What is ethics, aesthetics



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Hannes Meyer - Connecting Poetics and Ethics

Ute Poerschke, Pennsylvania State University


Ute Poerschke has been an associate professor at The Pennsylvania State University since January 2006. She teaches architectural design, methods of architectural inquiry, and technical systems integration. She completed her doctorate in architectural theory on interpretations of functionalism at the Technical University of Cottbus in 2005, and taught design, construction, and environmentally responsible planning at the Technical Universities of Berlin (1999-2004) and Munich (2004-2005). Her research interests are in the fields of interpretations of functionalism, as well as of theory, practice and teaching of architectural design as a process of integration. She is a registered architect in Germany, and a partner within the architectural firm Friedrich-Poerschke-Zwink-Architekten, Munich/Germany.

Abstract: Hannes Meyer (1889-1954) was called an "anti-aesthetic functionalist" in 1932, and a "posthumanist” architect in 1992. These statements show that he has been criticized from both directions - poetics as well as ethics – throughout the twentieth century. This paper elaborates on how both of these ends are connected in Meyer’s 1928 statement “art is composition. life is function,” in which art/composition seem to represent the aesthetic, and life/function the ethical side. Reading this phrase as a rule of three, one can maintain that art relates to life in the same way that composition relates to function. Composition requires elements that can be related to one another to compose a whole. But this is also true for the notion of function, traceable in scientific as well as architectural texts since the eighteenth century. However, function additionally implies an inherent idea of activity, and it is this idea that differentiates it from composition. Meyer describes the difference between composition and function as an outer design procedure versus an inner one: composition needs a composer while function works out of itself. Life’s reactions to biological, technical and social aspects produce form. In response, Meyer implies, a function-created form speaks about human life, while a composition-created form speaks only about the artist.

The most famous period of Hannes Meyer’s life (1989-1954) is the time directly before, during, and after his Bauhaus years. In 1924 he became involved with the European avant-garde; in April 1927 he started teaching as a Bauhaus master for architecture; one year later he replaced Walter Gropius as the second Bauhaus director; and after his dismissal in 1930 he moved with former Bauhaus students to the Soviet Union. His work during this time would lead him to be called a “purpose fanatic”i in 1927, and an “anti-aesthetic functionalist“ for whom “the basis is economic rather than ethical“ii in 1932. Since then, Meyer’s theory and practice frequently have been excluded from aesthetics and ethics. Dennis Sharp called him an “‘anti-art’ architect“iii in 1972, and Michael Hays detected a “posthumanism” in his architecture in 1992.iv Despite this, theorists who emphasize Meyer’s ethical and poetic side have increasingly been found since the mid-1960s. Claude Schnaidt claimed that Meyer’s “principal aim was to give a concrete social content to the work of the Bauhaus”;v Winfried Nerdinger wrote about “Meyer’s poetism” and his “poetical,” “significant” and “telling architecture”;vi and Martin Kieren’s 1990 book was an analysis of Meyer’s highly artistic translations of the industrializing 1920s in texts, photographs, collages, exhibition arrangements and buildings.vii

By analyzing Meyer’s articles and written statements, this paper localizes and reflects on these conflicting opinions concerning Meyer’s denial of ethical and aesthetic ideas in architecture on the one hand, and his affirmation of them on the other. Moreover, it investigates how far these ideas of anti-/ethics and anti-/aesthetics are interconnected in his work.

In October 1928, Hannes Meyer published his famous pamphlet bauen (building) in the Bauhaus magazine bauhaus, zeitschrift für gestaltung. It starts with the following passage:
“all things in this world are a product of the formula: (function times economics)
all these things are therefore not works of art:
all art is composition and hence purpose-contrarious.
all life is function and therefore unartistic.
the idea of the ‘composition of a seaport’ is hilarious!
but how is a town plan designed? or a plan of a dwelling? composition or function?
art or life ? ? ? ? ?”viii
The quoted sentences appear to be a denial of art and seem to explain life as mechanistically purpose-oriented: “function times economics.” For decades, these sentences have been read literally as explanations of why functionalism is related to the anti-aesthetic and the anti-ethical. On the other hand, they contain contradictions that could make suspicious and prevent from reading them so literally; for example the highly aesthetic arrangement of the text and the stylistic device of repetition that relates to machine-age mass-production. Why should Meyer argue against the aesthetic, yet arrange his text as a “poem in free verses”?ix These contradictions have been interpreted as one of Meyer’s unconscious inconsistencies,x but they also can be interpreted as a conscious tool to explain that and how form matters. It can be argued that Meyer was not against the aesthetic per se, and that he wanted to tell us something about how aesthetics should be understood and how content and form should be interrelated.

In the quote, Meyer developed two contrasting pairs of terms: art - composition and life - function. Since art and composition seem to correspond with the aesthetic, and life and function with the ethical, and since all four are related to one another, they can illuminate Meyer’s concepts of ethics and aesthetics, and will thus be further investigated in the following. They are arranged as a mathematical equation, as a rule of three, which means that one could first maintain that composition is an explanation of art in the same way that function is an explanation of life. And secondly, that art relates to life in the same way that composition relates to function.



Composition is generally understood as a design procedure of forming an artful entity as well as this entity itself. Composition requires elements that can be composed, that can be put into relation to one another. The aim of a composition is to compose a whole out of parts. At the INChUK in 1921, the Russian avant-garde initiated a critique of the term in a public debate on “composition versus construction,” and in 1926 El Lissitzky addressed this contrast of composition and construction in the Swiss avant-garde magazine ABC: “Composition is a conscious or unconscious arranging of elements by laws which rule beside a task. Composition is making-beautiful. Composition arises from an ambiguity, a dualism, which cuts each thing in twain in material function and outward appearance … Composition of cubes, of colors, of materials remains an aid and a weakness. Important are the functions and these will determine the form.”xi Meyer, working for ABC as well, was highly aware of this discussion. He similarly denied the term composition as the arrangement of parts through formal ideas of “tradition,“ “felt imitation,“ “atmosphere, colour values, burr, mellow tones and random brush-strokes,“ and expected instead the outcome of a “constructive whole” or “constructive unity.”xii

The ABC quote can also serve as another example of the opposition of composition and function, which shows up in Meyer’s verses. The opponent of composition – function – became very important at the beginning of the twentieth century. Today, this term is used more or less as a synonym for purpose, but architects of that time had a more comprehensive understanding of the term. Just as in sciences such as biology, sociology, engineering, and mathematics, in which function states an action between parts and the whole, function in architecture is understood as an active relation of architectural parts and the whole to form an entity. Function implies activity, and like the activity of an organ towards an organism, or an individual within a society, or a component in a machine, or even a point of a curve that inherently carries the momentum of the whole curve, so does an architectural part have an inner momentum towards the bigger whole, the building. When Louis Sullivan coined the phrase “form follows function” in 1896, he was comparing architecture with nature, in which each part takes over certain active roles within the whole. In Germany, Hugo Häring can be seen as the first architect of the modern movement using the term when he labeled his Friedrichstrasse competition entry “functional form” in January 1922.xiii Walter Gropius and Erich Mendelsohn used the term for the first time in 1923, and Meyer after starting to study the avant-garde in 1925. And all of them had, at least at the beginning, this idea of the activity of parts and the whole in mind.

Understanding that the idea of function involves the relation of parts and their reference to a whole, it becomes clear why Meyer could compare composition and function. Both share the idea of part and whole, but differ in the idea of immanent activity that only function has. For Meyer, function meant a self-acting code to generate an entity, and he described the difference between composition and function as an outer design procedure in contrast to an inner one. Composition requires an artist who composes the work of art - that is, one who acts from outside - whereas a work of life functions out of itself, acts from within. Function cannot be made by a composer or artist: the artist composes, but the work itself functions.

This leads directly to the next step of asking how the notions of function and composition are related to life and art. Composition and function are opposed to one another as design principles and processes: composition is the design process of art, function the design process of life. Also, in other texts it becomes apparent that Meyer increasingly circumscribed function towards an interpretation of “life is function“; for example, in bauhaus und gesellschaft (bauhaus and society) of 1929, he stated for the Bauhaus that “we are not seeking geometric or stereometric constructions, alien to life and inimical to function.“ In this versed text, life becomes a central topic, surrounded by phrases like “creative design appropriate to living,“ “vital needs,“ “vitally creative forces,“ “living space,“ “process of living“ etc. Life is a complex system, life is rich, and studying this complexity means getting rich, means having insight into the interconnectedness of all things and processes in life, means participating in and enjoying this richness: “richness is all.“ Correspondingly Meyer defines the Bauhaus as a “centre of education in shaping life“ and the Bauhaus teaching method as “a system for organizing life, and it likewise clarifies physical, psychical, material and economic concerns.“xiv How closely Meyer connects the ideas of function and life becomes clear when we finally refer to another text of 1928 in which he states: “so is life/live: revise, rearrange, revolve, rework, rebuild: function. so is life/live: tool making, material transport, work techniques: function.xv The result of these processes is form.

On the other hand, the idea of “life is function” is not identical to what Alberto Perez-Gomez criticized as the modern idea of self-organization. In 2006, he stated that, while “it may be wrong to assume that we fully control a utopian future, it is also wrong to pretend that the world organizes itself. Human cultures are not like ‘self-organizing’ physical models; the personal imagination with its desire for a better world is the agent of culture.”xvi In contrast, Meyer combined the idea of a utopian future with the idea of self-organization. He interpreted each new building task as a demand for a better world, and self-organization as a movement towards a higher stage of communal organization.

The term now left over in the two pairs is art. Meyer understood and criticized art as something that belongs solely to the individual and not to the community. He called art and composition “individualistic excesses.”xvii Meyer defined a clear hierarchy between the individual and the community: “Cooperation rules the world. The community rules the individual.“xviii The individual must always be related to a community, in other words to complex life. Meyer’s dedication to the people is visible in statements such as “as creative designers we are the servants of this community. our work is service to the people.”xix On the other hand, Meyer understood that the community is made out of individuals, and he demanded from them “incisive thinking and inventive genius.”xx

Meyer’s interpretation of art as connected to the individual and not to the community should not imply that he was uninterested in aesthetics. Since for Meyer the term art was reserved only for the individual, he invented two new ones that reflected the relation of community and individual: gestaltung and organization. Both are supposed to replace art in the same way that function and construction are supposed to replace composition. Meyer used the phrase “building means gestaltung of life processes” or synonymously “building is the thoughtful organization of life processes,” and both he and Walter Gropius heavily repeated this phrase in the 1920s and later.xxi In Meyer’s texts almost everything is organized. He developed a continuous philosophy of organization from the smallest (a building element) to the biggest (the being), fulfilled by the architect who “was an artist and has become a specialist in organization.”xxii Gestaltung and organization stand for the activity of the creator, as well as for the design process and its outcome. At the end of his text bauen he concluded: “building is only organization: social, technical, economic, psychological organization.“xxiii This process of organization or gestaltung leads to the mentioned “constructive unity” or “pure construction,” as well as to a “harmonious work“ and an “architectonic form.“xxiv

One could now ask what the leading rules of such an organization or gestaltung might be and how they differ from rules of art. First, one can see that Meyer gave long lists of different aspects of biological, technical and social requirements that he and his students precisely analyzed in the famous Bauhaus diagrams, such as:




“1. sex life
2. sleeping habits
3. pets

4. gardening
5. personal hygiene
6. protection against weather

7. hygiene in the home
8. car maintenance
9. cooking

10. heating
11. insolation
12. service

These requirements are the exclusive motives of house building. We look at the daily routine of each person living in the house and this gives the function diagram for father, mother, child, infant and other occupants. We examine the interactions between the house and its occupants and the world outside … we examine the ways in which human beings and animals are related to the garden, and the reciprocal effects that human beings, pets and domestic insects have on one another…”xxv
This listing of “requirements” continues over a large part, nearly one third of the text bauen, thus making the “exclusive motives” very important. Its emotionless, technical-scientific terminology of sociology, biology, domestic economy and technics can be read as an attempt to de-privatize and objectify human needs. Meyer looked for the biggest possible totality, the broadest whole, which shows itself in many parts, processes and relations. He tried to communicate this complexity in the Bauhaus curriculum through his efforts to offer courses beyond design, statics, tender, and construction, such as psychology and sociology.xxvi Although Walter Gropius called Meyer in 1963 a “radical petit bourgeois“ whose “strategy and tactics were too petty“, he nevertheless considered him “an architect with strong public interests“ and gave him credit for the fact that during his Bauhaus time he gave “sharper definitions“ to the “scientific methods“ that were nevertheless principally “already established before Meyer took over the Bauhaus.“xxvii On the other hand, one can also interpret Meyer’s odd equating of “sex-life,” “car-maintenance” and “domestic insects” as consciously contradictory to science. While the list might refer to the totality and complexity of life in which everything is connected with everything, the missing hierarchy ironically shows the limits of the same totality and scientific method.

Secondly, the question arises how these many different motives can form a whole. Looking at the particular descriptions Meyer gave for his projects, one can identify that he set up for each building a main theme, which he attempted to translate into form. For example, referring to his school for the Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund ADGB (General German Trade Union Federation) in Bernau, he stated in 1928, that this “school is allowed to appear released. The shortest ways of coming together cannot be achieved by shortened corridors, but by the opportunity of going safe in a friendly manner, of creative pause. This labor union school is allowed to be spacious so that a constructive sociality is built up. the result: eccentric release of the building parts.” The school was designed for worker relaxation and continuous education in an unconstrained atmosphere, and “the loose assembly of the building elements around the lake essentially corresponds to the mentioned design principle of ‘relaxation’ of a ‘school in the woods.’“xxviii

For his earlier project Freidorf, a housing complex for a cooperation society built between 1919 and 1925, Meyer defined the theme to be translated into form: “Here everything is co-op. Co-op means cooperation. Cooperation means cooperative society. ... and thus this settlement is a principle manifested in stone and space. ... thus Freidorf’s facility is just a revelation of its inner spirit and embodiment of this attempt of a life community of 150 families in the honeycomb-like cell structure of a settlement.“xxix

These are just two examples to demonstrate how Meyer searched in each particular building task for an overall theme, an idea that could be translated into form while being capable of managing an inherent complexity. The idea emerged from a specific and important motive inherent in a task and was thus grounded on practical needs, as well as being able to synthesize them. The principle of “cooperation manifested in stone and space“ for Freidorf, and “relaxation in the woods“ for Bernau were the overall themes that were able to integrate the various aspects into a big picture, and thus replace the formal, a priori principles of composition. Going back to the first quote one can maintain that such a theme is the function or life description itself. Forming the beginning of the article bauen, the quote is followed by the list of motives which now appears as integrated and subordinated under the general theme. While the motives can be scientifically investigated, the theme cannot be generalized. Both, whole and part, theme and motive, drive the design.

Meyer’s contemporaries were well aware of his ideas. The journalist Steen Eiler Rasmussen began an article about the Bernau school with the sentences: “With hesitation, I write about Hannes Meyer’s worker-school in Bernau, being afraid that I do not succeed in making the reader sufficiently clear how important this building is for our contemporary architecture.”xxx Adolf Behne concluded that we “best see in airplane photos the building’s uncongestedly playful, fluent mobility, that reacts to each movement of the earth and to each movement of the sense without any shell. The form’s dictatorship is abolished, the life is victorious and seeks its shape.“ He explained: “With a cool tightness and freshness the building stands within this uniquely beautiful nature of the Mark, lively structured, following the movement of the earth. It pretends nothing, it represents nothing, it is, what it is, in the easiest, clearest, congenial way. Its attitude may be called spartan. But this is not a bleak dry spartanism, but one that is full of life enjoyment and life fullness and not without gentleness. A wonderful respect towards nature and life goes through the whole building, an acceptance of all natural conditions, matters and materials, a positive attitude, which vehemently disclaims all palliation, all disguise and embellishment.” xxxi

For an additional understanding of Meyer’s 1928 statement “art is composition. life is function,” it is illuminating to look at his article Die neue Welt (The New World), written two years earlier. This text already reflected the industrialized world in a highly poetical way, and has been called a “masterly glorification of modernism“ and “a surprising mixture of the lyrical and the baldly factual, of schematism and realism, of illusion and shrewdness.”xxxii In this text, Meyer stated: “Art is composition. Purpose is function.”xxxiii While in 1928 function signified how life takes place, in 1926 function signified how a purpose is fulfilled.

In attempting to answer the question of why Meyer replaced “purpose” with “life,” one could first argue that the two terms of purpose and function might already have been so highly fused that it became necessary to replace one of the two so as not to be redundant. This problem of redundancy did not seem to have existed when Meyer originally wrote his first text. Other texts can be found as well, in which the two terms were simultaneously used with clearly different meanings, for example by Walter Gropius between 1923 and 1925.xxxiv Also for Gropius, function referred to parts, which act together to generate a whole, whereas purpose referred to an understanding of a thing as a means. While Meyer and Gropius can serve as examples of authors who differentiated between the terms, it must also be stated that blending of the two terms took place during these years. An example is Adolf Behne, who intensively interchanged the terms function, purpose and utility in his famous Der moderne Zweckbau of 1926. Even today, Behne plays a main role in the process by which the differentiation of the terms gets lost, because his book has become widespread since its 1964 re-edition and its 1996 translation into English with the telling title The Modern Functional Building.

A second argument could result from the fact that in 1927 Meyer already was criticized for being a “purpose fanatic.” Purpose might be associated with a reductive mechanistic view of life, and by using function instead, Meyer might have wanted to emphasize a much more complex point of view. This argument can be reinforced by comparing two other text parts of 1926 and 1928. While Meyer stated in 1926 “building is a technical, not an aesthetic process,” he changed this sentence two years later to “building is a biological process. building is not an aesthetic process.” Instead of “technical” we read “biological” – in the same way that instead of “purpose” we read “life.” And while Meyer talked about the “functional conception of building” in 1926, he specified this phrase to the “functional-biological conception of building as a gestaltung of the living process” in 1928.xxxv



Thirdly, one could argue that “purpose” is a word that belongs to the individual who sets a purpose, and is thus a term adhering to the individual human subject, while Meyer instead wanted to emphasize the collective. Using the word “purpose” could be understood as a reference to Meyer’s (bourgeois) humanist tradition, which he wanted to leave behind since his involvement in the cooperative society movement. Meyer previously had studied the garden cities and had become a member of the German Land Reform Movement and the Swiss Cooperative Movement. He early looked into housing projects for workers and the unknown masses, and built the Freidorf housing estate for the Swiss Cooperative Union, as well as the Swiss contribution to the International Cooperative Exhibition in Belgium 1924. At the Bauhaus, he intensified the cooperative style of the workshops and the research on standard type products to fulfill the masses’ needs. The change of “purpose” to “life” can be interpreted as a refusal of the subject-object-relation of a purpose-oriented individual world, and instead as a claim to the object-object-relation of a functional complex world. Michael Hays addressed and criticized this shift of subject-object-relations to object-object-relations, in other words the reification of the subject, in his 1992 book Modernism and the Posthumanist Subject, in which he defined “posthumanism” as the response “to the dissolution of psychological autonomy and individualism brought by technical modernization; it is a modernization of aesthetic practices to effect a shift away from the humanist concept of subjectivity and its presumptions about originality, universality, and authority.”xxxvi Hays defined humanism in a way that places not the human, but the individual at the center of the world, and it must be pointed out that not everybody understands humanism the same way that Hays does. Schnaidt, for example, described the Bauhaus of 1928 as a “liberal and humanist conception of industrialized civilization”xxxvii and Meyer’s Bernau school project as “the perfect refutation of those fatuous allegations that the functionalists dehumanize architecture. The lay-out of the plan is not a merely mechanical response to the requirements of the program but deliberately gives direction to the activities of the users and the structure of the community.”xxxviii Meyer was lead by the conviction that architecture is a social issue that must focus on the needs of the masses. He did not disrespect human life or behave unethically; rather, his humanism emphasized not the human individual but the human community. It should be clear that both, a humanism of the individual and one of the community, are theoretical constructions, since neither one can exist without the other. And Meyer seemed to be aware of this when he concluded that a “viably organized building is finally just the one which balances the cooperative and individual forces with life.”xxxix

The analysis shows that Meyer is an example of an architect who truly tried to synthesize ethics and poetics in his work. No wonder that Winfred Nerdinger could classify him as a representative of “poetic functionalism.”xl Meyer did not reduce ethics to a set of rules, but explained it instead as indefinitely complex through an overwhelming number of aspects. On the poetic side, Meyer believed that his buildings are expressions of life, that they tell us about the stories of life, and that they are able to communicate, influence, and even transform occupants, and thus do not just fulfill pragmatic necessities. Meyer clearly stated that each building wants to be a “world-descriptive demonstration,“xli which is definitely a poetic statement. Forms are thought of being able to talk about what they are made for. Meyer refused a formalist position of doing something just for an aesthetic reason; for him, form unrelated to the matter of a specific design task produces empty formalism. But this shouldn’t lead us to the conclusion that he did not think about form. The “anti-aesthetic” label fails to take into account his idea of gestaltung, just as the term “posthumanist” leads to the wrong impression that he was not interested in the human being. Reconsidering that Meyer is the only architect called an “anti-aesthetic functionalist” in Hitchcock and Johnson’s book, and that the book’s preface by Alfred Barr defines functionalism as the “utility-and-nothing-more theory of design” and Meyer a “fanatical functionalist,” xlii one remains at least astonished at how Hannes Meyer can serve as a representative of this notion of functionalism. This conception of functionalism is still perpetuated, for example by Michael Hays who explains functionalism as “the originary status of the brute, objective facts of utility intersecting with measured, standardized means of production … made especially manifest by the Neue Sachlichkeit of Hilberseimer and Meyer.”xliii Instead, one can clearly put Meyer on the ethical-poetic side by reading Perez-Gomez’ circumscription of ”the difference between a poetic work of architecture and a mere utilitarian building, between a poem and a utensil. One difference concerns the act of creation. Though a poetic work may be created by a technique, this technique is not automatically repeatable. Thus, when an architect gradually acquires a ’style,’ he or she risks forsaking poetry and becoming merely a constructor, regardless of how fashionable the work might be.“ The examples in this paper have shown that Meyer attempted to scientifically investigate human needs, but simultaneously interpreted each project anew and individually. He was never looking for a style. What he achieved can be fully described with Perez-Gomez’ words: “Likewise, while technology uses up matter to make utensils, poetic making sets matter free.”xliv Meyer set visions of life free. Not only did he want the building form to be an outcome of a vision of life, he also wanted the outcome, the building, to influence life towards a better world. This forms a clear ethical and poetic circle, in which the idea of form influences the idea of a better human world, and vice versa.

i Peter Meyer, “Zum Ereignis des Wettbewerbs für das Völkerbundgebäude in Genf,” Schweizerische Bauzeitung, no.8 (1927), p.105. Original: “Zweckfanatiker.”

ii Henry-Russel Hitchcock and Philip Johnson, The International Style: Architecture since 1922, New York, NY: W.W.Norton & Company, 1932, p.36. Alfred H. Barr calls him a “fanatical functionalist” in the preface, p.14.

iii Dennis Sharp, A Visual History of Twentieth-Century Architecture, London: Heinemann, 1972, p.61.

iv Michael Hays, Modernism and the Posthumanist Subject, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992, p.6.

v Claude Schnaidt, Hannes Meyer. Bauten, Projekte und Schriften. Buildings, projects and writings, Teufen, AR: Arthur Niggli Ltd., 1965, p.43.

vi Bauhaus-Archiv (Ed.) et al., Hannes Meyer. Architekt Urbanist Lehrer 1889-1954, Berlin: Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn, 1989, p.18/21. Translation UP. Original: “Meyers Poetismus“; “poetisch;“ “signifikantes Zeichen“; “sprechende Architektur.“

vii Martin Kieren, Hannes Meyer. Dokumente der Frühzeit, Heiden: Arthur Niggli Ltd., 1990.

viii Hannes Meyer, “bauen,“ bauhaus, zeitschrift für gestaltung, Dessau, no.4 (1928), p.12. Translation UP. Original: “alle dinge dieser welt sind ein produkt der formel: (funktion mal ökonomie) / alle diese dinge sind daher keine kunstwerke: / alle kunst ist komposition und mithin zweckwidrig. / alles leben ist funktion und daher unkünstlerisch. / die idee der “komposition eines seehafens“ erscheint zwerchfellerschütternd! / jedoch wie entsteht der entwurf eines stadtplanes? oder eines wohnplanes? komposition oder funktion? kunst oder leben ? ? ? ? ?“.

ix Kieren 1990, p.147. Original: “in freier Versform vorgetragene Gedanken-Gedichte.“

x Hays 1992, p.144 finds such inconsistencies in Meyer’s Bernau school.

xi ABC-Beitraege zum Bauen, no.1 (1926), p.3. Translation UP. Original: “Komposition ist ein bewusstes oder unbewusstes Ordnen von Elementen nach Gesetzen, die neben den Gesetzen der Aufgabe regieren. Komposition ist Schönmacherei. Komposition entspringt einer Zweideutigkeit, einem Dualismus, der jedes Ding entzweiteilt in materielle Funktion und in äusserliche Erscheinungsform… Komposition von Kuben, von Farben, von Materialien bleibt ein Hülfsmittel und eine Schwäche. Wichtig sind die Funktionen, und diese werden die Form bestimmen.”

xii Hannes Meyer, “Die neue Welt,” Werk, vol.13, no.7 (1926), p.222. Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.93/95/99. Original: “gefühlten Nachahmung“; “Stimmung, Valeur, Grat und Schmelz und die Pinselstriche des Zufalls”; “konstruktive Einheit.” See also Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in his Bauhaus book von material zu architektur (München: Langen 1929, p.71), translated as The New Vision, Mineila, NY: Dover, 1975, p.64: “Composition and construction are aspects of the same problem. By composition we understand the highest evaluation of elements and their relationships. ... A construction, on the other hand, must ideally be pre-determined at every point of its technical and intellectual relations. ... Therefore construction demands – as compared with composition – a plus quantity of knowledge, which does not need to mean that intuitive inspiration is ruled out.“

xiii Ute Poerschke: Funktion als Gestaltungsbegriff, Dissertation BTU Cottbus 2005, p.169-188.

xiv Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.99 and 101. Original: Hannes Meyer, bauhaus und gesellschaft (bauhaus and society), in: Bauhaus 1, Dessau 1929, p.2: “wir suchen keine geometrischen oder stereometrischen gebilde, lebensfremd und funktionsfeindlich … lebensrichtigen gestaltung ... lebensbeduerfnisse ... lebensbildenden kraefte … lebensraum ... lebensablaufs ... systematik des lebensaufbaues, und sie klärt gleicherweise die belange des physischen, psychischen, materiellen, ökonomischen.“ Also: “reich sein ist alles,“ which can also be found in Hannes Meyer, “Junge Kunst in Belgien,” Das Werk, no.9 (1925), p.257.

xv Hannes Meyer, “Die neue Welt,“ Kritisk Revue 1928a, p.16. Translation UP. Original: “so ist leben: umändern, umstellen, umstürzen, umarbeiten, umbauen: funktion. so ist leben: werkzeugbau, materialtransport, arbeitstechnik: funktion.

xvi Alberto Perez-Gomez, Building upon Love. Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006, p.119.

xvii Meyer 1926, p.223. Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.93. Original: “individualistische Ausschreitungen.“

xviii Meyer 1926, p.221. Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.93. Original: “Cooperation beherrscht die Welt. Die Gemeinschaft beherrscht das Einzelwesen.“

xix Meyer 1929. Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.99. Original: “als gestalter / sind wir diener dieser volksgemeinschaft. / unser tun ist dienst am volke.“

xx Meyer 1926, p.223. Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.93. Original: “Denkschaerfe und Erfindungskraft.”

xxi For a discussion on Meyer’s and Gropius’ use of the phrase “bauen heisst die ueberlegte organisation/gestaltung von lebensvorgaengen“ see Poerschke 2005, p.148.

xxii in Schnaidt 1965, p.95 and 97: “we organize these building elements on economic principles into a constructive whole” (original “diese bauelemente organisieren wir nach ökonomischen grundsätzen zu einer konstruktiven einheit … der architekt? ... war künstler und wird ein spezialist der organisation!“ See also Schnaidt 1965, p.99: “we recognize/ in every creative design appropriate to living/ an organized form of existence“ (original: “wir erkennen in jeglicher lebensrichtigen gestaltung eine organisationsform des daseins“).

xxiii Meyer 1928. Schnaidt 1965, p.97. Original: “bauen ist nur organisation: soziale, technische, ökonomische, psychische organisation.“

xxiv Meyer 1926, p.222. Meyer 1929, p.2. Hannes Meyer, “Erziehung zum Architekten. Lecture 1938,” in: Lena Meyer-Bergner (ed.), Hannes Meyer: Bauen und Gesellschaft, Dresden: VEB Verlag der Kunst, 1980, p.208

xxv Meyer 1928, p.12. Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.97, slightly, more literally changed by UP. Original: “1. geschlechtsleben 2. schlafgewohnheit 3. kleintierhaltung 4. gartenkultur 5. körperpflege 6. wetterschutz 7. wohnhygiene 8. autowartung 9. kochbetrieb 10. erwärmung 11. besonnung 12. bedienung / solche forderungen sind die ausschließlichen motive des wohnungsbaues. wir untersuchen den ablauf des tageslebens jedes hausbewohners, und dieses ergibt das funktionsdiagramm für vater, mutter, kind, kleinkind und mitmenschen. wir erforschen die beziehungen des hauses und seiner insassen zum fremden ... wir erforschen die menschlichen und die tierischen beziehungen zum garten, und die wechselwirkungen zwischen menschen, haustieren und hausinsekten.“

xxvi See for example Klaus-Juergen Winkler, Der Architekt Hannes Meyer. Anschauung und Werk, Berlin: VEB Verlag für Bauwesen, 1989, p.82: “Das Spektrum der wissenschaftliche Disziplinen, in dem sich der Architekt analysierend bewegt, ist außerordentlich breit. Soziologische, geologische, biologische, bauhygienische, psychologische, physikalische und andere Untersuchungen werden aufgeführt.“

xxvii Letter from Gropius to Tomas Maldonado 1963, in: Schnaidt 1965, p.121-3.

xxviii Hannes Meyer, “erläuterungen zum schulprojekt. grundsaetze der gestaltung,“ bauhaus, zeitschrift für gestaltung, Dessau, no.2/3 (1928), p.14. Translation UP. Original: “diese schule darf mit recht gelockert erscheinen. die kürzesten wege des zusammenkommens sind nicht durch verkürzte korridore zu schaffen, sondern durch die gelegenheit zum freundschaftlichen sichergehen, zur schöpferischen pause. diese gewerkschaftsschule darf weitspurig sein, damit eine aufbauende geselligkeit sich bildet. das resultat: ...exzentrische lockerung der bauteile. ... die lockere lagerung der gebäude-elemente um den see entspricht wesensklar der als gestaltungsprinzip angedeuteten ‘lockerung’ einer ‘schule im walde’.“

xxix Hannes Meyer, “Die Siedlung Freidorf,“ Das Werk, no.2 (1925a), p.40–51. Translation UP. Original: “Hier ist alles Co-op. Co-op heisst Cooperation. Cooperation heisst Genossenschaft. ... und so ist diese Siedelung ein Stein und Raum gewordenes Prinzip ... so ist Freidorfs Bauanlage nur Offenbarung seines innern Geistes und Verkörperung dieses Versuches einer Lebensgemeinschaft von 150 Familien im bienenwabenähnlichen Zellenbau einer Siedelung.“

xxx Steen Eiler Rasmussen, “Hannes Meyer’s Gewerkschaftsschule in Bernau bei Berlin,“ Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst und Städtebau, no.1 (1932), p.18. Translation UP. Original: “Mit Zögern schreibe ich über Hannes Meyer’s Arbeiterschule in Bernau, in der Furcht, daß es mir nicht gelingen wird, dem Leser genügend klarzumachen, wie wichtig dieser Bau für unsere heutige Architektur ist.“

xxxi Adolf Behne, “Bundesschule in Bernau bei Berlin,” Zentralblatt der Bauverwaltung, no.14 (1931), p. 211. Translation UP. Original: “Am besten in den Flugzeugaufnahmen erkennen wir die in allen Gelenken locker spielende, flüssige Beweglichkeit dieses Hauses, das ohne Panzer jede Bewegung des Bodens und jede Bewegung des Sinnes mitmacht. Die Diktatur der Form ist abgebaut, das Leben ist siegreich und sucht sich seine Gestalt.“

Adolf Behne, quoted in Winkler 1989, p.105. Translation UP. Original: “Mit einer kühlen Knappheit und Frische steht der Bau, lebendig sich gliedernd, der Bewegung des Bodens folgend, in dieser einzig schönen märkischen Natur. Er prätendiert nichts, er repräsentiert nichts, er ist, was er ist, auf die einfachste, klarste, sympathischste Art. Seine Haltung darf man spartanisch nennen. Aber dies ist kein ödes trockenes Spartanertum, sondern ein Spartanismus, der erfüllt ist mit Lebensfreude und Lebensfülle und durchaus nicht ohne Liebeswürdigkeit. Ein wunderbarer Respekt von Natur und Leben geht durch das ganze Haus, eine Bejahung aller natürlicher Gegebenheiten, Stoffe und Materialien, eine positive Haltung, die jede Bemäntelung, jedes Verhüllen und Verbrämen weit von sich weist.”



xxxii Schnaidt 1965, p.21.

xxxiii Meyer 1926, p.222. Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.93. Original: “Muster-Messe, Getreide-Silo, Music-Hall, Flug-Platz, Bureau-Stuhl”: “Sie sind keine Kunstwerke. Kunst ist Komposition. Zweck ist Funktion.”

xxxiv For example: Walter Gropius, “Der Baugeist der neuen Volksgemeinde”, Die Glocke, no.10, 1924, p.314. Idem, Neue Arbeiten der Bauhauswerkstätten, München: Langen 1925, p.5. For longer discussion see Poerschke 2005, p.169-174.

xxxv Meyer 1926. Translation UP. Original: “Bauen ist ein technischer, kein ästhetischer Prozess ... diese funktionelle Auffassung des Bauens jeder Art“. Meyer 1928: “bauen ist ein biologischer vorgang. bauen ist kein aesthetischer prozeß. ... diese funktionell-biologische auffassung des bauens als einer gestaltung des lebensprozesses“. As another example of the change see the difference between 1926: “Ideally and in its elementary design our house is a living machine“ and 1928: “in its basic design the new dwelling house becomes not only a piece of machinery for living in but also a biological apparatus serving the needs of body and mind“. Translation Schnaidt 1965, p.93/95.

xxxvi Hays 1992, p.6.

xxxvii Schnaidt 1965, p.25.

xxxviii Schnaidt 1965, p.25.

xxxix Letter to Behne, 08.Jan.1928, in: Brandenburgisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege(Ed.), Die Bundesschule des ADGB in Bernau bei Berlin, Potsdam: Potsdamer Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1993, p.46. Translation UP. Original: “ein lebensfähig organisiertes bauwerk ist im letzten sinne nur jenes, das die kooperativen und die individual-kräfte im ausgleich zum leben bringt.“

xl Nerdinger 1989, p.25.

xli Meyer 1929, p.2.

xlii In Hitchcock/Johnson 1932, p.13.

xliii Hays 1992, p.179.

xliv Perez-Gomez 2006, p.97.

Ute Poerschke: Hannes Meyer - Connecting Ethics and Poetics, McGill 2007 - /


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