focuses on a woman whose career was at once groundbreaking and orthodox in gender terms, and in this chapter I consider her strong female role models, the gendered nature of pottery making when she trained in a male-dominated guild system, her experiences as a designer, and how she juggled work, marriage, and motherhood. Secondly, it focuses on a designer who criticized the interwar European Modern Movement in architecture and design, and thus it offers a means of reviewing design of both the interwar and postwar periods through lenses other than that of the Modern Movement. It also raises the question of Jewishness, a category often referred to during discussions of European émigré designers. Although her family lineage was Jewish on both sides, the two most dominant influences during her formative years, her maternal grandmother and her mother, both considered Judaism a religion to which they did not subscribe. They did not think of themselves as Jewish, and Zeisel grew up thinking the same way.

Summary of life and work Ziesel enjoyed a privileged upbringing amid freethinking intellectual circles in the twin capital cities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Budapest and Vienna. Talented at art as a child, she trained as a painter, with private tutors and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest, and initially only took up pottery to support a future career in art. The first woman journeyman potter trained in a Budapest-based craft guild, she worked briefly in that capacity in the mid-1920s in a small workshop in Germany before focusing on design. Her understanding of the craft of pottery served her well during her long career. She enjoyed feeling the clays that would give form to her designs, and her tacit understanding of clay was akin to her maternal uncle, a physical chemist, economist, and philosopher, Michael Polanyi’s understanding of the importance of tacit (as opposed to explicit) knowledge.1 She gained experience of designing for industrial production when working in Germany from 1928 to 1931 and even more in the Soviet Union between 1932 and 1936. In the latter, she inspected ceramics and glass factories in the Ukraine, worked in the Artistic Laboratory at the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory in Leningrad, and served as artistic director of the Dulevo Porcelain Factory, the largest ceramics manufactory in the USSR, and then of the ceramics and glass industries of the whole of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the largest of the republics within the Soviet Union. Her Dulevo tableware sets that combined clean modern design with traditional and classic shapes were exhibited at the 1937 Paris International Exposition, winning two Grand Prix,2 but she knew nothing about it because by then she was incarcerated in a Soviet jail, having been accused (wrongfully) of plotting to assassinate none other than Joseph Stalin.3 It seemed almost certain that she would be executed or “disappeared,” as were so many during Stalin’s infamous “Purges,” but without explanation or reprieve, in September 1937, after sixteen months in prison (much of it in solitary confinement) and in a

Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism


fragile state, mentally and physically, she was expelled and put on a train bound for Vienna where several of her family members were living. She became engaged to Hans Zeisel, a young Czech-born socialist lawyer and sociologist who moved in the same circles as her uncle Karl Polanyi (later famous in economic history and economic anthropology). Zeisel fell in love with her in Berlin in the early 1930s when he was part of the circle around her earlier-mentioned uncle Michael Polanyi. Within six months of her arrival in Austria, however, she chose voluntary exile upon learning of the German-Austrian Anschluss in March 1938. Amid rampant anti-Semitism and a growing Austrian Nazi Party, and still frail from her months in a Soviet prison, she feared she might go mad if arrested again. The family had already applied for US visas, but, with only her visa for Britain in place, she left for there on one of the last trains out of the city before German troops arrived. Her mother and fiancé stayed behind to arrange the necessary visas. After marrying in London, Eva and Hans Zeisel arrived in New York in October of 1938. Her mother managed to follow in 1939; her father in 1941. With less than $100, the couple settled in New York. Zeisel had no contacts in her line of work but, ever proactive, she immediately set about finding them by combing the pages of the ceramics trade journals housed at the New York Public Library. She took any job that came her way, including making plaster mountains for a film set at 50 cents an hour, and in autumn 1939 began teaching ceramics with an industrial design focus at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In 1940, she established a good rapport with Eliot Noyes, director of the department of industrial design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, who brokered a collaborative commission for her with the museum and Castleton China. That project and the resulting MoMA exhibition, New Shapes in Modern China Designed by Eva Zeisel (1946), which featured the elegant, fluid curves of her Museum fine dinnerware (Figure 6.2), transformed her into “an accepted first-class designer, rather than a run-of-the-mill designer.”4 The first MoMA

Figure 6.2  Eva Zeisel, Items from Museum service: Castleton China Company, USA, 1946; MoMA exhibition, New Shapes in Modern China, designed by Eva Zeisel, 1946. Courtesy Brent C. Brolin.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

exhibition to feature a single-woman designer and the first devoted solely to industrially mass-produced pottery, it followed on from MoMA’s exhibition of industrially massproduced molded plywood furniture by the fledgling Eames Office.5 Several of Zeisel’s lines proved very popular in the 1950s, including Tomorrow’s Classic (1952) for Hall China Company,6 and her earnings from royalties in the early 1950s were estimated to be at least $600–$700 a month.7 She became the leading designer of mass-produced ceramic tableware in the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s. During that period she also designed for companies in Mexico, Germany, Italy, India, and Japan, although not all those projects were realized. The near collapse of the US ceramics industry in the face of foreign competition, however, led to commissions drying up, followed by a twenty-year break in her career from the mid-1960s. Always full of energy and ideas, she undertook a variety of new occupations, from silkscreen printing and building a small house to undertaking historical research and writing (never published) about a group of African-Americans falsely arrested and either hanged or deported in the 1740s; the parallel with her own situation in the Soviet Union was not lost on her.8 Spurred on by the research being undertaken for a major retrospective of her work,9 she resumed designing from 1983 until very shortly before her death aged 105. Drawing upon her European roots, she revisited her native Hungary in 1983 and worked with staff at the Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory to create new lustrous glazes for vases, jars, and candlesticks.10 At the Kispester Granit Pottery, also in Hungary, where she had worked briefly in 1926, her prototypes for the Ufo line creatively and playfully reengaged with forms and technical issues that had fascinated her in earlier years, including distorting circles, sphere, and balloon forms.11 The line did not go into production, partly because of Zeisel’s insistence on high production standards, but in 2009 the US company Design Within Reach revived some of the pieces, including plates with playful “bellybutton” middles, as its Granit Collection.12 When the traveling exhibition Eva Zeisel: Designer for Industry was shown at St. Petersburg’s State Russian Museum in 1992, the accompanying Russian-language catalog reattributed some of Zeisel’s Soviet designs to her, thus beginning the process of reintegrating her into the history of Soviet ceramics.13 In 2000, she received an invitation to visit the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory in the former Soviet Union but insisted upon an official rehabilitation before accepting. Once there, she began working on what would become the elegantly fluid and near-translucent Talisman tea service (2004) in collaboration with a highly skilled young Russian modeler who spent the summer of 2002 in the United States developing the line with her.14 As in earlier years, rounded “feminine curves” featured in her design vocabulary throughout her later period, witness, for example, the ceramic and glass vases she designed for KleinReid in 199215 and the glass ones for Gump a decade later,16 as well as her glass Christmas ornaments (2009) for MoMA’s gift store. Rugs to her designs were produced in 2008, while her glass pendant lamps for Leucos (2012) came on the market after her death, as did her EVA flatware by Yamazaki Tableware, Japan, that retailed through the North American store Crate & Barrel.17 Fulfilling commissions for companies in the United States, Hungary, England, Russia, and Italy, she was regarded as something of a superstar and a national treasure during the last decades of her life.

Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism


A modern, progressive, feminist formation Zeisel always thought of herself as working in a modern way and recalled being conscious from about the age of six of the modernity of the world into which she had been born.18 Like many others, her family members believed that the new century would build upon the great progress made during the previous century, and regarded children born in the new century as both privileged and symbolic of the future. The second child of three, she was the only daughter of Laura Polanyi Stricker (1882–1959), a social democratic feminist intellectual and activist with interests in history, social science, education, and Freudian psychology, and Alexander (Sandor) Stricker (1869–1955), a textile manufacturer who did not share his wife’s interests but allowed her considerable scope to pursue them while providing the financial means. The Strickers lived in Budapest, where Zeisel’s Russian-born grandmother Cecile Wohl Pollacsek Polanyi (1861–1939; Polanyi being the Magyarized version of Pollacsek), presided over an influential salon that Zeisel described as attracting “all the intellectual people … journalists, actors, writers, and painters.”19 Zeisel described her bohemian grandmother as having radical politics and cropped hair, always full of new ideas, and “very much part of the early feminist movement in Central Europe.”20 Her maternal grandfather, Mihály Pollacsek (1848–1905), a Hungarian Jew who shared many of Cecile’s radical ideas, refused to Magyarize the family, believing it was demeaning to have to prove a Hungarian identity in that manner, but, around the time of his death in 1905, Cecile did so. Officially at least, she adopted a Protestant Christianity but there is no evidence of her children being brought up in any religion.21 In the United States, however, Laura Stricker suggested to Zeisel that they join the Unitarian Church to help settle in the United States in order to have a sense of home in the new country for the family, especially the children.22 Strong in Hungary, Unitarianism was a logical choice because it was associated with the Free Thinking movement with which the Polanyi family was closely connected. Based upon a belief in a unitary God, religious freedom, and social justice, it encompasses a wide range of beliefs, including, in theory, atheism. An avowed atheist Hans Zeisel refused to join, even though the two Zeisel children attended Unitarian Sunday School and his wife and mother-in-law remained members until they died. With two strong-minded feminists in her life, little wonder that Zeisel grew up believing that she could accomplish whatever she set her sights on. From as early as she could remember, her mother was active in feminist and intellectual circles, writing and lecturing on topics such as “Women of the Intellectual Middle Class” and “Feminism and Marriage,” and, had the bourgeois democratic Hungarian People’s Republic (October 1918–March 1919) lasted long enough to hold free national elections, she would have stood as a member of parliament on a liberal, radical, and feminist ticket.23 An academic star, Stricker was the first woman to hold a doctorate in history at the University of Budapest. She was also part of the movement to validate the social sciences as a discipline.24 Zeisel liked to tell of Freud referring to her mother as the “most beautiful and interesting Dr. Stricker,”25 and Freud’s influence helps account for the focus on unfettered free expression, including nudity, at the progressive kindergarten that Laura Stricker established in 1911 for Eva and elder brother along with about ten


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

others. Photographs of the kindergarten show children either naked or in gym suits, barefoot and happily dancing, doing eurythmics (the expression of sounds and music through body movements), painting, drawing, and enjoying nature. Some progressives were shocked by the nudity but Zeisel loved it.26 The emphasis on self-expression and play almost certainly helped form, and certainly encouraged, Zeisel’s playfulness, a characteristic that her mother felt was Zeisel’s most distinctive. Little wonder Zeisel expressed her aesthetic inclinations as a “playful search for beauty.”27

A modernist with a small “m” Although Zeisel differed from many in the Polanyi clan by standing aside from political and intellectual engagement, she shared their antagonism to established orthodoxies. Just as communism was too dogmatic for her mother and her uncles, Michael and Karl Polanyi, the Modern Movement, often known as Modernism, was too dogmatic for her. Modernism grew out of several overlapping progressive and avant-garde trends in Europe, from Russian Constructivism and De Stijl in Holland to the Bauhaus in Germany and architect designers such as the Swiss born but French based Le Corbusier, who famously described a house as a “machine à habiter” (machine for living in). Modernists with a capital “M” took a rationalist, functionalist, and problem solving approach to design, and advocated using new materials, new technologies, and industrial mass production to produce objects and buildings appropriate for what they considered the new “Machine Age.”28 While welcoming the agenda of affordable massproduced goods and homes and believing that, with sufficient goodwill and rational intelligence, the world could become a better place, Zeisel’s conception of design was far broader and she always insisted that she was “a modernist with a small ‘m’.”29 She felt Modernism offered neither “amusement nor beauty”30 and failed to establish emotional and psychological links between object and user. She declared the rejection of sentiment and the S-curve (which she felt the most communicative of lines) to be ludicrous and Modernists to be narrow minded, elitist, antihistoricist, and overly focused on form following function.31 She ridiculed the movement’s didacticism, the so-called functionalist or “Machine Age” aesthetic, and the claim that style had disappeared, believing that Modernism limited a designer’s choices from the outset, whereas in reality there was a multitude of attractive solutions to each problem.32 One reason why Zeisel rejected Modernism was her deep appreciation of the visual and material culture of the past, especially the Baroque period that directly influenced her own work. Extremely well educated, she had a very thorough training in the history of art, design and architecture, perhaps more so than any other designer working in a modern mode in the postwar United States. One of her tutors was the young Frederick Antal, a Marxist art historian who moved in the same intellectual circles as Karl Polanyi, and the Marxist critic and philosopher Georg Lukács. Antal argued that a society’s visual and material culture was closely related to its social and economic contexts, a viewpoint Zeisel embraced thereafter.33 Her love of the Baroque partly came from visiting Baroque churches and monasteries with Antal and others in Austria during her preteen years when the family lived in Vienna (1912–1918), but

Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism


the Baroque was everywhere apparent throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, including folk art and crafts. Much of her later work was imbued with Baroque curves, right through to Eva Zeisel Coffeee Table (c. 1993: Figure 6.3) and Trestle Table (1994– 1996) that refer back to her bird forms in pottery and plastic (Figure 6.4) as well as to Central European Baroque forms.34 Zeisel was not alone in her criticisms of Modernism but her articulation of design as a “playful search for Beauty” and a gift given with love, and of the need to make “soul contact” with users, was distinctive, possibly unique.35 Even though she admired certain Modernist designs, including Le Corbusier’s L’Esprit Nouveau pavilion at the 1925 Paris Exposition, her memoirs (written in English) refer to the latter’s “festive, holier-than-though simplicity,” and it seeming to be “so untouched, clean, and elegant that I felt I had entered a realm beyond my everyday untidy ways” indicates such design was too purist for her.36 In the last quarter of the twentieth century, she celebrated postmodern designers undertaking their own playful searches for beauty, and, on the eve of the millennium, predicted an increased focus within design on beauty, freedom, exuberance, elegance, refinement, lightheartedness, delight, and desire.37

Figure 6.3  Eva Zeisel, Coffee table, USA, c. 1993. Courtesy of Eva Zeisel Originals. evazeiseloriginals.com.

Figure 6.4  Eva Zeisel, Schmidt ironstone: Nihon Koshitsu Toki Company, Japan, 1964.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

New beginnings and design vocabulary Her early years in the United States coincided with a greater receptivity to the fluid, plastic, compound curves, and amoeba-like and biomorphic forms sometimes known as Organic Modernism that drew upon, among other things, influences from abstract art, Surrealism, and Nature.38 Among the noted figures working in this way was the Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto and the Americans Charles and Ray Eames and Russel Wright. Together with Zeisel, the latter brought organic forms to tablewares, just as the Eameses’ compound curved plywood and plastic chairs and Eero Saarinen’s sculptural “Womb Chair” (1946–1948) did for furniture. While Zeisel’s Museum line was an essay in elegant fluidity, it was always envisaged as formal dinnerware, whereas her highly organic plastic Cloverware line (1947) for Clover Box and Manufacturing Company and her sturdier, colorful mix-and-match Town and Country line (1947) were designed for younger consumers seeking more informal modes of living. Many of the curves apparent in Zeisel’s postwar designs were rooted in the Baroque forms she knew in Central Europe, just as her Museum and Talisman lines were informed by the refined Russian eighteenth-century porcelain she came to love in the Soviet Union. Her continuing playfulness fitted in with the more lighthearted mood of postwar consumers, as for example, the anthropomorphic references in her “mother and daughter” salt-and-pepper shakers and her Cloverware salad servers that looked like birds with beaks open, while several of the dishes, covers, and ladles in her stoneware lines of the 1950s and 1960s resembled ducks, swans, and geese.39 Nature in all its forms inspired her throughout her life. The “back to nature” movement with which she identified as a teenager was part of the “simple life” advocated by Arts and Crafts Movement followers. The young Zeisel was fascinated by folk art and crafts, and in the 1950s and 1960s she drew upon Hungarian folk traditions when designing stonewares. Her reply “Love is a personal matter” when asked what “Good Design” was at a roundtable held at MoMA in the 1950s testifies to her continuing distance from Modernism,40 and student exercises aimed at expressing emotions through their work indicate her continuing interest in that aspect of design.41 Many who bought pieces that she designed felt intimate connections to them. This, together with her versatility across media and ability to create pieces for both formal and informal living, help account for her massive commercial success, as does the emphasis on practicality and functionality that lasted throughout her career. In the manner of the publications emanating from the German Werkbund and similar institutions across Europe in the interwar years, she decreed that teapots had to pour well and not feel too heavy when full, while handles and cutlery had to feel comfortable in the hand. Her various approaches to design and making fit well with a booming US economy gearing up for a massive increase in consumption after economic depression and war.42

Gender The young Zeisel was fortunate in that her family accepted her desire to be an artist, train as a potter, and then work as a designer in factories because many middle- and

Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism


upper-class young girls faced stiff opposition to such.43 In later years she did not like to be thought of as a woman designer, preferring to be known simply as a designer. She felt that she had not been discriminated against in terms of gender as a designer, pointing out that in the interwar years in Europe, the main designers in the Kunstgewerbe (“applied arts”) workshops and small factories were young women like herself from respectable middle or upper-class backgrounds. “[We] did not consider our job either very important or pushing us into the limelight of art history,” she commented, “We were just young ladies, not very high employees in our factories. So our job, making things for others, is a generous occupation, an occupation of giving our gifts to our public.”44 She also felt that most probably women designers were advantaged when it came to designing household objects because they related to and understood the domestic arena, pointing to her own designs for a child’s feeding bottle when her children were young.45 When I asked her if this notion of women as better suited to particular types of design than men smacked of essentialism, she stated that it was simply a reflection of how things were organized within society.46 At the craft level, as opposed to design, Zeisel’s experiences highlight the gendered nature of pottery craft training and making in interwar Central Europe. The Budapest-based Guild of Chimney-Sweeps, Well Diggers and Potters did not train young women, especially not refined young girls such as Zeisel, but neither she nor her mother accepted this situation.47 Just as her mother had insisted that her daughter have the best education open to a girl, she now insisted that Zeisel had the best craft training available. Quite how the family managed to persuade a master potter to take on a young girl in a formal apprenticeship is not known but her mother’s determination, to say nothing of Zeisel’s own, surely played a part, and possibly a largerthan-normal apprenticeship premium. In autumn 1924, Zeisel began a six-month apprenticeship registered and overseen within the guild regulations. She learned to “mush” clay with bare feet, and to knead and “mangle” it until ready to be worked, as well as to make pots by hand, glaze them, dry them outdoors, and set ovens.48 As the first woman journeyman in the guild, she was a pioneer but the guild system was already in considerable decline; apprenticeships had typically been seven years in the eighteenth century, for example, compared to six months in the mid-1920s.49 When Zeisel told the tale of her four male coworkers in a small German workshop placing a model of male genitalia on her bench on her first day as a journeyman potter, she stressed the men accepting her thereafter because of how nonchalantly she dealt with the situation. The gesture may have been more than a traditional first day prank, however, and was probably also rooted in anxieties about women, whose wages were lower than men’s wages, diluting the trade and threatening men with lower wages, if not unemployment, in a volatile German economy. Whatever the case, Zeisel did not work as a journeyman for long. She proved unable to make large numbers of uniformly shaped pots by hand (on a potter’s wheel) and soon focused on the more gender appropriate area of design.50 Although the mass production of ceramic tablewares was a male-dominated industry in the postwar United States, Zeisel never felt discriminated against as a woman. Indeed, her knowledge of craft and industrial processes earned her a great deal of respect, while as a freelance designer she had more independence than staff


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

designers. She fought ferociously for the integrity of her designs and the quality of the products and must surely have tried the patience of more than one managing director but her Museum line and her best-selling lines, such as those for Hall in the 1950s, showed that her name and talents could raise the profile of a company and significantly increase its profits. One of the few times that she experienced discrimination as a woman during her career in the United States took place outside the ceramics industry and related to a technical matter during the development of her Resilient Chair (c. 1950), for which she held a technical patent relating to the folding metal frame. Zeisel designed and helped to make the die for this complex frame but when the die was sent to a metal manufacturer in Iowa, the factory foreman, in the belief that no woman could possibly design a proper die, began fiddling with it, only to end up ruining it, thus bringing this expensive development project to a halt.51 Although she managed to escape discrimination during her career as a designer, she experienced it in her private life when her career ambitions clashed with those of Hans Zeisel. Talking about women juggling marriage and motherhood with work, she stated, “I don’t know how other women managed it. Hans thought my work should be second to his.”52 Used to following her own interests and ambitions Zeisel found that during her marriage to Hans Zeisel she had much less freedom of choice than when single or when married (briefly and without children) to the Austrianborn Communist physicist Alexander Weissberg when living in the Soviet Union. Hans Zeisel had enjoyed a successful career in Europe in the social science and legal studies and, understandably, wanted to continue working, preferably as an academic or researcher. In the postwar United States, most bourgeois wives, including those in liberal intellectual circles, were expected to put their husband’s careers before their own, or to sacrifice their career ambitions and dedicate themselves to home, family, and child care. At first, however, Zeisel resurrected her career more effectively than her husband, and, in what was never an easy marriage, these two strong characters clashed over their careers as early as 1940 when she was offered a marvelous job in West Virginia in 1940. The distinguished potter Frederick Rhead, vice president of the Homer Laughlin China Company, offered her the opportunity to work for a major ceramics company and establish herself as a major designer. She was keen but turned down the job because her husband did not want to move to a location where there would be far fewer job opportunities for him and she was pregnant with their first child.53 Moreover, when he was offered an academic job at the University of Chicago, Illinois, in 1953, he accepted it without consulting her. She pointed out that Chicago was not a good base for her career and that she had a good part-time teaching job and a well-established design studio in New York. In order to keep the family together, however, she reluctantly agreed to move with Jean aged 13 and John aged 9. The couple’s move to Illinois accorded with gender normative expectations but, even before she challenged them in a major way by moving herself and the children back to New York a year later, she accepted a job some 200 miles from Chicago (at Western Stoneware Company’s division in Monmouth, Illinois) which necessitated her staying near the factory for long stretches of time. She only managed to do this job because her parents came to stay in Chicago for extended periods to help look after the children, who stayed with her in Monmouth during the school holidays. By the beginning of

Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism


the 1954/1955 school year, she and the children were back in New York. With the help of her mother and other childcare networks, she reopened her studio and hired new assistants. Although Hans Zeisel tried to spend about one week a month in New York with the family, for much of the 1950s and 1960s she effectively lived, for the most part, as a single working mother in a city far away from the one in which her husband pursued his career. Many professional couples live this way today, but over sixty years ago it was quite unusual, even in New York’s Upper West Side and faculty circles at the University of Chicago. One might say that, without setting out to be so, the Zeisels helped pioneer the postwar two-career, two-city family. Unlike many women of her age, or even younger, who felt that it was somehow unfeminine to be outspokenly feminist, Zeisel was tremendously proud of the feminist activism of her maternal grandmother and mother during the so-called “First Wave” feminism before and after the First World War. Proud of her pioneering relatives, she was happy to be included in exhibitions of “pioneer” women designers, stating “being what some people call a ‘pioneer’ does not mean you have to have experienced discrimination; it is doing something that not many others do or have done.”54 This said, partly because she felt that many of the battles for equality with men had been won already by women such as her mother and grandmother, and partly because she stood aside from most organized movements, Zeisel kept a distance from the feminist movement that began in the late 1960s and gained enormous momentum in the 1970s.

Conclusion Given the examples cited here from Zeisel’s life and work, including growing up with outspoken adults challenging taboos and orthodoxies, from her mother challenging attitudes toward nudity and free expression in children’s education at the kindergarten, or standing up for women’s rights, to her grandmother’s feminism and associations with radicals and revolutionaries in exile from Russia after the 1905 Revolution, and Polanyi family members espousing the ideals of the Free Thinking movement, Zeisel’s confidence and challenging of orthodoxies fall into context. Her creative license came courtesy of her mother and grandmother, and her own free-thinking and free-spirited approach to life and work paralleled the free thinking of not only those women but also her Polanyi uncles and others in their intellectual circles. Unlike them and her mother, she did not try to make sense of the world on a grand scale, standing aside from such things while concentrating on practicing design in the form of a gift in the hope of affecting people at a personal level and making “soul contact” through the objects of everyday life.

Notes 1 Tanya Harrod, “Eva Zeisel Obituary: Industrial Designer Known for Her Ceramic Tableware,” The Guardian, January 15, 2012, http:/www.guardian.co.uk /artanddesign/2012/jan/15/evazeisel.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

2 Karen L. Kettering, “Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory, Dulevo Porcelain Factory,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Pat Kirkham (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2013), 56–63. 3 Jean Richards and Brent C. Brolin, eds., Eva Zeisel: A Soviet Prison Memoir (New York: eBook, 2012). 4 Mary Whitman Davis, “Castleton China Company: Museum,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 68, 66–73. 5 Pat Kirkham, ed., “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, 9–43. 6 Earl Martin, “Hall China Company: Hallcraft Tomorrow’s Classic,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 96–101. 7 Lucy Young, Eva Zeisel (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2003). 8 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 9 Martin Eidelberg et al., Eva Zeisel: Designer for Industry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). 10 Tom Tredway, “Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 126–129. 11 Ibid. 12 Tom Tredway, “Design within Reach: Granit Collection,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 142–145. 13 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 14 Karen L. Kettering, “Lomonosov Porcelain Factory: Talisman,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 138–139. 15 Horst Ullrich, “KleinReid,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 132– 135. Ray Ledda, “Glass,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 146–153. 16 Ibid. 17 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 18 Ibid. 19 Ronald T. Labaco, “‘The Playful Search for Beauty’: Eva Zeisel’s Life in Design,” in Women Designers in the USA, 1900–2000, ed. Pat Kirkham and Ella Howard, Special Issue, Studies in the Decorative Arts 8, no.1 (Fall/Winter 2000–2001): 130. 20 Ibid. 21 Judith Szapor, The Hungarian Pocahontas: The Life and Times of Laura Polanyi Stricker, 1882–1959 (Boulder, CO: East European Monographs: New York, Distributed by Columbia University Press, 2005). 22 Jean Richards, to Pat Kirkham, email March 20, 2016. 23 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 24 Szapor, The Hungarian Pocahontas. 25 Labaco, “The Playful Search for Beauty,” 130. 26 Szapor, The Hungarian Pocahontas. Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 27 Labaco, “The Playful Search for Beauty,” 126. 28 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 29 Eva Zeisel to Pat Kirkham and Ronald T. Labaco, February 18, 1999. 30 Labaco, “The Playful Search for Beauty,” 138. 31 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 32 Ibid. 33 Ibid. 34 Ted Wells, “Furniture,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 154–159.

Eva Zeisel: Gender, Design, Modernism


35 For “playful search for beauty,” see Eva Zeisel to Pat Kirkham and Ronald T. Labaco, February 18, 1999; for “soul contact” see “Die Künsterlin hat das Wort,” Die Schaulade 8 (February 1932): 173. 36 Eva Zeisel, “Early Autobiography,” n.d., Eva Zeisel Archive (in care of Jean Richards), 1. 37 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 38 Brooke Kamin Rappaport and Kevin Stayton, eds., Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940–1960 (New York: Harry N. Abrams and Brooklyn Museum of Art, 2001). 39 Antay S. Bilgutay, “Clover Box and Manufacturing Company: Cloverware,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 84–87. Scott Vermillion, “Eva Zeisel Stoneware and Ironstone,” in Eva Zeisel: Life, Design, and Beauty, ed. Kirkham, 102–109. 40 Labaco, “The Playful Search for Beauty,” 127. 41 Martin Eidelberg, with Derek Ostergaard, and Jennifer Toller, “Eva Zeisel: Ceramist in an Industrial Age,” in Eva Zeisel: Designer for Industry, Eidelberg et al., 13–71. 42 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 43 Pat Kirkham, ed., Women Designers in the U.S.A. 1900–2000: Diversity and Difference (New Haven, MA: Yale University Press, 2000). Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011,” 9–43. 44 Eva Zeisel, “About Berlin 1930–31,” n.d., Eva Zeisel Archive (in care of Jean Richards), 3. 45 Labaco, “The Playful Search for Beauty,” 125–138. Jean Richards, to Pat Kirkham, email March 20, 2016. 46 Eva Zeisel to Pat Kirkham and Ronald T. Labaco, February 18, 1999. 47 Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 48 Ibid. 49 Ibid. 50 Ibid. 51 Jean Richards, to Pat Kirkham, email March 20, 2016. 52 Young, Eva Zeisel, 20. 53 Young, Eva Zeisel. Kirkham, “Eva Zeisel: Design Legend 1906–2011.” 54 Eva Zeisel to Pat Kirkham and Ronald T. Labaco, February 18, 1999.

Part Three

“Outsiders” Perspectives and Cultural Critique


Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography: Victor J. Papanek Social Designer Alison J. Clarke

The role of the creative and intellectual émigré in “de-provincializing” the American mind, “up-grading” culture from a marginal position of exile and outsider, has evolved as a familiar tenet utilized in framing the biographies of successful twentiethcentury émigré figures, from artists to scholars.1 Yet beyond the factual plotting of career intersections and influences, how might we come to understand the processes by which individual biographies generate intellectual and progressive stances in the course of negotiating the vicissitudes of the émigré experience?2 This chapter traces the biography of one such “de-provincializing” émigré, the designer and design critic Victor J. Papanek (1923–1998), a key proponent of socially responsible design in the late twentieth century, who challenged the ideologies of the mainstream American industrial design profession. It considers how the articulation of real, and imagined, intellectual networks come to underpin the construction of an émigré design biography.

Prologue: Émigré loss of material and consuming identities Pre-1938 Vienna occupies an almost mythological place in memories and historical accounts of émigré experience. The city and its culture, prior to the fleeing of persecuted inhabitants following the Nazi-Anschluss, is frequently identified as the locus of intellectual and political inspiration carried forth and translated into new world cultures, to reemerge as a progressive force. Historian Lisa Silverman has gone so far as to argue that the spaces invoked by émigrés, specifically the Jewish spaces of pre-1938 Vienna, would be better understood as a “formative aspect of material culture,” highlighting how Jews “individually and collectively” negotiated their place in the city and later utilized such spaces in the making of their émigré biographies.3 She has similarly argued the significance of property (material culture, furnishings, and artifacts of mundane and sentimental value alike) confiscated, lost, or destroyed through the “Aryanizations” recounted in émigré narrative histories, as a mistakenly peripheralized aspect in the larger understanding of Jewish identity and memory.4


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

American historians, most notably Andrew Heinz in Adapting to Abundance (1990), have long established the vital role of consumption and material culture in the Jewish diasporic experience of acculturation. But overturning the commonsensical, liberal assumption of private property as a naturally divisive entity, Silverman affords a collective imperative to owned goods, arguing that property “reaches far beyond the bounds of the negative, splintering economic effects usually ascribed to it” to the point of actually enabling “the survival of cultural groups.”5 The specificity of the Austrian émigré experience, as outlined through her use of biographical and autobiographical sources, tends in most part toward the representation of the bourgeois émigré experience due to its methodological reliance on literary accounts. Yet, the relevance of the material culture of possessions, and broader concepts of taste is, she argues, pertinent to a broader group, given the majority of Jewish Viennese in the era of the new Austrian republic rented their apartments, meaning “household furnishings became even more important markers of [their] identities as acculturated Austrians.”6 While the duality of loss, of possessions and space as a trope of material culture, runs through a multitude of émigré biographies, one in particular stands out in accentuating this theme in relation to architectural and design émigrés. Viennese-American Victor Gruen, the famed US retail architect, would recount an apocryphal story of arriving as an architect in New York aged thirty-five years with only a T-square to his name. Describing Vienna nostalgically as “a haven” he had “never really left,” Gruen’s life as an émigré was so dependent upon the idealization of his lost city that it came to exert a specific agency of its own.7 Historian M. Jeffrey Hardwick argues that it was Gruen’s idealized version of Vienna, as a diverse but socially intact city, that would come to profoundly shape the invention of America’s stereotypical form—the shopping center.8 Notably, in countering a loss of identity, Gruen constructed an extensive network of fellow émigrés on whom he could rely. As a Jewish architect he remained excluded from the upper echelons of an American architectural practice, which, despite the impact of 1930s progressive Modernist émigrés, remained predominantly circumscribed by cultural and social constraints tied to the notion of the “Gentleman Architect.” As Hardwick puts it, “Anti-Semitism drove Gruen from Vienna to New York and being Jewish in America pushed him into the field of retail design.”9 As such, outsider status was conferred on Gruen twice over, pushing him to the sphere of commercial practice so derided by more “genteel” architects; a sphere in which he would later excel. The ambivalence toward commerce, and its association with Jewish identity and the émigré experience, has been dealt with extensively by historians looking at the impact of émigrés on American culture ranging from Ernest Dichter to Paul Lazarsfeld. Intellectual historian Daniel Horowitz’s (1998) early work on the émigré as a celebrant of consumer culture emerged as part of a broader shift toward material culture and consumption as key mechanisms of history making.10 Following this earlier work, a new generation of scholars has elaborated and complexified the ways in which twentiethcentury Jewish immigrants, far from being at “odds” with American consumerism, actively embraced and shaped it as psychologists, intellectuals, sociologists, educators, architects, planners, retailers, advertisers, graphic and furnishing designers, and so on.11 Yet, the fervent critique of modern consumer culture in Frankfurt School mold is still commonly viewed as the prevailing condition of the Jewish European émigré and

Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography


exile experience, belying the prevalence of a reductionist understanding of the émigré relation to New World consumer culture; “Adorno, Marcuse, and his colleagues present us with an image of the European émigré at odds with mid-century consumerism and its manipulative capabilities in the United States.”12 Émigré biographies are borne of both the intimate relations conjured up by shifting materialities of space and consumption at a point of disjuncture and upheaval, coupled with the broader specificity of cultural historical contexts in which individual biographies are networked, negotiated, and embedded. This chapter focuses on the previously unexplored early émigré life of Papanek, author of the polemical book Design for The Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (1971) (Figure 7.1), in an attempt to map out the methodological potential of biographical networks. Papanek emerged in the 1960s as the leading international proponent of an alternative, social design movement whose ambivalence toward consumer culture, at first glance, echoed that

Figure 7.1  Letter from Frank Lloyd Wright to Victor Papanek, Easter 1949. Courtesy of Victor J. Papanek, University of Applied Arts Vienna.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

of his Frankfurt School forebears. Drawing on anthropology, and emerging fields such as appropriate technology, which challenged “top-down” solutions, his work centered on the critique of the dehumanizing aspects of high modernism in advocating an alternative model of inclusive design based on local socially and culturally embedded responses. As a US designer and critic of corporate design, Papanek has generally been aligned with the tradition of postwar pragmatic North American anticorporate lobbyists such as Vance Packard and Ralph Nader, whose best-selling exposés The Waste Makers (1960) and Unsafe at Any Speed (1965) revealed the machinations of built-in product obsolescence in the consumer goods industry and negligent design within car manufacture respectively. Looking beyond the Frankfurt School and North American corporate consumer culture paradigms, Papanek’s work and influence might be understood through the lived émigré experience, considering how transnational intellectual networks, informal economies, and social relations of the émigré experience are articulated in the fraught process of managing a new identity, livelihood, and professional personhood. Based on original biographical research, this chapter shows how Papanek’s formative years as a young émigré living on the borders of the Lower East Side of New York City depended upon the articulation of an extraordinary series of real and imagined networks including adopted “father” figures as diverse as Raymond Loewy (1893–1986), Frederick Kiesler (1890–1965), Bernard Rudofsky (1905–1988), Henry Miller (1891–1980), and Frank Lloyd Wright (1867– 1959). Immersed as a refugee outsider in the alien spaces of a metropolis caught in the maelstrom of a cultural battle between high and low culture, Papanek’s first-hand experiences of a popular culture, mass consumption, and material life, so glaringly at odds with his Viennese bourgeois upbringing, shaped a mode of design criticism that would come to transform the notion of “social” within design.

Letters to the fathers: Apostles of simplicity and restraint New York was trembling with the vibrations of thousands of riveting guns. Scores of enormous buildings were in the process of construction; a wonderful, dynamic spectacle… It was the golden era of the skyscraper … It was loud, ugly, and chic. Our stylish stylists of the furniture world, responding to the call of the cash register, put two and two together and created “skyscraper furniture”. … It all happened in quick succession. We saw the country flooded with one monstrosity after another: the Modernistic, the Cubistic, and the Futuristic.13 In the course of his career, Papanek made sporadic claims to having worked with Raymond Loewy in the Loewy INC design practice, recounting how, when the company had refused to take seriously a plea to design for those of shorter stature (like his own petite mother), he had been forced to quit in protest at the guru’s lack of inclusive design sensibility.14 This association with Loewy simultaneously bolstered Papanek’s conventional design credentials, while reiterating his “outsider” status as being generated through his own ethical principle, rather than external conferment.

Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography


Loewy, the bête-noire of socially responsible design, had a generation earlier made similar claims to a moral superiority. In his autobiography Never Leave Well Enough Alone (1951), Loewy, widely credited as the founder of the twentieth-century US industrial design profession and enthusiast for US consumer expansionism, sketches out a vision of 1940s New York as a metropolis in radical transition; the mundaneness of everyday city life transformed by a sudden dislocation from tradition to populist modernity.15 A thinly veiled critique of figures such as émigré designer Paul T. Frankl, whose success depended on the patronage of a wave of nouveaux riche Hollywood clientele hungry for “jazz moderne” furnishings, Loewy drew on the “outsider” status of his upper-middle-class French émigré background to position himself and his entourage of “apostles” at the center of a countermovement of “simplicity and restraint.” Taming the excesses of a vulgar New World culture intoxicated by an unstoppable groundswell of modernity, Loewy used his mid-century autobiography to reframe himself as an opponent of the “modernistic cataract” which had beset the less principled members of the design profession, whose base commercial intent and lowbrow taste Loewy strove to distance himself from.16 The publication of Never Leave Well Enough Alone, part-autobiography, part-design treatise, formed an integral part of a broader public relations coup, which led to Loewy’s appearance on the front cover of Time magazine in 1949, an accolade serving to cement his reputation as the postDepression era’s outspoken proponent of consumer abundance and guru of branded corporate design. Dubbed the “Father of Streamlining,” Loewy’s totalizing product and brand restyling approach boosted sales on a mass scale. The Time’s portrait illustrated Loewy as a dapper and be-suited figure set against a floating backdrop of automobiles, airplanes, consumer durables, and everyday packaged products (including his celebrated designs for Lucky Strike cigarettes and Coca-Cola).17 As early as 1946, in an interview with the British newspaper The Times, Loewy embraced an entrepreneurial, anti-intellectual, self-parodying approach to design, dismissing European modernist aesthetic debate as anathema to an American industrial designer for whom “a conception of aesthetic consists of a beautiful sales curve, shooting upwards.”18 Opposing the trope of the European High Modernist designer, he borrowed from the caricature of the self-made assimilated émigré, proud of his modest beginnings as window dresser for the department stores which, later in his career he would go on to design in their entirety.19 Recent research regarding the construction of Loewy’s extraordinarily prominent public relations profile has drawn attention to the crucial role of his publicist, Elizabeth Reese, who fastidiously curated and constructed the heroic “streamline” designer’s image through her gendered understanding of popular consumption. As well as securing the renowned US Time magazine portrait, Reese conceived and staged the extraordinarily ambitious product photo shoot (shipping a Coldspot refrigerator and Studebaker automobile to Pennsylvania) that saw Loewy flanked by his streamlined design trophies, including gargantuan streamlined locomotives, effectively instilling in the popular imagination a “design empire, in stark black and white.”20 Unlike other prominent entrepreneurial figures, such as Gruen who famously instigated the rise of the US shopping mall, minimal attention has been paid in


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

contemporary scholarship to the relevance of Loewy’s émigré background.21 The French-born son of a Jewish Viennese father, Loewy’s posturing as a purveyor of superior European discernment was integral to his role as America’s master of modernity.22 Critiquing, for example, the phenomenon of ready-made convenience foods as an abomination, Loewy drolly observed that “ ‘the American’ was fond of eating certain types of building materials.”23 Yet, in pronounced contrast to many of his contemporaries and the artistic and Modernist elite he enjoyed to parody, Loewy openly celebrated aspects of US popular consumer culture and the unprecedented scale of its influence. He praised the movie industry for encouraging good table manners in “the smallest farming belt or coal town,” allowing average Americans to share in the nation’s aspirations while happily boosting the sale of “millions of home and labor saving devices.”24 Crucially, Loewy sought to differentiate himself from designers such as Frankl, who were busy decorating the opulent interiors of Hollywood starlets, rather than immersing themselves in the crusade to reform design for the masses through the mechanisms of free market, consumer capitalist choice. Two decades after the publication of his best-selling autobiography, Loewy was reduced to the status of a “straw man” by a new generation of late-twentieth-century designers and critics armed with a social agenda. In Design for the Real World, Papanek singled out Loewy as a mere “peddler” of false desire whose only “crusade” had been “a crusade to get clients.”25 He cast Loewy as the ringleader of an era of outmoded designers who had willingly collaborated with the large-scale corporations, enhancing their profit margins on an unprecedented scale and at the expense of the consumer masses they purported to serve. Outlining an ersatz manifesto for a radical, social design movement, Papanek, in a style redolent of Ayn Rand’s bombastic architect Howard Roark in the best-selling novel The Fountainhead (1943) condemned designers for selling-their souls to commerce: Industrial design differs from its sister arts of architecture and engineering in one basic way: it is the only profession that has moved from discovery to degeneracy in one generation […] members of the profession have lost integrity and responsibility and become purveyors of trivia, the tawdry and the shoddy, the inventors of toys for adults.26

Supplanting the pivotal position of the “Father of Streamlining” as the exulted design pioneer of the early twentieth century, Papanek proffered himself as the alternative design guru replete with newly converted apostles whom he instructed to “knock on doors that had never been opened before.” “Just as Raymond Loewy and others had visited potential clients in the 1920s and 1930s, to show them what industrial designers could do,” posited Papanek, the new design apostles would oppose profit-driven design culture in favor of selling the concept of socially responsible design, “knocking on the doors” of “developing countries, clinics, hospitals.”27 In keeping with other US émigré designers, Papanek’s initial status as an outsider lent him a fresh perspective on a nation at odds with Old World European culture. He shared with Loewy a sensibility of the informal ethnographer: making acute observations of a host environment rife with the contradictions of unbridled consumer capitalism, its

Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography


excess and its inequalities. Loewy, representing as he did the apotheosis of commercial design Papanek would later pit himself against, nevertheless shared with him the mantle of crusader against New World vulgarity. Papanek held a first-edition copy of Never Leave Well Enough Alone in his personal library, and flicking through the pages he would have read Loewy’s treatise on the nonprogressive horrors of “nouveaux riches” consumption: “[N]ightmares of vulgarity were sweeping the country, what were the odds against us, the pure boys, apostles of simplicity and restraint? Our only hope was that some men of taste would revolt against their gilt outrages and turn to us for help.”28 With a polemical tone strikingly similar to that later adopted in Papanek’s writings, Loewy considered himself a reformer as much as a designer: transforming “bad” consumer culture (in the form of middle-brow modernistic design) into “good” streamlined consumer culture for the masses. “We [serious designers] had to contend with a group of twenty or so crackpot commercial artists, decorators, etc., without experience, taste, talent, or integrity, who called themselves industrial designers.”29 As a figure who, by the late 1960s, would condemn design as “the single most dangerous profession in the world,” Papanek’s formative émigré experience stood in pronounced contrast to that of his imagined rival Loewy, who, hailing from an affluent Jewish-Parisian background had settled in New York in the early twentieth century equipped with a plethora of upper echelon social connections. Papanek, on the other hand, arrived via Ellis Island where the fifteen-year-old youth and his widowed mother Helene stood in line to be processed and officially classified as refugee Jews on April 4, 1939, before being met by relatives from Harlem, Upper Manhattan.30

Between designed performance and social realities Papanek’s arrival in the United States coincided with the opening, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, of the 1939 New York World’s Fair design spectacle: an event that saw Loewy as well as contemporaries Henry Dreyfuss and Walter Dorwin Teague propelled to even greater heights of popular fame as the choreographers of the future, and harbingers of a new economy.31 While Elizabeth Reese’s carefully curated photo shoots of Raymond Loewy and his branded objects transformed the authoritative style of industrial design, the image of the black-and-white gleaming architectonic structures of the Trylon and Perisphere popularized design as an agent of modernity for the masses. The New York World Fair’s emblem, the cone and sphere, graced the covers of national, popular, and design press from The New York Times to Popular Mechanics and Vogue as icons of a spectacle whose theme “The World of Tomorrow” would go on to attract forty-four million visitors.32 There is no documentary evidence to suggest that Papanek personally visited the New York World’s Fair. Indeed, within months of arriving in the United States he was a resident of a Jewish charitable hostel on the border of the Lower East Side, immersed in the throes of the metropolis living side by side with young Jewish and Americans émigrés, all of whom worked in lowsalaried positions as apprentices, clerks, and errand boys.33 Bewildering in its vastness, sensorially overwhelming, New York City offered a harsh transition to émigré urban life, a transition that while potentially exhilarating quite possibly precluded the luxury


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

of visiting a major exposition.34 The impact of the Fair, through the widespread promotion of its “futurama” iconography, would have proved inescapable. As a spectacle of imagined future-living, encapsulated by the slogan “Dawn of the New Day,” the Fair’s democratic theme stood in stark contrast to the oppressive regimes of wartime Europe and acted as a metaphor of a US life beyond war; a vision particularly pertinent to a newly arrived immigrant.35 While Papanek’s entrée into the United States as an impoverished refugee differed markedly to Loewy’s privileged upper-middle-class status as the son of an affluent migrant, elements of their backgrounds share similarities. Papanek was educated in the highly academic Viennese Gymnasium school system (as was fellow Viennese émigré Gruen), and was raised in the bourgeois surroundings of Vienna’s most prestigious address, the Ringstrasse, a location popular within the upper echelons of Vienna’s Jewish society.36 The ethnically vivid Jewish Lower East Side Papanek rubbed up against shortly after his arrival in the America could not have been further removed from his former life in the genteel first district of Vienna with its renowned opera house, opulent imperial architecture and fine cafés. As a youth, Papanek’s familiarity with ethnic Jewish culture (if he had any at all) would have been confined to knowledge of the Leopoldstadt, well known as the city’s Jewish district, situated on the opposite side of the Danube Canal across from the affluent Innere Stadt (Inner City). The pre-1938 atmosphere of Leopoldstadt, as described by Silverman, would have borne the closest resemblance for Papanek to the ethnically Jewish neighborhood of the Lower East Side: “The influx of Jews from the East, many of whom were religious and more traditionallygarbed, ensured that [Leopoldstadt], with its high concentration of Jewish residents, signs with Hebrew letters advertising kosher shops, and Yiddish newspapers, theaters, cafes, and synagogues, continued to thrive and evoke shtetl life.”37 Although by 1939, the bulk of New York’s Jewish population had moved out of Manhattan toward areas such as Brooklyn and the Bronx, according to historian Peter Buhle, the Lower East Side concretized as the symbolic home of Jewishness “for at least two generations” defined in the popular imagination by “crowded streets, small peddlers in their stalls, factories, penny candy stores […] scenes reimagined by the emerging [1940s] Jewish artists of Hollywood, therefore almost as real as if they had taken place.”38 For a young man no longer constrained by the trappings of a conventional bourgeois Viennese life, immersion into the popular culture around the edges of the Lower East Side must have proved a partly exhilarating and transgressive experience. But the trauma of Papanek’s escape to the United States was compounded and intensified by the relatively recent death of his father in 1935. Papanek found himself in the onerous position of being simultaneously the cherished only son, and the responsible carer for his mother. The recently bereaved, single-parent family were stripped of all familial property and sentimental possessions prior to their perilously delayed departure from Vienna, a full year after Germany’s Anschluss of Austria. The family’s fine food and wine business was situated directly on Am Hof in Vienna’s Innere Stadt, a short walk away from Heldenplatz where the cheering crowds gathered for Adolf Hitler’s notorious ceremonial announcement of the Anschluss on March 15, 1938, and where Papanek’s family almost certainly witnessed the Kristallnacht atrocities committed in November of that same year.39

Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography


The critics from within In the biographical accounts Papanek gave in the course of a career spanning five decades, his experience as a refugee striving to forge a professional identity as a designer remained entirely unreferenced: he distanced himself from any émigré identity, instead readily associating himself with the intellectual values of an Old European background and the Austro-Hungarian empire. Following the success of Design for the Real World in the 1970s, press interviews and biographical introductions accompanying his work invariably mentioned an apprenticeship with architectural icon Frank Lloyd Wright, from whom Papanek had painstakingly striven to acquire written certification regarding his presence at Taliesin, Wisconsin, and Taliesin West, Arizona, in the late 1940s.40 Details regarding the duration, nature, or circumstances of his presence at Taliesin remain unclear as official records of his apprenticeship do not exist. It seems highly probable that Papanek used the guise of the “Veteran’s [sic] Art Circle,” which, in a letter requesting literature from Wright in April 1948, he described as “a non-profit, co-operative group of young people here in this city, who get together for the study of art and architecture on evenings,” as a means of making an initial approach to Wright.41 Along with Wright, Papanek included fellow émigré Frederick Kiesler in his network, noting that he had assisted in building structures for the Art of This Century Gallery opened by Peggy Guggenheim in October 1942. As historian Elana Shapira argues (this volume), through their early designs Kiesler, Rudofsky and Papanek would rework public discourses central to the formation of Viennese modernism, such as “the reclamation of the body, the relationship between fashion and architecture, and the identification of bad design with social decline.”42 But along with Wright, Kiesler and Rudofsky, Papanek drew upon a less probable figure in plotting out his real and imagined network: the iconic and controversial American artist and literary figure Henry Miller, who had recently returned from exile in Europe. In The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (1945), Miller, who repatriated from Paris to America shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War after a decade’s long exile, appropriated the stance of an émigré’s “outside” perception in his travelogue observations made on a three-year cross-country journey across his estranged native land. Often cited as the precursor to Kerouac’s On the Road (1957), Miller’s Air-Conditioned Nightmare read as subjectivist social critique aimed at exposing the alienating effects of his nation’s conformist, consumer-driven culture. “Walt Disney … is the master of the nightmare,” scoffed Miller before going on to condemn American mass media, and the spiritual bankruptcy of a nation driven by utilitarian, economic concern.43 As a critic from within, Miller’s self-declaredly antibourgeois, artistic hedonism represented a model of the “insider-outsider” as an empowered commentator liberated from social convention, pitted against the affects of a ceaselessly expanding and seemingly inauthentic consumer culture. Papanek claimed Miller as an ally in the forging of his professional biography, and the tirades against the vacuity of design for consumer culture, which came to define his polemical style, owe at least something to the style of Miller’s cultural critiques. So keen was Papanek to shape himself in the mold of the American bohemian artist that he recounted how Miller had once used his New York apartment in 1940 as a “bolt-hole”


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

shortly after his return from European exile.44 The fact that, according to official census records, with Papanek resided in a Jewish charitable hostel during the timeframe of Miller’s return from Europe brings into question the veracity of this scenario. Papanek’s library does, however, contain a personally signed copy, “to Vic,” of Miller’s 1947 Circle Edition booklet, Varda: The Master Builder (exploring the work of avant-garde collage artist Jean Varda), though there is every possibility this booklet was acquired by Papanek under the auspices of the “Veteran’s [sic] Art Circle” which he had established at his mother’s New York City address (Figure 7.2). Dwelling, however, on the authenticity of Papanek’s claim to have offered Miller hospitality misses the significant methodological point of how we might understand the making of the creative émigré biography. As a maverick artist, Miller was part of an intellectual network utilized in exploring the potentialities of an émigré identity unanchored from the conservative constraints of a former life. For Miller occupied the unique role of being a disaffected American antihero whose “outsider” status was voluntarily endowed and self-defined, rather than externally imposed like that of an émigré refugee; his status as a real or an imagined ally did not substantially affect his efficacy in this respect.

Real and imagined networks of “The Outsiders” In 1943, now living in a small apartment a block away from his previous hostel address, and just weeks before his twentieth birthday, Papanek enlisted in the US army (Figure 7.3). This was an unexceptional initiative during the period, as enlistment in the military offered new émigrés a secure route to achieving citizenship and related familial benefits.45 Papanek’s army documents, though, offer unique insight into the beginning of his newly emerging émigré identity. The son of a conservative fine food retailing family, trading under a coveted imperial warrant, within four years of his arrival at Ellis Island and minimally equipped (with limited financial means and meager social connections) Papanek recorded his profession as that of an “artist.” Intriguingly, his army documents also indicated his status as “married.” Indeed, in the summer of 1944, a Brooklyn rabbi of Hungarian descent presided over the marriage ceremony of Victor Joseph Papanek to a young Jewish bookkeeper of Russian heritage named Anna Lipschitz, thereby formally integrating Papanek into the Jewish community of New York.46 Papanek refrained from disclosing the fact of this marriage within the course of his entire career, personal life, and subsequent marriages.47 The reasons behind this nondisclosure remain unclear, but certainly marriage into a traditional working-class ethnic Jewish Brooklyn family may have been at odds with the bohemian artistic identity he envisaged for himself.48 Furthermore, Papanek’s reluctance to acknowledge aspects of his émigré life echoes the biographies of other émigrés such as Victor Gruen, who purportedly “never publicly wrote about his refugee experience or his immigration to the United States.”49 Other émigré artists and designers avoided mention of their early émigré lives and censored their own biographies through a desire to distance themselves from the associated and ongoing trauma, or in the case of figures Xanti Schawinsky and Saul Steinberg, due to their politically contradictory lives in the late 1930s and early 1940s Fascist Italy, respectively.50

Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography


Figure 7.2  Signed personal copy of Varda: The Master Builder by Henry Miller. © Victor J. Papanek, University of Applied Arts Vienna.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 7.3  Victor J. Papanek in army uniform c. 1944–5. © Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna. Photographer unknown.

In the process of representing his professional personhood, Papanek would consistently disassociate himself from the lived experience of being a Jewish émigré in New York. Though he openly acknowledged his admiration for Kiesler, and Viennese émigré architect and designer Bernard Rudofsky, whose prose, and quasi-

Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography


anthropological gaze would later inform Papanek’s own polemical style of design criticism.51 Rudofsky’s 1944 format-busting MoMA exhibition, “Are Clothes Modern?” submitted fashion to a critical review of the basic hierarchical principles of design and with them the formalist paradigms engendering high modernism in a Western capitalist economy, with the self-declared intent “to take the blinders of tradition off modern eyes so that they can see that certain conventions […] are in fact useless, impractical, irrational, harmful and unbeautiful.”52 His approach was semi-anthropological: dwelling on the local, vernacular, and indigenous and using disjunctures between conventional fashion and the more authentic historical culture and traditions of the Mediterranean and Europe.53 The principal aim of this comparative rhetoric device was to cast light on the absurdity of modern Western culture’s unique claim on “progress” through the urbane observations of everyday cultural life and its artifacts using the backdrop of wartime as a potential driver for change. Like Miller, for Papanek, Rudofsky’s voice was that of a “critic from within” the American establishment. Far removed from the well-connected émigré experience of figures such as Rudofsky, who had arrived in the United States as the Latin American prizewinner of a MoMA home-furnishing competition and within a short period of time made his name as a curator and design editor, “quickly befriending European émigré artists and architects,” Papanek struggled to position himself in the burgeoning field of industrial design.54 His breakthrough came from an unusual and ironic source, considering Papanek would go on to build his reputation as a design critic: lambasting design’s precarious relation to popular consumer culture. In the 1940s, Papanek regularly indulged himself in American ephemera at a movie still, comic book, and glamor pin-up basement store located a block from his efficiency apartment in the edge of the Lower East Side and run by a Jewish Brooklynite named Irving Klaw.55 Referring later to this part of his émigré network, Papanek observed that Klaw, having “noticed that pin-ups of women wearing high heels went more quickly than those wearing only bathing suits […] immediately began classifying both pin-ups into different categories […] as well as raising prices.”56 In fact, Klaw and his sister Paula were leading makers and distributors via a mail-order business named Movie Star News of fetish and bondage images, comic books, and movies that managed to circumvent United States censorship laws for over a decade. By 1957, Klaw achieved notoriety when his business was investigated as part of a broader clampdown on pornography related to the Senate Sub-Committee on Juvenile Delinquency. Klaw gave Papanek his first formally commissioned design job, as an illustrator of erotic images for a series of “Battling Women” comic books (derived from semipornographic films of the same theme) as well as miscellaneous graphics between 1942 and 1947: Irving Klaw would pay me $175.00 for a 15 × 20 inch black and white page for a comic book which took me less than a day to do. At that time the average pay for a normal illustrator was only $20.00 a week! Still later I developed two reasonably ravishing looking women heroines called “Gail” and “Stormy” for him as well. One of these women was modeled after Bettie Page.57


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 7.4  Front cover of Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change, 1971. Courtesy Victor J. Papanek, University of Applied Arts Vienna.

Real and Imagined Networks of an Émigré Biography


By the late 1940s, Papanek would add Klaw’s most feted and notorious fetish model, Bettie Page, to his network, admiring her enormously as a most “humane, human, pleasant and genuine […] unspoiled pleasant young woman from a Tennessee farm,” unfairly exploited by Klaw.58 In the midst of his design work for Klaw’s “Battling Women,” Papanek received a long-awaited confirmation of his apprenticeship with the great father of architecture in Taliesin in the form of a personal letter from Frank Lloyd Wright dated Easter 1949. Consolidating the extraordinary network Papanek had striven to make as a young émigré, Wright’s words also conferred on him a Howard Roark-style rebellious edge he would develop in his future polemicizing: “Dear Victor,” it read, “At your age, had Lieber Meister brought me to Taliesin, I too would have fought, rebelled as you did. Mrs. Wright and I will remember you as part of the stones you helped to lay here and at Taliesin West, for you have always tried to be the “Real Thing” (Figure 7.4).59 By 1971, Papanek had formally extended his network to include another “outsider” of American design, the maverick R. Buckminster Fuller, who agreed to write the introduction to the first English edition of Design for the Real World, thus sealing Papanek’s reputation as a leading voice of counterculture design and placing himself in the center of ensuing debates.60

Conclusion This chapter explores how the plotting of émigré biographies might be argued as a valuable methodological tool within itself, and how émigré relations to space, taste, and consumption come to manifest themselves in the “making” of a designer in 1940s America. The tracing and mapping of networks has more recently moved to prominence in the study of émigré designers, artists, and architects exemplified, for example, by recent research around the intersections and career trajectories of American Jewish designers and émigrés in making the mid-century home.61 Yet, stretching beyond the practical elements of plotting relations between émigré creatives, the case of Papanek shows the critical value of biographical research into real and imagined networks. This approach brings to the fore the multilayered trajectories of personal and professional relations that influenced development of émigré design agendas, visual tropes, and identities, that ultimately made practice as a designer a historically viable, and socially tenable option in forging an émigré biography.

Acknowledgments The author wishes to acknowledge the support of the Botstiber Institute for AustrianAmerican Studies (BIAAS) award in conducting research for this chapter, and the invaluable early comments of colleagues Elana Shapira and Bryleigh Morsink from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) émigré network project.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Notes 1 Lewis A. Coser, Refugee Scholars in America: Their Impact and Their Experiences (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). 2 For an example of the plotting of career intersections and émigré networks in design, see Donald Albrecht, Designing Home: Jews and Mid-Century Modernism (San Francisco, CA: The Contemporary Jewish Museum, 2014). 3 Lisa Silverman, “Leopoldstadt, Judenplatz, and Beyond: Rethinking Vienna’s Jewish Spaces,” East Central Europe 42 (2015): 249. 4 Lisa Silverman, “Repossessing the Past? Property, Memory and Austrian Jewish Narrative Histories,” Austrian Studies 11 (2003): 138–153. 5 Ibid., 140. 6 Ibid., 141. 7 M. Jeffrey Hardwick, Mall Maker: Victor Gruen, Architect of an American Dream (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004), 91. 8 Harriet Freidenreich, Jewish Politics in Vienna (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 208–209. Freidenreich identifies the nostalgia invoked by Viennese Jews as an integral part of their émigré biographies. Also see Hardwick, Mall Maker, 91. 9 See M. Jeffrey Hardwick, “A Viennese Refugee and the Re-Forming of American Consumer Society,” in Economic History Yearbook 2 (Köln: Akademie Verlag, 2005), 93. See also Hardwick, Mall Makers. 10 Daniel Horowitz, “The Émigré as Celebrant of American Consumer Culture,” in Getting and Spending: European and American Consumer Societies in the Twentieth Century, ed. Susan Strasser, Charles McGovern, and Matthias Judt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 149–166. 11 See Hardwick, “A Viennese Refugee,” and Hardwick, Mall Makers. 12 Jan Logemann, “European Imports? European Immigrants and the Transformation of American Consumer Culture from the 1920s to the 1960s,” Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 52 (Spring 2013): 113. 13 Raymond Loewy, Never Leave Well Enough Alone (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1951), 94. 14 “I would like to jump in here with a story. I once worked for Raymond Loewy in New York. …” “How to work with a package designer,” Canadian Packaging, February, 1957, 43. 15 The autobiography was part of a broader and sustained promotional campaign and revolved around a rags-to-riches-type émigré story despite Loewy’s upper-class French origins. 16 Despite this critique of “skyscraper furniture” designers, in 1935, Paul T. Frankl’s own autobiography makes mention of Raymond Loewy as a client. Frankl specifically notes his “meager” contribution of furnishings to Loewy’s Palm Springs retreat: his few armchairs and a sofa designed “to add to the comfort of [Loewy’s] illustrious guests watching the never-ending sunsets in the sky and the beguiling beauties in the pool.” The inclusion of the small commission for Loewy appears to have been advantageous to Frank as in the ensuing paragraph he also “name-drops” Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant as high-profile Hollywood clients. Christopher Long and Aurora McClain, eds., Paul T. Frankl Autobiography (Los Angeles: DoppelHouse Press, 2013), 128–129. See also Christopher Long, Paul T. Frankl and Modern American Design (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007).

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17 Boris Artzybasheff, “Designer Raymond Loewy: He Streamlines the Salescurve” illustration, Time magazine (October 31, 1949): cover. 18 Loewy’s comments were reprinted as “Aesthetics in Industry,” The Architectural Review 99 (January 1946): lv. See Jeffrey L. Meikle, Twentieth Century Limited: Industrial Design in America, 1925–1939 (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2001), 134. 19 Loewy created a single window decoration for Macy’s overnight on his first day on the job that, according to his recollection disastrously misunderstood by his employer, ended up with him quitting before he could be fired (Loewy, Never Leave Well Enough Alone, 56–58). He went on to work for the department stores Wanamaker’s and Saks. 20 Jake Gorst, “Designing Loewy: Elisabeth Reese Remembered,” Modernism Magazine, 2007: 55 (online access). 21 One exception is the work of Jan Logemann who positions Loewy as a European migrant illustrating the “transatlantic connections that shaped the ‘golden age’ of American commercial design.” Logemann, “European Imports?” 125. 22 Loewy summarized his background thus: “Father, whom I consider a reasonable prototype for a gentleman, was born in Vienna, son of a family of educators, physicians, and other members of the professions.” Loewy, Never Leave Well Enough Alone, 18. 23 Loewy, Never Leave Well Enough Alone, 32. 24 Ibid., 173–174; compare Meikle, Twentieth Century Limited, 89–90. 25 Victor J. Papanek, “Phylogenocide: A History of the Industrial Design Profession,” in Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (New York: Pantheon Books, 1971), 30–31. 26 Ibid., xxi. 27 Ibid. 28 Loewy, Never Leave Well Enough Alone, 95. 29 Ibid., 128. 30 Victor Papanek and his mother Hélène arrived at Ellis Island on the SS Penland ship from Vlissingen Holland. Their contacts in New York City were the Strauss family. Edward Strauss was Helene’s uncle on her maternal side. States Immigrant Inspector at Port of Arrival (April 4, 1939). 31 The fair was held at the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of the first president of the United States. 32 See R. Kargon, K. Fiss, M. Low, and A. Molella, chapter four “Whose Modernity: Utopia and Commerce at the 1939 New York World’s Fair,” in World’s Fairs on the Eve of War: Science, Technology and Modernity 1937–1942 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015), 57–83. 33 The Hannah Lavanburg House, a Jewish charitable hostel, was equipped with a synagogue, a swimming pool, and a gym, as well as meeting rooms and other extensive facilities. The Sixteenth Census of the United States, New York, 1940, records Papanek as a resident, with no source of employment noted. 34 The Lower East Side was described as the “capital” of Jewish America at the turn of the twentieth century. See Peter Buhle, From the Lower East Side to Hollywood: Jews in Popular Culture (London–New York: Verso, 2004). 35 Kargon et al., “Whose Modernity.” 36 Elana Shapira, “Moses and Hercules: Jewish Patrons Fashioning the Ringstrasse and the Prater,” in: Exh. Cat, Gabriele Fritz-Kohlbaer (ed.) The Jewish Ringstrasse (Vienna’s Jewish Museum, March 2015), 162–188. 37 Silverman, “Leopoldstadt, Judenplatz, and Beyond,” 250.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

38 Buhle, From the Lower East Side to Hollywood, 19. 39 Both Helene Papanek’s mother and her sister perished in the Holocaust. Helene’s widow mother and Helene’s sister Bertha Lederer and her husband Alfred Lederer sought refuge in Prague. In March 1939, a year after the Anschluss of Austria, the Czech Republic was also annexed to Nazi Germany. In November 1941, they were relocated to Ghetto Thereisenstadt. Helene’s mother Marie Spitz was murdered in Theresienstadt in September 1942, and Bertha was deported to Treblinka and murdered there that same month. I thank Dr. Elana Shapira for this information. 40 Victor J. Papanek, letter to Frank Lloyd Wright, dated April 20, 1948, Getty Foundation. 41 Ibid. 42 Elana Shapira, “Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender,” 141. 43 See Andrew S. Gross, “Imagining the Interstate: Henry Miller, Post-Tourism, and the Disappearance of American Place,” in Public Space and the Ideology of Place in American Culture, ed. Miles Orvell and Jeffrey L. Meikle (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2009). 44 Related to the author in a personal interview with Papanek’s former colleague James Hennessy, the Netherlands, December 2012. 45 Honorable discharge certificate, dated December 14, 1944, Papanek Foundation, University Applied Arts Vienna. 46 Marriage certificate, dated June 30, 1944, Papanek Foundation, University Applied Arts Vienna. 47 Papanek entered into a further three marriages following this early union. 48 The union may have been a marriage of convenience. However, the address on Papanek’s naturalization papers (669 Schenk Avenue), which granted him US citizenship on June 25, 1945, show reference to the same street declared for his bride Anna Lipschitz (514 Schenck Avenue) in the marriage certificate of June 30, 1944, namely Schenck Avenue, Brooklyn. 49 Harwick, “A Viennese Refugee,” 93. 50 See Mario Tedeschini Lalli, “Descent from Paradise: Saul Steinberg’s Italian Years (1933–1941),” Quest: Issues in Contemporary Jewish History 2 (October 2011). 51 Papanek owned several of Rudofsky’s books including Are Clothes Modern? (Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1947), Behind the Picture Window (New York: Oxford University Press, 1955), Architecture without Architects: A Short Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture (New York: Doubleday, 1964), The Kimono Mind: An Informal Guide to Japan and the Japanese (Garden City: Doubleday, 1965), and Streets for People: A Primer for Americans (New York: Doubleday, 1969). 52 See The Museum of Modern Art New York Press Release 1944, “Museum of Modern Art to Open Exhibition Are Clothes Modern?” MOMA_1944_0048_194. 53 Bernard Rudofsky’s later exhibitions and publications including Architecture without Architects: A Short Guide to Non-Pedigreed Architecture (1964) and Streets for People: A Primer for Americans (1969) paved the way for Papanek’s Design for the Real World with their defiance of the professionalization of innate human needs and activities. They embraced a cosmopolitan, humanist design agenda whose legacy is evident in the alternative design movement of the 1970s, and some aspects of contemporary design studies. 54 Felicity D. Scott, “Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home,” in this volume. 55 The store was originally located at 209 East 14th Street and later moved to 212 East 14th Street.

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56 Victor J. Papanek, J.L. Constant Distinguished Professor, School of Architecture and Urban Design, Kansas University, letter to Weekly journalist Karen Essex in Los Angeles, dated November 5, 1991, Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna. 57 Papanek, letter to Essex. 58 Ibid. 59 Frank Lloyd Wright, letter to Victor J. Papanek, dated Easter 1949, Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna. 60 See Alison J. Clarke, “Actions Speak Louder: Victor Papanek and the Legacy of Design Activism,” Design and Culture 5, no. 2 (2012): 151–168; and “Buckminster Fuller’s Reindeer Abattoir and Other Designs for the Real World: 1960s Scandinavian Design Activism Meets US Counter Culture,” in Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, ed. Andrew Blauvelt (Minneapolis, MN: Walker Art Center, 2015), 68–75. 61 Such as Albrecht, Designing Home.


Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender Elana Shapira

In the years surrounding the Second World War, three Austrian émigré designers challenged the mid-century viewer and consumer to examine the interdependency between gender norms and consumption and to attain a deeper understanding of human physical and psychological needs in these contexts. Gender as a historical category is applied here as “a way of denoting ‘cultural constructions’—the entirely social creation of ideas about appropriate roles for women and men.”1 This chapter looks at the subject of gender and design in specific works by these three designers, Frederick Kiesler, Bernard Rudofsky, and Victor Papanek. In Kiesler’s “Space House” (1933), as in Rudofsky’s MoMA exhibition and later publication “Are Clothes Modern?” (1944, 1947), and in Papanek’s Samisen chair (early 1950s), each designer critiqued the normative designs of “home,” “dress,” and “chair” respectively, evoking surreal visions that diminished the border between reality and fiction to highlight gender critiques and to disrupt consumer habits. In their works, the three designers shed new light on perceptions of male and female gender particularly by engaging “the uncanny.” According to Sigmund Freud’s analysis of Das Unheimliche (the uncanny), it is a repression and a reversal of the wish to return to the secure image of the Heimlich (homely, the secure, the trusted).2 Through the uncanny these designers addressed at one level their own “lack of home,” meaning their forced or adopted “exilic” standing, but employed it further to address gender perceptions and stereotypes. In a novel manner, Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek reworked lessons drawn from Czech-Austrian modern architect Adolf Loos regarding the reclamation of the body, the relationship between fashion and architecture, and the identification of bad design with social decline.3 Yet, in contrast to Loos, who wanted to secure his client’s well-being in correctly tailored interiors, their new designs challenged the public’s expectation of a secure or protective “house,” “dress,” and “chair,” encouraging consumers to rethink socially accepted patterns of behavior.4 The three reconsidered the interrelationship between the utilitarian and symbolic functions of objects of daily use, achieving this partly through the provocative surrealist strategy of making the familiar strange and the strange familiar.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Similarly to the surrealists, these émigré designers arranged their projections of “house,” “dress,” and “chair” to draw viewers and potential clients into a net of visual connections through basic human emotions like existential fear/social anxiety or sexual desire. Furthermore, they intended to treat the question of gender in their designs. I suggest that Kiesler’s Space House tries to question social habits/address social anxieties from both male and female perspectives; Rudofsky’s exhibition “Are Clothes Modern?” addresses the subject of body reclamation by both men and women, yet emphasizes the female perspective; Papanek’s Samisen chair reconsiders the political aspects of a “human fit” in design in relation to woman. Yet, evoking the uncanny to expose also modernist strategies of controlling male and female bodies,5 the three designers reinstituted the “clear-cut polarity, epitomized in the dualisms of ‘good design/bad design’, ‘good taste/bad taste—within which feminine culture was always linked with the morally and aesthetically inferior category.”6 Ironically, the usage of gender critiques in their works often ended in reinscribing the very same gender categories they intended to question. Yet, their raising of the question of gender allowed the three to challenge conservative, social conditioning as well as modern, functionalist conditioning of consumption habits.

Picturing Kiesler’s Space House and the future of the American Home Frederick and Stefi Kiesler arrived in New York in 1926 following an invitation to arrange an “International Theater Exposition” at the Steinway Building. Kiesler, who admired Loos, asked him to contribute an essay to the exhibition catalog reflecting on the renewal of stage theater.7 In 1929, Kiesler designed and built the Film Guild Cinema. In 1932, he joined the American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen (AUDAC), a group he would regularly meet with. That same year, he offered Sears, Roebuck and Company a design proposal for the Nucleus House, a modular home of standardized, rectilinear construction.8 Kiesler was aware of the role department stores had in shaping the culture of debate in the United States, bringing “contemporary industrial art of Europe to the knowledge of the general public” and informing the public “of the coming revolution in taste.”9 In 1933, he used his own exhibit of the Space House at the Modernage furniture store on New York’s 162 East 33rd Street to challenge broad consumerism.10 Chief editor of Retailing, Home Furnishings Edition, Alfred Auerbach, who collaborated in organizing the exhibit,11 describes Kiesler’s design strategies as challenging the typical consumerist space and exposing the visitor instead to a new stage set for sales: “Passing through the door—there are no windows at all—one enters a foyer perhaps 20 feet long, executed in dark brown with light gray at the far end, exerting a psycho-function—a ‘come hither’ appeal.”12 Auerbach further describes “the way” to look at the Space House on this main floor: “Passing through the foyer, which has comparatively low ceiling, one turns at right angles to enter a large open area whose spaciousness and light come almost as a shock. Measuring approximately 30 by

Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender


45 feet, it serves to set off the Space House squatting in the distance clear across the floor except for a stairway heading upstairs or to the basement.”13 Kiesler followed Adolf Loos’s recommendation of clearing design of (artificial) ornamentation, thus reclaiming for his work a Viennese authority in matters of taste.14 He further developed Loos’s challenge to the standard structural layout (Loos’s “Raumplan”). Kiesler argued: “Actually we are still living in boxes. It is time we lived in space.”15 The structure of the Space House was marketed as a monolithic construction of one “story” but on four different levels interconnected with steps and stairs that curiously created division within an integral whole. For the owner of Modernage, Martin Feinman, Kiesler’s display was intended to unsettle viewers’ notions of privacy in the traditional home, noting with some pride that a journalist blushed after encountering the open and “uncovered” view of the house interiors.16 In its organic spatialization the Space House was a structure for modern man and woman with heightened sensitivity, documented in Alice Huges’s review as “the new social architecture of today endowing a house with a nervous system flexible to every purpose of the hour.”17 For Kiesler, the idea of the house as empowering meant protecting one’s nervous system, allowing retreats from social encounter. Referring to its construction, Kiesler identified the social consideration as having more importance than the tectonic conception. The ideal spatial arrangement could encourage proper relationships and at the same time offer definite possibilities of physical separation for protection of self.18 Yet, Kiesler further developed the notion that design factored within ideas of safety or danger through unsettling images of disassociation between male and female. Similarly to Loos, Kiesler made his visitors aware of the outfitting process of “uncovering” and “covering” his architectural space, specifically through close-up photos of sample coverings accompanying his “Space House” article in Architectural Forum (jute matting, straw floor matting, living room drapery, dining room curtain, coarse brown drapery and fishnet, net fabric for ceiling, sponge rubber curtain, sponge rubber floor covering).19 Only Kiesler’s chosen “coverings” challenged the visitor’s expectation to pleasantly touch soft clothing material—or enjoy looking at fashionable patterned textiles. The experience of the uncanny is evoked by the “un-tactile” qualities of these coverings. Moreover, the close-up photo angles do little to mitigate anxiety. In one photo (“sponge rubber floor covering”), a shiny man’s shoe appears to trample the sponge rubber floor.20 In another, “net fabric used for ceiling,” the net is viewed cut with large scissors, as if it is a scene from a tailor shop, possibly alluding to fears of castration. Unsettling familiar ideas of the consumer experience, the visitor first encountered the Space House from the protruding back façade and approached from that end its open terrace entrance,21 where one would at the same time notice the adjacent store stairway. Kiesler innovatively reworked Loos’s idea of the house as theatrical space in which the visitor is some kind of actor.22 With his American photographer Fay S. Lincoln, Kiesler conveyed the Space House and the store setting on the main floor as a patchwork dream. I suggest that Kiesler performed the possibilities of his exhibit through his creative selection and arrangement of photographs for his articles on the Space House.23 His use


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

of Lincoln’s photo of the store stairway reconstructs and exposes an American fiction. In “Stairway of exhibition hall adjoining the Space House,”24 we observe, from the back, a man in a suit going up stairs possibly following or stalking a woman who stands frozen, seen from the front in an intermediate pause before she continues up the stairs. The aluminum lighting fixtures along the walls designed by Kiesler, called “mushroom lamps” according to a newspaper report, cast a soft, shaded light that created a tensed atmosphere;25 the scene portrayed anticipates the alienation we will see in 1940s film noir. The photo engages the customers in the Modernage furniture store and replicates their movement through the same space as actors in a crime scene.26 As such, before climbing the stairs, most likely he or she will enter the Space House from the open terrace and, like an “invader,” will follow her or his nosy curiosity and enter the living room. A photo of this untraditional entrance shows a woman on the open terrace sitting in profile on a modernist tubular armchair for two, to the left of the glass partitions (Figure 8.1). Her appearance evokes a classic Bauhaus image, a photograph of a young stylishly dressed student with short hair reclining in a tubular steel armchair designed by Marcel Breuer.27 It seems as if Kiesler, who could have known of the iconic Bauhaus image given his ties with the school,28 appropriated the image for an imagined American social drama. Kiesler’s woman is prepared to leave and is looking

Figure 8.1  Frederick Kiesler, Space House, 1933. Photo: F. S. Lincoln. © 2016 Austrian Frederick and Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna.

Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender


straight ahead with expectation, perhaps waiting for her man to appear—in both the Bauhaus image and Kiesler’s there is a noted sexist undertone to the “performance.” Kiesler’s protagonist is a possible allusion to the unevenness of the American dream as documented in the plot of The Great Gatsby (1925), a first edition copy of which was kept in the Kieslers’ library.29 The woman is reminiscent of Daisy Buchanan, the passive figure and unattainable love object of the book’s titular Jay Gatsby. The repetition of object and shadow in this photo (plants, chairs, woman) further highlights the lonely woman’s experience of inner separation. This sentiment is echoed in a photo of this entrance reproduced in the journal Home Beautiful. Tracing the staged scene in Lincoln’s photo, we see the same tubular armchair, again made for two but now entirely empty, positioned now on the right of the sliding glass partitions and facing them; the chair’s shadow and an elongated cactus in front of it are the only “bodies” here, evoking a lonely human absence.30 Another staged photo chosen by Kiesler to accompany his above-mentioned article in Architectural Forum reveals photomontage wallpaper on the wall opposite the Space House, titled “Determination.”31 Kiesler’s photomontage alludes to the well-known artist Albin Egger-Lienz’s work “Mountain Mowers” (1907; Leopold Museum, Vienna) and provides another example of how Kiesler’s aesthetic continued to source his Viennese cultural background while taking on the modernist context and revolutionizing perceptions and usage of space. Like Egger-Lienz’s work, Kiesler’s photomontage champions heroic masculinities, here in the farmer and the sportsman. Identified as “Labor” and “Play,” one is depicted plowing the land and the second is shown playing tennis. As Kiesler arranged them, they are identified to convey a mechanized action.32 Here he appropriated not a consumerist image but a Viennese artistic image for yet another American scene. This photomontage is possibly also inspired by The Great Gatsby’s protagonist Jay Gatsby. Jay, who came from a poor German American farmer family in North Dakota, as a soldier fell in love with Daisy Fay. Daisy, however, soon marries the rich Tom Buchanan. In turn, Jay determines to make a fortune, eventually becoming a millionaire and buying a mansion in Long Island with the hope of winning back Daisy. Under the title “determination,” the double image of “farmer” and “tennis player” may allude to Gatsby’s double identity. The mechanical, emotionless image of both figures’ movements is a possible critique of the fictional Gatsby’s American dream of climbing up the social ladder. It was this image of heroic masculinities, instead of the photo of the lonely woman, which was chosen to accompany Kiesler’s article on the Space House.33 Kiesler’s modern house comes to life as background setting for negotiations with American and gender identities. His choice to document the Space House through Lincoln’s series of disturbing snapshots, emphasizing the tension and the divide between the sexes, were meant to challenge readers’ expectations to view homely comforts in the American dwelling.

The body of prejudice in Rudofsky’s “Are Clothes Modern?” Though there is no evidence that the Austrian émigré Bernard Rudofsky met Kiesler in New York, they knew two other prominent émigrés in common, the Bauhaus artist


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Xanti Schawinsky and the Italian sculptor Constantino Nivola.34 Rudofsky arrived in New York in 1941 after escaping from Italy to Brazil in 1938 and after winning the Organic Design in Home Furnishing competition organized by the MoMA, New York. At the Museum’s invitation he toured the United States and decided to remain there. In 1944, Rudofsky became the director of Apparel Research at the MoMA and curated the exhibition “Are Clothes Modern?” (November 1944–March 1945) in which he critically addressed the subject of fashion. The press release for Rudofsky’s exhibition referenced its thought-provoking display, calling it “a brief investigation into the arbitrary distinction between the sexes as shown in their dress—the Western identification of the skirt with femininity and the trousers with masculinity, and the Oriental reverse of this.”35 Underlying his examination of arbitrary gendered dress, though, was a more instigative look at shame and modesty. Rudofsky’s exhibition declared: “Modesty is not so simple a virtue as honesty. Modesty is conditioned by age, habit, custom, law, epoch, time of day, country, surroundings, climate.” On the exhibition wall displaying the subject of modesty, we further read: “By dividing the body into erotic zones we can easily see the complexities of modesty.” In the culture of clothing, and its heavily gendered framework, modesty promotes the need to cover and enclose the body in relation to “shame.” In his later book based on the exhibition, published by Theobald in Chicago, 1947,36 Rudofsky would refer to the psychologist Dunlap Knight’s claim that people are ashamed of their bodies and, further, would continually revert to the question of whether concealing the body prompts unclean thoughts or whether unclean thoughts prompt the concealing of the body. Rudofsky’s exhibit showcased the moral framework of shame/modesty as embedded in clothing, for example, in a photo of a man hiding his face behind his collar, positioned underneath starched, stiff, detachable collars protruding from the wall. Rudofsky may have also appropriated the visual provocation of shame in relation to “unclean thoughts” accompanying sexual encounter from Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)” (1915–1923). Duchamp’s Large Glass was shown at the MoMA in 1944, on the occasion of “Art in Progress,” an exhibition celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the Museum of Modern Art.37 As much as it was critical to Duchamp’s artwork to confront the viewer with an encounter that evoked sexual satisfaction and, thus, provoked shame, it was critical to the success of Rudofsky’s exhibition to expose/critique clothing that either irrationally championed the experience of shame (for example, clothing articles that represented “modesty”) or to expose and critique people caught in “ridiculous” dress that should cause them embarrassment/shame. In his book, Rudofsky made an indirect allusion to Duchamp’s the “Bachelor Machine” by reproducing a Harper’s Bazaar advertisement from 1886: the advertisement echoes the dark brown shapes of men’s suits in Duchamp’s work, which are the “bachelors,” hanging from a clothesline.38 A further visual reference to Duchamp’s bachelors in Rudfosky’s book is a reproduction of a booklet showing how to make clothes from rags.39 Both Duchamp’s brown shapes and Rudofsky’s illustrations represent the uncanny through the male body projected or grafted onto men’s suits that were, in their tailoring, necessarily composed of

Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender


fragmented, broken pieces. Rudofsky’s imagery of men’s clothing, fragmented and made strange, subverted gender expectations so commonly encased in clothing such as the idea that the male was the more stable figure. I suggest that Rudofsky deliberately challenged Adolf Loos’s promotion of the man’s suit as representing the social ideal of the gentleman, that is, the cultured man.40 Rudofsky had paraphrased Loos’s call to reclaim the body by allowing tailors to grant it anonymity. In an essay “Fashion: Inhuman Garment” published in the Italian journal Domus (April, 1938) six years before his MoMA show, Rudofsky challenged tailors’ authority over shaping the human body and criticized the harmful aspects of fashion.41 In contrast to Loos, therefore, for Rudofksy the male suit was to be critiqued; for example, in his MoMA exhibition he x-rayed a man’s coat to show the absurdity of its many pockets and buttons. The X-ray idea may have also been related to the reception of Duchamp’s Large Glass in the United States.42 Rudofsky’s rhetoric of critique creatively translated his European cultural sources. In the introduction to his book Are Clothes Modern? Rudofsky demonstrated the relevance of the brothers Grimm’s fairytale Cinderella to his critical approach to clothes, citing that the tale “of frustration and competition, of fetishism and mutilation is a catalog of cruelties, and as such represents a fairly good summation of the components of dress.”43 In his iconoclastic handling of fashion, Rudofsky’s aim was to provoke exhibition visitors to rethink their dressing habits in relation to past (gender) traditions as well as to other cultures, specifically those of the “exotic” Orient and “primitive” Africa. For him, the revolution of esthetic concepts and the source of modern art were traced to “examples of African and Oceanic sculpture, the knowledge of unconscious and subconscious forces, the imagery of the infantile, deranged and insane.”44 This strategy recalls not only earlier surrealist presentations,45 but also references French Ozenfant’s utopian plan of reforming life through art in his book Foundations of Modern Art (1931). Rudofsky’s juxtaposition of images, comparing fashion modes in different cultures—Western urban society and African tribal society (Figure 8.2)—can be related, for example, to Ozenfant’s comparison between the top hat of a well-dressed European gentleman and the head masks for a cultic tribal dance.46 My suggestion is that Rudofsky was intent on critiquing Western biases against women, though he acted within a Western mid-century perception and in the process recreated conventional biases against the imagined East and Africa. In using the uncanny as template, as employed by the surrealists and other designers, Rudofsky inadvertently instituted his own “body of prejudice” against the non-Western Other. Rudofsky’s visualization pictured biased thinking critically termed by the eighteenth-century social reformer Jeremy Bentham’s as the “body of prejudice” and used, according to Bentham, as justification to oppress Africans and women, specifically to prevent them from claiming their right to stand for election in his theory on constitutional democracy.47 Yet, similarly to Kiesler who may have reproduced the gender stereotypes of The Great Gatsby in photographs of the Space House exhibit, Rudofsky’s provocative reincarnations of the “body of prejudice” in his exhibition and book were meant to challenge the social mechanism of discrimination against women.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 8.2  Bernard Rudofsky, Are Clothes Modern? Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1947, 31.

Both Rudofsky and émigré Ozenfant (who settled in New York in 1939) were invited by the German émigré artist Josef Albers to spend the summer of 1944 teaching at Black Mountain College. While there, Rudofsky asked two Bauhaus émigrés, the sculptor Irene Schawinsky and the textile designer Anni Albers, both exiled designers and teachers, to contribute to his exhibition. Rudofsky praised Schawinsky’s dresses and coats in the exhibition as contemporary garments demonstrating beauty and simplicity of line and fabric produced without waste in cutting material for designs.48 Rudofsky’s compliment challenged the prejudice against women designers in the Bauhaus, who were encouraged by their teachers to work with textile by assuming that only men could think constructively.49 Another friend of Rudofsky’s, the Italian

Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender


émigré sculptor Nivola, created figures based on Rudofsky’s drawings and showed the possible monstrous deformation the fashionable dress imposed on the female body. In including these works, Rudofsky seemed to be investigating the notions of “excess” and “limitation” particular to a woman’s experience of fashion—in that women’s fashions typically reshape the woman’s body with excess fabric or, alternately, compress the woman’s body into unlikely forms.50 Rudofsky observed that the behavior related to fashion codes confirmed the theory that the dominant sex makes and upholds the rules of propriety, especially those concerned with the conduct of the other sex. In general, the dominant sex raises the main objections against any change of dress; it is indifferent to its own mores but it strictly enforces the standards of modesty of the dominated sex as long as such modesty incites the instinct of courtship.51

There are many bibliographic references in Rudofsky’s book. Yet the observation above specifically refers to a declared German feminist. Rudofsky referred to the translated book of Mathilde and Mathias Vaerting, The Dominant Sex: A Study of the Sex Differentiation (1923).52 Mathilde Vaerting, a professor of education at the University of Jena, explained gender roles functionally rather than biologically. She further challenged the traditional perspective of gender that associated men with dominance and women with subordination. In encouraging women to consider how their consumption of fashion might reflect or contend with power relations, Rudofsky echoes Vaerting’s challenge to patriarchal dictation. Rudofsky promoted body reclamation by encouraging women to overcome repression of mind and suppression of body, using clothing as a form of personal communication and empowerment. The Russian émigré and avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren (Derenkowsky) responded to Rudofsky’s exhibition in an unpublished manuscript entitled “Psychology of Fashion.” Recognizing the important role of fashion in relation to woman’s individual psychology, Deren argued: “First of all, a woman’s clothes serve as an outlet for her creative energies. Secondly, she uses those energies to create, in reality, some image she has of herself; a method of projection of her inner attitudes … a kind [of] expressionism.”53 While Kiesler challenged the American dream and forced his viewer to construct her or his own perception of their home, Rudofsky exposed the puritan character of mainstream American culture to encourage the viewers of his exhibition and later readers of his book to evaluate their choice of dress as an act of self-determination.

Papanek’s anti-Fascist chair—the Samisen chair It was important for Victor Papanek to position himself within the narrative of Viennese design tradition and its legacy as preserved by Austrian émigrés in the United States. In a late manuscript, Papanek wrote that as a teenager he worked with Kiesler on his “multi-functional furniture” for Peggy Guggenheim’s “Art of


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

this Century” gallery of surrealist art in New York, which opened in 1942.54 There is no witness to support his claim, yet he may have seen the gallery or photos of it in journals after the opening. In his groundbreaking book Design for the Real World (1971), further discussed below, he made sure to title the chapter defining the social and moral responsibilities of the designer “Do-It-Yourself Murder.” In his famous essay “Ornament and Crime,” Adolf Loos promoted design that best served the social integration needs of men and women and associated design undermining the integration aim by employing artificial ornament with crime. Papanek critically developed the provocative rhetoric of Loos’s essay by criticizing consumerist and polluting design, instead promoting all-inclusive design that served people’s real needs (including integration of weak populations). In Papanek’s book’s last chapter, “Design for Survival and Survival Through Design,” he furthermore referenced the Viennese émigré Richard Neutra’s famous book Survival Through Design (1954), underlining how design was a tool to impose meaningful order and secure survival. In 1940, at seventeen, Papanek arrived with his mother in New York, having fled Vienna after the Anschluss. He served in the army and attended evening classes at New York’s Cooper Union in the late 1940s. During this time, Papanek closely engaged with design exhibitions in New York and even though in his above-mentioned book he criticized MoMA as a (mis)leading tastemaker,55 at the outset of his career he closely followed the museum’s philosophy of relating art and design to life. Furthermore, his early designs, including the Samisen chair, named after a Japanese musical instrument, followed the principles of MoMA’s 1948–1949 exhibition titled “Modern Art in Your Life,” an original catalog of which was kept in Papanek’s library.56 In one of his earliest essays, “Why Contemporary?” in La Mer (1950), Papanek dismissed Le Corbusier’s dictum that “the house is a machine for living,” stating that it was a lie, together with “all the fascist negation of living which that statement implies.”57 Defining his path toward the social in design, for Papanek: “A designer’s creation must search out the original causes and needs, rather than slavishly imitate superficial effect.”58 He further argued that the: “Democratic way of life calls for a more free integration with nature (nature can not be kept ‘outside’); a closer familiarity with and love for the grain of fine, unpainted woods, clear glass and natural stone.”59 Considering the language he used, condemning fascist negation and lauding a democratic way of life, we can begin to consider Papanek’s design of the Samisen chair (Figure 8.3) in terms of political ideology and ask, more pointedly, whether he created his surrealist biomorphic (“female”) life-affirming, democratic chair to counter a fear of the machine associated with a fascist (“male”) negation of living. Papanek created the Samisen chair as part of his Design Clinic studio work in the early 1950s. However, in the journal Interiors of February 1956, Papanek, then living in Ontario, Canada, claimed that the Samisen Chair was designed in 1948.60 In the description that accompanied Papanek’s Samisen chair in the Interiors article, the playful contrast of materials is praised as a powerful facet of the design: joint steel rods support the pierced back and carved seat of the chair.61 This article notes,

Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender


Figure 8.3  Victor J. Papanek, Samisen chair, early 1950s. Courtesy Victor J. Papanek, University of Applied Arts Vienna.

however, that Papanek’s chair invites a comparison with the Italian designer Carlo Mollino’s chair design, which had been reproduced three years prior in Interiors, April 1953.62 It is likely that this reference to the surrealist designer Mollino is correct and that Papanek’s Samisen Chair was inspired by that two-page review titled “Mollino Flexible Fantasies.”63 A comparison between two photos showing women models seated in the two different chairs offers possible confirmation of Papanek’s appropriation of Mollino’s chair (Figure 8.4). The review’s author, the long-time chief


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 8.4  Carlo Mollino, Chair, reproduced in: Olga Gueft, “Mollino’s flexible fantasies,” Interiors, Vol. 112, no. 9, April 1953, 89.

editor of Interiors, the Russian émigré Olga Gueft had praised Carlo Mollino’s “human fit” design.64 But in both the case of Mollino and Papanek it is a feminine shaping that becomes the “human fit”; that is, the feminine displaces any gender neutral “human”

Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender


fit. Consequently the Samisen chair further challenged the idea of handling the human body as a machine. In an essay titled “A Bridge in Time,” (1967) Papanek praised the above-mentioned Duchamp’s masterpiece “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors,” noting that “the fantastic juxtaposition of machine parts and mechanized biological forms became the archetypal image of much Dadaist and surrealist painting.” “Surrealism,” he continued, “took much of the mechanistic philosophy of the Dada movement, but changed the viewpoint from ‘man as a machine’ to ‘man devoured by the machine.’”65 Papanek adapted the surrealistic perspective in his early design in that he created a feminine form that devoured the mechanistic potential of the chair. In Design for the Real World, he critically referred to the surrealists, who “[based] their highly realistic canvases on subconscious symbols, [and] hoped to turn themselves into latter-day medicine men, witch doctors, shamans of the pigment.”66 In fact, as “designer/doctor” himself, Papanek appropriated this claim in his surrealist chair, claiming it to have therapeutic effect since “weight is relieved from the spinal column and distributed over the fatty tissues of the back.”67 Papanek would not only develop Mollino’s chair design to support a specifically weak back, but would take on the idea of the “human fit” as an ideological measure. In March 1959, Papanek, still in Ontario, would further promote his democratic design ideal arguing that the role of the industrial designer is to change the environment to fit the man. For him, “creative imagination,” and thereby design, was a counter to conformity and was at the core of the survival potential of the human race.68 In the late 1960s, Papanek distanced himself from his feminine musical chair. He noted in his above-mentioned book that he withdrew the original Samisen chair from the market on the grounds that it was ugly and expensive. Yet, in the same text he offered the Samisen chair redesigned for easy manufacture through cottage industries in southern Appalachia, noting: “It is simpler and less expensive, and money goes directly to the people who carve it.”69 Papanek granted the symbolic female chair a utility value by noting that the design now helps support the (financial) survival of Native Americans, advocating for the inclusion of ethnic minorities in the American culture, and thus testifying to his sociopolitical ideology. In this last gesture, Papanek relayed his “anti-Machine” biomorphic, feminine “Samisen chair” from one “exotic culture” to another, in that it went from being the Japanese-named Samisen chair that once circulated in high design circles to being, on another level of production, a chair circulating in a southern Appalachia, Native American context. Furthermore, this fate of the Samisen chair—its cultural rootlessness and lack of home—reveals the uncanny in Papanek’s work. Similar to how Kiesler challenged the notion of the house as a safe and fixed place by allowing his visitor to invade the Space House exhibit from the rear (garden) “entrance,” striving to “allowing space to flow into each other without obstacles,”70 and likewise, similar to Rudofsky’s practice of erasing geographic and cultural frontiers to expose the deceit of modern clothing, Papanek’s culturally rootless yet beneficial chair reveals a pioneering iconoclastic method toward the social in design shaped by these Viennese émigrés. All three designers, Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek, aimed to empower viewers and clients in novel fashion. All three reworked lessons drawn from Loos’s strategies


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

of empowerment through design as showcased in his writing and interiors. Yet, they further evoked surrealist visions to challenge conservative, social conditioning as well as modern, functionalist conditioning of consumption habits; tapping into notions of the uncanny and positing new relationships between biological, machinic, societal, and political systems. Despite reinscribing gender categories in these three works, raising the question of gender helped them to develop iconoclastic method in design aimed to empower men and women to move beyond the limiting gendered narratives focused at them, and to claim responsibility over their bodies and minds.

Notes 1 Joan W. Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” The American Historical Review 91, no. 5 (December 1986): 1053–1076, here cited 1056. 2 Sigmund Freud, “Das Unheimliche” (1919) in Sigmund Freud Studienausgabe, Vol. IV Psychologische Schriften (Frankfurt am Main, 2000), 267. 3 Elana Shapira, “Dressing a Celebrity: Adolf Loos’s House Project for Josephine Baker,” Studies in the Decorative Arts XIII, no. 2 (Spring–Summer, 2004): 2–24. 4 Regarding Loos’s interiors, see: Elana Shapira, “Tailored Authorship: Adolf Loos and the Ethos of Men’s Fashion,” in Leben mit Loos, ed. Inge Podbrecky and Rainald Franz (Vienna, Cologne and Weimar: Böhlau Verlag, 2008), 53–72. 5 I suggest here that in their works the Austrian designers reacted critically also to gender politics in the early years of the Bauhaus of promoting (manly) bodily control in order to reduce fears of disintegration of identity in Germany after the First World War (Katherina Rüedi Ray, “Bauhaus Hausfrau: Gender Formation in Design Education,” Journal of Architectural Education 55, no. 2, Gender and Architecture (November 2001): 73–80, here cited 74). Ray argues that the “Gender difference at the Bauhaus was ultimately sublimated into a neutralized ‘indifference’ ” (ibid., 79). 6 Penny Sparke, As Long As It’s Pink: The Sexual Politics of Taste (London and San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1995), 221. 7 The International Theatre Exposition (The Little Review Special Theatre Number) (New York, 1926 Winter), 92–96. 8 Drawings of the Nucleus House are reproduced in Laura McGuire, “Space House,” in Space House, ed. Monica Pessler, Exh. Cat (Vienna: Österreichische Friedrich und Lillian Kiesler-Privatstiftung, 2012), 22. 9 Frederick Kiesler, Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and Its Display (New York: Brentano’s, 1930), 67. 10 The store had moved to this address recently, and in the ad in Arts and Decoration magazine it is noted that there were thirty-three model rooms of modern furniture (Ric Emmet, American Art Deco Furniture, Miami Florida: Art Deco Pros., Inc. 2014, 496). Martin Feinman, owner of Modernage, was a businessman and designer who emigrated from Odessa as a child together with his parents. 11 In the months prior to the exhibit Kiesler met with Feinman and Auerbach several times together (Steffi Kiesler’s calendar book, Kiesler Foundation Austria). Auerbach had also helped edit Kiesler’s book Contemporary Art Applied to the Store. 12 Alfred Auerbach, “The Completely Stream-Lined Store Appears,” Retailing, Home Furnishings Edition, November 6, 1933, 2 (Kiesler Foundation Austria).

Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender


13 Ibid. 14 In January 1932, Kiesler held a lecture in the Brooklyn Museum on “Ornament and Crime,” the title of Loos’s most renowned and controversial essay. In a later article, Kiesler stated: “Two steps in industrial design mark the progress of today. The first has cleaned products like furniture, lamps, chinaware, etc. from ornaments. It cleaned the object from old fashioned makeups and prepared them for the second step, which does not stop at the surface, but goes deep into the matter itself ” (Frederick Kiesler, “We are on the Threshold of New Era of Progressive Design,” Retailing, Home Furnishings Edition, January 29, 1934 (Kiesler Foundation Austria)). 15 Frederick Kiesler, “One Living Space Convertible into Many Rooms,” Home Beautiful, January 1934, 32f. 16 N.A., “And Now It’s the Space House: Latest Thing in Dwellings Likely to Leave You Gasping with Surprise,” The New York Sun, 1933, 14. 17 Alice Huges, “Space House Gives a Peep into Future,” New York American, October 17, 1933, n.p. 18 Frederick Kiesler, “The Space House,” Hound & Horn, March 1934, 292–297, 294. 19 Frederick J. Kiesler, “Space House,” The Architectural Record, January 1934, 44–61, 52– 61. Concerning Loos’s outfitting his interiors, see: Shapira, “Tailored Authorship,” 2008. During his studies Kiesler most likely witnessed the public scandal accompanying Loos’s public dressing of Goldman & Salatsch House in Vienna, 1910–1912. 20 McGuire suggests that the photo of “a shoe pressing slightly into on the blue rubber floor of the bathroom was especially expressive of the reduction of interior resistance” (Laura McGuire, Space Within—Frederick Kiesler and the Architecture of an Idea, PhD diss., The University of Texas at Austin, 2014, 218). 21 In the invitation to the opening of the store and the Space House exhibit, there is an announcement of “A Full Size Model of the First Streamlined Space-House” (Reproduced in McGuire, Space Within—Frederick Kiesler and the Architecture of an Idea, 441). Yet, I suggest that this well-photographed façade with adjoining terrace may have been the only outside part of the house actually built. I assume here that this terrace arrangement would open to the backyard but it could also be regarded as the front porch or veranda, an elevated platform that brings the outside/inside together in American houses (especially in Midwest and South United States). The sliding-glass partitions cannot be identified as the house’s primary door; analyzing Kiesler’s plan it is more likely that the actual entrance was designated to the opposite part of the house (Kiesler, “One Living Space Convertible into Many Rooms,” 33). But there is no indication of a front-door opening. 22 Beatriz Colomina, “Space House: The Psyche of Building,” in InterSections, Architectural Histories and Critical Theories, ed. Iain Borden and Jane Rendell (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 55–68, 62. In an earlier essay Colomina refers to both “viewers” and “actors,” and identifies for example “lady’s room” in Loos’s Müller House in Prague (1930) as a “theater box” (Beatriz Colomina, “The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism,” in Sexuality and Space, ed. Colomina, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992, 73–130, 79). See also: Shapira, “Dressing a Celebrity: Adolf Loos’s House Project for Josephine Baker,” 2004. 23 Gerd Zillner argues that Kiesler was highly aware of the potential of photography and therefore frequently cooperated with the photographer throughout the entire process of development (Gerd Zillner, “Design by Light: On Frederick Kiesler’s Use of Photography,” in Friedrich Kiesler, Life Visions: Architecture—Art—Design, ed. Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, Dieter Bogner, Maria Lind and Bärbel Vischer, Basel: Birkhäuser, 2016, 179–183, 179, 183).


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

24 Kiesler, “Space House,” January 1934, 46. This photo is featured on the book cover. 25 Kiesler wanted to patent this system of lighting (Auerbach, “The Completely Stream-Lined Store Appears,” 1933). Further, unsigned, “Someone called them ‘Mushroom lamps,’” newspaper clipping with photo of the lamp (Kiesler Foundation, Austria). 26 The photo of the man and the woman climbing the stairways represents an urban city building, while Kiesler’s “Space House” was a model for private house in the suburbia. By including this photo among the photos marketing his house, Kiesler projected the alienation and paranoia in the urban setting onto the suburban escape. See also Jonathan F. Bell, “Shadows in the Hinterland: Rural Noir,” in Architecture and Film, ed. Mark Lamster (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000), 217–218. 27 The famous photo of a female figure sitting in a tubular steel chair with fabric seatback and armrests was reproduced in the catalog of Breuer Metallmöbel (Breuer Metal Furniture) designed by Herbert Bayer and printed at the Bauhaus in 1927. 28 In 1926, the Bauahaus announced Kiesler’s planned publication Neue Formen der Demonstration. Die Raumstadt, yet it was never realized. 29 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (New York: The Modern Library, 1925) (Lillian Kiesler, Inventory of Books in the Personal Library of Frederick Kiesler, 1983, 62; typed manuscript in Kiesler Foundation, Austria). 30 See photo: Kiesler, “One Living Space Convertible into Many Rooms,” 33. 31 Reproduced in Haran’s chapter in this volume, Figure 3.3. 32 For another interpretation of the wallpaper and Kiesler’s critical integration of art in his interiors, see McGuire, Space Within—Frederick Kiesler and the Architecture of an Idea, 228. 33 See photo in: Kiesler, “Space House,” January 1934, 48. Regarding the “suspended” show cases design seen in this photo, see: Auerbach, “The Completely Stream-Lined Store Appears,” 1933. 34 Letter of Xanti Schawinsky to Frederick Kiesler on October 24, 1940 (copy in Kiesler Foundation, Austria. I thank Gerd Zillner for this reference). Kiesler’s friendship with Nivola is mentioned in the introduction. 35 MoMA, Press Release, 1944: MoMA_1944_0049_1944-11-27_441127-41-41.pdf, 1–8, 2–3. 36 The publishing house Theobald in Chicago was founded by a German émigré Paul Theobald and the first books published were by Bauhaus émigrés such as Walter Gropius and Lázsló Moholy-Nagy (Victor Margolin, “Paul Theobald & Company: Publisher with a New Vision,” Printing History, 1987, 33). 37 The Large Glass arrived in September 1943, and was returned to Catherine Dreier in April, 1946 (Anne Umland and Adrian Sudhalter with Scott Gerson, eds., Dada: In the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2008, 324, endnote 54). On the cover of Vogue magazine July 1945, a model posed with Duchamp’s Large Glass at the Museum. 38 Bernard. Rudofsky, Are Clothes Modern? (Chicago: Paul Theobald 1947), 142. 39 Ibid., 147. 40 Adolf Loos, “Die Kleidung,” Das Andere 1 (1903): 8. See also Shapira, “Tailored Authorship,” 2008. 41 Bernardo Rudofsky, “La moda: Abito disumano,” Domus 124 (April 1938): 10–13; German translation in: Monika Platzer, ed., Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky (Basel: Birkhäuser Verlag, 2007), 274–277. He signed with an Italian variation of his German name, Bernardo.

Kiesler, Rudofsky, and Papanek: The Question of Gender


42 Rudofsky may have borrowed the idea from Kiesler’s reading of Duchamp’s work. Seven years before this exhibition Kiesler had praised Duchamp’s masterpiece in his essay “Design-Correlation” in Architectural Record as an X-ray painting of space, material, and psychic (Frederick J. Kiesler, “Design – Correlation,” on Duchamp’s Big Glass, Architectural Record, May 1937, 53–60, 53). 43 Rudofsky, Are Clothes Modern? 1947, 11. Rudofsky may have followed a surrealist intellectual lead. In his Surrealist Manifesto (1924), Breton considered the appeal of fairytales for grownups since “fear, the attraction of the unusual, chance, the taste for things extravagant are all devices which we can always call upon without fear of deception.” André Breton, “Manifesto of Surrealism” (1924), http://www.ubu.com /papers/breton_surrealism_manifesto.html (accessed November 2, 2015). 44 Rudofsky, Are Clothes Modern? 1947, 52. 45 Felicity Scott, “Underneath Aesthetics and Utility: The Untrasposable Fetish of Bernard Rudofsky,” Assemblage no. 38 (April 1999): 59–89, 64. 46 Ozenfant, Foundations of Modern Art (New York: Brewer, Warren and Putnam Inc., 1931), 243–244. German translation: Ozenfant, Leben und Gestaltung, Potsdam, Müller and Kiepenheuer: G. M. B. H Verlag, 1931. 47 Jeremy Bentham, Rights, Representation, and Reform: Nonsense Upon Stilts and Other Writings on the French Revolution, edited by Philip Schafield, Catherine Pease-Watkin and Cyprian Blamires (Oxford: Claredon Press, 2002), 150. I suggest that Rudofsky was seeking to dislocate Western culture from its center even while emphasizing the peripherality of the East and Africa, and that is the point of engagement which is referenced here in terms of his treatment of gender. See also: Gülsüm Baydar Nalbantoǧlu, “Beyond Lack and Excess: Other Architectures/Other Landscapes,” Journal of Architectural Education 54, no. 1 (September 2000): 20–27, 23. 48 Rudofsky, Are Clothes Modern? 1947, 203. 49 Anja Baumhoff, The Gendered World of the Bauhaus: The Politics of Power at the Weimar Republic’s Premier Art Institute, 1919–1932 (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2001), 57–59. 50 Rudofsky, Are Clothes Modern? 1947, 48–49. 51 Ibid., 38. 52 German original: Neubegründung der Psychologie von Mann und Weib: Die weiblich Eigenart im Männerstaat und die männliche Eigenart im Frauenstaat, 1921. 53 Maya Deren “Psychology of Fashion,” in The Legend of Maya Deren, A Documentary Biography and Collected Works, ed. Vèvè A. Clark, Millichent Hodson, and Catrina Neiman, Vol. I, Part Two: Chambers (1942–47) (New York. Anthology Film Archives/ Film Culture, 1988), 435–436, here cited 435. 54 Viktor [sic] Papanek’s essay “The Pencil and Plow, Personal Memoires of Frank Lloyd Wright” (unpublished manuscript c. 1991 in the Papanek Foundation, University of Applied Arts Vienna) was invited by architectural historian Helmut Weihsmann for a special issue of Architektur und Bauforum dedicated to Frank Lloyd Wright (a shortened version translated to German was published in issue no. 24, 1991, 46–49). I thank Helmut Weihsmann for this information. 55 Victor Papanek, Design for the real World (Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, [1971] 1984), 105. 56 Papanek Library, University of Applied Arts Vienna (Design 95722). 57 Victor Papanek, “Why Contemporary?” La Mer no. 2 (August 1950): 25–26, here cited 26. 58 Ibid.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

59 Ibid. 60 Mary Sullivan Simons, “Fresh Structural Approaches,” Interiors 115, no. 7 (February 1956), 116–117, 117. On the back of the photo (Figure 8.3), there is a handwritten note made in preparation for including it in the book Design for the Real World (1970) that it was designed by P. (Papanek) as a student in 1954. In June 1954, Papanek attended a course of “creative engineering” in MIT Boston. Later he was appointed as instructor in design in Ontario College of Art in Toronto, Canada. 61 Simons, “Fresh Structural Approaches,” 117. 62 Ibid. 63 Olga Gueft, “Mollino’s Flexible Fantasies,” Interiors 112, no. 9 (April 1953): 88–89, 88. 64 Ibid., 89. Gueft chose to reproduce for her article on Mollino three photos that appeared before in an article on him in Domus 1952 (Carlo Mollino, “Nuovi mobili,” Domus 270, May 1952: 50–53, 52–53). Papanek followed essays published in Domus. An early exposure of Papanek’s design appeared in Domus in 1955. It is therefore possible that he also saw the Domus article. 65 Victor Papanek, “A Bridge in Time,” in Verbi-Voco-Visual Explorations (New York: Something Else Press, 1967), 2–3. 66 Papanek, Design for the Real World, 1971, 37. 67 Ibid., 267. 68 Victor Papanek, “Student Project: An Angry Young Instructor Attacking Teaching Practices and Problems,” Industrial Design 6, no. 3 (March 1959): 74–77, here cited 76. 69 Papanek, Design for the Real World, 1971, 267. 70 Beatriz Colomina, “Endless Interior: Kiesler’s Architecture as Psychoanalysis,” in Private Utopia: Cultural Setting of the Interior in the 19th and 20th Century, ed. August Sarnitz and Inge Scholz-Strasse (Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH, 2015), 131. Kiesler did not actually achieve this flow, given the different stair-levels and separation devices.


Felix Augenfeld: Modern Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism Ruth Hanisch

Freud’s study, Vienna, Berggasse 19, Mezzanin, Door 6 “It was about 1930, maybe earlier, that I was approached by Mrs. Mathilde Hollitscher, Freud’s oldest daughter, with the request to make a special design for a desk chair that would fill her father’s special requirements”1—Viennese architect Felix Augenfeld and cofounder of the architectural office Hofmann and Augenfeld remembers in a letter to the Sigmund Freud Gesellschaft in the 1970s. Mathilde had told him that Freud used to read in a very uncomfortable position: He was leaning in this chair, in some sort of diagonal position, one of his legs slung over the arm of the chair, the book kept high and his head unsupported. The rather bizarre form of the chair I designed is to be explained as an attempt to maintain this habitual posture and make it more comfortable. The arms are upholstered in leather and the back rest, also upholstered is made high enough to furnish a support for the head, possibly for several different diagonal positions. The chair, given to S. F. by Mathilde H., is now in London. I was told that it fulfilled its function and that the Professor liked to use it.2

Felix Augenfeld was a close friend and fellow student of Ernst’s—the youngest son of the Freud family. Both had studied at the Technical University in Vienna, both attended the first Loos-School before the First World War, although Augenfeld more eagerly than Freud.3 The young Freud went to study in Munich and work in Berlin. In his absence it was only natural that the Freud family turned to his friend Augenfeld when they needed architectural advice. When Ernst Freud married Lucie (Lux) Brasch, she became a close friend of Augenfeld as well—she called him “Grockchen” and remained in contact with him from her London exile. In a letter dated October 2, 1939, she describes the London home of the family in Maresfield Gardens immediately after Sigmund Freud’s death: “We have carried the bed upstairs again and his room with your chair, in which I often sat in those nights, is like before, just terribly empty” (Figure 9.1).4


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 9.1  Edmund Engelman, Study of Sigmund Freud in Vienna, 1938. Chair by Hofmann and Augenfeld. © Freud Museum Vienna.

As the famous series of photographs by Edmund Engelman demonstrate, designing this chair was not actually an easy task. His biographer Peter Gay noted on Freud’s study: “The whole was an embarrassment of objects.”5 And Gay notes an uncanny bias in this room: Berggasse 19 abounded in the kind of visual and tactile excess it has become almost obligatory to call “bourgeois comfort”. The epithet is facile, complacent, inexact, and misleading; it begs, as we shall see, many questions. But it says something about Freud’s tastes and choices: he lived like the very kind of respectable professional man whose style of thinking he was to undermine beyond repair.6

But Freud’s studio went beyond the “bourgeois comfort”; it was a “poetic home,” as Stefan Muthesius called the emotionally charged living spaces of the late nineteenth century,7 as well as a “Futteral” (sheath) or “Gehäuse” (case)—as described by Walter Benjamin.8 But furthermore Freud’s study was a sort of three-dimensional working tool. Every picture, photograph, statue, and book was part of complex ever-changing system of relations. With means of the mirror at the window, Freud could place himself in this framework of friends and colleagues, ancient gods, and books.9 Mathilde could have ordered a chair from one of the readily available catalogs for her lolloping father. His preferred reading position was by no way singular as Sigfried Giedion elaborates in “Mechanization Takes Command. A Contribution to Anonymous History” over a whole chapter: “The posture of the nineteenth century—

Augenfeld: Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism


this too, in full contrast to the ruling taste—is based on relaxation. This relaxation is found in a free, unposed attitude that can be called neither sitting nor lying.”10 This triggered—in Giedion’s view—the mechanization of the furniture: The new tasks, demanding near-absolute solutions, are those in which mobility is made to serve our physiological requirements. A mode of sitting develops that aims at complete body relaxation. As we shall see, it is often achieved through conscious interplay of the body with the mechanism of the chair. Lying too, and the many positions between sitting and lying—arm support, relaxation of the head—are met in a wide variety of constructional solutions.11

Instead of ordering one of those mechanized chairs, Mathilde wanted a “bespoke” seating accommodation for her father and turned to an architectural office, which already had worked for the family before and had a reputation for designing modern and comfortable homes in Vienna. Although of course this was a simply private decision it tells us something about the relation toward modern architecture in the so-called “Bildungsbürgertum” of Vienna. To design a piece of furniture that would fit into the physically as intellectually overcrowded interior of Freud’s study was a task that was answered by the team Hofmann and Augenfeld by choosing a peculiar “bizarre” form, that was slightly anthropomorphic echoing the shape of the sitter and thus providing support for his body parts. The idea of an anthropomorphic chair is not that farfetched as you might think—especially in the overlapping contexts of psychoanalysis and interior architecture. A very famous representation of a person acting as a chair to another person is in fact the starting point of Freud’s study “Leonardo da Vinci and a memory of his childhood,” in 1910. And Saul Steinberg, himself a trained architect, who, in the 1950s in New York, mixed with the same European intellectuals as Augenfeld, sketched a sitting nude into the seat of an Eames chair. Through the likeness between chair and sitter in the Berggasse study, the object did not disturb the composition when Freud left the room, but bore the resemblance of his forms and thus replaced him in his absence. This chair does not resemble in any way the revolutionary designs created in the 1920s in the Bauhaus or in Paris, but at the same time it did not resemble any traditional chair either. It completely assimilated to its environment. The designers subordinated their design completely to this highly personalized interior that was created without conscious considerations of modernist aesthetics.

Viennese modern Felix Augenfeld and Karl Hofmann established an architectural office in Vienna in 1922 in the Wipplingerstrasse 33 in the 1st district. Augenfeld was a close collaborator of Oskar Strnad at the Kunstgewerbeschule (today, University of Applied Art) and turned himself to his philosophy of design in the interwar years getting more skeptical about Adolf Loos’s teaching without losing his admiration for him. Both Augenfeld and Hofmann were part of the inner circle of the so-called “Viennese School,” a loose


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

circle of modern architects round Oskar Strand and Josef Frank. Strnad and Frank worked on a parallel concept of modernist architecture that was connected with the international development without falling completely under the spell of the Bauhaus and Le Corbusier. They understood themselves as modern architects but remained tolerant toward history and realistic toward the human needs for sentimental values in their surroundings.12 Although not a theoretician like Loos or Josef, Frank Augenfeld was an accomplished writer who regularly published comments on his designs in well-known journals. One very significant for our context is under the title “True Modernity” in the German Journal Innen-Dekoration: What should be the highest aim of the domestic architect? When his client states: “My apartment for me as my friends and guests is the incarnation of modern living comfort: a place of joie de vivre, incomprehensible contentment. The name of the creator? It is neither known nor anybody asked for it.” We are not as far as that for a long time yet! The “original creation” is still rated highly. The pieces of furniture, that authorship and year are written in the face of, are the aim of the wondering, beholding eye instead of being silent witnesses of the undivertedly passing liberated gazes.13

So the architect should make his work invisible. With this Augenfeld referred to Adolf Loos, who, in 1903, has written: “For your living spaces you are always right, nobody else.”14 Based on concepts developed in Vienna round 1900 the Viennese School in the interwar period worked on a version of modern architecture that was not aiming for types or rationalization in design or production but took the single individual client as starting point, consequently marginalizing the role of the creator/architect into someone who is merely listening. The architect should act like a “good doctor”15 (as Oskar Strnad put it in 1932) who has to trace, understand, and fulfill the needs (psychological as well as physiological) of his individual clients. This whole concept was increasingly and consciously turned against the “dogmatic Bauhaus ideology” toward the early 1930s, especially its spiritus rector Walter Gropius, who despite all enthusiasm for industrial production still only trusted the “artist by virtue of his more encompassing spirit,”16 to keep control over the product. Augenfeld’s cousin—the writer Gina Kaus—recalls in her autobiography how Felix furnished her apartment in the socalled Philipphof (by Karl König Augenfeld’s teacher at the Technical University): “My cousin Felix Augenfeld, a well-know architect, reconstructed the apartment for us und furnished it. He asked me with every room: ‘You have to tell me precisely what you want to do here.’ […] I met him every day in the apartment and chose every curtain, every carpet with him.”17 The result of these talks went so far as to installing a cooking facility in the library so that Gina could serve coffee without leaving the guests and missing the discussions, so solving the problem of the intellectually active hostess. A desk designed for the young writer Hans Weigel had a small cooking facility. As in the case of Freud’s chair, the exact description of the habits of the inhabitants guided the design. These bohemian/bourgeois interiors seem far away from the pressing social ideas of the time. But the concept of “Wiener Wohnen” was socially adaptable as attempts like Hans Adolf Vetter’s book Kleine Einfamilienhäuser18 as well as their contributions to

Augenfeld: Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism


the social housing program of the City of Vienna demonstrate. The flexible furnishing with light wooden moveable pieces, the white walls, and colorful patterned curtains and carpets that made key elements of the “Wiener Wohnen” could be easily applied in smaller and simpler households. The integration of older objects with a personal history and different pedigrees lent itself toward a certain resourcefulness. Spatial economy and simply white rendered walls with flexible window formats mostly erected in conventional local brick without too many technological experiments could be used from the big Villa to social housing. In fact, the concept of “Wiener Wohnen”—though bourgeois at heart—was easier scaled down than up.

Weekend cottages in Wiener Wald Due to the connection with Ernst Freud, Hofmann and Augenfeld had already received several commissions from the family and their acquaintances before they took on the chair in Berggasse 19. When Anna started to see her own patients in 1923, Karl Hofmann and Felix Augenfeld designed a shelf for her study. In 1929, Hofmann and Augenfeld renovated the flat of Anna’s close friend Dorothy Burlingham in the apartment building in Berggase 19. The American granddaughter of Charles Tiffany came to Vienna to have her four children analyzed by the Freuds. Dorothy and her children became very close to the family, especially to Anna, and in 1929 they moved into the fourth floor of Berggasse 19. Here Augenfeld could discover the very different concept of living standards: “Being American, they ‘naturally’ required the installation of a fireplace and replacement of the antiquated plumbing and wiring (the renovation solving the bedbug problem, which continued to plague their neighbours, the Freuds included).”19 The American heiress played a significant role in the emigration of the Freud family to London and worked together with Anna at the Wartime Nurseries in Hampstead Heath during the war. For Anna and Dorothy the duo Hofmann and Augenfeld acted as on-site architects for a conversion of a farmer’s cottage in Hochrotherd in the Wiener Wald into a weekend retreat in 1931 after a design by Anna and her architect brother Ernst. Psychoanalysis was getting more and more popular in the United States after the First World War, and many Americans came to Vienna to be analyzed by Freud and very often later wanted to be educated as analysts. Two more were among Augenfeld’s clients: Ruth Mack, later Brunswick, came to Vienna in 1922. Hofmann and Augenfeld designed her living room where she saw her patients. Yet another American who came to be analyzed by Freud and stayed in Vienna was Muriel Gardiner, nee Morris, later to become Buttinger.20 Like Mack Brunswick she came from Chicago. Her family made a fortune in the famous meat districts and so she was financially independent. She was referred by Freud to Mack Brunswick for her analysis and started to study medicine at the University of Vienna to become a psychoanalyst herself. Augenfeld became her architect and, over time, a good friend; she called him “Auge” and provided him with a lifesaving affidavit in 1938. For her, he refurbished a flat behind the University (Frankgasse 1, Top 12), which was between 1907 and 1910, designed by Loos for Friedrich and Charlotte Boskovits.21 In Sulz-Stangau in the Wiener Wald,


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

he built a weekend cottage for her and her daughter, which shows the hybridization of an American and an Austrian log house, with a big veranda and an open fireplace in 1929–1930 (Figure 9.2). Muriel’s short-time lover, the British poet Stephen Spender, described this refuge: “Lamplit at evening, seen from the outside, the Blockhaus glowed like the interior of a cedar box.”22 Muriel Gardiner was a very important protagonist in the socialist resistance against the Austrofascist Regime from 1934 on. After 1938, using her British and American passports, she helped several people out of Nazioccupied Austria, carrying both money and documents back and forth. Her cottage became hideout and meeting place for several illegal socialists after the putsch of 1934. When she was asked to hide one illegal socialist leader in her cottage and studio, she met her future husband Josef Buttinger, who was part of the committee of the Illegal Socialists organising resistance against the Austrofascist regime. The idyllic setting of her weekend retreat became a new meaning for Muriel Gardiner: During the next two months, we held an occasional full committee meeting at the Sulz cottage. This was a treat for everyone; it was such a joy to get into the glorious autumn sunlight in this enchanting spot; furthermore, we felt safe there. The cottage—in a meadow sloping down to the road and surrounded on the other three sides by woods—was a full mile from the village or from any other house.23

Equally the spatial situation of her Viennese flat became of vital importance in a completely different way. In 1934, she was told that she had to leave her flat in Frankgasse, and so she found a new but smaller apartment in Rummelhardtgasse. But

Figure 9.2  Karl Hofmann and Felix Augenfeld, Weekend cottage for Muriel Gardiner, 1929–1930. © Ruth Hanisch.

Augenfeld: Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism


she did not want to endanger her daughter by using it for her resistance work, so she was looking for a second place to study and to have secret meetings, and she found it in Augenfeld’s studio in nearby Lammgasse. She remembers: And then I had the greatest stroke of luck. My friend Felix Augenfeld, whom we called ‘Auge’, an architect who had built our little cottage in Sulz, wanted to move to a Vienna suburb and was looking for someone to sublet his apartment in the Lammgasse, about five minutes’ walk from the place I had just rented in the Rummelhardtgasse. I was acquainted with the apartment, which consisted of a large studio and a small bedroom, bath, and kitchenette. It was on the top floor overlooking a courtyard surrounded by lower buildings, so no one could see into the windows. An additional advantage, for conspiratorial purposes, was that the concierge’s loge—unlike almost every other—was not at the entrance of the building but in the rear, out of sight of even the stairs and elevator. It seemed like a gift from heaven.24

Privacy—and architectures contribution to it—got a different meaning for Gardiner, Josef Buttinger and many they have helped in times of civil war and after the “Anschluss.” When in Freud’s study the bourgeois style of thinking was undermined “beyond repair” (see Peter Gay above) in Gardiner’s cottage and studio the seemingly idyllic bourgeois setting was the scene of the most dangerous under cover socialist resistance work. Radical thoughts and deeds did not need a radical setting in the sense of radical modernist architecture.

Upper Manhattan and Fire Island In March 1938, Hofmann and Augenfeld’s office was firmly established as specialist for dwellings of all kinds. Among many interior designs for artists and intellectuals they had managed to get some bigger commissions: a small social housing block in Prager Strasse 56–58 (1925–1926, with Hans Adolf Vetter) and a shop and apartment building in Singerstraße in the First District as well as several substantial residential projects in Vienna and Moravia. When the Nazi regime took over in 1938, Hofmann and Augenfeld had to close their office and emigrate like almost all their colleagues from the “Wiener Schule” and all of their clients.25 Karl Hofmann went to Australia but never worked as architect again.26 Augenfeld went first to London and from there, with an affidavit from Muriel Gardiner, to New York. He was not happy there in the beginning: “It is a pig’s life here.—All people in England should comfort themselves that at least they are not in New York. That sounds ungrateful, but that’s the way I look at it.”27 But despite his pessimistic assessment, he was able to reestablish an architectural office by taking the exam as architect at the age of 48 in 1941.28 With some help of Bernard Rudofsky, he was soon able to publish his work—executed and unexecuted—in American and international journals: Pencil Points, Progressive Architecture, and, through the contact with Bernard Rudofsky, “Domus.” In the journal Interiors, he presented a series of designs to demonstrate his skills to the new American clients—taking the achievements


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

of the “Wiener Schule” to a next level, and dealing with the extreme needs of some imaginary commissions.29 “Ten Children and Hardly Any Corridors” described such a problem to be solved with rooms opening onto courtyards. The structure of his commissions stayed remarkably similar to his Viennese practice: interior designs for artists and exhibition designs, furniture and weekend houses for fellow emigrants. Like in Vienna, he specialized in small-scale apartments (not uncommon in New York), which he helped to make liveable with clever arrangements and multifunctional units. So, in the apartment for a young actress, the bed could turn into a sofa. His clients were mainly fellow émigrés, and also privately he remained within émigrés circles in New York. In 1966 (aged 73 years), Augenfeld married the Viennese-born designer Anna Friedländer Epstein, also known as Anna de Carmel, who run the successful furniture store “Plus Studio” in Manhattan; the couple had previously often worked together on interior designs.30 On Fire Island—a narrow and wild island south of Long Island—Augenfeld built a whole colony of weekend cabins for Viennese friends. The first was a beach house for Christiane Zimmer, Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s daughter, who emigrated to New York with her husband Heinrich Zimmer and their sons. Augenfeld remembers later that she discovered the beautiful spot.31 Heinrich Zimmer died in 1943 and Christiane had to reinvent herself as social worker and social scientist. With help of her father’s royalties, her house in the Greenwich Village would later become the New York base for the young Austrian writers like Ingeborg Bachmann. Zimmer’s house on Fire Island was followed by Augenfeld’s own weekend retreat, about which was published in color over three pages in the leading Italian magazine Domus. Modest in scale with beautiful detailing and thoughtful furnishing, it sported a sliding barn door to protect the windows from wind and waves (Figure 9.3). There was no electricity on the island and everything had to be brought there by boat; building involved a lot of DIY by Augenfeld himself.32 The beach house for Theodore Taussig, the son of the landlord on Fire Island, was built around the same time.33 Those little houses were frequently published, Augenfeld’s beach house for Ernst Hammerschlag, a Viennese psychiatrist, even made it into the New York Times Weekend Magazine.34 This long destroyed hamlet of beach cabins demonstrated not only the enduring closeness between the Viennese emigrants but also their adaptability and social mobility. After all, owning a weekend cabin, small as they were, was not for everybody in New York. Augenfeld’s architecture evolved well in those years; it still had the carefulness and detailing of the “Viennese School” but combined with an even more relaxed and informal attitude toward living in nature. Those beach houses are not “small repetitive boxes […] washed ashore”35 as Augenfeld’s friend Sibyl Moholy-Nagy would describe the invasion of modernist architecture into the United States, but very sensitively situated within the pines, making the most of the views of the dunes and the sea in this still relatively unspoilt wilderness on the brink of Manhattan. Only once he had the chance to fulfill his potential on a larger scale in New York for his Viennese client Muriel Gardiner and her Austrian husband Josef (Joe) Buttinger. In cooperation with the Polish immigrant Jan Hird Pokorny, Augenfeld built a townhouse with a public library near Central Park from 1956 to 1958 (Figure 9.4). Here he applied his Viennese magic to turn the typical long and narrow New York plot

Augenfeld: Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism


Figure 9.3  Felix Augenfeld, Beach house Augenfeld, Fire Island, c. 1957. © Avery Library, Columbia University.

into a dense inward-turned structure. Using the full length of the plot he integrated a small patio to bring in light and air to the whole of the building, especially to the rooms of the library in the front building. “The house at 10 East 87th Street between Madison and Fifth Avenue, would be constructed around a tree that Muriel loved and didn’t want cut down,” Muriel’s biographer Sheila Isenbert reports.36 Here the extensive book collection on Austria and the Far East by Josef Buttinger was housed and made accessible.37 The building brought Augenfeld an American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1960 and was published widely. In New York, Augenfeld was in contact with several European architects and critics who had been united by a steadily growing disagreement with the doctrines of modern Architecture as it was represented by Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe in Boston and Chicago. Between them quite a few fellow Viennese like Bernard Rudofsky and Frederik Kiesler and for a short while also Josef Frank. Adolf Placzek— another Viennese émigré—art historian and librarian at the Avery Library at Columbia University recollected that Felix Augenfeld was a friend of Sibyl Moholy-Nagy,38 who after László Moholy-Nagy’s death reinvented herself as architectural theoretician and historian. From 1951 she taught architectural history at the Pratt Institute. In 1957, she published her book Native Genius in Anonymous Architecture. This loose group of acquaintances did have some things in common: one of it is the disagreement


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 9.4  Felix Augenfeld and Jan Hird Pokorny, Townhouse and library Buttinger, New York, 1956–1958. © Avery Library, Columbia University.

with the role, the “Silver Princes” (Tom Wolfe) had taken in modern architecture. Moholy Nagy’s Native Genius, Bernard Rudofsky’s Architecture without architects, and Josef Frank’s Accidentism all aimed from different angles at the almighty architects and planners and thus prepared the ground for the next generation, arguing for participation and ownership like Jane Jacobs in urban planning and, a little later, Victor Papanek in design.39 In 1983, a slightly crestfallen Augenfeld wrote to his friend, the journalist Milan Dubrovic, back in Vienna: “How strange, many of the events that are described in the books dealing with the time in Vienna are happening in premises that

Augenfeld: Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism


have been altered by me or at least were well known to me.”40 In fact, he had furnished the stage for important encounters in Vienna as well as New York without ever being at the center of the scene himself, nor making his architecture perform more than a supporting role, true to his own beliefs formulated in 1929: Like in an open landscape modern men gazes—neither disturbed nor constricted by the radiation of individual “Gestaltungs-Willen”—into the void of his living space as an open and receptive vessel for any kind of emotional content. Out of life individuality originates by itself. “Impersonality of objects of use” is the ground on which the spirit of true modernity can develop.41

Notes 1 Felix Augenfeld to Hans Lobner, October, 1974, Leo Baeck Institut, New York. Papers of the Trudy Jeremias Family, 1857–2008. Series III: Extended Family, 1857–1984, Box 2, Folder 5. 2 Ibid. 3 Volker Welter, Ernst L. Freud. The Case of the Modern Bourgeois Home (New York/ Oxford: Berghan, 2012), 31ff. 4 “Wir haben das Bett wieder hinaufgetragen und sein Zimmer mit Deinem Stuhl, in dem ich manchmal in diesen Nächten gesessen bin, ist wieder wie früher, nur furchtbar leer.” Lux Freud to Felix Augenfeld, October 2, 1939, Freudmuseum Wien (translation into English Ruth Hanisch). 5 Peter Gay, Jews Freud and other Germans, Masters and Victims in Modernist Culture (Oxford et al.: Oxford University Press, 1979), 39–40. 6 Ibid., 61. 7 Stefan Muthesius, The Poetic Home. Designing the 19th-Century Domestic Interior (London, 2009); Paul Jandl, “In the Chambre Séparée of the Soul. On the Mental Interior of Viennese Moderne,” in Josef Hoffmann. Interiors 1902–1913, ed. WittDörring Christian (Munich, 2006), 16–27. 8 Rolf Tiedemann, ed., Walter Benjamin: Passagenwerk. Gesammelte Schriften V.I (Frankfurt, 1982), 291–292 and 298. 9 Diana Fuss, Sense of an Interior. Four Rooms and the Writers that Shaped Them (London: Routledge, 2004). 10 Sigfried Giedion, Mechanization Takes Command. A Contribution to Anonymous History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1948), cited from the edition New York 1969, 396–404. Giedion—like Augenfeld—studied at the Technical University of Vienna, but he studied engineering not architecture. 11 Ibid., 398. 12 For a closer description of the “Viennese School,” see: Iris Meder, Offene Welten. Die Wiener Schule im Einfamilienhausbau 1910–1938 (PhD dissertation University Stuttgart, 2003), http://elib.uni-stuttgart.de/opus/volltexte/2005/2094/; Christopher Long, “Wiener Wohnkultur: Interior Dessign in Vienna, 1910–1938,” Studies in the Decorative Arts, Fall/Winter 1997/97, 29–51.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

13 “Was müßte das höchste Ziel des wohnungschaffenden Architekten sein? Wenn der Wohnungs-Inhaber erklärt: ‘Meine Wohnung ist für mich, wie auch für meine Freunde und Gäste, der Inbegriff modernen Wohnkomforts: eine Stätte der Lebensfreude, unbegreiflichen Behagens. Der Name des Schöpfers? Man hat ihn weder erkannt, noch hat man nach ihm gefragt.’ Soweit sind wir noch lange nicht! Die ‘originelle Schöpfung’ steht noch hoch im Wert. Die Möbel, denen Autorschaft und Jahreszahl im Gesicht geschrieben steht, sind Ziel des staunend betrachtenden Auges,statt schweigende Zeugen der unabgelenkt an ihnen vorbeistreifenden, befreiten Blicke zu sein”. Felix Augenfeld, “Wahre Modernität,” Innen-Dekoration, May 1929, 216 (translation into English Ruth Hanisch). 14 “Für eure wohnung habt ihr immer recht, niemand anderer.” Adolf Loos, “Wie wir leben” (1903), in Sämtliche Schriften Vol. 1, ed. Franz Glück (Vienna, Munich: Herold, 1962), 235–243, here 239. 15 “Es ist, wenn man den Dingen auf den letzten Grund geht—und das muss man in den Dingen des künstlerischen Schaffens immer tun—viel eher eine Angelegenheit rein seelischer Natur, eine Aufgabe, die der eines guten Arztes gleicht,” in: Oskar Strnad, “Mit Freude wohnen,” 1932, posthumously published in: Der Architekt. Oskar Strnad zum 100. Geburtstag, Johannes Spalt ed. (Vienna, 1979), reprinted in: Meder Fuks and Evi Iris, Oskar Strnad 1879–1935, ed. Jüdisches Museum der Stadt Wien (Salzburg/ Munich: Pustet, 2007), 127. 16 “Künstler kraft seines totaleren Geistes,” Walter Gropius: “Wo berühren sich die Schaffensgebiete des Technikers und Künstlers?” Die Form 1 (March 1926): 117– 122, reprinted in: Hartmut Probst and Christian Schädlich, ed., Walter Gropius, Ausgewählte Schriften, Vol. 3 (Berlin: Verlag für Bauwesen, 1987), 101–102, S. 101. 17 “Mein Vetter Felix Augenfeld, ein bekannter Architekt, baute die Wohnung für uns um und richtete sie ein. Er fragte mich bei jedem Zimmer: ‘Du musst mir genau sagen, was du hier tun willst.’ […] Ich ging jeden Tag mit Felix in die neue Wohnung, ich wählte mit ihm jeden Vorhang aus, jeden Teppich.” (Gina Kaus) Sibylle Mulot, ed., Von Wien nach Hollywood. Erinnerungen von Gina Kaus (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1990), 150 (translation into English Ruth Hanisch). 18 Hans A. Vetter, Kleine Einfamilienhäuser (Vienna: Schroll) 1932. 19 Michael Burlingham, The Last Tiffany. A Biography of Dorothy Tiffany Burlingham (New York: Antheneum, 1989), 206. 20 Muriel Gardiner, Code Name Mary. Memoirs of an American Woman in the Austrian Underground (New Haven and London: Yale University Press), 1983. 21 Ralf Bock, “Zwei Loos-Wohnungen auf einer Etage. Die Wohnungen Friedrich Boskovits und Armin Horovitz in der Frankgasse,” in “Jeder sei sein eigener Dekorateur.” Zur Geschichte der Loos-Räume in Wien I., Bartensteingasse 9, ed. Sylvia Mattl Wurm (Vienna: Metro, 2013, 47–63). 22 Stephen Spender, World within Word. The Autobiography of Stephen Spender, 1951, cited after the edition (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1966), 195. 23 Gardiner, Code Name Mary, 58–59. 24 Ibid., 48–49. 25 For a list of Augenfeld’s known work see: Ruth Hanisch, “Die unsichtbare Raumkunst des Felix Augenfeld,” in Visionäre und Vertriebene. Österreichische Spuren in der

Augenfeld: Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Antifascism


modernen amerikanischen Architektur, ed. Matthias Boeckl (Berlin: Ernst & Sohn, 1995), 226–247 and biography 327–328; Ruth Hanisch, Felix Augenfeld. Architektur und Inneneinrichtung, Wien 1920–New York 1960 (MA Thesis University of Vienna, 1996). 26 Iris Meder and Judith Eiblmayr, Haus Hoch. Das Hochhaus Herrengasse und seine berühmten Bewohner (Vienna: Metro, 2009), 132. 27 “Es ist ein Sauleben hier. -Alle Menschen in England sollten sich über alles damit trösten, daß sie wenigstens nicht in New York sind. Das klingt sehr undankbar, aber that´s the way I look at it.” Augenfeld to Ernst Freud, February 12, 1940, FreudMuseum, London (translation into English Ruth Hanisch). 28 Felix Augenfeld, Curriculum Vitae, post 1970, Matthias Boeckl, Vienna. 29 “For Informal Living on a Windswept Hill,” in: Interiors, January 1947, 78ff (In the Augenfeld Papers in the Avery Library, Columbia University New York plans of this project is labelled with “Teller Residence, Croton on Hudson”); “De Luxe Setting for an Outdoor Life,” in: Interiors, January, 1948, 92–95; “Ten Children and Hardly Any Corridors,” in: Interiors, February 1953, 78–79. 30 See Anna Augenfeld’s (nee Friedländer, married Epstein, Gutmann, also called “de Carmel”) papers in the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, Papers of the Trudy Jeremias Family, 1857–2008. 31 Felix Augenfeld, “Meine Freundschaft mit Christiane,” in Blätter für Christiane Zimmer zum 14. Mai 1982, ed. Gesammelt von Leonhard M. Fiedler und überreicht vom S. Fischer Verlag (Frankfurt/M: Fischer, 1982), 26. 32 “Casa sull’isola,” Domus, no. 332 (July 1957): 7–9. 33 Plans for the Hammerschlag House in Avery Library/Columbia University are dated 1957/58. 34 Betty Pepis, “Blueprint for Summer ‘56’, ” New York Times, September 4, 1955: 50–51. 35 Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, “The Diaspora,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 24, no. 1 (1965): 24–26, citation 24. 36 Sheila Isenbert, Muriel’s War. An American Heiress in the Nazi Resistance (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 169. 37 The books later went to Klagenfurt as the grounding stock of the newly founded University Library. 38 There is a photo with a poem signed Sibyl in the Augenfeld papers in Avery Library, Series III: Personal Papers. 39 Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Native Genius in Anonymous Architecture (New York: Horizon Press, 1957); Josef Frank, “Accidentism,” Form 54 (1958), Stockholm, English translation as 373-“Accidentism,” in: Josef Frank, Schriften. Bd. 2, Veröffentlichte Schriften 1931–1965, ed. Tano Bojankin, Christopher Long, and Iris Meder (Vienna: Metro, 2012), 373–387; Bernard Rudofsky, Architecture without Architects. A Short Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture (New York: Doubleday, 1964). 40 “Wie merkwürdig, daß in den vielen jetzt über die Wiener Zeit geschriebenen Büchern sich die Ereignisse in Räumlichen abspielen, die von mir umgestaltet oder mir zumindest wohlbekannt waren.” Felix Augenfeld to Milan Dubrovic, May 30, 1983, Wien Bibliothek, Vienna (translation into English Ruth Hanisch). 41 “Wie in eine offene Landschaft blickt der moderne Mensch,—nicht gestört noch beengt durch Ausstrahlung individuellen ‘Gestaltungs-Willens’—in den Hohlraum der Wohnung als in einen offenen und aufnahmebereiten Behälter für jegliche Art seelischen Erlebnis-Inhaltes. Aus dem Leben entwickelt sich das Individuelle von selbst. ‘Unpersönlichkeit der Gebrauchsdinge’ ist der Untergrund, auf dem der Geist wahrer Modernität entstehen kann.” Augenfeld, “Wahre Modernität.”

Part Four

Emigration and Education— Bauhaus in the United States


György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”: From Education in Design to Design as Education of the Mind Anna Vallye

“Art transforms us,” wrote Hungarian avant-garde artist Lajos Kassák in 1922, “and we become capable of transforming our surroundings.”1 The statement encompasses a classic postulate of the historical avant-garde: the artist’s gambit to invent not only new aesthetic forms but new conditions of perception—a “new vision”—promises a crucial and transformative role for art in the coming age of the masses. The claim that an interior, perceptual or psychological, renewal is the necessary correlate and prerequisite for social change calls to mind an observation of Bauhaus scholar Alain Findeli, who detected a fundamental “inward/outward” polarity in the ideological and pedagogical discourses of the school. That “inner growth in consciousness” for the Bauhaus student was to be inextricably accompanied by “enlarged social responsibility” guaranteed for design the crucial role as mediator between self and world, art and technique, the individual and the collective.2 Or, as Walter Gropius put it in 1923: “The old dualistic world-concept which envisaged the ego in opposition to the universe is rapidly losing ground. In its place is rising the idea of a universal unity in which all opposing forces exist in a state of absolute balance.”3 These kinds of dualisms are a familiar feature of cultural reflection in the beginning of the twentieth century, particularly in the German axis—a diffuse inheritance of philosophical idealism and its dialectical systems.4 Could we consider in that light the current scholarly consensus that the vanguardism of Bauhaus ideology faltered in its American reincarnations, swept under by the adoptive country’s pragmatism and utilitarianism, just as much as by its steady commitment to the precepts of liberal capitalism? Was this a case of misalignment in deep-running cultural habits of thought? Something of this failed translation is frequently observed in the most direct effort at reconstructing an American Bauhaus, the school of design established by László Moholy-Nagy in Chicago in 1937, initially called the New Bauhaus.5 The fraught history of that institution through its eventual incorporation into the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), following Moholy-Nagy’s premature death in 1946, chronicles the twinned goals of personal and social transformation gradually but


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

inexorably pushed out by vocational training and acquiescence to market demands.6 Yet, in at least one case, the “inward/outward” program of the (Germanic) historical avant-garde was, with due caveats, successfully adjusted for the cultural and intellectual context of the postwar United States. I will briefly trace here the terms of that translation, as executed by Kassák’s former student and Moholy-Nagy’s one-time New Bauhaus colleague, the Hungarian artist György Kepes. From the late 1930s, when he arrived in the United States, and over four decades of a productive career, Kepes remained invested in the social potential of an “education of vision,” but linked to an ideology of American political life and adapted to the concrete dynamics of American academic institutions. Eleven years Moholy-Nagy’s junior, Kepes met the older artist through the itinerant circles of the Hungarian avant-garde during the 1920s, as they shuttled across Budapest, Vienna, and Berlin. Through years of friendship and collaboration that took him from Moholy-Nagy’s photography studio in Berlin in 1930, through a brief exile in London in the early 1930s, to a job as instructor and head of the Light Workshop at the New Bauhaus in 1937, Kepes absorbed Moholy-Nagy’s version of Bauhaus pedagogy, informed by a shared background in the 1920s “new vision” discourse. It was in Chicago that he seems to have discovered what would become a lifelong project, which may be defined by a shift of focus from an education in design to design as an education of the mind. The idea of educating vision appears early and shows up often in Kepes’s personal papers. A tentative handwritten plan for a “University of Vision,” dating to sometime during the Second World War, may well be the first documented instance. In the mid1950s, having settled down as a professor in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Architecture, Kepes started to investigate the possibility of establishing a visual studies center at the Institute.7 Around 1964, he submitted to the School of Architecture a concrete proposal for an “Institute of Vision.”8 The following year, the campaign was bolstered by the publication of a collected essays volume titled The Education of Vision, edited by Kepes.9 When the Center for Advanced Visual Studies opened at MIT in 1967 under Kepes’s directorship, it is tempting to see it as the culmination of the artist’s entire career trajectory in the United States, inasmuch as it reflected a programmatic concern with devising institutional frameworks for a pedagogy of vision. The project, of course, should be instantly recognizable as owing something to Moholy-Nagy’s philosophy. In discussing his friend, Kepes tended to emphasize shared interests, rooted in the broader context of the Hungarian avant-garde of the teens and twenties, and point to his own interest in “organizing [the Bauhaus’s] new findings” in “materials, techniques, and sensory fields,” as well as his focus on “the meaning of order in the visual experience in its present social context.”10 The activity he described—consolidation, articulation, definition of meaning and relevance—is more akin to scholarship than it is to artistic exploration. “Moholy was more interested,” he summarized, in “express[ing] an achievement … the last moment of artistic ideas … I had … a very different basic attitude to both education and art than he had.”11 To Kepes’s mind, in other words, Moholy-Nagy’s ultimate goal, even when pursued within an educational framework, was always that of artistic innovation. What, if not that, was it for Kepes himself?

György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”


It is instructive to compare two remarkably similar hypothetical institutions, combining art and education, imagined by the respective artists within the span of a few years. Writing in 1937, Moholy-Nagy proposed establishing an Academy of Light, whose task would be to explore light as a “creative factor” stemming from new technologies of photography and film. The “theoretical and practical study of the uses of light” pursued at this Academy, “from the historical, physical, physiological and other points of view,” would then be put to use in various commercial products—press photos, book illustrations, theatrical lighting, advertising of films, and illuminated advertising.12 There is a clear programmatic trajectory: from the investigation of a new creative medium, focusing on its broadest potential psychophysiological and societal effects, to its instrumental applications on the market. Published in the New Bauhaus’s inaugural year, the Academy of Light blueprint reflected Moholy-Nagy’s long-standing philosophy that art and design objects were forms of utopian psychosocial projection. “I believed,” he wrote in another context, that abstract art not only registers contemporary problems, but projects a desirable future order… Abstract art, I thought, creates new types of spatial relationships, new inventions of forms, new visual laws—basic and simple—as the visual counterpoint to a more purposeful, cooperative human society.13

Art objects could be seen as sensory-conceptual diagrams for an “integrated process of social transformation,” or “experimental demonstration devices for testing the connections between man, material forces and space.”14 Like his colleagues in the Hungarian avant-garde, Moholy-Nagy believed that the physical world as a system of interacting biotechnical processes was a correlate of the social world, and therefore organic representations could project an image of a cooperative society to come. “Man,” he explained, is the synthesis of all his functional apparatuses, i.e. man will be most perfect in his own time if the functional apparatuses of which he is composed—his cells as well as the most sophisticated organs—are conscious and trained to the limit of their capacity. Art actually performs such a training.15

As experimental demonstrations, artworks “train” the viewers’ consciousness toward a collective accomplishment of natural-social transformation. The notion of perceptual training as the necessary precondition of social change replays the “inward/outward” dynamic invoked above. For Moholy-Nagy, the “art or design object” was a crucial mediating term in that transaction. The educational program pursued at the New Bauhaus followed the same logic, inasmuch as it proceeded from an acquisition of experimental psycho-cognitive aptitudes to their exercise through the design of objects of use. In many respects, the school functioned as a laboratory of practical inventions or prototypes. The focus of its curriculum—even as it paid heed to the “whole man,” introducing the student to humanistic and scientific subjects— was unambiguously the “designe[r] of handmade and machine-made products.”16 The training of “new men with fresh mentality,” of the “new type of designer, able to face all


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 10.1  György Kepes, Advertisement for the Container Corporation of America, Fortune Magazine, 1939.

kinds of requirements,” interested Moholy-Nagy to the extent that it ultimately bore fruit in new commercial applications.17 As is often pointed out, this was certainly a response to pressures imposed by the New Bauhaus financial sponsors, whose priorities focused on vocational training. But it was also consistent with Moholy-Nagy’s philosophy. The designer as a flexibly skilled innovator was, in that sense, the counterpart of the artist who projects a future Weltanschauung in the visionary work of art. Artists, MoholyNagy commented in 1943, “are always far ahead … [They] were using chromium and

György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”


aluminum long before manufacturers could find much use for those materials. The artist sees beauty in a new material, and then others see it.”18 The New Bauhaus Drawing and Light Studio directed by Kepes (after 1942, the Light and Color Workshop) may certainly be seen to realize Moholy-Nagy’s projected Academy of Light.19 Its workshops entailed explorations in various photographic techniques, ultimately destined for advertising applications, actively pursued in Chicago by Kepes himself with his work for the Container Corporation of America (Figure 10.1).20 However, a note made by the artist sometime after America’s entry into the Second World War indicates a rather different set of ambitions and educational aims. He sketches here a proposal for a “University of Vision” that would marshal “history, sociology, political science, geography, [and] economics,” to address topics such as “unemployment, market, public opinion,” and target outcomes such as “intelligent citizenship [and] industrial safety.”21 Kepes seems to envision a knowledge and information clearinghouse, organized for the cultivation of a subject constituted politically and economically in relation to the American nation-state. The scheme is quite distant from the professional concerns of the artist or designer. Indeed, this early “University of Vision” indexed the beginning of Kepes’s journey away from Moholy-Nagy’s “Education of the Eye,” to explore issues of collective subjectivity in relation to citizenship. In conceiving an alternate pedagogy, Kepes paid particular attention to wartime public service initiatives, such as Disney films “designed to instruct soldiers … in the proper handling of their weapons, and to teach civilians how to combat desease [sic], improve sanitation and to perform other functions contributing to war efforts.”22 With mobilization, the New Bauhaus was actively pursuing ways to participate in the “war effort”—among these, a camouflage course organized by Kepes himself and rehabilitation workshops for wounded veterans.23 The designer, Kepes reflected, was being called upon to “reorient” into “new fields of activity.” Of particular interest in the pursuit of that reorientation was the concept of “morale.” The current war, Kepes ventured, was not a clash of “techniques,” but rather a “war of human resources, [w]ar of morale.”24 The battlefield had shifted from the exteriority of objects (weapons) to the psychophysical interiority of subjects. As a “mental state or condition,” he continued, characterized by “readiness to endure in spite of the most testing circumstances,” morale was also “a social phenomenon characteristic of social man … based on recognition that the survival of himself is indivisible from the survival of the group, nation or other forms of social ties.”25 Accordingly, the role of design in inspiring good morale was to “show this identification of the individual with a more embracing dimension.”26 The visual language of propaganda was one of the most direct means for doing so. Through visual communication, the designer could participate in a psychological reshaping of the individual as “social man,” or citizen. Kepes would have encountered the term “morale” at least by 1942, when he and Moholy-Nagy served on a Chicago metropolitan committee for civilian morale among Americans of Hungarian descent.27 His attention to this concept is especially significant as a substantial departure from the dominant approach to “war service” pursued at the New Bauhaus. Wartime material shortages led many designers to experiment in the use of new materials and production techniques, and the school eagerly participated in this rush to innovate, inventing mattresses made of paper and new methods for


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

repairing holes in gunner’s hoods on bombers, redesigning barbed wire and chairs.28 In that context, Kepes’s insistence on shifting focus away from “techniques” registered some disaffection with Moholy-Nagy’s object-centered philosophy. In fact, reflections on the broader meaning of mobilization found in Kepes’s notes reproduced a pervasive cultural and scientific argument on the relevance of psychological expertise in the prosecution of the war. “Moods, attitudes, and feelings,” as one historian summarized it, were not simply appropriate objects of military policy; they were the most appropriate… The naïve idea that wars could be won simply by perfecting weapons technology to kill one’s opponents, it was noted frequently, was incorrect. By far the most effective road to victory was to destroy enemy morale while bolstering one’s own.29

The Chicago committee for civilian morale was one of a number of both state and privately funded agencies engaged in examining wartime morale issues, often specifically by means of public communications analysis. The core problem of morale research—the relationship between the individual and the group, and its mediation in the public sphere—would soon extend beyond the war emergency to anchor Kepes’s evolving theory of education. While especially urgent in the early 1940s, the issue of morale was but one topic in a much wider discursive field of American social psychology. Committed to providing design students with a general education, Moholy-Nagy opened an avenue for the social sciences to enter the school via its neighbor, the University of Chicago. Their main conduit was prominent philosopher and linguist Charles Morris, who established at the New Bauhaus a curriculum in “intellectual integration,” composed of an ambitious program of courses in the humanities and the natural and social sciences taught by a roster of his faculty colleagues. In all evidence, Morris had a tremendous impact on Kepes. He is credited as one of two readers and advisers for the artist’s first book Language of Vision (1944). Morris shared with the second credited reader, University of Chicago linguist and expert in the field of “general semantics” S. I. (Samuel Ichiye) Hayakawa, an abiding interest in the problem of mass communication, understood as the public circulation of information and its effects on the body politic. Affiliated with the Vienna Circle of logical positivists, Morris promoted the group’s quest for a transparent and universally valid language. Emerging in the anxious 1930s, logical positivism was motivated by opposition to “blood and soil” ideologies of the right, viewed as pernicious metaphysical mystifications to be dispelled through the objective postulates of scientific philosophy.30 Such ideas found a highly receptive atmosphere in wartime America, which was undergoing a revival of concerns about the “mass mind” phenomenon. Already during the First World War, many American public intellectuals, alarmed by the apparent gullibility and susceptibility of the masses to propaganda, addressed the form and content of mass communications media. Books like Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion (1922) and John Dewey’s The Public and Its Problems (1928) debated public opinion and its effects on democratic politics. Their urgency was reignited in best sellers like Stuart Chase’s The Tyranny of Words (1938) and Hayakawa’s Language in Action (1944). In his celebrated response

György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”


to Lippman cited above, Dewey formulated a notion of “the social self ” constituted through participation in democratic debate. If a “public” could be seen to emerge in a spontaneous convergence of irrational drives, it could also be brought into being through rational deliberation.31 Likewise, Morris argued that the effects of totalitarian ideology on the masses should be combated through “the marriage of the scientific habit of mind with the moral ideal of democracy.”32 All such commentators shared a fundamental belief in the political utility of language, both verbal and visual. Language of Vision was significantly informed by concerns about the public circulation of language derived from debates in American political philosophy and social science. “The visual language,” Kepes wrote, “is capable of disseminating knowledge more effectively than almost any other vehicle of communication.”33 Artistic images represented “a symbolic order of [man’s] psychological and intellectual experiences” that “directed and inspired him toward materializing the potential order … in man’s relationship to nature and to his fellow man.”34 Recast as psychosocial “directives,” images could become tools of a perceptual technology that worked to shape social subjectivity. Artists, reconceived for the age of mass media as professionals of the image—“painters, sculptors … photographers, advertising designers”—produced artifacts of “visual publicity,” which “taught to see” the rest of society.35 Their “purpose” was twofold: to “disseminate socially useful messages”; and to “train the eye, and thus the mind, with the necessary discipline of seeing beyond the surface of visible things, to recognize and enjoy values necessary for an integrated life.”36 In other words, the artist organized the treacherous noise of visual information bombarding the public into the grammar and syntax of a meaningful perceptual order, steering the polity toward becoming a conscious collective impervious to inflammatory propaganda, and thus “mobilizing the creative imagination for positive social action.”37 The end goals of Language of Vision were, therefore, far broader than those of design pedagogy alone. While Kepes stipulated that his findings would contribute to the “training for visual expression,” his main goal was to elaborate the processes of perception in relation to their social effects.38 At the heart of this project was a shift of attention from the exteriority of visible forms to the interiority of the viewing subject; more specifically, the viewing subject as a thinking subject. “The experiencing of every image,” Kepes wrote, is the result of an interraction [sic] between external physical forces and internal forces of the individual as he assimilates, orders, and molds external forces to his own measure … Sight is more than pure sensation… As soon as [light rays] reach the retina, the mind organizes and molds them into meaningful spatial units.39

A conception of vision as the interaction between “external” physical stimuli and “internal” cognitive schemas was a basic tenet of Gestalt perceptual psychology. Kepes cited its founders Max Wertheimer, Kurt Koffka, and Wolfgang Kohler as the sources of his insight into the “laws of visual organization.”40 Kepes’s interest in Gestalt theory may have already been sparked in the late 1920s, as it was familiar to many Germanspeaking artists and designers. In America, where leading Gestaltists were fellow émigrés, Kepes was personally closest to second-generation theorist Rudolf Arnheim.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Involved in wartime public communications research, Arnheim would throughout his American career emphasize the cognitive grounding of perceptual processes, the intimate links between vision and thought. Significantly, he also extended those reflections to the meaning of artistic production. If perception was the organization of physical stimuli into meaningful units, then the work of art was a cognitive, rather than a purely aesthetic, product; in fact, a clear difference between aesthetic perception and cognition could no longer be sustained. “[T]he same mechanisms,” Arnheim wrote in his 1954 book Art and Visual Perception, “operate on both the perceptual and the intellectual level… Recent psychological thinking… encourages us to call vision a creative activity of the human mind … Eyesight is insight.”41 The cognitive investment of perception would come to shape Kepes’s life project of bridging the visual disciplines of art and design and the intellectual disciplines of the physical and social sciences. His next book, The New Landscape in Art and Science (1956), stated in no uncertain terms as early as the second paragraph of the Preface: “Vision is itself a mode of thinking.”42 However, in the postwar period, new political imperatives would reorient his conception of the “social man” and citizen as subject of cognitive-perceptual training. As we have seen, the dilemmas of wartime morale and propaganda kept Kepes’s attention riveted to the role of vision in mass communications and the formation of social subjects through public discourse. The emerging problems of peacetime called for less mediated types of agency. I have traced in detail elsewhere how the dramatic state-sponsored growth in American educational and research institutions after the war, and the emergence of a new politics of knowledge this entailed, was accompanied by the formation of a new psychopolitical subject, at once model democratic citizen and postindustrial knowledge worker. As shaped through a groundswell of governmental, educational, and social-scientific discourses, this postwar American citizen-subject was defined, above all, by the intellectual qualities of “creative mind.”43 By the mid-to-late-1950s, discourses on intellectual creativity and the methods for its pedagogical stimulation were widespread, and frequently intersected with Kepes’s professional trajectory. Such discourses defined the visual arts right alongside the intellectual disciplines by the utility they could bear in the training of the knowledge worker. While it was generally assumed that art had a privileged position with respect to creativity, the career artist or designer was not of primary concern. The definition of art as creative thought was, rather, groundwork for its introduction into the system of general education.44 The 1950s and 1960s witnessed the escalation of efforts to integrate studio art courses in the higher education curriculum. Kepes’s personal papers again reflect his immersion in those issues. “As creative art is forming par excellence,” he muses in an undated note, it is imperative that its role as basic educational discipline should be incorporated in the general education methods … as a fundamental structural fibre [sic] of the whole. Form thinking—structural thinking, configuration thinking … must penetrate all disciplines of education.45

In 1965, Kepes would dedicate one of his edited anthologies in the George Braziller “Vision + Value” series to the “education of vision.” As the volume made abundantly

György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”


clear, the problem of aesthetic education was now broadly identified with the problem of vision’s role in the training of cognition. “All the contributors,” wrote Kepes in the introduction “agree on two points. First, that there is a fundamental interdependence between perception and conception, between the visual and the rational … the sensory and the intellectual … And second, that … there is an urgent need today for a reevaluation of the education of vision.”46 The formulation appears to bring us full circle, of course, to the programmatic core of New Bauhaus pedagogy: the “education of the eye.” “As the eye is the agent in conveying impressions to the mind,” Moholy-Nagy stated in the school’s Bulletin of 1939–1940, the achieving of visual communication requires a fundamental knowledge of the means of visual expression. Development of this knowledge will generate a genuine “language of the eye” whose “sentences” are the created images and whose elements are the basic plastic signs, line, plane, halftone, gradation, color, etc.47

The marked continuity in vocabulary here illustrates the difficulty with parsing the substance of Kepes’s departure from this line of thought. Yet, the distance he has traveled from a shared terrain outlined by the triangulation of “education,” “vision,” and “language” may best be measured by the destination. While mastery of the “means of visual expression” remains as always Moholy-Nagy’s telos, for Kepes it is the perceiving mind itself that emerges as the target of pedagogical strategy. This is not only a matter of shifting institutional interest from the education of professional designers to general education, but far more fundamentally, a matter of excising the work of art as aesthetic-conceptual object from its mediating role in the circuit of inner-outer transformation outlined in the beginning of this chapter. From now on, it is the elaborated set of perceptual practices alone, the technology of cognitiveperceptual training Kepes calls “form thinking,” that aspires to catalyze the twinned transformation of self and world. Much of Kepes’s work as designer, educator, and tireless builder of interdisciplinary intellectual networks was dedicated to elucidating links between the perception of formal relationships and the recognition of conceptual structures, between aesthetic activity and intellectual activity. The continuous weaving and reweaving of that connection—a practice folded into a renewed everyday life— would mend rifts between the “life of the mind” and the “life of the senses,” harmonizing our internal and external worlds. To fully illuminate this precept in Kepes’s work would require far more space than allotted here. However, one instructive example to offer in closing may be seen as something of a counterproject to Moholy-Nagy’s hypothetical Academy of Light, invoked at the beginning of this chapter. In 1947, Kepes developed a proposal for a “kinetic light space,” an environmental installation that would use a wide range of animated light sources to create “a luminous envelope that had no stationary dimension but still revealed a persistent space pattern as it fluctuated, pulsated, opened, and closed.”48 Four years later, he published a graphic outline of “a building in which all facts connected with light and space could be demonstrated” (Figure 10.2).49 Clearly didactic in intent, the installation would illustrate the perceptual effects of light and color through


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

“distorted planes … undulating walls, varied textures, and sculpture.”50 Diagrammatic layouts provided by Kepes demonstrate that he conceived the installation as at once a sensory and an educational journey, dissolving the physical space into a series of perceptual experiences and then explaining their sources. He would finally realize that core concept of linking sensory immersion to conceptual understanding in the

Figure 10.2  György Kepes, Kinetic light space. From A.D., “Kepes Looks at Light; Sees Spots,” Interiors 110, January 1951.

György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”


exhibition Light as a Creative Medium, held at Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts in 1965 (Figure 10.3). The exhibit, Kepes wrote in a proposal draft, would “show the basic contributions that light and color make to our understanding of the visual environment”51 and thus “stimulate creative thinking.”52 Juxtaposing historical and contemporary works of art, artifacts, and student work from Kepes’s courses, the exhibition was a carefully choreographed trajectory through diverse fields of perception. Kepes diagrammed


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 10.3  György Kepes, Light as a Creative Medium, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1965. Photograph by Nishan Bichajian. From György Kepes: The MIT Years, 1945–1977; Cambridge, MA: Hayden Gallery, MIT, 1978.

his installation design as a “hypothetical walk” through a succession of zones visually delimited according to speed of movement, sight lines and focus points, and “degree of spectator involvement.” Viewers were to be guided on this journey by a series of “guide posts,” introducing a “basic vocabulary” of light and color effects—such as reflection, color contrasts and complementarities, and the effects of surface and texture—aiding in the ultimate transformation of sensory experience into conceptual understanding. “Spectator enters,” Kepes narrated, and straight ahead is [the] introductory “basic vocabulary” room … Beyond, but still straight ahead [there] is [an] eye-catching focal point—perhaps a painting … [A] calm, conventional beginning, at first appearance. But, though spectator may not be aware of it, already light is effecting [sic] his appreciation of the space. First ‘room’ should be quiet so people will go slowly through it. Later, around the corner, the light and color interaction area will pulsate and dazzle the spectator … To reinforce the first simple demonstrations, a painting which is subsequently analyzed for texture, surface, color area, etc., is displayed … Moving from close scrutiny of single objects the spectator is drawn ahead by a plan, a map of a larger environment … Transition to presentation of analysis of vision or the eye… The physiological and symbolic demonstrations which follow … wind up the exhibition.

György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”


In summary, “enter ignorant observer,” the artist telegraphed on the final sketch of his schematic design sequence—exit “educated observer.”53 This was a local expression of the general principle he never tired of illustrating: perception “begins with an event in space, and ends with an event in our brain” (Figure 10.4).54

Figure 10.4  György Kepes, Layout diagram for Light as a Creative Medium, 1965. György Kepes papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Notes 1 Lajos Kassák, “Bildarchitektur (Picture Architecture)” (1922), in Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910–1930, trans. George Cushing (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 430. 2 Alain Findeli, “Bauhaus Education and After: Some Critical Reflections,” The Structurist, January 1991: 34. 3 Walter Gropius, “Idee und Aufbau des Staatlichen Bauhauses in Weimar” (1923), translated as “The Theory and Organization of the Bauhaus,” in Bauhaus 1919–1928, ed. Herbert Bayer, Water Gropius and Ise Gropius (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1979), 22. 4 See, for example, Francesco Dal Co, Figures of Architecture and Thought: German Architecture Culture, 1880–1920 (New York: Rizzoli, 1982). 5 Founded in 1937, the New Bauhaus went through several institutional changes during Moholy-Nagy’s tenure: it was reorganized in 1939 as the Chicago School of Design, and became in 1944 the Institute of Design. When referring to practices and policies that spanned those transitions, I will herewith use the “New Bauhaus” as an umbrella title. 6 This conflict has been chronicled in many sources. For a targeted discussion, see, for example, Alain Findeli and Charlotte Benton, “Design Education and Industry: The Laborious Beginnings of the Institute of Design in Chicago in 1944,” Journal of Design History 4 (1991): 97–113. 7 See Jonathan Benthall, “Kepes’s Center at M.I.T.,” Art International 19 (January 1975): 29. 8 See Lawrence Anderson to György Kepes, July 2, 1964, György Kepes Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Reel 5304, frame 201. From here on: Kepes Papers, AAA. 9 György Kepes, ed., Education of Vision, Vision + Value Series (New York: George Braziller, 1965). 10 György Kepes to Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, September 8, 1948, Kepes Papers, AAA, Reel 5303, frame 220. 11 György Kepes, interview by Robert Brown, March 7 and August 30, 1972 and January 11, 1973, Kepes Papers, AAA, 17–18. 12 László Moholy-Nagy, “Light Painting,” Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art (1937), reprinted in Krisztina Passuth, Moholy-Nagy (London: Thames and Hudson, 1985), 343. 13 Cited in Oliver A.I. Botar, Technical Detours: The Early Moholy-Nagy Reconsidered (New York: The City University of New York, 2006), 146–147. 14 László Moholy-Nagy, Ernő Kállai, Alfréd Kemény, László Péri, “Manifesto” (1923), translated and reprinted in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 288. See also: Oliver A.I. Botar, “Constructed Reliefs in the Art of the Hungarian Avant-Garde: Kassák, Bortnyik, Uitz, and Moholy-Nagy, 1921–1926,” The Structurist 25–26 (1985–86): 87–95; Botar, Technical Detours, 145–149. 15 László Moholy-Nagy, “Production-Reproduction” (1922), translated and reprinted in Passuth, Moholy-Nagy, 289. 16 The School of Design catalog, academic year 1939–1940, cited in Lara N. Allison, “Perception and Pedagogy: Design, Advertising and Education in Chicago, c. 1935– 1955” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2009), 65. 17 Ibid.; László Moholy-Nagy, New Bauhaus Catalog, 1937, cited in Allison, “Perception and Pedagogy,” 57–58.

György Kepes’s “Universities of Vision”


18 László Moholy-Nagy, cited in R.N. Yoder, “Are You a Contemporary?” Saturday Evening Post, July 3, 1943: 89. 19 Kepes’s title would change slightly through his years in Chicago and include oversight of: “Drawing and Photography,” “Advertising Arts,” “Photography and Light Workshop.” See Elizabeth Finch, “Languages of Vision: György Kepes and the ‘New Landscape’ of Art and Science” (PhD diss., The City University of New York, 2005), 145–148. 20 Many of those designs, as well as student works from Kepes’s courses at the New Bauhaus, were published in György Kepes, Language of Vision (Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1944). 21 György Kepes, handwritten undated note [1942–1944], Kepes Papers, AAA, Reel 5312, Frame 902. 22 Ibid. 23 See Alain Findeli, L’oeuvre pédagogique de László Moholy-Nagy (Sillery: Septentrion, 1995), 87–107. 24 [György Kepes], handwritten undated note, [1942–1944], Kepes Papers, AAA, Reel 5312, frame 609. 25 [György Kepes], handwritten undated note, [1942–1944], Kepes Papers, AAA, Reel 5312, frame 582. 26 Ibid. 27 See Office of Civilian Defense, Chicago Metropolitan Area to György Kepes, March 13, 1942, Kepes Papers, AAA, Reel 5303, frame 155. 28 For descriptions of wartime inventions at the School of Design, see Yoder, “Are You Contemporary?”; Betty Prosser, “Design for Wartime Living and When Peace Comes,” Robert J. Wolff Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Reel N69-73. 29 Ellen Herman, The Romance of American Psychology: Political Culture in the Age of Experts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 29. 30 See Peter Galison, “Aufbau/Bauhaus: Logical Positivism and Architectural Modernism,” Critical Inquiry 16 (Summer 1990), 710. See this text for discussion of connections between logical positivism and both the Dessau Bauhaus and the New Bauhaus. 31 See Robert B. Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991), 193. 32 Charles Morris, “Pragmatism and the Crisis of Democracy,” in Public Policy Pamphlet 12 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1934), 1–7. 33 Kepes, Language of Vision, 13. 34 Ibid., 14. 35 Ibid., 67. 36 Ibid., 221. 37 Ibid., 13, 14. 38 Ibid., 23. 39 Ibid., 16, 31. 40 Ibid., 4. 41 Rudolf Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye, 2nd edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1954, 1974), 46. 42 György Kepes, The New Landscape in Art and Science (Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1956), 17.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

43 The key source here is the work of historian Jamie Cohen-Cole, who has traced the discourse on creative intelligence in the postwar American academy at large, and particularly in the social sciences. He argues that the concept of the creative mind both articulated a normative political vision of democratic citizenship in the Cold War context and translated into ideological terms the actual conditions of practice in the postwar academy. The model of the “thinking self,” in which creativity played a central role, was thus at once a political and an academic ideal. Jamie Cohen-Cole, The Open Mind: Cold War Politics and the Sciences of Human Nature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014). See also Anna Vallye, Design and the Politics of Knowledge in America, 1937–1967: Walter Gropius, György Kepes (PhD diss., Columbia University, 2011); Anna Vallye, “Politics of the Creative Mind: Educating Architects at MIT after 1945,” in Architecture Education Goes Outside Itself: Crossing Borders, Breaking Barriers, ed. Daniel Barber and Joan Ockman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming). 44 On postwar professionalization in art education, and the introduction of studio courses into general education, see Howard Singerman, Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); David Deitcher, “Teaching the Late Modern Artist: From Mnemonics to the Technology of Gestalt” (PhD diss., City University of New York, 1989). 45 [György Kepes], “Education of Vision,” handwritten note, undated, Kepes Papers, AAA, Reel 5312, frame 505. 46 György Kepes, “Introduction,” in Education of Vision (New York: George Braziller, 1965), vii. 47 László Moholy-Nagy, “Education of the Eye,” in School of Design Bulletin, 1939–1940, reproduced in Peter Hahn and Lloyd C. Engelbrecht, eds., 50 Jahre New Bauhaus: Bauhausnachfolge in Chicago (Berlin: Bauhaus-Archiv, 1987), 138. 48 György Kepes, “Kinetic Light as a Creative Medium,” Technology Review, December 1967: 25, 26. 49 A.D., “Kepes Looks at Light; Sees Spots,” Interiors 110 (January 1951): 78. 50 Ibid. 51 [György Kepes], Light as a Creative Medium, draft, c. 1964, n.p., Kepes Papers, Reel 5314, frame 955. 52 [György Kepes], untitled draft, 2, Kepes Papers, Reel 5314. 53 Ibid. 54 György Kepes, “Modulation of Light,” in Light as a Creative Medium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1965), 18.


The Architectonics of Perception: Xanti Schawinsky at Black Mountain College Eva Díaz

When writing on John Cage’s teachings and theatrical performances at Black Mountain College, work that appeared in my recent book The Experimenters, I became interested in the theories of stage design of Xanti Schawinsky.1 Schawinsky (1904–1979), a Swissborn artist who taught “Stage Studies” at Black Mountain in the years before Cage arrived in 1948, was initially known for his work in the theater department at the Bauhaus. In the mid-1930s, while teaching at Black Mountain, he further developed his drama theory and stage design, which involves multimedia productions examining elementary phenomena such as space, motion, light, sound, or color from scientific and technical-based perspectives. Schawinsky’s work as a painter also addresses the dissolution of the medium’s boundaries and focuses on process, for instance in his Track series, which he “painted” with the aid of a car. In addition to his work in stage design, Schawinsky also had a successful career in exhibition design, commercial graphic and product design, producing notable compositions for Olivetti typewriters, Illy Caffe, and an iconic poster of Benito Mussolini, in 1934, for example.2 My book was published early in 2015, and for a public event launching the book I went to great lengths to reconstruct as a half-hour audio/visual slide show Schawinsky’s play Spectodrama: Play, Life, Illusion, a work he presented at Black Mountain College in 1936–1937. One of the earliest performances of abstract theater in the United States, Spectodrama was realized three times at Black Mountain College as part of the Stage Studies course Schawinsky introduced in 1936 (Figure 11.1). I based my recreation on rare audio from a stripped-down performance Schawinsky conducted at the Aspen Design Conference in 1953, and I drew upon the photographs from the original College production, and Schawinsky’s storyboard drawings, collages, and photomontages.3 The original production of Spectodrama was not filmed, and the films included in the play have been lost. There is no evidence the play was ever restaged, so the project of reconstructing the sequence and stage design of Spectodrama raised many questions about what I term the “architectonics of perception.” Yet recreating a version of the work to accompany Schawinsky’s audio performance of it revealed many things about Schawinsky’s methods, and what changed for him in his design process and his conception of theater as an ordering of the space of perception in the move from the Bauhaus to the United States.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 11.1  Xanti Schawinksy, Spectodrama: Play, Life, Illusion, 1936–1937. Black and white photographic collage, 16 × 20 in. The Xanti Schawinksy Estate.

In reconstructing Spectodrama I was interested in revisiting, rethinking, and revising some of what I published on Schawinsky in my Black Mountain College book based on the evidence of the work itself. To share some of the material I gathered about the Spectodrama production is important as there is literally no footage of performances at Black Mountain from the 1930s and 1940s, and only one ten-minute film exists, from the College’s twenty-four year history: Nicholas Cernovich’s 1951 Inventions for Camera, and Thoughts Out of Season.4 More than merely sharing it with others, however, understanding the stakes of Schawinsky’s work at Black Mountain is crucial as his career is currently being reconsidered in various quarters, including in a 2014 show at The Drawing Center in New York and a 2015 retrospective at the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art in Zurich. *** Black Mountain College was one of the rare outposts in the United States during the interwar period for in-depth work in experimental performance—that is to say, productions coming out of a background in the visual arts that emphasized interdisciplinary collaborations, nonnarrative or workshopped methods (i.e., unscripted events lacking developed characterization or dramatic arc), and that closely considered how to demarcate or collapse the spaces of performance and audience. In particular, the College, a small unaccredited school in western North Carolina, was the key United

The Architectonics of Perception


Figure 11.2  Xanti Schawinsky, Spectodrama 5: Sound and Chord Demonstration, 1936. China Ink on paper, 9.7 × 11.3 in. The Xanti Schawinksy Estate.

States site invested in Bauhaus-influenced theater and live performance, thanks to Schawinsky’s staging of several original productions there, including Spectodrama and Danse Macabre: A Sociological Study in 1938. In 1936, artist Josef Albers, himself a Bauhaus alumnus who had come to teach at Black Mountain in 1933, invited Schawinsky, then living in London, to the College to teach painting and theater. At the time he arrived at the College, Schawinsky was the US sole proponent and performer of Bauhaus theater, and his ideas and performances remained very much part of the institutional memory and lore of the campus after his departure, and were later widely circulated in his published reminiscences about his time there.5 Within months of Schawinsky’s arrival, he organized a production of nonnarrative theater, a theater of what he called “total experience”: Spectodrama: Play, Life, Illusion, with music by Kurt Schwitters (his sound poem Ursonate). In a series of episodes that were previously storyboarded in drawings and collages, Spectodrama staged short scenes of selected elementary concepts of theater, each falling into a specific category: “optics, form and color, acoustics, sound, language, music, time, space, architecture, technology, and illusion” (Figure 11.2).6 In each vignette of Spectodrama, the body of the performer, if evident at all (camouflage and illusion, and their constitutive elements of high-contrast geometric forms, were key features of the Bauhaus theater style), figured in a tableau of what Schawinsky termed “archetypal” geometric, spatial, or social situations: “play,” “communication,” “form,” or “space.” Each portion of the play contained elaborate sets and costumes designed so as to either conceal or set off the performer’s placement


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

and orientation with respect to the stage space and props. For example, one performer, trussed in a costume of stiff, intertwined white paper rolls, might emerge chameleonlike from a tangle of similarly twisted paper props and move toward the stark relief of a blank background (Figure 11.3). The figure’s poses and the patterns of the props repeated throughout the space to create a “laboratory for demonstration” of the conditions of perceiving difference and similarity.7 László Moholy-Nagy, himself a key figure in Bauhaus theater, had termed this research-like element of rational attention the “theater of totality,” in which a body’s movement transpired in a structured, architectonic space.8 Rigorously ordering bodies in the theater demonstrated a kind of technical competence that, in orchestrating complex spatial relations on stage, extended the project of spatial organization into nontheatrical everyday life (the theater being a microcosmic exploration of the larger Bauhaus project of synthesizing the “living and working conditions of the environment”).9 Though spectators were seated and their attention carefully organized, “dynamism” in performance was nonetheless a frequently invoked term: kinetic sculptures and moving bodies were deployed in order to show that, to Moholy, “Material is employed only as the carrier of forces.”10 These forces charged the space of performance with a temporal component that expressed the true “unity

Figure 11.3  Xanti Schawinksy, Spectodrama: Play, Life, Illusion, 1936–1937. From Helen Post Black Mountain College documentary photo collection, reproduced courtesy of Peter Modley.

The Architectonics of Perception


of life.”11 In contrast to architecture, static sculpture, or painting, theater was the arena for an examination of transient, time-based events and movements intersecting environmental conditions with the body’s temporal engagement with those sociospatial circumstances. Stage design was emphasized, forcing “one to learn from the way an artist perceives” by estranging viewers’ traditional emphasis on character and narrative, to instead fabricate complicated illusions of spatial perception.12 This model of integration—the performing body and space joined in an “indissoluble unity”— radically simplified performance to its “fundamental” components: “light, space, plane, movement, sound, and human being.”13 Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus and its director from 1919 to 1928, was also at the forefront of theorizing performance strategies, and he underscored how spectatorial conditions of illusion and attention were influenced by the architecture of the theater itself. In the mid-1920s, Gropius proposed a “Total Theater” in which “new interpretations of theatrical space” were to be explored.14 In Gropius’ model, an elliptical arrangement of ascending seats was clustered around a central circular stage flanking a second cylindrical back stage.15 The inner circular stage was designed to rotate, accommodating various seating arrangements that represented the major traditions of performance—the proscenium stage with a shallow performance space and fixed backdrop, the deep stage in which curtains and backdrops are arranged to reveal greater or lesser portions of the action and to accommodate more or less performers, and, finally, a theater-in-the-round set-up. In the latter scenario, according the Gropius, “The play unfolds itself three-dimensionally while the spectators crowd around concentrically.”16 He connected this spectatorial arrangement, as Schawinsky did, to precedents in other public, collective events such as the circus, the bull ring, and the sports arena. Gropius’s three possibilities of staging in the “Total Theater” engendered various spatial effects; more importantly, his flexible architecture (the rotating core of the structure) could transform the space during performance, surprising the audience and impelling it to “shake off its inertia.”17 The implied salutary social effects of heightening consciousness of the environment in Bauhaus theories of spectatorship were part of the larger interest in concentration, focus, and order as transformative elements of vision. The actor, according to Bauhaus theater master Oskar Schlemmer, was “spacebewitched”—“altered, transformed, or entranced” by the use of masks, props, and costumes so “that his habitual behavior and his physical and psychic structure are either upset or put into a new and altogether different balance.”18 The emphasis on costume in Bauhaus theater also transfigured the human body and its everyday appearance by removing distinguishing characteristics and imposing an order of simple shapes and primary colors. According to Schlemmer, this abstracted the body and generalized its features in order to “reduce the differentiated parts of the human body to simple, unifying forms.”19 These unified forms thereby permitting viewers to see “new totality” beyond previous habit-driven and subjective understandings of form.20 In most theatrical performance, and indeed in most everyday social behavior, subtle work of visual discrimination routinely helps to organize, categorize, and ultimately hierarchize relatively minor differences in human appearances; for example, assessments of the size of a nose or the contour of a foot become paramount indicators


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

of beauty or grace. Stressing general forms, Schlemmer rejected the meticulous morphologies of fashion, the superficial interpretations of physiognomic variation, or the cultural conditioning that patterned gesture and exploited arbitrary differences to create regimes of infinitesimal judgment and distinction. As these historically specific, though relatively arbitrary, characteristics became naturalized, Schlemmer contended, they promoted fetishistic judgments regarding minute differences of form as compared to other fundamentally similar forms. Bauhaus theater attempted to overturn this situation of tiny visual distinctions made according to socially determined, often conflicting habits. It did so by heightening the artifice on stage so that rationally discerned details would throw habitual patterns into sharp relief. In Schlemmer’s system this perspicuous work of visual judgment focused on the broader concern of closely observing the relationship of bodies, not as compared to themselves, but rather seen as embedded in larger perspectival contexts and environments. Reducing theater to such basic design elements as form and color represented “an undertaking whose purpose, contrary to nature, is order.”21 Denaturalizing the actors’ movements and costumes encouraged spectators to remain self-conscious about spatial relations surrounding the bodies on stage, estranging from habit their perceptions of, and judgments about, human form and gesture. This change in the actor’s ingrained relation to gesture and its social intelligibility would impel an “inner transformation of the spectator” by his or her “receptivity” to the visual ordering of the theatrical field in performance.22 Only a self-reflexive spectator could, “on the basis of the rational,” understand the embeddedness of the actor in his or her surrounding space, a space that is itself “part of the larger total complex, building (Bau).”23 As the actor “acts out” order in such a space, the spectator is able to rationally perceive the larger field of spatial and architectural illusions in which bodies are rooted, contextually in their environments. The fact that this work of unification was enacted in the realm of time-based events was important to Schawinsky as he brought these ideas to Black Mountain; to him theater explored the fundamental conditions of perception underlying all specific disciplinary explorations. As he wrote of theater’s interdisciplinary nature, “Our theater can, I believe, get its impulse from studies that go through all phases of knowledge.”24 In Schawinsky’s next major performance at the College after Spectodrama, he attempted to push notions of spatial totality further. In the 1938 production Danse Macabre: A Sociological Study, adapted from a Latin hymn about the last judgment called Dies Irae, Schawinsky’s theatrical staging, while still emphasizing elaborate masks and costumes modeled on abstract shapes, and employing dramatic spotlights and shadows, also included repetitive movements associated with funeral rites as well as highly mannered costuming. In staging a medieval morality tale, Schawinsky chose the Middle Ages’ “single absolute concept: death” in an attempt to “find the ‘absolute’ of our own time.”25 He sought the limiting experience that transcended performance/ animation and background/stasis dichotomies—mortality—though he later distanced himself from the direct reenactment of the macabre source material blamed for the suicide of one of its student actors. The theater in the round aspect of the performance, in which spectators were outfitted with robes and masks and given unconventional seating assignments in concentric circles around the central stage area, to him

The Architectonics of Perception


mimicked the “original plays [of the Middle Ages] which were usually performed on the market place in front of the cathedral.”26 To Schawinsky this focus on people and spaces outside traditional theater—for example, individuals in public space—updated Bauhaus precedents that focused on the circus and moved theater into the territory of history by studying constructions of social subjectivity. As he recalled, “While work at the Bauhaus theatre aimed at the modernization of theatrical means and concepts, and had a definite professional and artistic scope, at Black Mountain College an educational crack at the whole man seemed in order.”27 What Schawinsky meant by such a “total experience” incorporating the “whole man” can be understood in relation to Schlemmer’s explication of Bauhaus theater as a totality: to both men the stage was a site of spatial unity that provided, according to Schawinsky, “A general study of fundamental phenomena.”28 He added that theater was the most appropriate location to explore concepts of basic perception because “space on the stage was a very particular place … it is by nature a place of illusion.”29 Indeed, to Schlemmer too movements of bodies on the stage represented, by simplification and abstraction, the wider geometries of relationships in space perceived through visual illusion, and its inverse, penetrating observation. Bauhaus theater’s work with perspective, with embedding the body in its space through complicated geometric formations, was often presented as a visual tableau in which the audience perceives space, but does not have any direct relation to the performer’s experience of space. This results in the somewhat disembodied eye that the performances effect (why, for example, reproductions of Bauhaus performances look remarkably like friezes and pictures, or why Schawinsky envisioned the preparatory diagrams of “Spectodrama” as static tableaus). The abstraction of Bauhaus theater and its exploration of visual illusions were “unified,” to use Schlemmer’s language, only by the audience visually tracking the position(s) of the performer(s); Bauhaus and Bauhaus-derived theater expressly did not create cohesive spaces of unity between performers and spectators, and consistently maintained the illusion of the “fourth wall” even when seating arrangements were less frontally oriented. These theatrical scenarios required a spectator’s orientation to the staged events to be fixed and his or her attention carefully focused in order to perceive the precise and subtly changing visual effects on the stage. An immobilized spectator permitted Schlemmer and Schawinsky to apply the framing techniques of cinema to live performances. With such focused looking a montage of visual effects could unfold, in order for the spectator to observe phenomena with close attention to the order and sequencing of events that he or she would not normally notice if watching as a casual bystander. Though a “play instinct” for actors was encouraged in workshopping, the final productions were predicated on passive spectatorship; Schlemmer wrote that the elaborate visual fabulations encouraged a concentration that rivaled the intensity of “peep show.”30 In important ways Schawinsky’s work can be seen as a proxy, in time-based work, for what Josef Albers’s pedagogy at Black Mountain hoped to accomplish in two dimensions. Much like Albers, Schawinsky promoted a model of experiment that stressed order, concentration, and serial repetition, and employed careful variations of formal elements—color, gesture, costume, set design, and lighting—that could be measured,


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

compared, and repeated. These tests of perception were undertaken to dynamically reappraise the seemingly self-evident nature of vision, and to question the habitdriven tendency of physical gestures to be reproduced unwittingly. The experimental practices of both Schawinsky and Albers can be seen as but a corner of a larger Bauhaus project demanding that the experimental act of perceptual testing produce dynamic outcomes in a serial practice of repeatable trials. Schawinsky’s performances were part of a collective project at the Bauhaus in which all forms of perception were being reconsidered, those of time, space, and theatricality too; for these reasons, the Bauhaus was the first art school to formally incorporate a performance department, then called a “stage workshop,” into its curriculum. Just as Schlemmer envisioned his project as a “laboratory” exploration of space—isolating constitutive elements of light, color, and movement to attend to how underlying patterns and arrangements of forms outside the theater might function, Schawinsky pushed Albers’s ideas of laboratory production toward concerns of duration, sound, and motion; toward the incorporation of bodies, theatrical audience, and three-dimensional space—concerns that have always been more pressing in theater than in visual art. *** The tradition of Bauhaus experimental theater at Black Mountain would be extended, and in some ways, supplanted by John Cage’s influence in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when he staged what has been termed the first “happening” in 1952. Though ten years separated Schawinsky’s departure from Cage’s first extended visit, the models these men investigated and developed at the College represent two of the most radical explorations of US-based experimental performance taking place between the wars and after. A third, I would argue, was Bertolt Brecht’s notion of verfremdungseffekts (“distancing effects”) and lehrstück (“learning through participation”) in his “Epic Theater,” which also found fertile ground at Black Mountain: Brecht’s English translator Eric Bentley taught at Black Mountain for several years in the mid-1940s and staged productions of Brecht including a 1944 reading with sound effects and music of The Private Life of the Master Race. Stage events at Black Mountain had also adventurously sampled other European precursors beyond Bauhaus performance—for example, poet M.C. Richards’s productions of several works by Jean Cocteau including Knights of the Roundtable in 1949 and a theater-in-the-round version of Marriage on the Eiffel Tower in 1950. It is in Schawinsky’s work, however, that we see a model of nonnarrative performance clearly opposed to those Cage came to embrace, the latter emphasizing a scattering of attention through a field of simulateously occurring events whose unfolding, though generated by chance processes, attempted to create a performance indeterminate as to its outcome. The approaches to experimental performance Cage developed at the College soon rose to prominence (and a great deal of notoriety), overshadowing the still to this day largely obscured Bauhaus model.

The Architectonics of Perception


Notes 1 Eva Díaz, The Experimenters: Chance and Design at Black Mountain College (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015). 2 Schawinsky left Milan in 1936, citing his unease with the growing nationalism that followed Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935–1936, as well as its alliance with Nazi Germany in 1936. 3 Upon his emigration Schawinsky remained in contact with fellow Bauhausler Herbert Bayer, who had settled in Aspen, Colorado in 1946. Bayer codesigned the Aspen Institute headquarters there, which was the umbrella organization for the International Design Conferences in Aspen. Bayer included Schawinsky in one of his “Great Ideas of Western Man” volumes in 1954, a series of books Bayer produced for the Container Corporation of America. 4 In a conversation I had with Mary Emma Harris at the launch of The Experimenters on February 12, 2015, she revealed that a few seconds of footage may exist of a LightSound-Movement Workshop performance at Black Mountain. The workshop was led by Betty and Peter Jennerjahn, students who became faculty at Black Mountain College by the late 1940s. The Jennerjahns, for example, in collaboration with about a dozen College students and faculty, had improvised short theater pieces, sometimes “limited to a minute, or so,” incorporating projected slides, improvised music, and dance elements. The Jennerjahns were influenced by Bauhaus theater by way of Josef and Anni Albers’ transmission of that legacy; Schawinsky was already gone by the time they were students at the College. I have not seen the footage. (Pete Jennerjahn quoted in Vincent Katz, Black Mountain College: Experiment in Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 187.) 5 On the topic of Schawinsky’s publications on Black Mountain, see his “Spectodrama: Contemporary Studies,” Leonardo 2, no. 3 (July 1969); “From the Bauhaus to Black Mountain,” The Drama Review: TDR 15, no. 3 (Summer, 1971); and “My 2 Years at Black Mountain College, N.C,” 1973, 7, BMC Research Project, NC State Archives. 6 Schawinsky, “Spectodrama: Contemporary Studies,” 286. 7 Ibid., 283. 8 Moholy-Nagy, “Theater, Circus, Variety,” in The Theater of the Bauhaus, ed. Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy, and Farkas Molnar (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1961), 60. 9 László Moholy-Nagy, The New Vision: Fundamentals of Bauhaus Design, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc., 1938/2005), 13, 18. 10 Ibid., 138. 11 Moholy-Nagy, Malerei, Photographie, Film (Munchen: Albert Langen Verlag), 1925, English translation in Victor Margolin, The Struggle for Utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Mohloy-Nagy, 1917–1946 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 140. 12 Ibid. 13 Schlemmer, “Abstraction in Dance and Costume” (1928) in Hans Wingler, The Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969), 472, and Moholy-Nagy, “The Coming Theater—the Total Theater,” in Wingler, The Bauhaus, 132. 14 Gropius, “Introduction,” in Theater of the Bauhaus, ed. Schlemmer et al., 10. 15 Construction of the theater was undertaken in Berlin in 1926 but abandoned when the Nazis assumed power.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

16 Gropius, “Introduction,” 12. 17 Ibid. 18 Schlemmer, “Theater,” in Theater of the Bauhaus, ed. Schlemmer et al., 95. 19 Schlemmer, “Stage,” (1927) in Wingler, The Bauhaus, 474. 20 Schlemmer, “Man and Art Figure,” in Theater of the Bauhaus, ed. Schlemmer et al., 17. 21 Ibid., 21. 22 Schlemmer, “Theater,” 92, and Schlemmer, “Man and Art Figure,” 32. 23 Schlemmer, “Theater,” 82, 85. 24 Schawinsky, “From the Bauhaus to Black Mountain,” 44. For more on Bauhaus theater’s currents of interdisciplinarity, see Juliet Koss’s “Bauhaus Theater of Human Dolls,” The Art Bulletin 85, no. 4 (December 2003): 724–745. See also Susanne Lahusen, “Oskar Schlemmer: Mechanical Ballets?” Dance Research 4, no. 2 (Autumn 1986): 65–77. 25 Schawinsky, “My 2 Years,” 7. 26 Ibid. 27 Schawinsky in Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain College (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 40. In “From the Bauhaus to Black Mountain,” 39, Schawinsky explained his interest in what he termed “the universality of dramatic idiom” thusly: A movement in space may be sufficient to demonstrate innate emotions. One cannot help but think that space might be the driving force behind the changes of spiritual and intellectual concepts, the key to unlock the secret of changing attitudes, from “primitive” but phantom-filled space to a fourth-dimensional and functional one, equally filled with unsolved mysteries. 28 Schawinsky, Description of Stage Studies Class, 1936–1937 Course Catalogue, Black Mountain College, NC State Archives. 29 Schawinsky, “My 2 Years,” 4. 30 Schlemmer, “Theater,” 82, 94.

Part Five

Envisioning a Global Home


Between Culture and Biology: Schindler and Neutra at the Limits of Architecture Todd Cronan

Biology was at the center of Richard Neutra’s aesthetic, philosophical, social, and architectural concerns.1 Neutra assumed and acted upon the belief there was an “organic common denominator of the species.”2 “Everywhere, it appeared to me,” Neutra wrote in his autobiography Life and Shape, “human beings, in mixture and in clash, held nevertheless a common denominator beneath their biological individuality—in spite of ethnic variety.”3 But in the exact same breath he affirmed the fundamental unassimilablity of the “biological individual.”4 There is a “constitutional trait” that necessitates “emphasizing our peculiarities, dwelling on ethnic distinctions, our subtly diversified creeds and geographical distances.”5 Beyond ethnicity and nationality what truly “interrupts human homogeneity,” Neutra observed, is “biological individuality, even within our single family, with stomachs of very different volume, shape, and position, and windpipes of remarkably different diameter, and so many oddities of variation.”6 It was only in light of a shared biological basis that an account of the profound “oddities of variation” could emerge. Uniformity was the condition for difference in Neutra’s work. Neutra was uninterested in the ethnic differences that divide up the world because those differences were superficial and above all contingent, and because they obscured the more fundamental expressions of biological variation. Knowing that his clients had specific kinds of stomachs and windpipes—even or especially if they were themselves unaware of these differences—he could (he thought) accurately calculate the effects his structures would have on his subjects over the long term. What America, or rather California—the “cradle of anthropology” where Neutra emigrated in 1924 and remained for the rest of his career—meant to Neutra was freedom for himself and for others to live “closer to biological requirement.”7 In California one could live “as man had originally,” live according to “his original physiology.” Neutra’s attitude toward immigration was shaped by his mentor Adolf Loos’s account of life in America. For Loos, America was the “classical country of immigration”; it was the “great melting pot” where all immigrants were “absorbed into its civilization.”8 He continually spoke of the “converting influence of the American entry port on the incoming polyglot flood of immigrants.” Crucially, Neutra noted


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

that Loos never spoke of “machine civilization” or architecture; he never explained “what the city’s … impacts were, nor what it was that made for this influence.”9 Arriving into Chicago in 1923 Neutra recalled his first conversation with his host. “You will like it here… It is a very interesting enterprise to change immigrants over into Americans.”10 But what both his host and Loos had shown him were a “passing show into progress,” the impacts and influences of Northern cities was temporary and superficial. Real progress, real shaping force required a different environment. Over and over again Neutra spoke of “Man, The Southerner.”11 It was the desert outside of Los Angeles where superficial differences were erased and true biodiversity flourished. R. M. Schindler took a far different view of his adopted home of Los Angeles. It was the mountains, rather than the desert that he admired; but it was the city, the mild climate, and a bohemian clientele that kept him there. California, for Schindler, represented the complete “pacification of the world.”12 Nature there had been fully conquered by civilization. These were the preconditions for the birth of “culture,” the defining quality of his architectural practice. Unlike Neutra, Schindler showed virtually no interest in a biological justification for his forms; form was a human construct and a human achievement. And space—the defining feature of culture—was an expression of, and a model for, the “limitless powers of the human mind.”13 In other words, for Schindler, California was a great place to live because there you could be free of the demands of nature and civilization, one could be free to be fully human for the first time in history. For five turbulent years the Schindler and Neutra families lived together at Schindler’s Kings Road House in Los Angeles. Schindler and Neutra met as colleagues in Adolf Loos’s Bauschule and both remained devoted to Loos’s ideals for the rest of their lives. Nonetheless, there was widespread contention between Schindler and Neutra as to the nature of Loosian principles. The disagreement centered on a basic distinction between spatial and temporal aspects of Loos’s project. In 1914, Schindler took Loos’s advice and sought out architectural work in Chicago where he ultimately found a position in Frank Lloyd Wright’s firm. By late 1920, Schindler had moved to Los Angeles to supervise the construction of Wright’s Hollyhock House for Aline Barnsdall. Neutra had intended to follow Schindler in 1914 but the War delayed his departure by several years, and he finally arrived into Los Angeles in February of 1925. Between 1925 and the summer of 1930, Schindler and Neutra lived together and formed a collective architectural identity under the ambitious title Architectural Group for Industry and Commerce or AGIC. The central achievement of the short-lived AGIC was their 1926 design entry for the League of Nations competition. The design failed to receive a prize but was selected for a traveling exhibition hosted by the German Werkbund.14 This minor triumph for the AGIC was also the source of a growing rift between Schindler and Neutra. The collaborative plans were exhibited throughout Europe under Neutra’s name, and, despite Neutra’s efforts to correct the error, Schindler took this “breach of professional ethics” as a matter of personal betrayal. No public break between the architects emerged until several years later, when, by virtue of Schindler’s omission and Neutra’s inclusion in the 1932 International Style show, simmering tensions between the two flared into the open and their connection to one another was severed for the next twenty years.15

Between Culture and Biology


The first public exposure of the feud between Schindler and Neutra occurs in the pages of a Texas based periodical the Southwest Review in the spring of 1932. The terms of the debate are starkly laid out around the question of functionalism. Neutra takes the “pro” position; Schindler, the “contra.”16 In his response, Schindler rehearses, nearly word for word, his 1912 manifesto, where he declared that the “architect has [finally] discovered the [true] medium of his art: space.”17 Schindler situated this spatial discovery within a vast evolutionary history of mankind’s civilizing of natural forces to achieve, for the first time on earth, a culture worthy of man’s free spiritual being. This evolutionary shift from civilization to culture marks the formative distinction for Schindler’s architectural thinking as a whole. In lecture after lecture Schindler described this difference as like the one between a newspaper editorial and literature or what Loos’s friend Karl Kraus described as the difference between a chamber pot and an urn.18 According to Schindler, all architecture prior to his own was prehistorical in the sense that it was defensive by nature. “The behavior of our ancestors was overshadowed by constant defense reactions against real and imaginary enemies,” he reflected.19 “Fear dictated originally the form and spirit of the house,” and it is fear that continues to dictate the form and spirit of functionalism. Functionalism “emanate[s] from the sickbed of a frightened European culture.” Frightened of what? Functionalists are frightened by the “new culture,” by the modern achievement of physical and mental freedom.20 By fixating on the process of civilization, functionalists were hiding in prehistorical caves whose defensive character was veiled by technological ruses. The expressive language of past architecture derived from its function as bulwark and its history derived from a dialogue between this language and evolving structural possibilities. The implicit defensive spirit of architecture necessitated an explicit account of the structural limitations of building techniques and materials. Schindler described artist-architects like Le Corbusier as driven by a “defense reaction” to overcome their training in the visual arts. Their emphatic “use of structural forms seems to be in direct proportion to the limitations of their constructive ability. The architect who is temperamentally unmechanical will be so preoccupied with his handicap that he is likely to accept the solution of the structural problem as the sole aim of his architectural effort.”21 It was specifically the volumetric and sculptural qualities of Le Corbusier’s pictorial work that was paradoxically reflected by an overemphasis on structural clarity in his architecture. It was Schindler’s peculiar assessment that “all architecture of the past … was nothing but the work of a sculptor dealing with abstract forms.”22 And again: “The aim of all architectural effort was the conquest of structural bulk by man’s will for expressive form.”23 It was Schindler’s fundamental belief that the time had come to end this defensive phase of architecture’s history. With the “mathematical victory over structural stresses,” structure had lost its expressive character. Once architecture had achieved “complete control of Space, Climate, Light, Mood,” there was no need to dwell on the process of civilization, the age of fear was over.24 Space, climate, light, and mood—rather than mass, materials, and structure—were the new coordinates of expressive form-making. The architecture that truly represents the contemporary cultural situation is one that “give[s] us [complete] control of our environment, without interfering with our mental and physical nakedness.”25


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

In a certain sense, Schindler was an unmitigated functionalist. He imagined that the current stage of technological achievement allowed one to “manufacture our own climate” and to fully harness and domesticate nature by servicing it through “pipes, ducts, and wires.”26 Here Schindler followed Frank Lloyd Wright, who claimed in the Wasmuth portfolio that the machine meant “mastery over an uncivilized land—comfort and resources.” The machine, Wright declared, “can only murder the traditional forms of other peoples and earlier times.”27 Schindler closely echoed Wright’s sentiment when he said the “problems [of civilization] have been solved” and all past “styles are dead.”28 What Schindler resisted in the functionalist attitude was the ideologically charged insistence that mankind had yet to fully evolve and that for architecture there were ongoing problems of defense, control, and containment of nature. Nothing, for instance, could be more anathema to Schindler’s vision of the new culture than Neutra’s 1935 designs for the Von Sternberg House. Surrounded by a “moat,” Neutra insisted that this “medieval scheme of protection … would have to be supplemented by electronic devices to do away with intruders who entered” it; “flipping a switch … over the night stand in the bedroom would suddenly electrically charge the water” and Neutra half-jokingly noted that the unexpected budget overrun on the house was due to the necessary “electric incinerator … to dispose of the bodies fished out of the moat in the morning.”29 The explicit identification of function with defense at the Von Sternberg house exemplifies the basic aesthetic conflict between Neutra and Schindler. Everything that Schindler rejected was construed as the misplaced expression of “plastic structural mass.” The new architecture, by contrast, is not “concerned with objects” but with “shapes and relations,” “spaceform, texture and color.”30 “The modern architect, conceives the room and forms it with ceiling and wall plates.”31 The master bedroom of the Wolfe House on Catalina Island is a strong instance of Schindler’s vision of a spatial “room conception,” and there is little doubt that Loos’s notion of the Raumplan lies behind it. As Benedetto Gravagnuolo and Lionel March have argued, Schindler was engaged with Loos’s vision of the Raumplan just prior to his departure from Vienna, not least in their discussions around Loos’s plans for the log house at the Schwarzwald School, an idea that Schindler took up with his 1918 Log House project. Unlike Loos’s structures, Schindler’s projects tend to revolve around a central aesthetic paradox. As March notes of the Log House, it is oriented around the “dominant mass” of the hearth. The hearth, March continues, “rises … from the ground as a sculptural, masonry mass some 13’ by 6’ in plan and 16’ high, the chimney itself being a massive 6’ × 4’ in plan.”32 The hearth which “occupies one-sixth of the habitable floor space is monumental in the ordinary sense of the term.” In other words, if space architecture is defined by “surfaces [comprised] of thin wall screens,” then there is little evidence of it here. More significantly, virtually every instance of Schindler’s space architecture contains a monumental element, and it is this feature that requires explanation. Given Schindler’s unmitigated rejection of “sculpture” and massing as a source of architectural meaning, what is the status and role of these clearly defined sculptural elements in Schindler’s practice? Consider, for instance, the street view of the Kings Road House, whose massive concrete outer walls are laid directly upon a no less massive concrete foundation (Figure 12.1). Elizabeth Smith rightly notes that their shape derives “from his idea

Between Culture and Biology


Figure 12.1  R. M. Schindler, Kings Road House, West Hollywood, 1922.

of a cavelike enclosure” and the overall appearance of the street façade is not unlike a fortress.33 That is, its basic form derives from everything that Schindler rejected in both contemporary and past architecture. “The mainspring of primitive life was fear,” Schindler observed. “‘My house is my castle’ shows how that emotion [of fear] adhered to man throughout his development up to the immediate present.” In the past houses “tried to appear comfortable by emphasizing their safety through their heavy walls, small windows … and dim light.”34 What do we make of the ubiquitous castle-like features of Schindler’s practice? Schindler’s best commentators have struggled to account for these sculptural elements within the architect’s larger project. David Gebhard, Reyner Banham, Esther McCoy, Lionel March, and August Sarnitz have all considered Schindler under the terms of variety, complexity, ambiguity, contradiction, and play as the basic aesthetic categories for understanding his work.35 I would suggest an alternative account of these ubiquitous monumental features, these eruptions of prehistoric form into Schindler’s spatial designs. Defining his opposition to functionalism, Schindler describes the architect’s basic role as “an agent of culture at a time when such a culture does not exist…. Only with the rise of a new culture will the medium [of space] be able to convey a meaning.”36 The agency Schindler envisioned for his structures was to educate its inhabitants to accept and embrace the new culture, the new freedoms of body and mind that modernity was about to achieve. Schindler’s works thematize or represent this worldhistorical shift from mass to light, from fear to freedom, from civilization to culture, from “shelter” to “playground” as he put it in a 1926 article for the Los Angeles Times. Inhabiting his spaces one could measure and understand the difference between civilization and culture, one could bear continual witness to the conquest of the fear-dominated mass by the floating translucent screen. His structures, that is, bear an evolutionary history inscribed into their forms; they are agents of history, not expressions of a post-historical world.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

If the Log House plan reflects the monumental dimension of Schindler’s practice, then his more well-known works of the 1930s express his guiding sense of spatial dialectics. Facing the one-bedroom apartment along the right side of Schindler’s Buck House (1934), the apartment appears to be one solid sculptural mass, a bulky form that is crucially lifted above and recessed behind the thinly walled surfaces of the house at left. The roof at the left appears to almost hover above the wall planes below, suggesting the shifting limits of a pure space container within. The opposition between the sculptural volume and the floating planes rehearses the opposition between old and new ages of architecture. From the same moment, Schindler’s Oliver House (1933–1934) displays a similar dialectic between the raised sculptural mass along the right and the thin transparent planes at left, this time reversing the convex-concave orientation of the Buck House, with the convex pressure of the bulking distant plane opposed to the recessed and open street-side container (Figure 12.2). Like the play between massing and transparency at the Kings Road House, Schindler’s Lovell Beach House of 1926 offers a model for the thematic opposition between mass/plane, sculpture/transparency, structure/space. Compare, for instance, the north and west elevations of the house, the northern façade emphatically displays its concrete structural members which

Figure 12.2  R. M. Schindler, Oliver House, Los Angeles, 1933. Photograph by Julius Shulman, Gelatin Silver Print. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2004.R.10.

Between Culture and Biology


lift the narrow mass of the sleeping porches off the ground, while the recessed and translucent western façade rests upon a raised concrete tray. Schindler decoratively treats the large window plane with thin horizontal features as though to model the light that floods into the interior from the unobstructed view toward the ocean. Here, Schindler exemplifies the difference between structure and space, between functional requirements and human values. The hallmark of his works is this formalized disjunction between the demands of civilization and the freedoms of culture. From Schindler’s perspective, the failure of Neutra’s project was to willfully harmonize civilization and culture, and by doing so to deny the autonomy of human culture, to deny its difference from the naturally given. Like Schindler, Neutra had a complex and centrally defining commitment to the agency of the architect to create culture. And like Schindler and so many modernists, Neutra believed mankind was on the brink of a world-historical transformation of its basic material condition. Despite the early conflict over the question of functionalism, their far more basic opposition centered on a philosophical and political difference between spatial and temporal design. The difference emerges with Neutra’s account of functionalism in his position paper cited earlier. It is with the “entrance of the time element into architecture,” Neutra writes, that “modern civilization distinguishes itself sharply from what has gone before.” In one sense all Neutra means by the new “time element” is the necessity of “modern financing,” which, he says, “place[s] a wide gulf between every style of the past and our own.”37 Neutra frequently credited Loos with granting artistic significance to the amortization period. What is new about modern, financed architecture was that the architect had to foresee possibilities of years, even decades, into the future. But rather than the temporality of modern financing, Neutra’s more basic contention was that the experience of a built environment occurred over time and would change with the changing life of its inhabitants. The preponderance of Neutra’s extensive body of writing is devoted to the question of audience response. From the opening page of Neutra’s 1954 magnum opus Survival Through Design the architect stresses the fact that design must “foresee the [widest] range of individual responses” and “program” those responses into the design from beginning.38 And even if the architect could not “foresee and gauge every last wrinkle of individuality in all of the people who might someday occupy his design”39 with proper knowledge of biology, he could—he must—capture as many of these possibilities as is conceivable. Neutra’s efforts to manage audience response are what drive his core commitment to biology, and specifically, neurology. According to Neutra, “brain physiology” must and in time will be able to “interpret all … sociological effects and phenomena.”40 Neutra became increasingly convinced over his long career that all human experience was reducible to neurological terms. “What are these nerves a designer’s life effort is concerned with? What can he learn about [nerves] and about their anticipated reactions? What is their response to a stimulus? What occurs in them when impulses travel down the length of their path and hurdle synapses with measureable speed?… How does a synapse operate, how is it activated?”41 With neurology Neutra thought he discovered a means by which the architect could control all of the “anticipated reactions” to his structures, not just on a day-to-day, moment-by-moment basis but potentially in perpetuity. A “practical


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

designer,” Neutra contends, can “manipulate … directly the entire and manifold sense equipment with which his client, the consumer, the human species is endowed. Schools that train the student will be obliged to familiarize [the architect] with this physiological keyboard on which he must try to play with understanding and harmony.”42 Neutra’s reference to the “physiological keyboard” is of course an updated version of Wassily Kandinsky’s famous analogy from Concerning the Spiritual in Art where he describes the artist as someone who by “playing on this or that key …[can] affect the human soul in this or that way.” Neutra’s affective keyboard is updated to include heavy artillery against a whole city of pliable human souls. If architects “could grasp more fully all that is involved [in brain physiology], the missiles they devise would reach their aims more effectively and their ballistics would be less accidental. They could conquer many a now toughly resistant rampart. They could almost manipulate at will cortical spreads of excitation and inhibition, as well as inductive effects.”43 Notice once again that Neutra’s language is consistently oriented around issues of defense and survival, concerns that place him in direct opposition to Schindler’s vision of the cultural domination of nature. Neutra is quick to point out that the consequences of his surefire neuronal assault on the inhabitant occurs over time: “the 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year stimulus impact of designed environment …[will] ‘physiologically teach,’ by molding the nervous makeup … of an adult and the alteration may take place through continuously stimulated neuron extension. Such a feat is certainly accomplished with a child.”44 This last point, about the physiological education of children, is at the core of Neutra’s concerns, and I will return to it below. For now I would like to consider one of Neutra’s most explicit and public responses to Schindler’s spatial aesthetic from a talk he delivered at the School of Architecture at the University of Southern California in 1956. Taking direct aim at Schindler (who died three years earlier), Neutra contended that architecture is not a space art, but it is a space-time art. You see a morning in the desert. The reflectiveness of the pool is rather symbolic for the intent of the composition. The architecture reflects the mood and the unstable characteristics of a landscape as it changes dynamically during a day or during the seasons of the year. This is a blue sky with white clouds, you see, coming over the water. The pool looks quite different now, and the wide banks of window draperies are being opened. Modern architecture is capable of dynamically participating more than ever before in the changing moods of the natural setting…. [L]ooking into the cavity of the interior … now … everything closed, overcast sky, and the whole building seems to be modified, together with the landscape, turned into a new emotive modality or scale. When the afternoon comes and the sun is low, the building is again different. This has nothing to do with structure. It has nothing to do so much with static forms or colors. Evidently the color play is going on in nature, surrounding it, merely echoed by the sensitive man-made … assembly, placed within this great nature, which extends from the stars into our innermost being. For all the stimuli of this wide range we have our millions of [sensory] receptors.45

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The famous pool at the Edgar Kaufman House in Palm Springs—a nearly ubiquitous image in Neutra publications—exemplifies Neutra’s basic architectural intentions (Figure 12.3). The pool is an infinitely changing reflective surface that mirrors the changing natural surroundings within the static frame of the design. As Neutra describes it, architecture can participate in this dynamically changing environment by echoing the surrounding world. It should be clear that when Neutra speaks of architecture “reflect[ing] the mood and the unstable characteristics of a landscape,” he does not mean that the architecture dissolves into the natural setting or even that it is defined by the changing landscape. The point is that the architect is sensitive enough to respond to the changing environment and code those changes into the terms of the architectural composition from the beginning. The pool, then, is an allegory for the architect’s total command of the shaped environment. The architect, on this account, is someone masterful enough to include the highest degree of instability within the changing but nonetheless controlled experience of the architectural setting. Julius Shulman’s sequentially unfolding photographs of the Kaufman pool aim to prove Neutra’s point; they indicate how the architect conceived of his spaces unfolding in time, of how the changing visual and emotional qualities of the setting were fully taken into account by the architect from the beginning. Even or especially if the user was

Figure 12.3  Richard Neutra, Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, 1947. Photograph by Julius Shulman, Gelatin Silver Print. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2004.R.10.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

unaware of this level of formalization, it was Neutra’s contention that these organized experiences of change produced profound and lasting effects on the inhabitants of his structures. In contrast to the time-based character of his architecture, Neutra construed Schindler’s works as formalized abstractions, as dead containers of geometrical space. The geometry they projected was the remnant of a static vision of the universe. Whereas Neutra’s time is lived, durationally unfolding, Schindler’s temporality is spatially represented; time is pictured for his inhabitants. Chapters 12 through 19 of Survival Through Design take up the critique of Schindler at length and focus on the subject of upper-level brain associations, the historical remainders of myth and symbol that are slowly being erased by science. The last great myth, according to Neutra, is the static vision of Euclidean and Newtonian space. To conceive of architecture “in relation to space alone is in itself a defective approach.”46 A “time-foreign design appears to by-pass life or cripple it in its most important dimension.”47 Neutra’s use of the word “cripple” to describe space architecture is fully meant, as he conceives static space as literally crippling its inhabitants. Consider, he says “a windowless, dust-proof, air-conditioned hospital ward … with measured ultra-violet irradiation to substitute for the health factor of sunshine.” This statically set interior, from a neural point of view … compare[s] unfavorably … with the dungeon of old. The [dungeon] had at least one little grilled window opening, and so provided one important comfort: an ever-changing play of light and color on the walls, the floor, and the heap of straw on which the prisoner rested. The wretched man could at least watch rosy or golden reflections and wandering shadows as the hours and months slipped by.48

The prisoner locked in the dungeon and the figure who sits beside the pool in the Shulman photograph share an experience of the space-time continuum, one that he thinks is denied to the inhabitants of Schindler’s structures. And if Neutra could affirm the Palm Springs-like reflections on the dungeon wall, then he could also envision how architecture was responsible for the man who ended up in the dungeon, or at least in the mental hospital. Neutra was fascinated with what he described as the “gravely damaging effect” of neon signs on innocent bystanders. Although neon signs are “only fifteen years old,” he observed that it may be possible to make an adjustment of your organic equipment … whereby you can stand glowing red before a black background, but this will take something, I estimate, like 200,000 years! But now you are required to do it immediately. So instead you go to pieces. That is why we have 18,000,000 … Americans [annually] cooling their … heels in psychiatric waiting rooms…. You just wonder how they all found a place to park their cars to get to this psychiatric waiting room, but they didn’t find a place to park their cars and that is why their nervous system is so disturbed!49

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Neon signs and parking spaces, the finish on a countertop and the sound a floor makes, create the blind, deaf, and unconscious subjects who encounter them. Neutra’s most basic thought revolves around the idea that form produces function, that the shapes that make our environment make the self at its most molecular level, which is why for Neutra what is at stake in the least visible trace of the built environment is our very survival and sanity. If the neon sign by the highway and the florescent lights of the hospital were the negative figure for the fatally spatialized design sense, then the reclining figure beside the pool embodied Neutra’s temporally extensive subjective ideal. Neutra imagines this lived subject as one who can indulge in a vision of nature as a sequence of “endless complexities,” someone who has security enough to “abandon the effort to understand the world … [and] resign [herself] to the amorphousness around [her], as [though she] were listening [to the world like] a conversation in a foreign tongue that we have given up trying to understand.” Looking out across the reflective surface of the pool “purposes are forgotten,” “all has turned into a … gurgling and tinkling polyphony. A listener in leisure enjoys the voices of nature as something … lacking any intention, without that order or form which dominates human routine …. In the mood [s]he is in, [s]he perceives no rhythmic laws or differentiated notes, but merely sound … diffused.”50 Neutra’s ideal listener or viewer looks out upon the “endless complexities” of nature, she sees them—quite literally—reflected in, and programmed into, the architectural setting, but never strains to understand what they mean. Neutra conceives of an exacting proportion between the degree of architectural agency he exerts and the utter lack of agency exerted by his inhabitants. The more fully he has thought through the least details of the architectural setting, the more fully can the inhabitant give up the effort to understand the world she occupies. One of Neutra’s most compulsive images is of an astronaut floating in a space capsule. “It will not be just spacemen who will in the end be encapsulated in interesting transparency,” he writes in his last published volume. “Ordinary earth dwellers can also daily be regenerated explorers as they look through large clear thermopane glass at windswept tree-tops under morning clouds.”51 So it is that large plates of clear glass function in the same way as does the reflecting pool; they are the upright and vertical equivalent of the horizontal mirror that offers a view onto changing nature (Figure 12.4). As Neutra’s ideal dweller passively lingers over the changing “panorama of the world” so the architect produces layered settings that generate experiences equal to the “endless complexities” of the natural world. If the reflective pool and the view through the thermopane window are Neutra’s imaginative figures for the kinds of architectural control that are available to the neuro-designer, then school design, or designs for children more generally, mark an even more primary figure for Neutra’s design aesthetic. It was obvious to Neutra that the transformative capacities of a house in the desert commissioned by a millionaire could only provide the experimental (and financial) grounds upon which his larger architectural practice could thrive. The endless plasticity of the pool and the changing environment seen through the window wall were analogies for the plasticity of the human subject in its earliest stages. The healing powers his structures could pass on to its inhabitants were unnecessary at the primary stages of human development.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 12.4  Richard Neutra, Tremaine House, Montecito, 1948. Photograph by Julius Shulman, Gelatin Silver Print. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, 2004.R.10.

If he could produce environments for children, then the problem would shift from the healing and survival of the diseased adult to the production and shaping of the unformed child. Healthy inculcation from the beginning would avert the problem of survival in the future. It was Neutra’s fundamental commitment to the production of subjectivity—healing the adult, creating the child—that made every one of his designs appear as a variant on the famous school projects he produced throughout his life. From the Ring Plan School of 1926, to chief architect of schools in Puerto Rico between 1943 and 1945, to his final work in 1969 for the dormitories at the University of Pennsylvania, Neutra designed and built more than 150 schools.52 Even the famous Lovell House of 1929, Neutra insisted, should be understood as an educational environment; its extensive outdoor spaces were designed for the open-air education of the client’s children. Remarkably, for Neutra, schools remained too far down the chain of influence; the architect was necessarily involved in the education of children before they were born. If the maternal womb presented the perfect architectural design, then birth trauma was being thrust into the architect’s arms. “In the moment it is born, the human baby is … delivered right into the hands of the hospital architect, who will remain as powerful as he is …

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in his ominously influential practice.”53 The architect’s “influence … confronts us from morning to evening, works on us ‘from cradle to the grave,’ from the maternity ward and infant nursery to the funeral parlor; no escape.”54 When Neutra says there is “no escape” from architecture, he means that architecture, quite literally, and fantastically, reaches into our DNA and alters it: [Even w]hat seems hereditary … is often influenced by [the architect.] Whether [a mother] spends the months of pregnancy in a cave … or in a residence with controlled climate and insulation … [these] encompass the designer’s influential contributions to what may be early death of the infant or later appear as its inherited constitution. The limits of these contributions and so the formidable powers of design often seem almost beyond scrutiny.55

Here we are at the limit-case of Neutra’s vision of temporal design and at the furthest limits of intentionality. To imagine, as he seems to here, that design can alter an unborn child’s hereditary structure, is to once again replay Neutra’s vision of absolute architectural agency, and equally absolute lack of agency for his inhabitants. In one of his illustrative commentaries on the Tremaine House, Neutra described the “living space” of the living room as something that “sweeps on through [doors of glass] and reaches out for miles until finally it is closed off by the mountain.” The natural world functions as the architectural frame. Is this an instance of nature producing art? Is it an instance of architect formalizing nature? What or where is the line drawn between art and life? “The mountain is,” he reflects, “the ‘back wall’ of this stupendous living room.”56 Once more this is not a metaphorical suggestion. Natural and human-made walls produce a kind of symbiotic whole; the building is the lungs, nature provides the breath. It is never a matter of fusion, of merger between art and life but rather mutual exchange. Neutra refused (Frank Lloyd Wright-type) fantasies of the house that “sprout[s] from the ground.” The simply sprouting, the naturally automatic, has been restrained and replaced by man. If he wants to survive amidst the mass of his new inventions, he has to consider deeply and responsibly what is natural in his design and also what cannot be assimilated. The natural must not be defeated…. Every human creation is an “insert,” an addition to that infinite natural landscape.57

Access to nature cannot be automatic, given; rather, it is through the “full-height thin-framed sliding doors of glass” that nature emerges as a vital reality.58 Nature, as it were, does not exist without the stamp of the architect’s recessive, but never absent, hand. Testing the limits of minimal architectural presence in order to produce a maximalization of sublime natural effects is the basis of the architect’s aesthetic. This does not mean of course that the architecture disappears but rather that a concrete roof slab will physiologically register as protective without obtruding into consciousness as mass. Compare this set of procedures with Schindler’s own approach to landscape. David Gebhard rightly notes how in the late 1920s Schindler explicitly “divorces the building


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

from its site,” observing how the Wolfe house carries the “dissociation between site and man-made object to a dramatic level.”59 Gebhard further notes how the garden at the Rodakiewicz house of 1937 “exemplifies Schindler’s view that the surrounding landscape should be left alone, thereby contrasting with the building.” Here the eastern and southern patios are treated as “direct, controlled extensions of interior spaces,” while the setting that stretches out past the two “precisely bound areas” are akin to a “romantic English garden” with “a dense jungle” beyond.60 The dissociation between architecture and setting is an instance of Schindler’s more fundamental dissociation between civilization and culture. For Schindler, there was an identity between the unaltered landscape and the machine, both marked by repetition. Life, like the machine, is endless. “Although rhythmic, [the machine] has no inherent quality of development, no fate,” Schindler wrote in an unpublished essay on construction. The machine, like nature, has no meaning. Following Loos, Schindler affirmed that the house must continually “reply to our experiences”; it must embody the “unrepeatable” quality of our everyday lives. The house, unlike nature or the machine, is a changing “mirror” of human fate, it is “produced by … our cultural, social and etymological surrounding.”61 Like Neutra, Schindler affirmed the use of the “large sheet of plate glass” but less as a means of extending the frame into nature and more as a “means of living out-of-doors at will.”62 It is the mobility, the responsiveness of sliding glass doors that he valued; one can leave the interior with only the slightest of efforts. New materials are valued for their capacity to “respond quickly to our intentions” and to provide “ease and freedom of action.”63 For Schindler, it was imperative that architectural elements responded “fluidly” to human actions; for Neutra, it was the responsiveness of man to nature, of the architect’s capacity to heal over time by building with nature that mattered.64 The speed with which Schindler hoped his structures would respond to human action was also the projected responsiveness of the structure to the human and natural processes that would inevitably alter them. Neutra, alternately, hoped to include from the start, to plan, every conceivable mode of responsiveness to his structures. Change—even of the most complex and fantastic degree—was an intended part of the structure from the work’s inception. From a certain angle, the difference between Neutra and Schindler is a version of the difference not between time and space in Loos but between Josef Hoffmann and Loos. Like Hoffmann, Neutra envisioned a mode of architectural design that would encompass every aspect of the built environment. But for Neutra, it was less a matter of explicit control of shaped matter, of the plying of the artist’s hand over every aspect of the lived space, than of a maximum surplus of environmental imponderables, aspects of design that receded from the inhabitant’s eye, but which were all the more effective by virtue of their lack of visibility. Neutra’s emphatic commitment to an ideal and imagery of change, variety, and duration defined itself against Schindler’s vision of architecture as “space-forms … visualized and created in [the architect’s] mind.”65 If Neutra’s design spaces are oriented around the changing forms of water and the changing view through the thermopane window, then Schindler’s spaces are organized around a humanist system of modular units. The architect, Schindler insisted “must establish a unit system which he can easily carry in his mind.”66 This extra-temporal “mental image” held in the architect’s

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mind could be manipulated to produce highly complex spatial arrangements organized around a simple modular unit.67 The opposition between Neutra and Schindler is an opposition between the management of experience on the one hand and the spatial realization of the architect’s mental representation on the other. Ultimately, this is a difference about what architecture is and what kind of agency an architect exercises. For Neutra, the “sheer endless experience” of shape existed prior to, and gave rise to, every form of human meaning-making.68 Those shapes that make our environment could either destroy or save humanity—we need architects to protect us from malign shapes and surround us with healthy ones. For Schindler, by contrast, architectural agency was never confused with, and could never replace, human agency. For Schindler, the survival of humanity depended not on design but on its limits, on knowing and thematizing the difference between art and life, culture and civilization.69

Notes 1 Neutra shared a commitment to biology with his friends and colleagues at the Bauhaus, especially with Lazlo Moholy-Nagy. Biology, for instance, is the core theme of Moholy’s The New Vision: From Material to Architecture (New York: Breuer, Warren, Putman, 1932). 2 Richard Neutra, Life and Shape [1962] (Los Angeles, CA: Atara Press, 2009), 192. 3 Ibid., 230. 4 Ibid., 192. 5 Ibid., 303. 6 Ibid., 304. Every space is “plural,” Neutra wrote his unpublished study Man Into Cosmos. This plurality is a product of the fact that “every individual has its own space-world as a complex function of its own nerves and muscles.” Richard and Dion Neutra Papers (Collection 1179). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA. 7 Ibid., 215, 216. 8 Ibid., 170. 9 Ibid., 177. 10 Ibid., 181. 11 Neutra observed that it is the Southerner who truly wields the deepest “power of assimilation.” Ibid., 309. 12 Schindler, “Care of the Body: About Lighting,” in R. M. Schindler, Architect, ed. August Sarnitz (New York: Rizzoli, 1988), 45. 13 Schindler, “Modern Architecture: A Program,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 42. 14 The plans were exhibited alongside notable entries by Le Corbusier, Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittmer. 15 They met again by chance encounter in 1953, a few months before Schindler died, when they shared a hospital room and briefly renewed their friendship. 16 Richard J. Neutra, “Functionalism Again: Pro,” Southwest Review 17, no. 3 (1932): 350–352; R. M. Schindler, “Contra,” Southwest Review 17, no. 3 (1932): 353–354. 17 Schindler, “Modern Architecture: A Program,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 42. 18 See Karl Kraus, Werke, vol. 3 (Munich: Kösel-Verlag, 1965), 341. It should be clear that Schindler inverted Loos’s qualitative distinction between building and art.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

While Loos would agree with Schindler’s assertion that “Ninety-nice percent of all buildings erected cannot be classed as ‘architecture,’” he would not assent to Schindler’s evaluation of that fact. Schindler made the point over and over that buildings (vs. architecture) are “as useful as newspaper editorials, which are just as far from being literature” (R. M. Schindler papers, Architecture & Design Collection. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; University of California, Santa Barbara). Loos considers the distinction between buildings and art in “Architecture,” in Adolf Loos: On Architecture, trans. Michael Mitchell (Riverside, CA: Ariadne Press, 2002), 73–85. 19 Schindler, “Shelter or Playground,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 46. 20 Schindler, “Contra,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 50. 21 Schindler, “Deflating the Slogan” (R. M. Schindler papers, Architecture & Design Collection. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; University of California, Santa Barbara). 22 Schindler, “Space Architecture” (1934), in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 50. 23 Schindler, “Contra,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 50. 24 Schindler, “Modern Architecture: A Program,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 42. 25 Schindler, “Shelter or Playground,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 46. 26 Schindler, “Furniture and the Modern House: A Theory of Interior Design” (1935), in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 56. 27 Frank Lloyd Wright, “Ausgeführte Bauten und Entwürfe,” in Frank Lloyd Wright Collected Writings, vol. 1, 1894–1930, ed. Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer (New York: Rizzoli, 1992), 107. 28 Schindler, “Modern Architecture: A Program,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 42. 29 Neutra, Life and Shape, 289. 30 Schindler, “Notes on Architecture (1914–1919),” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 42. 31 Schindler, “Contra,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 50. 32 Lionel March, “Log House, Urhutte and Temple,” in R. M. Schindler: Composition and Construction, ed. Lionel March and Judith Sheine (New York: St. Martin’s, 1995), 106. 33 Elizabeth A. T. Smith, “R. M. Schindler: An Architecture of Invention and Intuition,” in The Architecture of R. M. Schindler (New York: Abrams, 2001), 29. 34 Schindler, “Furniture and the Modern House,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 56. 35 See David Gebhard, “Ambiguity in the Work of R. M. Schindler,” Lotus 5 (1969): 106–121; Esther McCoy, “The Office of R. M. Schindler” (1967), in Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader (Los Angeles: East of Borneo, 2012), 102–113; August J. Sarnitz, “Integrity and Ambiguity,” in R. M. Schindler: Composition and Construction, ed. March and Sheine, 76–87; and March, “Log House, Urhutte and Temple,” 106. One key exception to this rule is the superlative work of Judith Sheine, who convincingly argues for the logical consistency of Schindler’s architectural enterprise, a logic that is apparent within the seeming contradictions. See Sheine, R. M. Schindler (New York and London: Phaidon, 2001). 36 Schindler, “Contra,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 50. 37 Neutra, “Functionalism Again: Pro,” 352. 38 Neutra, preface to Survival Through Design (London, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1969), v. 39 Neutra, “Prefabrication and Personality,” in Nature Near: Late Essays of Richard Neutra, ed. William Marlin (Santa Barbara: Capra Press, 1989), 151. 40 Neutra, Survival Through Design, 66. 41 Ibid., 198. 42 Ibid., 201.

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43 Ibid., 217. 44 Ibid., 205. 45 Neutra, “Converging Forces on Design,” Journal of Architectural Education (Fall 1956): 13. 46 Neutra, Survival Through Design, 185. 47 Ibid., 173. 48 Ibid., 184–185. 49 “Interview with Richard J. Neutra,” Transition 29 (1967): 31. 50 Neutra, Survival Through Design, 125–126. 51 Neutra, “Restlessness and Tranquil Security,” in Building with Nature (New York: Universe Books, 1971), 221. 52 Beginning with the Ring-plan school of 1926, to the Corona Avenue School (1935), and more ambitiously in Puerto Rico, where, between 1943 and 1945, Neutra was chief architect of open-air schools for more than 150 locations. Neutra played a similar role to the one he played in Puerto Rico in Guam, in 1952, where he designed the Adelup and Umatac Schools. Neutra went on to produce a range of highly influential designs in and around Los Angeles including Kester Avenue Elementary School (1951), Alamitos Intermediate School (1957), UCLA Kindergarten and Elementary School (1957), Palos Verdes High School (1961), 1961 Ring Plan school in Lemoore, California, and on the East coast including St. John’s College (1958), and his last commission, the Graduate Student Housing at the University of Pennsylvania (1969). 53 Neutra, Life and Shape, 273. 54 Ibid., 271. 55 Neutra, Survival Through Design, 230–231. 56 Richard Neutra, Mystery and Realities of the Site (Scarsdale, NY: Morgan and Morgan, 1951), 24. 57 Richard Neutra, Life and Human Habitat/Mensch und Wohnen (Stuttgart: Alexander Koch, 1956), 20–21. 58 Neutra, Mystery and Realities of the Site, 24. 59 David Gebhard, Schindler (San Francisco, CA: William Stout, 1997), 75. Although I will not dwell on the point here, it is important to see that Gebhard’s provocative and groundbreaking analyses of Schindler’s work are saturated with Venturi-inspired pronouncements on conflict and contradiction. Gebhard’s style-based approach distorts some of the basic premises of Schindler’s architecture, even while it served well to bring Schindler directly into contemporary consciousness in the later 1960s and beyond. As I have argued above, Schindler’s approach should not be construed as contradictory but narrative and dialectical. 60 Ibid., 116. 61 Schindler, “All slogans based on ideas of construction are from yesterday,” R. M. Schindler papers, Architecture & Design Collection. Art, Design & Architecture Museum; University of California, Santa Barbara. 62 Schindler, “Care of the Body: About Lighting” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 45. 63 Schindler, “Furniture and the Modern House,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 55. 64 Neutra’s last book is characteristically entitled Building with Nature (New York: Universe Books, 1971). 65 Schindler, “Reference Frames in Space,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 59. Schindler’s notion of “visualization” is part of a larger set of modernist theories and practices that spans the whole of mid-century modernism. For a discussion of its use in photographic discourse, especially in the work of Schindler’s friend Edward Weston, see Todd Cronan and James Welling, “On Previsualization: A Conversation,” in See the


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Light: Photography, Perception, Cognition, ed. Britt Salvesen (New York: Prestel, 2013), 210–213. 66 Schindler, “Reference Frames in Space,” in R. M. Schindler, ed. Sarnitz, 59. 67 Schindler established a four-foot “reference frame” as early as 1921 and deployed it in nearly every structure he planned or built throughout the rest of his career. 68 Neutra, Life and Shape, 239. 69 Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin show how Viennese modernism—in the circle around Adolf Loos, Karl Kraus, and Ludwig Wittgenstein—was defined by the problem of human agency and its limits, a limitation—human finitude—I see reflected at the center of Schindler’s enterprise; see Janik and Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973).


Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home Felicity D. Scott

Architecture without Architects, Bernard Rudofsky’s legendary exhibition of almost 200 black-and-white photographs of vernacular and preindustrial architecture and urbanism, opened at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in November 1964 (Figure 13.1). As they entered the galleries, viewers were informed, “Every society has the architecture it deserves.”1 Marking his indebtedness to Vienna, the city in which he grew up, Rudofsky was paraphrasing Adolf Loos’s 1898 critique of the Austro-Hungarian capital in “Potemkin City”—that “every city gets the architects it deserves.”2 Rudofsky’s wall text continued, reiterating a theme from his 1955 book on the postwar American house, Behind the Picture Window, “If we are sometime less than happy” about our architecture, it was “because technology and wealth alone do not necessarily produce the best results.”3 Rudofsky underscored this wry critique of capitalism and its impact upon architecture in the catalog, noting that Architecture without Architects drove “home this point by comparing, if only by implication, the serenity of architecture in the so-called underdeveloped countries with the progressive chaos and blight of our urbs and suburbs.”4 Polemically (if all too bluntly) inverting assumed contemporary hierarchies, he noted in another wall panel: “What we take to be archaic buildings are often models of true functionalism and timeless modernity.” To this he parenthetically added, alluding to his 1944 MoMA show, Are Clothes Modern? that such a temporality was “distinct from architectural fashions.”5 Protesting the so-called “progress” of industrialization, Rudofsky also ironically suggested that the places illustrated in Architecture without Architects “may in fact represent utopia.”6 The multitude of images he deployed were, in fact, effectively rendered without place, time, economics, or history; abstracted from context they circulated easily via the carefully crafted semantic vehicle provided by his exhibition and catalog. In retrospect, it is this peculiar suspension, fragmenting, and polemical rearticulation of the multiple geographies, histories, cultures, and ways of life harbored in the built forms that is most telling about Architecture without Architects, and through which we can begin to understand his response to life as an émigré architect. Rudofsky’s commentaries upon the ability of architecture to reflect and inform ways of life and his extensive travels in search of evidence for this thesis have often


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 13.1  Installation view of the exhibition “Architecture without Architects,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 11, 1964, through February 7, 1965. Photo: Bernard Rudofsky.

Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home


been read as romantic searches for a more authentic and timeless way of life in the face of the devastation wrought by that “progress.” In part this is certainly true. But even beyond the evident paradox of desiring both timelessness and historical-cultural specificity, the story, I believe, is far more complicated and is not unrelated to his condition of cultural displacement. From the early 1930s to the 1960s, we find many antinomies at play in Rudofsky’s thinking about vernacular architecture and cultures, antinomies reflecting highly conflicted, if often quite insightful, responses to the uprooting forces of modernity. For as he came to recognize, the social, technological, economic, political, and geopolitical transformations he had witnessed in the interwar and wartime period tended to détourn claims for a classically humanist approach to architecture, leaving them internally split or semantically and politically transformed into their opposite pole. At times these transformations even rendered humanistic ideals romantic, absurd, or reactionary. This is not to say that Rudofsky abandoned humanist ideals or even “timeless” ways of building as subjects of study. Certainly they remained prominent in his writings. Rather, it is to suggest that within the complex historical situation in which Rudofsky found himself, and in light of the concomitant emotional and ethical minefields to which it gave rise, he struggled to find alternative ways of operating as an architect. Rudofsky’s work, I hope to show, even briefly, is often better read as a highly personal and decidedly idiosyncratic but dissident architectural reaction to his historical moment and to the forces driving the period’s social and territorial insecurity. *** In March 1932, Rudofsky left Vienna to live on the Italian island of Capri, at the southern edge of the Gulf of Naples. He remained on Capri for almost two years before relocating to Naples to collaborate with architect and engineer Luigi Cosenza.7 Rudofsky had traveled previously through Italy on several summertime journeys in search of “timeless” Mediterranean vernacular architectures and the purportedly harmonious ways of life they supported. Although he may have left Vienna motivated by romantic ideals, his experience was complicated by what he encountered: rising tides of nationalism and imperialism under Benito Mussolini’s rule and, related to this political milieu, the polemical and shifting contours of the country’s highly factionalized architectural debates. It was, however, through negotiating the contradictions between, on the one hand, idealizations of vernacular architectures and, on the other hand, historicopolitical and material facts on the ground in interwar Italy that Rudofsky found his voice as an architect, forging a field of concerns that would continue to characterize his work and writing into the 1960s. Departing from extant readings of Rudofsky’s Italian house designs and the ways in which they incorporated Mediterranean vernaculars, I want to return to take a closer look at his courtyard houses in Italy and their transposition to Brazil.8 These were, I believe, houses marked by his particular experiences, experiences that continued to haunt later work like Architecture without Architects. These houses suggest that Rudofsky’s invocation of the vernacular did not appeal, in any straightforward manner, to authentic or harmonious ways of life, but spoke to a life inescapably uprooted and often violently impacted by historical events.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Rudofsky’s earliest travels to Italy might also have already complicated any romance with the Mediterranean, revealing vernacular buildings to be far from transhistorical, eternal, or vital in nature. As Benedetto Gravagnuolo suggests, the Mediterranean myth was easily dismantled; vernacular structures and typologies were marked not only by the impact of industrialization but also by centuries of conflict, trade, and the layering of Mediterranean civilizations that informed them.9 Hence Le Corbusier’s famous lament in the wake of his voyage to the Orient in search of pristine vernaculars: “There is nothing left of original things.”10 Beyond the state of extant specimens of vernacular architecture, however, the experience of living and working as a foreign architect in Italy during the 1930s challenged idealistic views. Witness to the Fascist ideology in the years leading up to the Second World War, Rudofsky soon had doubts about the desirability of claims to organic relations between place, identity, and architecture.11 The violence and exclusionary logics at work within certain claims to cultural authenticity and rights to a “homeland” (or Empire) not only haunted Rudofsky’s work but impacted his ability or willingness to remain in Italy. Concerned about Mussolini’s imperialist goals in Ethiopia and the failure of the League of Nations to respond effectively to the Abyssinia Crisis, he left Italy in late September 1935 to travel to Paris and on to the United States. By the time he arrived in New York for the first time, the Second Italo-Abyssinian War was well under way. After a seven-month interlude, he returned in August 1936 at the request of Cosenza (after the League of Nations dropped the sanctions on Italy for invading Ethiopia) to complete work on Casa Oro, a remarkable modernist villa in Posillipo they designed in 1935. Casa Oro seemed almost to grow out of its rugged and dramatic hilltop perch, and this early house in many regards embodied the nexus of modernism and the “myth of the Mediterranean” in an unproblematized sense. But this would soon change. In October 1937, at the invitation of Gio Ponti, Rudofsky moved to Milan to join the editorial team of Domus and pursue collaborative design work, which predominantly took the form of proposals for sheltering travelers and minimal, refuge-like accommodations12; Rudofsky’s writing for Domus was equally marked by a sense of uprooting and mobility. His final, and to my mind most remarkable, text was “End of the City,” or in its German manuscript “End of the European City,” which appeared in April 1938 and was one of the few occasions that Rudofsky spoke directly to the increasing militarization of the environment and the geopolitical legacy of war. Ruminating on the impending return of warfare to European territory, Rudofsky juxtaposed an autochthonous (or earth bound) form of dwelling exemplified by a photograph taken by Giuseppe Pagano with what he called a “new mobile habitation,” or trailer home (a dualism he returned to in Architecture without Architects). Speaking to environmental insecurities born of the First World War, he posited, “With the introduction of two new types of aggressive arms or weapons, the Air Force and poisonous gas, the World War has initiated the beginning of the end of urban development.”13 Given such military strategies, and with civilians now targeted for destruction, cities no longer offered refuge or protection from ballistic weaponry; their very raison d’être was undermined. Furthering his dialectic of

Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home


rootedness versus displacement, Rudofsky speculated that the next generation of Europeans would thus have to choose between two dwelling options: the habitable cave and the mobile home, updated versions of the “primitive” troglodyte and nomad. (This dualism also served as an allegory of the distinction between the fixity of trench warfare and the mobility of tanks). If European Roma were his example of nomadic life in Europe, Rudofsky turned his attention to their American counterparts, speaking to a “population striving towards nomadism.” Even without the experience of war on their soil, he noted of Americans, “Hundreds of thousands of families have abandoned house and land in order to create for themselves new possibilities for living in a permanent state of travel. The government of the country has not tried to prevent but rather promotes this ‘movement.’” Acknowledging that technology for mobile dwellings had not arrived in Europe to the same degree, the incentive for their use was, nevertheless, in place: “The impending destruction of cities [might] get the most sedentary people to adopt the life of continuous movement.”14 The timing of Rudofsky’s arrival in Milan proved ill-fated, and following Nazi Germany’s Anschluss of Austria in March 1938, he fled Europe for Latin America, boarding a ship in Trieste headed for Argentina, the country for which he obtained a visa. In other words, by the late 1930s Rudofsky’s status in Italy changed from that of a stranger from Vienna with a love for things Mediterranean to an unwelcome foreigner. Yet this unsettled phase of his life corresponded with his most intense activity as an architect who built. Moreover, during this period he formulated a new mode of dwelling: an idiosyncratic and at times quite strange response to this situation taking the form of a nonregional, postnational adoption of the courtyard house. Rudofsky was not of course the only architect fascinated with Mediterranean courtyard houses. What is distinct here is the manner in which the typology functioned paradoxically as the vehicle through which he attempted to overcome “native” relations to locale while still being able to dwell. *** Rudofsky’s first courtyard house design appeared in 1934: it took the form of a photocollage depicting a house for himself (Figure 13.2). A caption explained that the architect had adopted the prototype of a Pompeian dwelling that paradoxically no longer existed at “its point of origin” in the Gulf of Naples. The type’s absence was all the more astonishing, he remarked, since houses with inner courtyards were appropriate for the mountainous island of Capri, highly exposed to wind. With a convoluted logic, Rudofsky argued that it was in order to take environmental conditions into consideration that he returned the ancient house-form to its mountainous origin for the first time.15 That his house remained semi-fictional, and that it was sited within an abstract milieu is illustrated by the fact that the photograph in the collage was, in fact, the island of Santorini in Greece, not Capri, leaving claims to both origin and autochthony profoundly ambiguous. (The photograph appeared in his dissertation and later in Architecture without Architects.16)


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Figure 13.2  Bernard Rudofksy, Haus B auf Capri, 1934. Published in Monatshefte für Baukunst und Städtebau, January 1934.

Perhaps more notable was the house Rudofsky designed for Berta Doctor (soon to be Berta Rudofsky) and himself on the island of Procida. This appeared in Domus in March 1938 under the title “What we need is not a new technology but a new way of living,” prefaced by a panoramic drawing of it at the center of a mythology-saturated Mediterranean universe (Figure 13.3).17 This was a country house for an “unprejudiced woman,” he explained, a woman who went barefoot and draped herself in uncut fabric. The text began with formulations of how the sole of the foot had lost touch

Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home


Figure 13.3  Bernard Rudofsky, “Orientation Plan,” 1938. Published in Domus, March 1938.

with the surface of the house and throughout the article Rudofsky focused not on aesthetic or formal qualities but on techniques of bringing the subject down to the floor: he described tables and beds without legs and espoused the benefits of assuming a reclining position to dine. Conventional chairs were banished. Preempting another trope found in Are Clothes Modern? Rudofsky even queried whether a man might be found whose foot retained its fanned state, a foot that had not yet been molded into a point. Although his drawings were populated by barefoot characters, including figures patting winged horses, strumming lyre, or lying on ancient cline to dine, and while the plan of the courtyard featured an ancient Greek black figure, Rudofsky was neither proposing, strictly speaking, the simulation of ancient domestic habits nor


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

rejecting modern construction technologies. Something far more temporally entropic (if distinctly modernist) was at work. The kitchen was electric, he announced, and the bathroom fully equipped. More important was that intimacy with architecture be assisted by the thinness of the soles of sandals, or even bare feet, and the looseness of clothing. It was through bringing the subject down to the floor, in his attempts to produce a mode of sensuality so powerful as to interrupt, if not entirely invert, the normative social apparatus harbored by the house, that Rudofsky believed that refuge or a line of flight might be sought. Following his departure from Italy, Rudofsky repeatedly deployed the courtyard house in other contexts, reiterating claims for the intimate mode of dwelling it facilitated. Appropriating a vernacular type for the uprooted condition of modernity, it served as a mobile framework—his term was “vessel,” like a ship—that might help one (him) feel at home anywhere on earth, also offering a degree of psychological defense against deracination (or exile). If, as Maiken Umbach and Bernd Hüppauf have argued, “to ‘vernacularize’ used to be a verb for adapting to or making someone adapt to the specificity of a region, to make the person feel at home,” Rudofsky reversed this logic, radically decoupling a vernacular type from any strict identity with a geographical place.18 Turned inward, such a house he believed, was suited both to an intimate mode of dwelling and to a form of iteration and the transposition of a form of life that was not regionally specific, as critics later pointed out. Rudofsky arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in May 1938, immigrating to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, that June on “a so-called capitalist visa and an Austrian passport.” As he explained to the Consular General of Brazil in 1942, “since then I have been without a passport or citizenship.”19 He relocated from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo in December 1938, initially working as a furniture designer for Studio Casa e Jardim, a branch of the German-immigrant-founded Galeria Heuberger, and quickly found independent work as a modern architect. In 1939, he built an extension to a traditional farmhouse for French émigré Henrique Hollenstein.20 That same year, he completed the spectacular Kocher watch shop,21 soon followed by courtyard houses for two other European émigrés, João Arnstein and Virgilio Frontini. Rudofsky remained in São Paolo until April 1941, when (as “Bernardo”) he arrived, passport-less, in New York as a Latin American prizewinner of MoMA’s Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition, becoming an “enemy alien” when the United States entered the war that December.22 Quickly befriending European émigré artists and architects in New York, as well as Philip Goodwin and others at MoMA, he worked in various editorial, curatorial, and design capacities during the 1940s and early 1950s, becoming a citizen in 1948. Shortly after Rudofsky arrived in the United States, Goodwin asked him for advice in compiling a list of Brazilian work to visit in preparation for his 1943 exhibition, “Brazil Builds” (Figure 13.4). While traveling in Brazil with photographer G. E. Kidder-Smith in 1942, he thus came across Rudofsky’s Arnstein and Frontini houses. Although distinct in configuration, both are characterized by high-enclosing walls and organized to ensure that major living spaces open directly onto “outdoor rooms,” which vary in character from heavily planted courtyards to terraces, verandahs, and dedicated “sun baths. (Figure 13.4)”23 Introducing the Arnstein house in Brazil Builds, Goodwin was demonstrative: “Call it house, pavilion, or pleasure dome of Xanadú, the Arnstein family has about as

Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home


Figure 13.4  Bernard Rudofsky, Virgilio Frontini House, São Paulo, Brazil, 1939–1941. Photo-collage. Published in New Pencil Points, June 1943.

lovely a place to live in as could be found in the Americas.”24 With this house, he posited, Rudofsky “created a type as good and as definite as the Pompeiian villa.”25 However, unlike their Pompeian precedents, Goodwin stressed, they were “entirely air-conditioned and appointed with the most modern plumbing, lighting and kitchen equipment.”26 Henry-Russell Hitchcock was less fond of this transposition of Mediterranean courtyard houses to Brazil: disparagingly noting that Rudofsky’s work was “more central European than French in background”—a reference to the importance of Le Corbusier in Hitchcock’s narrative of Brazilian modernism—he suggested that the houses seemed “less acculturated in design and materials, despite the interesting adaptation of the plan, with its many enclosed outdoor rooms, to the climate.”27 Responding to Hitchcock’s critique, Rudofsky recalled a different archaeology: “Whoever wants to investigate the rapid and unexpected development not only of Brazilian, but of South American, architecture, cannot afford to overlook the history of modern Italian architecture,” he remarked. Yet, he added, in 1938 “Europe abruptly stopped peaceful activities and mobilized all its creative capacities for war, [and] consequently its flow of creative thought to the new world dried up.” It was only on account of the war, he wryly suggested, that the United States discovered Brazil, making “Americans aware of the necessity of nursing their interest in neighbors.”28


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

If Hitchcock failed (or refused) to recognize the Italian traces within Rudofsky’s Brazilian designs, a postwar account of the houses published in Domus made this connection explicit. It was no “coincidence,” wrote Lisa Ponti, the editor’s daughter, that Rudofsky’s buildings were Mediterranean in orientation, even when landing in what she termed the “vast and violent country” Brazil. His Austrian sensibility, she symptomatically posited, became attached to the Mediterranean with the sentimental force of a refugee (un profugo), like someone from a “lapsed civilization whose own country has put them to flight.”29 Likening the houses to ancient villas, this time on account of their pursuit of a happy or (reiterating her father’s rhetoric) “delicious” way of life, Ponti stressed the primacy of isolation achieved through the perimeter walls in achieving a felicitous mode of dwelling. Knowing Rudofsky from Milan, she even picked up on their defensive posture, noting that the Frontini house was organized as “a defense from the world.” With its subtle modern classicism, she added of the house’s antique references, it “could be the largest Roman villa.” Cautious to avoid a colonizing rhetoric, Ponti insisted that while indebted to Italy Rudofsky’s houses did “not impose anything external on Brazil.” Ponti’s poetic and insightful reading of Rudofsky’s Brazilian houses is, of course, a symptomatic one. For if Austria was the “lapsed civilization” that motivated Rudofsky’s flight, Italy appears only as his initial country of refuge and the origin of the ancient villa typology supporting a happy way of life. But Italy provided Rudofsky with many other lessons, including that he had no home to which to return with any sense of security. In June 1943, having been promoted to Associate Editor at Pencil Points, Rudofsky published two texts on courtyard houses, “Notes on Patios” and “Three Patio Houses,” the latter addressing his houses for European émigrés in Brazil. Rudofsky contended that while paying attention to environmental and climatic factors and embracing native plants, his courtyard houses were not an indigenous typology. “Patio houses,” he remarked, referring to both Sao Paulo and Rio, “are far from being the rule in both cities: they are, in fact, unheard of.”30 Reiterating the theme of another 1938 text, he claimed that the type was not regional but in fact universal. Rudofsky’s lyrical drawing of a heavily planted outdoor room featured on the issue’s contents page perpetuated this image of disconnection. Open to the sky, the space and its occupant could be located anywhere. Rudofsky offered a clue—if a somewhat apocryphal one—to what might have driven the mobility, and hence global reach, of such semi-enclosed spaces, tying the emergence of the patio type in America to the question of colonizing operations on foreign territories and with them the need for defense. “The first thing European settlers built in this country,” he began, “was a stockade—a form of structure which contained the elements of patio architecture.”31 (Rudofsky even included an “othered” image of a stockade on the cover of this issue of Pencil Points. Ironically, it was not a colonial but rather an indigenous settlement.) Stockades served to remind the reader that architecture served not only as defense against hostile environments but also as a technology of settlement and colonial expansion. The domestic correlate of occupying foreign territory was, for him, a similarly secure or fortified space; again, a house turned inward as a form of defense. ***

Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home


In the late 1940s, Rudofsky first set out the framework for a book that later split into Behind the Picture Window and Architecture without Architects. Troping on Are Clothes Modern? and hoping to desublimate its architectural subtext, the book project was initially entitled “Are Houses Modern?” In it Rudofsky continued to question the impact of nomadic forms of life and forces that led to dispossession and displacement (such as war), and the question of maintaining intimacy with the house remained a central concern. Yet the emerging Cold War matrix of power added a new set of terms. At stake now was the invasion of domestic life by scientific and technological paradigms born of wartime military research—from advances in communication technologies and computerization to social science research bent on psychological and environmental control—and the rise of consumerism and a US economic strategy driving globalization. During this period, Rudofsky presented houses as “tangible evidence of a philosophy of life,” also stressing that “behavior is, broadly speaking, reaction and response to environment.”32 His speculations about behavioral conditioning through domestic environments, and the type of “instrument” a house might become, suggest that something had gone awry in relations between a house and its inhabitants, cause and effect to his mind had been inverted: contemporary American houses, rather than reflecting culture, served as tools of behaviorist-oriented social engineering, operating as technologies through which to write micro-political logics onto the body of their occupants. To this end, Behind the Picture Window’s nine chapters, dedicated, in order, to cooking, eating, the chair, music, the bed, bathing, outdoor rooms, mechanical contraptions, and surveillance, identify various techniques driving this form of regulation. As Rudofsky’s musings remind us, at stake was no longer just the industrial mass production that fascinated an earlier generation of modernists. Rather, entering this picture was an expanded array of sciences and technologies and with them an expanded regulatory apparatus, which were driven by economic paradigms born of the Second World War and for which the United States was leading the way. Yet against the endless “change” that, as he put it, functioned as “a promissory note on happiness,” Rudofsky continued to assert possibilities for modes of desire and intimacy, or even simply aberrant behaviors somehow not yet colonized by capitalism. His search for intimacy with a house is best read, I believe, not simply as a search for authenticity or a more humane form of architecture but rather as a tactic for cutting across such contemporary vectors and techniques of power, attempts to interrupt or otherwise rearticulate those dominant forces and techniques as they met the body. Finally realized the following decade, Architecture without Architects was similarly haunted by Rudofsky’s experience of such a troubled modernity; not only are many of the exhibition’s claims and images found in his work from the 1930s to the 1950s, but its abstraction of architectural vernaculars from a “native place” and their allegorical refunctioning to new (modernist) ends, performed a related set of operations to those I have traced, albeit in a distinct register. To underscore my point one last time, his engagement with vernacular architecture did not seek to reproduce a traditional way of life, or authentic way to belong to the land—let alone to a region or nation. His response to what he termed “life as a perpetual journey” took the form of a provocative, if somewhat defensive, reaction to a condition of “uprooting without end” that


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

marked a shift from the existential homelessness theorized by early twentieth-century sociologists and the experience of “not-being-at-home-anywhere” to something like “dwelling as such.”33 This was not simply a sense of homelessness or even homesickness prompted by his departure from Vienna—whether to work in Berlin in the late 1920s, or to move to Italy in 1932. Nor was it exacerbated in his subsequent trajectory to South America and the United States. In fact, the United States ultimately figured as the most adequate “home” for a self-identified cosmopolitan. A 1946 biographical note explained, “He is Viennese by education, cosmopolitan by choice.”34 Rather, Rudofsky’s “loss” of a “homeland,” I want to argue, arose earlier, in 1918, with the breakup of the AustroHungarian Empire or Dual Monarchy. He never identified with Austria as a nation following the reconstruction of political borders in Central and Eastern Europe after the First World War. Indeed, he often explained to American audiences that he was born in the “Austro-Hungarian Monarchy,” noting that it had almost half as many inhabitants as the United States, 13 official languages, and that “the linguistic variety was matched by the cultural one.”35 As with Sigmund Freud and Adolf Loos, Rudofsky was born in Moravia but raised in Vienna. And like Freud, it seems that he experienced the division of the geopolitical territory of his youth as a traumatic violation of a powerful edifice. Freud himself noted on November 11, 1918: “Austria-Hungary is no more. I do not want to live anywhere else. For me emigration is out of the question. I shall live on with the torso and imagining that it is the whole.”36 And we might recall that in Freud’s 1927 account of fetishism, the subject, in disavowing the sight of the absence of the female phallus constructed a “memorial” in its place through the act of substituting a proximate object. The fetish was a perverse construction erected over a gap. Producing a reconciliation of two irreconcilable realities, the fetish, Freud noted with respect to the absent object, was “designed to preserve it from extinction.” He also connected the fetish with territory: “A grown man may perhaps experience a similar panic when the cry goes up that Throne and Alter are in danger, and similar illogical consequences will ensue.”37 Rudofsky’s response to the loss of his “homeland” took the form of a repeated and lifelong displacement of, and intensive cathexis onto, the modern house; an attempted reconciliation, we might say (to invoke Freud’s terms), of two irreconcilable realities. A product of historical trauma, it gave rise to a form of fetishism operating simultaneously in the domains of territory and domesticity, the latter evident in his desire to produce an intimate, even fetishistic connection to the house and its equipment. Rudofsky’s response, that is, was the formulation of a mode of domesticity that might enable the subject to dwell while adrift, literally to be at home anywhere within a condition of territorial insecurity. Experiencing firsthand the breakdown of former paradigms of sovereignty, citizenship, and modes of belonging, Rudofsky found himself unwittingly at the forefront of the period’s geopolitical transformations and, in response, imagined an architecture that might be appropriate to contemporary society, that might demonstrate how every society gets the architecture it deserves. In a life characterized by sequential geographic displacements, Rudofsky came to understand that while fixed or “authentic” relations to place might no longer be available, nor even desirable, particularities of a place persisted in a way that

Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home


interrupted universal humanist ideals, whether those particularities were born of geographic, institutional, or linguistic distinctions or from encounters with local politics and historical events, social norms, or personal desires. Forms of belonging that emerged following such displacements were (and are) complex and multiple, as Bruce Robbins explains in Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation. Reading cosmopolitanism as particular rather than universal, and as located (albeit not in a simple sense) and embodied, Robbins writes, “Instead of an ideal of detachment, actually existing cosmopolitanism is a reality of (re) attachment, multiple attachment, or attachment at a distance.”38 “To embrace this style of residence on earth,” Robbins argues, “means repudiating the romantic localism of a certain portion of the left, which feels it must counter capitalist globalization with a strongly rooted and exclusive sort of belonging.”39 Rudofsky avowedly dwelt in a condition of uprooting. Yet we find something like a reality of (re)attachment, multiple attachment, and attachment at a distance, to cite Robbins formulation. In Rudofsky’s case, such reattachments were not only to a place in the geographical sense, or even to multiple places or places at a distance, but also in many regards to modern architecture. He maintained a conflicted relation to the discipline: he was at once most “at home” within its institutions, such as MoMA, while always adopting the stance of an outsider, looking in. Within “Architecture without Architects,” we thus find architecture (both modern and vernacular) has become a radically decontextualized phenomenon, a practice or technology of habitation that refuses connection to any singular place, strictly speaking, while attaching to modernist polemics. In his houses, Rudofsky replaced attachments to place with formulations of an intimate mode of dwelling, at once a reattachment to architecture and a perversion of its normative function. In his exhibitions—themselves architectural technologies for multiple displacements—he resemanticized images of other times and other places to function as allegories of the present, a related departure from normative expectations.

Notes 1 Bernard Rudofsky, introductory wall text to Architecture without Architects. Curatorial Exhibition Files, exh. 752, Architecture without Architects, November 11, 1964— February 7, 1965, Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York. 2 Adolf Loos, “Potemkin City,” (1898) trans. Jane O. Newman and John H. Smith, in Adolf Loos, Spoken into the Void: Collected Essays 1897–1900 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1982), 95. 3 Rudofsky, introductory wall text. On Behind the Picture Window see Felicity D. Scott, “Instrumentos Para Vivir,” in Bernard Rudofsky: Desobediencia Critica a La Modernidad, ed. Mar Loren and Yolanda Romero (Granada: Centro José Guerrero, 2014), 106–124. 4 Bernard Rudofsky, Architecture without Architects (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1964), n.p. 5 Rudofsky, text panel for Architecture without Architects. Curatorial Exhibition Files, exh. 752, Architecture without Architects, November 11, 1964—February 7, 1965, MoMA. On Are Clothes Modern? see Felicity D. Scott, “Underneath Aesthetics and


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

Utility: The Untransposable Fetish of Bernard Rudofsky,” Assemblage 38 (April 1999): 58–89. 6 Rudofsky, text panel. 7 On Luigi Cosenza, see Cesare De Seta, “Luigi Cosenza: dalla Mitteleuropa al Mediterraneo,” in Architetti italiani del Novecento (Rome: Laterza, 1987), 273–314; Cesare De Sessa, Luigi Cosenza: Razionalità senza dogmi (Turin: Testo & Immagine, 2001); and Rossano Astarita, “Luigi Cosenza, un protagonista isolato della cultura architettonica napoletana tra le due guerre: opere realizzate e flash back,” in Architettura a Napoli tra le due guerre, ed. Cesare De Seta (Napoli: Electa Napoli, 1999), 69–75. 8 On Rudofsky’s Italian houses, see Andrea Bocco Guarneri, Bernard Rudofsky: A Humane Designer (Vienna: Springer, 2003). 9 Benedetto Gravagnuolo, “From Schinkel to Le Corbusier: The Myth of the Mediterranean in Modern Architecture,” in Modern Architecture and the Mediterranean: Vernacular Dialogues and Contested Identities, ed. Jean-François Lejeune and Michelangelo Sabatino (New York: Routledge, 2010), 15–39. 10 Le Corbusier cited in Francesco Passanti, “The Vernacular, Modernism, and Le Corbusier,” in Vernacular Modernism: Heimat, Globalization, and the Built Environment, ed. Maiken Umbach and Bernd Hüppauf (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 147. Le Corbusier’s search for authentic, pure, uncontaminated, or original artifacts derived from cultures rooted in the soil, and was informed, as Passanti notes, by the racist ideology of his mentor William Ritter. What he found, instead, were traces of the “ravages of modernization,” which led him to believe that solutions could no longer be found in premodern cultures. 11 On this period of Italian architecture and the imperialist claims made on its behalf, see: Brian L. McLaren, “The Italian Colonial Appropriation of Indigenous North African Architecture in the 1930s,” Muqarnas 19 (2002): 164–192; Brian L. McLaren, “Casa Mediterranea, Casa Araba, and Primitivism in the Writings of Carlo Enrico Rava,” Journal of Architecture 13, no. 4 (August 2008): 453–467; and Mia Fuller, Moderns Abroad: Architecture, Cities, and Italian Imperialism (London and New York: Routledge, 2009). 12 See: Giovanni Ponti, “Albergo Di San Michele O ‘Nel Bosco’ All’isola Di Capri: Architetti Giovanni Ponti E Bernardo Rudofsky,” Architettura: Rivista del Sindacato Nazionale Fascista Architetti XVIII, no. VI (June 1940): 273–286; and Gio Ponti, “Un Nuovo Tipo D’albergo Progettato Da Ponti E Rudofsky Per Le Coste E Le Isole Del Tirreno E Che Può Essere Ideale Per La Dalmazia,” Lo Stile nella casa e nell’arredamento no. 7 (July 1941): 16–22. 13 Bernard Rudofsky, “Fine Della Città,” Domus XVI, no. 124 (April 1938): 20–21. Translation the author. 14 Ibid., 21. 15 Bernard Rudofsky, “Capresisches, Anacapresisches,” Monatshefte für Baukunst und Städtbau 18, no. 1 (January 1934): 22–24. 16 Ibid., 24. The image first appeared on page 69 of his dissertation, Bernard Rudofsky, “Eine primitive Betonbauweise auf den südlichen Kykladen, nebst dem Versuch einer Datierung derselben” (Vienna, Technische Hochschule, 1931). 17 Bernard Rudofsky, “Non Ci Vuole Un Nuovo Modo Di Construire Ci, Vuole Un Nuovo Modo Di Vievere,” Domus XVI, no. 123 (March 1938): 6–15. Translated as “What We Need Is Not a New Technology but a New Way of Living,” in Architekturzentrum

Bernard Rudofsky: Not at Home


Wien, ed., Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky: Life as a Voyage (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2007), 262–268. 18 Maiken Umbach and Bernd Hüppauf, “Introduction: Vernacular Modernism,” in Vernacular Modernism: Heimat, Globalization, and the Built Environment, ed. Maiken Umbach and Bernd Hüppauf (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005), 10. 19 Bernard Rudofsky, letter to the Consul General of Brazil, New York, May 23, 1942. Bernard Rudofsky archives courtesy Berta Rudofsky. 20 On the Hollenstein house, the drawings for which are now in the Getty Research Institute, see Bernard Rudofsky, “Three Patio Houses,” New Pencil Points 24, no. 6 (June 1943): 48–65, in particular 64–65. See also Guarneri, Bernard Rudofsky: A Humane Designer. 21 On the watch shop, see Bernard Rudofsky, “Shop at San Paolo,” The Architectural Review LXXXVII, no. 522 (May 1940): 167–168; Bernard Rudofsky, “Edificio Comercial en San Pablo,” Nuestra Arquitectura 9 (September 1939): 288–291; and Raffaello Giolli, “Un Negozio di Orlogi a San Paulo,” Casabella XVIII, no. 143 (November 1939): 20–22. 22 See Eliot F. Noyes, Organic Design in Home Furnishings (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1941), 44. 23 Rudofsky’s use of the sunbath appears to derive from the German Lebensreform movement and the thinking of Rickli. See Didem Ekici, “From Rikli’s light-and-air hut to Tessenow’s Patenthaus: Körperkultur and the Modern Dwelling in Germany, 1890–1914,” Journal of Architecture 13, no. 4 (August 2008): 379–406. Guarneri notes Rudofsky’s connection to Rikli in Bernard Rudofsky, 68. 24 Philip L. Goodwin, Brazil Builds: Architecture New and Old, 1652–1942 (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1943), 170. 25 Ibid., 99. Goodwin noted its similarities to the ancient Italian typologies, explaining, “Romans built a high rectangular wall lined by a series of small rooms all looking into one or two courts. Protection and privacy were so secured from the public.” 26 Philip L. Goodwin, “Architecture of Brazil,” Architectural Record 93, no. 1 (January 1943), 54. 27 Henry-Russell Hitchcock, “Brazil Builds: Architecture New and Old, 1652–1942 by Philip L. Goodwin,” Art Bulletin 25, no. 4 (December 1943): 384. 28 Bernard Rudofsky, “On Architecture and Architects: An Address Delivered at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts,” New Pencil Points 24, no. 4 (1943): 62–64. 29 Lisa Ponti, “Le Più Desiderabili Ville Del Mondo,” Domus 234 (#3 1949): 1–9. 30 Rudofsky, “Three Patio Houses,” 48. 31 Bernard Rudofsky, “Notes on Patios,” New Pencil Points 24, no. 6 (June 1943): 44. 32 Bernard Rudofsky, notebook, 831. Bernard Rudofsky Papers, c. 1910–1987, Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (920004), box 3 [henceforth “Rudofsky Papers”]. 33 I am paraphrasing Paolo Virno’s reading of “belonging as such” in “The Ambivalence of Disenchantment,” in Radical Thought in Italy: A Potential Politics, ed. Paulo Virno and Michael Hardt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 32. 34 Editorial note, “Rudofsky Joins Interiors,” Interiors CV, no. 6 (January 1946): 14. 35 Bernard Rudofsky, manuscript for lecture in Provincetown, untitled, undated, 5 [c. 1972]. “Rudofsky Papers,” box 5, folder 4. 36 Sigmund Freud, cited in William M. Johnston, The Austrian Mind: An Intellectual and Social History, 1848–1938 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), 238.


Émigré Cultures in Design and Architecture

37 Sigmund Freud, “Fetishism,” trans. James Strachey, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey (London: The Hogarth Press, 1927), 153. 38 Bruce Robbins, “Introduction Part I: Actually Existing Cosmopolitanism,” in Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, ed. Bruce Robbins and Pheng Cheah (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 3. 39 Ibid., 3.

Index Academy of Fine Arts (Vienna) 66 Academy of Light 177, 179, 183 Adapting to Abundance (1990, Heinz) 122 advertising 46, 48–9, 53–4, 56–7, 63, 71, 74, 80, 128, 177, 179, 181 Air-Conditioned Nightmare, The (1945, Miller) 129 Albers, Anni 10, 148 Albers, Josef 10, 148, 193, 197–8 American culture 1–2, 4–8, 11, 13–14, 18, 80, 122, 149, 153 American Magazine of Art 45 American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism, and the American Experience (1969, Corn, Wanda) 79 American Safety Bomb Shelter Company 95 American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen (AUDAC) 11, 85, 142 anonymous architecture. See, Architecture without Architects; Native Genius in Anonymous Architecture Anschluss 3, 6, 15, 107, 121, 128, 150, 165, 225 anthropology 107, 124, 203 anti-design 1–2 antisemitism 8, 107, 122 Architectural Group for Industry and Commerce or AGIC 204 architecture. See also design contemporary 79, 95, 161–2, 165–8 émigré cultures 2–3, 5–6, 9–10, 12–14, 17–20, 92–4, 98, 141–2, 145, 148–50, 153, 166–7, 221, 228, 230 fashion and 129, 141 imperial 128 International, 53, 63, 66, 74, 80, 162, 204 limits of 204–12, 215–17 organic 72

psychoanalysis 161, 163 social 4–5, 7–9, 11–17, 19, 143 theater 193, 195 vernacular 221–5, 229–33 Architecture without Architects (Rudofsky, exhibition and catalog) 18, 20, 168, 221–5, 231, 233 Are Clothes Modern? (Rudofsky, exhibition and book) 2, 10, 12, 17, 133, 141–2, 145–8, 221, 227, 231 Argentina 225, 228 Arnheim, Rudolf 181–2 art and architecture 129 and crafts 111–12 and design 2, 5, 68, 150, 177, 182 and education 177 and life 215, 217 techniques 175 Art and Visual Perception (1954, Arnheim) 182 Art in Trade (Macy’s show) 67–8 Art of This Century Gallery 129, 149–50 Aryanizations 121 Aspen Design Conference 191 Aspen Institute 10 Atomville, U.S.A 16, 91, 93–8, 101 Auerbach, Alfred 67, 142 Augenfeld, Felix 4, 6–7, 12, 17–18 American clients 163, 166 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal 167 and Freud family 159–60, 163 Beach house, Fire Island, ca. 1957 166–7 European network 167–8 marriage with Epstein 166 modern architecture 161–2, 165–9 reference to Loos, Adolf 162



social housing 163, 165–9 Study of Sigmund Freud in Vienna, 1938 160 Townhouse and library Buttinger, York, 1956–1958 166, 168 weekend cottage 164, 166 with Hofmann, Karl 159–61, 163–6 Austria 4–6, 14, 45–8, 51–4, 80, 82, 93, 107, 110, 128, 164, 167, 225, 230, 232 Austrian Social Democracy 15, 29 Austrofascism 15, 52, 164 Austro-Hungarian Monarchy 3, 20, 80, 106, 111, 129, 232 Autobiography (1950, Frankl) 79, 84 Avant-Garde, European 10, 13–14, 67 Avery Library, Columbia University 167–8 Banham, Reyner 207 Basshe, Em Jo 71 Bauhaus émigré networks 2–3, 5, 7, 10, 12–14, 18–19 exhibition 2014–2015 192 Frank, Josef ’s conflicts and disagreements with 33–4 New Bauhaus in Chicago 10, 19 pedagogy 175–80, 183 theater 191–8 Behind the Picture Window (1955, Rudofsky) 221, 231 Benjamin, Walter 7–9, 18, 160 Bentham, Jeremy 147 Berlin 3, 56, 66, 80, 82, 93, 107, 159, 176, 232 Bernays, Edward 15, 63, 65, 68–72, 74 Bernhard, Lucian 80 Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Freud) 69 Bildung (Education) 15, 29, 33, 161 Binder, Joseph 4, 6–7, 9, 14–15 graphic design 45–6, 53–4, 56–7 in New York experience 53–5 international reputation 53–4 Official poster for World’s Fair 1939 55 photographs collection, Austrian Museum of Applied Arts 53–4 professional expertise in consumption 45 biology 19, 203, 209

Black Mountain College 10, 19, 148, 191–2, 194, 197 Blake, Peter 13 bomb shelter 16, 95, 98–101 Boskovits, Charlotte 163 Boston 3, 12, 19, 167 bourgeois 16, 36–7 Brasch, Lucie (Lux, Freud, Ernst’s wife) 159 Brazil 146, 223, 228–30 Braziller, George 182 Brentano’s (bookstore and publishing house) 63–4, 67 Breuer, Marcel 3, 9, 12–13, 144 Brik, Osip 70 Broadacre City (1935, Wright, Frank Lloyd) 72, 94 Brunswick, Mack 163 Buchanan, Daisy 145 Budapest 3 Buenos Aires 228 Burlingham, Dorothy 163 Burns, Fritz B. 95 Buttinger, Josef 163–8 Cage, John 191, 198 California Institute of the Arts 10 California modernism 95 Cape Cod 9 capitalism 19, 49, 51, 53, 126, 175, 221, 231 Century of the Self, The (2002, Curtis) 69 de Certeau, Michel 41 Chermayeff, Serge 9 CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) 14, 31, 33–4, 40 civilization 70, 203–7, 209, 216–17, 224, 230 Coate, Roland E. 98–9 Cold War 5, 95, 231 Columbia University 10, 167–8 constructivism 36, 63, 66–8, 70–2, 110 consumer spending 63, 68 consumers 15, 47, 49–53, 56, 60, 70, 112, 141 consumption luxury 53 mass 6, 14, 45–7, 56–7, 124

Index political history 46–7 professional expertise 45, 57 rational choices and efficient behavior 50–1 virtual 52 Contemporary Art Applied to the Store and its Display (1930, Kiesler) 63–4, 67, 142 Contemporary City (1922, Corbusier) 93 Corbusier, Le 6, 10, 13–4, 33, 93, 110–11, 150, 162, 205, 224, 229 cosmopolitan 232–3 Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation (1998, Robbins) 233 Cowan, Ruth Schwartz 98 craft 16, 20, 46, 53, 89, 92, 106, 111–13, 142, 221 Crate & Barrel 108 creativity 1, 182 Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923, Bernays) 70 cubism 54 culture American 1–2, 4–8, 11, 13–14, 18, 80, 122, 149, 153 cultural transfer 41–2 émigré 2, 11–12, 14 European 4, 11, 126, 147, 205 hybrid 4 Dada 153 Danse Macabre: A Sociological Study (1938, Schawinsky) 193, 196 Das Unheimliche (1917, Freud, essay) 141 democracy 15, 29, 39, 47, 49, 51, 54, 57, 98, 147, 181 department store Altman 68 Bloomingdale 68 Lord and Taylor 67–8 Macy’s 68 Saks fifth Avenue 9, 15, 63, 65–8, 74 Wanamaker 67 Deren, Maya 149 design. See also architecture aesthetic 79–80, 82, 84–5, 88–9, 98 anti- 1–2 domestic 38, 73, 88, 105, 113


graphic 6, 14–15, 30, 45–6, 53–4, 56–7 industrial 11, 107, 121, 125–7, 133, 153 social 4, 123, 126, 134–5, 150, 153–4, 162–3, 176–7, 182, 233 Design for The Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change (1971, Papanek) 18, 123, 126, 129, 134–5, 150, 153 design language 2–3, 8, 14, 85, 88 design vocabulary 2, 4, 8–9, 108, 112 Dessau 3, 10, 31, 33 De Stijl 54, 63, 66, 72, 110 Deutscher, Isaac 9 Deutscher Werkbund 14, 31, 33–4 Dichter, Ernest 54, 122 Die bildenden Künste (journal) 80, 82 Disney, Walt 94, 129 films 179 Dollfuß, Engelbert 52, 56–7. See also austrofascism Dollfuß-Schuschnigg regime 56–7 Dominant Sex: A Study of the Sex Differentiation, The (1923, Vaerting) 149 Domus (journal) 147, 165–6, 224, 226–7, 230 Drawing Center in New York 192 Dreiser, Theodore 71 Dreyfuss, Henry 86, 127 Dubrovic, Milan 168 Duchamp, Marcel 146–7, 153. See also Large Glass Duck and Cover (movie) 95 Dulevo Porcelain Factory 106 dwelling, purpose 12, 29–30, 37, 41, 72–3, 89, 96, 101, 130, 133, 145, 165, 203, 224–5, 228, 230, 232–3 Eames, Charles 112 Eames, Ray 112 education 14–15, 19, 29–30, 49, 51, 91, 94–5, 109, 113, 115, 149, 176–7, 179–80, 182–4, 197, 210, 214, 232 Education of Vision, The (1965, edited by Kepes) 176 Egger-Lienz, Albin 145 Ellis Island 127, 130 emigration 3–7, 10–11, 18–19, 30, 45, 54, 56, 163, 232 émigré biographies 121–3, 135 émigrés and exiles



design communication 4 impact on American and global culture 1–2, 4–8, 11, 13–14, 18, 80, 122, 149, 153 reception processes 5–9 Empire State Building 74 empowerment 149, 154 Engelman, Edmund 160 England 9, 108, 165 environment 3, 56–7, 67, 69, 74, 87, 126, 153, 161, 183, 185–6, 194–6, 204–5, 209–11, 213–14, 216–17, 224–5, 230–1 Environment and Anonymous Architecture (essay) 3 Epstein, Anna Friedländer (de Carmel, Anna) 166 ethics 6, 204 European design perspectives 1, 7, 80 European modernism 1, 106, 125 Eva Zeisel: Designer for Industry (traveling exhibition) 108 exclusion/inclusion 4, 153, 204, 224 exile 1–9, 11–14, 17–18, 20, 107, 115, 121, 123, 129–30, 148, 159, 176, 228 Experimenters, The, Chance and Design at Black Mountain College (2015, Díaz) 191 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes 66, 68 fascism anti- 149, 159 in Austria 4–5, 15, 52, 56–7, 164 in Hungary 4 in Italy 4, 9, 130 Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) 95 feminism 109, 115, 149 Film Guild Cinema 71, 142 Findeli, Alain 175 Fire Island 18, 165–7 First World War 4, 6, 11, 20, 37, 48–9, 53, 80, 115, 159, 163, 180, 224, 232 Fitzgerald, F. Scott 156 Flusser, Vilém 1, 7–8 Ford, Henry 45–6

Form and Re-Form: A Practical Handbook of Modern Interiors (1930, Frankl) 85 Fortune (magazine) 74 Foucault, Michel 46–7 Foundations of Modern Art (1931, Ozenfant) 147 Fountainhead, The (1943, Rand) 126 Frank, Josef 1, 4, 6–7, 14 antifunctional polemics 39 attacks on new German architecture 34–5 conflicts and disagreements with Bauhaus 33–4 designs for the GWM 34 dialectical conception 38 Gemeindebauten 29–30, 38 modernist projects 34, 42 modes of communication 42 Neue Sachlichkeit ideology 38–9 nondoctrinal theory 34, 38, 40, 42 notion of tradition 30, 42 on modern architecture 31, 33–4, 38–42 ÖVSK (Oesterreichischer Verband für Siedlungs und Kleingartenwesen/ Austrian Union of Settlements and Allotment Gardens) 30 Sebastian-Kelchgasse 1–3, 1928 32 Siedlung Hoffingergasse (1920–1921) 30–1 Frankfurt School 122, 124 Frankl, Paul T. 1, 4, 9–11, 16 Frankl Galleries 85 interior works 82, 87–9 jazz moderne furnishings 125 living room, Frankl House 87–8 modern American design aesthetics 80, 82, 84–5, 87–9 Peasant Furniture collections 84 “Propeller chair” 1937 86 sketch for a skyscraper design, c. 1925 83 Stoehr Apartment, New York, 1916 80–1 woodweave chair, c. 1938 86 work and career 79–80 Free Thinking movement 109, 115 Freud, Anna 163, 166

Index Freud, Ernst 159, 163 Freud, Sigmund 15, 68, 141, 159–60, 232 Fuller, Richard Buckminster 10, 135 functionalism 7, 14, 33–4, 37–8, 205, 207, 209, 221 Für Haushalt und Heim (journal) 51 Gardiner, Muriel 18, 163–6 Gay, Peter 160, 165 Gebhard, David 207, 215–16 Geddes, Norman Bel 86 Gemeinde Wien—Städtische Ankündigungsunternehmung (GEWISTA) 48 Gemeindebauten (city council housing/ social Housing) 29, 31, 38 gender 12, 17–18, 105, 112–15, 141–2, 145, 147, 149, 153–4 Germany 3–6, 10–11, 33, 52–3, 80, 82, 91–3, 102, 106, 108, 110 Gesellschafts- und Wirtschaftsmuseum (GWM; Museum of Society and Economy) 29–30, 34–5, 37 Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype collection 35 Gestalt theory 181 Gibbons, Cedric 9, 88 Giedion, Sigfried 160–1 global culture 1–2, 5, 8, 230 Goodwin, Philip 228–9 governmentality 46–7, 57 Grant, Cary 9, 93 graphic designers 6, 14–15, 30, 45, 53–4, 56–7 Great Depression 57, 85 Great Gatsby, The (1925, Fitzgerald) 145, 147 Grimm, brothers 147 Gropius, Walter 3, 6, 9–10, 12–13, 17, 33, 162, 167, 175, 195 Gruen, Victor 6, 68, 122, 125, 128, 130 Guggenheim, Peggy 5, 129, 149–50 Guild of Chimney-Sweeps 113 habitation 20, 73, 224, 233 Habsburg Empire 37, 45, 47, 66 Hammerschlag, Ernst 166 Hardwick, Jeffrey 122 Harris, Neil 67


Heap, Jane 66, 68, 72 Hertz, John D. 98–102 history 7–8, 14, 20, 41–2, 45, 47, 80, 107–10, 113, 122, 160, 162–3, 167, 175, 179, 197, 204–5, 207, 221, 229 Hitchcock, Henry-Russell 12, 229–30 Hoffmann, Josef 6, 216 Hofmann, Karl 159–61, 163–6 Hollitscher, Mrs. Mathilde (Freud’s daughter) 159 Holocaust 5 home American home, 141, 142, 145 homeland 3–4, 93, 224, 232 homelessness 3, 232 Home Beautiful (journal) 145 Homer Laughlin China Company 114 Horowitz, Daniel 122 House and Garden (1917, Herts’ article) 82 Hudnut, Joseph 12 Hungary 3–4, 16, 46, 80, 93, 105, 108–9, 232 Hunts Food Corporation 101 Hüppauf, Bernd 228 Hutton, Barbara 93 Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) 175 Innen-Dekoration (journal) 18, 82, 162 Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War (1916, Trotter) 69 Institute of Technology (Vienna) 66 Interiors (journal) 151–3, 165 International Art Service 80 International Picture Language, International System Of Typographic Picture Education (ISOTYPE) examples 39 limitations 42 methods of combining figures 38–9, 41 optical representation 30 semantic systems 41–2 social interest of working class 29 teaching picture 38–42 techniques for putting signs together 39 typographic figures 40 International Style 12, 204 internationalism 33

242 interwar 14, 17, 33–4, 45, 49, 63, 106, 112–13, 161–2, 192, 223 Introductory Lectures in Psychoanalysis (1919, Freud) 69 Inventions for Camera, and Thoughts Out of Season (1951, Cernovich) 192 inward/outward 167, 175, 177, 228, 230 Isenbert, Sheila 167 Island of Capri 223, 225 Island of Procida 226 ISOTYPE (International System of Typographic Picture Education) 30–1, 33–9, 41–2. See also Otto Neurath Italy 4, 9, 108, 130, 146, 223–5, 228, 230, 232 James, William 69–70 Jellinek, Frank 67 Jewish identity 6, 8–9, 16, 91, 93, 106, 109, 121–2, 126–8, 130, 132–3, 135 Johnson, Philip 10 Kaiser, Henry 95 Karl-Marx-Hof (Ehn, Karl) 38 Kassák, Lajos 175–6 Kaufman, Edgar 10–11, 211 Kaus, Gina 162 Kautsky, Benedikt 49 Kepes, György 1, 3–4, 9–10, 13, 18–19 advertisement for the Container Corporation of America 178–9 Bauhaus pedagogy 175–80, 183 concept of morale 179–80 kinetic light space 183, 185 Light as a Creative Medium 184, 186–7 New Bauhaus Drawing and Light Studio 179 theory of education 176–7, 179–80, 182–4 University of Vision 176, 179 Kiesler, Frederick 1, 3–6, 9–11, 14–15, 17–18 avant-garde design 63–7 correalism 74 correlation 69 Cover of contemporary art 64 early life 66 fourth-dimensional theater 69

Index Frankl’s praising 71 gender norms of consumption 141–7, 149, 153–4 internationale ausstellung neuer theatertechnik 66 laboratory of modern stage 63, 69–70 modern cagliostro 68 on consumer’s habitual behavior 70 on mass-machine 71–2 psychology of selling 65, 68–9 shop window display 65 “Space House” 69, 72, 141–4 theater show 66, 68–9, 74 thoughts on marketing 63 Work and Play mural 73, 145 Kleine Einfamilienhäuser (1932, Vetter’s book) 162 Knight, Dunlap 146 knowledge, expert 6, 15, 40, 45–6, 52, 68, 180 Koffka, Kurt 181 Kohler, Wolfgang 181 Korea (ship) 80 Kraus, Karl 205 language body 17–18 design 2–3, 8, 14, 85, 88 picture. See Isotype of vision 16–17, 19–20, 180–1 visual 20, 181, 183 Language in Action (1944, Hayakawa) 180 The Large Glass, “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)” (1915–1923, Duchamp) 146–7, 153 László, Paul 2–5, 9–10, 16, 19 Atomville 91, 93–8, 101–2 bomb shelter for Mr. and Mrs. John Hertz 99–100 bomb shelter, construction 98–101 design trends 93–101 Dreamville: Good Old U.S.A.—A Planned Community for California 94 exit plan 91 home-of-the future 96 in Los Angeles 91–3 Jewish identity 91

Index “Member of American Society of Industrial Designers” 101 plan for “Emergency Shelter” 99 social circle 93 success story 91–4, 101 Lazarsfeld, Paul 1, 14–15 audience research 54, 56 expertise in consumption 56–7 Jewish identity 122 Le Bon, Gustav 69 L’Esprit Nouveau (1925, Le Corbusier) 111 Life and Shape (Neutra’s autobiography) 203 light 17, 19, 31, 56, 88, 97, 133, 141–2, 144, 163, 167, 175–7, 179, 181, 183–7, 191, 195, 198, 203, 205, 207, 209, 212, 220, 223 Lincoln, Fay S. 10, 143–5 Lippmann, Walter 69–70, 180 Little Review, The (journal) 66 Loewy, Raymond 17, 86, 124–8 Time’s portrait 1125 London 107, 159, 163, 165, 176, 193 Long Island 10, 18 Loos, Adolf 6, 17, 18–19, 30, 37, 161–3, 209, 216–17, 221, 228, 232 Los Angeles 9–10, 80, 85, 87, 89, 91–6, 98, 101, 204, 207 Los Angeles Times 207 Lozowick, Louis 67–8 Machine-Age Exposition, 68, 72 Man with a Movie Camera, The (Vertov) 71 March, Lionel 207 Marcuse, Herbert and Theodor W. Adorno, 123 marketing 5, 15, 46, 49, 54, 56–7, 63, 68, 92 Marxism 33 mass housing 30, 98 Mass Media/Journals 2, 72, 80, 85, 107, 129, 150, 162, 165, 181 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 10, 176 masses 15, 37, 48, 57, 68–71, 126–7, 133, 175, 180–1 Mauthner, Fritz 4 Mayer, Hans 24 n.40


McCoy, Esther 207 McGuire, Laura 65, 69 memory 2–4, 39, 121, 161, 193 Men at Work (1932, Hine) 74 Meyer, Hannes 33 Meyerhold, Vsevolod 70–1 Migros Museum of Contemporary Art in Zurich 192 Milan 224–5, 230 Miller, Henry (1891–1980) 124, 129–31, 133 Milton, Sybil 5 Milwaukee Journal 45 Modernage Furniture Company 72, 142, 144 modernism 11, 16, 20, 33–4, 42, 63, 67, 72, 88–9, 110–11, 122, 124–7, 142, 144–5, 161–2, 165–6, 209, 224, 228, 231, 233 Moholy-Nagy, László 2–3, 10, 19, 167, 175–80, 183, 194 Moholy-Nagy, Sibyl 3, 10–11, 166–7 Mollino, Carlo 152–3 MoMA Exhibitions 5, 7, 9–10, 12–14, 20, 107–8, 112, 133, 141, 146–7, 150, 221, 228, 233 Morris, Charles 180–1 Mountain Mowers (1907, Egger-Lienz) 145 Müller, Karl 41 Mumford, Lewis 11–12 Muthesius, Stefan 160 national socialism 3, 5, 6, 52 nationalism 6, 223 Native Genius in Anonymous Architecture (Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, 1957) 3, 10, 167 nature 1, 5, 7, 17, 106, 110, 112–13, 129, 150, 166, 181, 196–8, 204–6, 210, 213, 215–16, 224 networks 4–7, 10–11, 17–18, 93, 115, 121, 124, 130, 135, 183 Neue Sachlichkeit/Alte Sachlichkeit (new objectivity/old objectivity) 34, 38–9 Neues Bauen 14, 33–4, 37–9 Neurath, Otto 1, 4, 14–15 Alte Sachlichkeit 34 association with CIAM 33



conflicts and disagreements with Bauhaus 33–4 Isotype 30–1, 33–9, 41–2 modernist projects 34, 42 modes of communication 42 Neues Bauen ideology 33–4, 37–9 Vienna Method (Wiener Methode) 30, 40–1 Neutra, Richard 1, 4, 10, 19–20, 80, 94, 150 Kaufmann House, Palm Springs, 1947 211 Lovell House of 1929 214 on brain physiology 209 Rush City Reformed (1928) 94 Tremaine House, Montecito, 1948 214 Never Leave Well Enough Alone (1951, Loewy’s autobiography) 125 New Bauhaus in Chicago 10, 19, 175–80, 183 New Deal 51, 56 New Dimensions: The Decorative Arts of Today in Words and Pictures (1928, Frankl) 85 New Landscape in Art and Science, The (1956, Kepes) 182 New Playwrights Theatre 71 New World consumer culture 123 New York 3, 7, 9, 12, 14–15, 18, 54, 56, 63–9, 72–3, 80–2, 84–5, 91–2, 107, 114–15, 122, 124–5, 127–30, 132, 142, 145–6, 148, 150, 161, 165–9, 224, 228 New York Times 69, 127, 166 New York Times Weekend Magazine 166 New York World’s Fair in 1939 54 1905 Revolution 115 Nivola, Constantino 9–10, 146, 149 North Carolina 12, 192 Novak, Barbara 79 Nowicki, Matthew 12 O’Keeffe, Georgia 67–8 Ontario 10, 150–1, 153 Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition (MoMA) 228 organic modernism 112 outsider/insider 9, 20 Ozenfant 147–8 Pagano, Giuseppe 224 Papanek, Victor 1, 4–5, 10, 17–18, 121–7, 129–30, 132–3, 135, 141–2, 150–4

A Bridge in Time (1967, Papanek’s essay) 153 and Frank Lloyd Wright 123 and Raymond Loewy 124–8 comparison with Carlo Mollino, Chair 152 early life 128 émigré network 121–7, 129–30, 132–3, 135 gender norms of design 141–2, 150–4 Jewish identity 121–2, 126–8, 130, 132–3, 135 Photo in army uniform 132 polemical style 123, 127, 129, 133, 135 Samisen chair (early 1950s) 17, 141–2, 150–1, 153 socially responsible design 121–35 Varda: The Master Builder (book dedication to Papanek) 131 Why Contemporary? (Papanek’s essay) 150 Paris International Exposition 1937 106 Pencil Points (journal) 165, 230 perception 1–2, 11, 19–20, 88, 129, 141, 145, 147, 149, 175, 181–3, 185, 187 picture language. See ISOTYPEs Plan Voisin (1925, Corbusier) 93 Pokorny, Jan Hird 166 Polanyi family Cecile Wohl, Pollacsek 109 Karl 107, 110 Michael 106–7, 110 Stricker, Laura 109 polemical dialogue 1–2, 8, 12, 20, 123, 127, 129, 133, 221, 223. Pollacsek, Mihály 109 Ponti, Gio 224 Ponti, Lisa 230 pottery 17, 106, 108, 111, 113 Pratt Institute 10, 107, 167 Progressive Architecture (journal) 165 Proletarskoe foto (Soviet magazine) 74 propaganda, commercial 15 Propaganda (1928, Bernays) 68–71 psychoanalysis 161, 163 psychology Gestalt 181 of selling 15, 65, 68–9 Public and Its Problems, The (1928, Dewey) 180

Index Public Opinion (1922, Lippmann) 70, 180 public relations 12, 15, 63, 68, 70, 74, 125 Radiant City (1930, Corbusier) 93 rationalism 6, 33–36, 40 Red Vienna 29, 31, 47–9, 54, 57, 71 Reese, Elizabeth 125, 127 Renner, Karl 49 resistance 18, 164–5 Retailing, Home Furnishings Edition (journal) 142 Rhead, Frederick 114 Rockefeller Foundation 56 Roosevelt, Franklin D. 127 Rudofsky, Bernard 1–2, 4–10, 12, 17–20, 141–2, 145–9, 153–4, 168, 221–5, 231, 233 Architecture without Architects (exhibition and catalog) 20, 168, 221–5, 231, 233 Are Clothes Modern? (exhibition and book), 2, 10, 12, 17, 133, 141–2, 145–8, 221, 227, 231 Brazil Builds, 228–9 earliest travels 223–4 gender norms and clothing 141–2, 145–9, 154 Haus B auf Capri, 1934 226 Italian house designs 223 Virgilio Frontini House 229 Saarinen, Eero 112 Saks, Leona Hertz 98 Saltman, David 89 São Paulo, Brazil 228–30 Sarnitz, August 207 Schawinsky, Irene 10, 148 Schawinsky, Xanti 1, 3–4, 9–10, 13, 19, 130, 146, 148 as a painter 191 Bauhaus theater work 191, 193–8 performance-based perspectives 191, 197 Spectodrama: Play, Life, Illusion (play) 191–4, 197 stage design theories 191–3, 196–8 Schindler, R. M. 1, 10, 19–20, 80 Kings Road House, West Hollywood, 1922 207–8 Log House plan 206, 208 Oliver House, Los Angeles, 1933 208


on limits of architecture 204–10, 212, 215–17 Schlemmer, Oskar 195–8 School of Design in Chicago 2, 19, 175 Schwitters, Kurt 193 scientific knowledge 46, 49 Shelter (journal) 72 Silverman, Lisa 121–2, 128 Skyscraper Furniture 84, 124 social democracy 15, 29, 39, 47, 49, 51, 54, 57 social engineering 46, 51, 57, 231 social hierarchy 53 socialism (47, 52. See also Austrian; Social Democracy) sociology 40–1 Some Notes on Show Windows (Kiesler) 74 Southwest Review (periodical) 205 space 18–20, 29–30, 37, 41, 51, 53–4, 66, 72–4, 80, 84–5, 87–9, 94–8, 101, 121–4, 135, 142–5, 147, 154, 162, 169, 177, 183–7, 191–8, 204–16, 230 Space House (exhibit 1933, Kiesler) 10, 17–18, 69, 72–4, 141–5, 147, 153 spatiality 16, 20, 31, 38, 40–1, 63, 66, 69, 71–2, 143, 163–4, 177, 181, 193–7, 204–10, 212–13, 217 Spender, Stephen 164 Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste 92 Stalinist USSR 4 Steinberg, Saul 130, 161 Steyr-Daimler-Puch 53 Stricker, Alexander (1869–1955) 109 Strnad, Oskar 161–2 subjectivity 19, 179, 181, 197, 214 surrealism 112, 141–2, 147, 150, 151–4 Survival Through Design (1954, Neutra), 150, 209, 212 Survival Under Atomic Attack (movie) 95 Taussig, Theodore 166 Taylor, Elizabeth 93 technology 20, 124, 180–1, 183, 193, 221, 225–6, 230, 233 theater abstract 19, 191 International Theater Exposition 142 of totality 194, 195, 197



Theobald Publishing House 2, 10, 146 Tiffany, Charles 163 Transformation 7, 9, 14, 30, 40, 68, 96, 175, 177, 183, 186, 196, 209–10, 223, 232 Translation 1–2, 7–9, 13, 18, 147, 149, 176 Truman, Harry S. 95 Tyranny of Words, The (1938, Chase) 180 Umbach, Maiken 228 uncanny 17, 141–3, 146–7, 153–4, 160 unemployment 15, 40, 49, 57, 113, 179 United States 2–8, 10, 12–19, 45–6, 53–4, 56–7, 66, 68, 79–80, 91–3, 108–10, 112–14, 123, 127–8, 130, 133, 142, 146–7, 149–50, 163, 166, 176, 191, 224, 228–9, 231–2 University of Vienna 163 Unsafe at Any Speed (1965, Nader) 124 uprooting 223–4, 231, 233 Utopia 15, 20, 63, 91, 93, 101, 147, 177, 221 Vaerting, Mathilde 149 van der Rohe, Mies 10, 17 van Doesburg, Theo 66 van Eesteren, Cornelius 40 Vanderbilt, Gloria 93 Varda: The Master Builder (1947, Miller) 130–1 vernacular 20, 30, 84, 133, 221, 223–4, 228, 231, 233 Vienna 3, 6, 11, 15, 48, 121–3, 128, 131–2, 134 Chamber of Consumers 49 commercial artists 45 consumer policies 46–53, 56–7 cooperative movement 49–50 economic and political processes 46–8, 52–4, 56–7 mass consumption 45–7, 56–7 middle classes 56, social democracy 47, 49, 51, 54, 57 Social Democratic Party 47–9, 56 Vienna Trade Fair 47–8 Viennese modernism 145, 150–1, 161–3 working-class household 49 Viennese Chamber of Labor 49

vocabulary 2, 4, 8–9, 86, 108, 112, 183, 186 von Hofmannsthal, Hugo 166 Wagner School 38 Wagner, Otto 6, 19, 37–8 Waste Makers, The (1960, Packard) 124 Weber, Kem 80 Weekend Cottage 163–4 Weissberg, Alexander 114 Weissenhofsiedlung Exhibition (Stuttgart) 33 Weltanschauung 178 Wertheimer, Max 181 Westwood Village Art Association 96 Wiener Kreis (Vienna Circle) 7, 180 Wiener Plakatier-AG (WIPAG) 48 Wiener Wohnen 162–3 window display 63, 65–8, 74 Wirtschaftspsychologische Forschungsstelle 15, 49, 54. See also Lazarsfeld Women’s Wear Daily (journal) 67 working class 15, 29–30, 34, 36–8, 46, 49, 53, 130 World Fair 1939 55 1958 5 World War One. See First World War World War Two. See Second World War World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 67 Wright, Frank Lloyd 10–11, 13 Broadacre City (1935) 72–3, 94 letter to Papanek 123, 135 Papanek’s approach 124, 129 with Schindler 204, 206 Zeisel, Eva 1, 3–4, 9–10, 16–17 Baroque forms 110–12 Coffee Table (c. 1993) 111 conception of design 105–15 early life and work 105–9 feminism 109, 115 folk art 111–12 free expression 109, 115 gendered nature of pottery work 106, 112–14 Granit Collection 108

Index Items from MUSEUM service 107 KleinReid 108 Lomonosov Porcelain Factory 106, 108 modernity 106–7, 109–12 Museum fine dinnerware 107 New Shapes in Modern China Designed by Eva Zeisel (1946) 107 on children’s education 109, 113, 115 photo 105 playful search for Beauty 110–11

pottery craft 106, 108, 111, 113 Resilient Chair (c.1950) 114 Schmidt ironstone 111 Talisman line 108, 112 Tomorrow’s Classic (1952) 108 Trestle Table (1994–1996) 111 Zeisel, Hans 106–7, 109, 114–15 Zimmer, Christiane 166 Zimmer, Heinrich 166 Zsolnay Porcelain Manufactory 108 Zweckform (Pure functional form) 37