Industrialism and the genesis of modern architecture

Modernist Architecture — Positive Bases

The spatiotemporal properties of architecture that were developed by experiments in abstract art reached their highest expression in the work of Lissitzky and Moholy-Nagy.  Stepping back from our analysis of this development, however, we may witness a crucial conjuncture between the realm of abstract art and the other major positive basis for the existence of modernist architecture — industrialism (and more specifically, the machine). This conjuncture occurred on two levels. At one level, leading avant-garde artists and architects began to draw inspiration from the monumental improvements in both factory production and machine technologies, seeing in these an ideal of economy and efficiency.  On another level, however, the research into the abstract time of capitalism undertaken by the Futurists through their representation of kinetic dynamism and motion was advanced in a more systematic and precise form by the advocates of Taylorism, whose time-and-motion studies of labor established the foundation for scientific management in industry. Taylorism, as a science of the mechanics of movement and a means for the optimization of productivity, exerted huge influence over the modernists in architecture.  Moreover, the broader cult of the machine and of the engineer in particular provided the avant-garde with a positive image for the spirit of their age. The traditionalists, who remained lost studying the annals of architectural history and reproducing its forms, were thus blind to the most obvious feature of the modern epoch — industrialization.

Frank Baldwin’s Pin-Wheel Machine (1905)

Fernand Léger’s Mechanical Elements (1926)

Several of the artists affiliated with the movements of abstract painting we already discussed began, during the early 1920s, to grant aesthetic legitimacy to the machine. The Futurist Severini, for example, wrote in 1922 that “[t]he precision of machines, their rhythm and their brutality, have no doubt led us to adopt a new form of realism.”[1] Even more emphatically, the former Cubist and Purist painter Fernand Léger authored an essay on “The Machine Aesthetic” in 1924. In this piece, he discovered the implicit connection between the abstract, geometric spatiality of capitalism and the form of the machine: “Modern man lives more and more in a preponderantly geometric order,” he explained.  “All man-made mechanical and industrial creation is dependent on geometric forces.”[2] Léger further asserted that the new form of “mechanical beauty” called into question the representational values of traditionalist aesthetics.[3] The inherent link the machine held with the medium of architecture was not lost on him, either: “What I have to discuss…is a new architectural order: the architecture of mechanization.”[4] Even those abstract painters who denied the aesthetic quality of the machine or works of engineering, like Malevich[5] or Ozenfant,[6] often admitted that the formal and geometric simplicity of mechanical objects was pleasing. “A mechanical object can in certain cases affect us, because manufactured forms are geometric, and we respond to geometry,” asserted Ozenfant. “[I]ntuitively geometry communicates to us a feeling that some higher dispensation is being subserved, which thus becomes a pleasure of the mind, and a feeling that we are satisfying the laws that govern our being.”[7] In nearly every quarter of avant-garde art, the subject of “mechanization” was discussed.[8] Perhaps the most philosophically refined affirmation of the aesthetic value of the modern machine came from Kurt Ewald, in his 1926 article on “The Beauty of Machines.” Ewald was confident enough in his claims to invoke that quintessential aesthetician, Immanuel Kant, writing that “most modern machines arouse in us that feeling that Kant regards as the criterion of ‘beauty.’ A good modern machine is thus an object of the highest aesthetic value.”[9]

Gio Colucci’s “Bonheur du monde III Etching” (1929)

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times (1936)

The architects, who had lagged behind the artists when it came to understanding the new spatiotemporal dimension of modernity, were by contrast much quicker to realize the import of modern machine technologies. Indeed, beginning with Wright’s essay on “The Art and Craft of the Machine” in 1901, architects recognized the time in which they were living as “the machine age.”[10] This moniker, taken up with great gusto by men like Le Corbusier,[11] became so pervasive that Reyner Banham would title his groundbreaking study of this classical phase of avant-garde architecture Theory and Design in the First Machine Age.[12] In Le Corbusier’s estimation, the machine had fundamentally reshaped the very Weltgeist of modernity: “The machine, a modern phenomenon, is bringing about a reformation of the spirit across the world.”[13]

Mechanized 19th-Century Factory

Man and the Machine

But on what grounds could Le Corbusier seriously maintain that this was the case? Machinery had arguably existed for millennia prior to the twentieth century, in more or less rudimentary forms.  The extent to which a machine is distinguished from any normal, manual tool seems to reside only in the degree of its complexity or automatism.  Of course, this would tend into increase cumulatively in proportion with the rate at which the knowledge of engineering was improved.  But at what point could this purely quantitative increase shift over to engender a qualitative change? It was Marx who perhaps located this distinction with the most precision.  “A system of machinery,” wrote Marx, “whether it is based simply on the cooperation of similar machines…or on a combination of different machines,…constitutes in itself a vast automaton as soon as it is driven by a self-acting prime mover.”[14]  This is accomplished as soon as there is constituted “[a]n organized system of machines to which motion is communicated by the transmitting mechanism from an automatic center.”[15]  It is at this point that the machinery of the era of the nineteenth century, the period of heavy industry, came to embody a qualitatively different kind of object than the more primitive machinery that preceded it.

Farman Goliath (1920) — Biplane featured in Le Corbusier’s Toward an Architecture

RMS Aquitania — Featured in Le Corbusier’s Toward an Architecture

Voisin C5 Torpedo-Sport — Featured in Le Corbusier’s Toward an Architecture (1923)

“A house is a machine for living in,” Le Corbusier famously declared in his Toward an Architecture.[16]  Rejecting the “suffocating routine” of architectural eclecticism, he contrasted the remarkable innovations that had taken place in the field of mechanical technologies, measuring architecture against the trailblazing examples of modern ocean liners, aircraft, and automobiles.[17]  A similar method of argumentation was adopted by Ginzburg in his contemporaneous Style and Epoch,[18] and was later ratified in succinct form by Behrendt: “An architecture that is to be a living component of our time and a true expression of our new sense of life…cannot be essentially different than our machines, our mechanical devices, our airplanes, and our automobiles.”[19]  Adolf Behne outlined the various ways in which the modernists understood the machine as a technical ideal for their own building projects.[20]  He also noted avant-garde architecture’s unique connection with “machine aesthetics,” unknown in earlier ages.[21]  But it was perhaps Ginzburg who spelled out the relationship between the modernist ideal of the machine and its implications for the new architecture most eloquently, collapsing the traditional distinction between the mechanic and the organic:

One of the fundamental characteristics of the machine as an independent organism is its extraordinarily well-defined and precise organization. Indeed, a more distinctly organized phenomenon can hardly be found in nature or in the products of human effort.  There is no part or element of the machine that does not occupy a particular place, position, or role in the overall scheme and that is not the product of absolute necessity.  There is not and cannot be anything in the machine that is superfluous, accidental, or “decorative” in the sense conventionally applied to habitation.  Nothing can be either added to or taken from it without disrupting the whole.


The machine demands of the constructor an extraordinarily precise expression of concept, a clearly realizable goal, and an ability to articulate a scheme into separate elements related to one another by an indestructible chain of interdependence, with each element constituting an independent organism that clearly manifests the function for which it was made and to which all its aspects are subordinated.[22]

Caproni Triplane — Featured in Moisei Ginzburg’s Style and Epoch (1923)

HMS Dreadnought — Featured in Moisei Ginzburg’s Style and Epoch

As with Léger and Ozenfant, Ginzburg claimed that the machine achieves a new sort of beauty peculiar to the modern age, although he asserted that this owed to its utilitarian rather than its geometric character.[23]  Taking up the same line of reasoning as Severini had in his article on “Machinery,” Ginzburg also stressed the importance of the dynamic qualities of the machine.  “The motion of the machine is characterized by what for us is an extremely important feature, which stems from its basic properties,” wrote Ginzburg.  “A given machine is the consequence of movement in a particular direction and of a particular character and purpose…[T]he distinguishing feature of the machine’s dynamic properties is [thus] an actively manifested, characteristic direction of movement.”[24]  The abstract temporal elements of capitalism were thus addressed in the streamlining of architectural spaces for optimum functionality, maximizing output while minimizing input.[25]  Gerrit Rietveld, the great Dutch architect, recalled in 1932 the way that the machine’s influence on the formal quality of architecture also became relevant to the question of living in these spaces: “The appearance of machines…contributed a great deal towards turning the form-question into a life-question.  Machines, which had already had an opportunity in the quest for honesty, found in the new style the straight-lined and simple forms that were appropriate for mass-production.”[26]

J.J.P. Oud’s Mathenesse Housing Estate, Rotterdam (1920)

Mart Stam’s Serial Housing at the Stuttgart Weissenhof Exhibition (1927)

Le Corbusier & Pierre Jeanneret’s Serial Duplexes for the Loucher Laws (1929)

The standardization, mass-production, and overall industrialization of architectural construction was thus one of the avant-garde’s foremost preoccupations.  While the rest of Europe was embroiled in World War I, J.J.P. Oud, appointed city builder of Rotterdam in Holland, had 3,000 standardized dwellings constructed in order to combat the town’s housing crisis.[27]  Oud, who had already strongly endorsed the implementation of the machine in modern art,[28] became one of the earliest spokesmen for the standardization of architecture in his 1918 article, “Architecture and Standardization in Mass Construction.”  Emphasizing the strongly social aspect of housing construction,[29] Oud advocated the creation of standard types of buildings: “The design of standard types of buildings will bring back the proportions and rhythms of a town which are so lacking in the present-day townscape.”[30]  Gropius took Oud’s suggestion one step further, adding that beyond more general standard housing units, even the individual parts of different structures could be standardized and thereafter used interchangeably.  In this respect, the house would begin to approximate the modern machine even more closely.  “Dwellings must be designed in such a way that justified individual requirements derived from the family size or the type of profession of the family head can be suitably and flexibly fulfilled,” wrote Gropius in his 1924 work, “The Housing Industry.”  “The organization must therefore aim first of all at standardizing and mass-producing not entire houses, but only their component parts which can then be assembled into various types of houses, in the same way as in modern machine design certain internationally standardized parts are interchangeably used for different machines.”[31]  In this way, houses could still be somewhat individualized for their residents.  Gropius further insisted that standardization would in no way diminish the aesthetic quality of residential housing.[32]  Although he would a year later warn that “standardization cannot resolve an architectural difficulty,”[33] Le Corbusier stated his substantial agreement with Gropius in his own 1924 piece on “Mass-Produced Housing”: “Mass production demands a search for standards.  Standards lead to perfection.”[34]  Like Oud and Gropius, Le Corbusier felt that the overall stylistic unity brought about by standardized building elements would not only be more economically viable, but would also lead to a more harmonious overall urban aesthetic.[35]  This would be achieved by the broader industrialization of architecture as a whole:

[S]lowly, construction sites will adapt to industrialization; the introduction of mechanization in construction work will lead to the general acceptance of standard elements; even the design of houses will alter, under the sway of the new economics; the standard elements will provide unity of detail, and unity of detail is an indispensable requirement of architectural beauty.  Then our towns will lose that appearance of chaos which blights them at the moment.  Order will reign and new networks of streets, more immense and with a wealth of architectural solutions will present us with magnificent sights.[36]

Henry Ford’s Automobile Assembly Line (1913)

Images from Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Grossstadtarchitektur (1928)

The push for standardized building did not take place exclusively in Western Europe, of course.  Wright, the original proponent of the mechanization of architecture, authored an essay in 1927 entitled “Standardization, the Soul of the Machine.”  It was the second part of his series “In the Cause of Architecture.”  In it, Wright asserted: “Standardization should have the same place [as the poetic feeling of the artist-weaver] in the fabric we are weaving which we call civilization…This principle of standardization has now as its tool or body — the Machine.  An ideal tool compared to which all that has gone before is as nothing.”[37]  The Soviet avant-garde, for its part, fiercely promoted the standardization of building.  It would go so far as to create a “commission for the standardization of housing construction” in 1929.[38]  But already in Modern Architecture’s inaugural issue, the Constructivist builder Arkadii Mordvinov argued for the necessity of “new materials, the latest constructions, the standardization of types of housing and individual elements, the mechanization of building-production [stroiproizvodstva], etc.”[39]  This was elevated into the journal’s official doctrine two years later in the “Resolutions in the Proceedings of the Ideological Section of OSA,” the outcome of the group’s first international conference.[40]

Machinery Section at the Great Exhibition of 1851

Galerie des Machines, Paris 1889

For the international modernists, such measures of industrialization in architecture would only bring building practices up to speed with the rest of society.  All of Western society had undergone the massive (sometimes even apocalyptic) transition from simple manufacturing to large-scale industry over the course of the nineteenth century, and most now stood on the brink of developing finance capital.[41]  Marx’s argument, regarding the advent of complex machine operations and the factory system sparking the revolution in industry[42] was recognized by Giedion as a “fundamental event” in the history of modern architecture: “The Industrial Revolution, the abrupt increase in production brought about during the eighteenth century by the introduction of the factory system and the machine, changed the whole appearance of the world…Its effect upon thought and feeling was so profound that even today we cannot estimate how deeply it has penetrated into man’s very nature.”[43]  The fundamental changes that industrialism wrought in the sphere of commodity production reshaped the very world man lived in, replacing handicraft objects with serially-produced and standardized goods.  Even the clothes men wore were made according to predetermined sizes and norms.

Time and Motion Study by Taylorist Frank Gilbreth (1913)

Time and Motion Study by Taylorist Frank Gilbreth (1913)

One facet of modern industrialism that caught the imagination of the modernists was a fairly recent development.  The industrial practice of Taylorism, first theorized in the progenitor’s 1903 book Shop Management and given more systematic form a decade later in his Principles of Scientific Management, was a major source of inspiration for the architectural avant-garde.  Stated broadly, the premise of scientific management was “the development of each [worker] to his state of maximum efficiency.”[44]  As was alluded to earlier in passing, part of Taylor’s approach to optimizing worker efficiency involved the conducting of scientific “time and motion” studies.[45]  This form of analysis can be seen as mirroring, in a more rigorous manner, the artistic attempts of the Futurists to capture the dynamics of movement and kinetics.  On an even deeper level, it can be understood as a further extension and refinement of the regime of abstract time that already held sway under capitalism.[46]  The Gilbreths’ invention of chronocyclegraph techniques[47] in order to meet “the necessity of recording unit times,…the need for including time study with motion study” so as to “record the [labor] motions used”[48] — this advanced the mode of abstract time calculation to almost an exact science.  This had obvious implications for the increased efficiency and productivity of labor.

Time and Motion Study by Taylorist Frank Gilbreth (1913)

Time-Saving Frankfurt Kitchen (1929)

Undertones of mechanization[49] and standardization[50]could be found throughout Taylor’s prescribed system.[51]  This held an obvious appeal for the modernist architects.  Moreover, their respect for Taylor may have also been enhanced by his 1905 Treatise on Concrete: Plain and Reinforced, co-written with Sanford Thompson (although they only recommended the use of concrete in limited contexts).[52]  Translated into architectural terms, Taylorism meant a more efficient process for the production of housing and the standardization of component parts for buildings.  With respect to its research into the economy of motion, it further meant designing spaces that would facilitate movement and the execution of domestic responsibilities in the timeliest possible manner.  Staircases, floor layouts, better arrangement of kitchen space and appliances (Schütte-Lihotsky’s so-called “rationalized kitchens” in Frankfurt) — all of these central concerns of avant-garde architecture could in some sense be traced to the influence of Taylorism.  Le Corbusier, to take just one example, was explicit in his appreciation of the scientific management of industry.  “I found myself in industry,” he wrote.  “A factory.  Machines.  Taylorism, cost prices, maturities, balance-sheets.”[53]  Karel Teige, while he deplored Taylorist methods as they were practiced under capitalism,[54] echoing Lenin,[55] he nevertheless credited Taylor’s rationalization of labor with the later industrialization of architecture.[56]

[1] Severini, Gino.  “Machinery.”  Translated by Tim Benton.  Architecture and Design, 1890-1939: An International Anthology of Original Articles.  (The Whitney Library of Design.  New York, NY: 1975).  Pg. 96.  Originally published in De Stijl 1922, Vol. V, № 12.

[2] Léger, Fernand.  “The Machine Aesthetic: The Manufactured Object, the Artisan, and the Artist.”  Translated by Tim Benton.  Architecture and Design, 1890-1939: An International Anthology of Original Articles.  (The Whitney Library of Design.  New York, NY: 1975).  Pg. 96.  Originally published in the Bulletin de l’Effort Moderne, 1924.

[3] “The arrival of mechanical beauty, of all these beautiful objects which have no pretension to art, justifies a quick revision of the traditional representational values classified as definitive.”  Ibid., pg. 99.

[4] Ibid., pg. 97.

Léger’s influence on the architectural avant-garde was by no means insignificant.  So great was the Soviet Constructivist group OSA’s respect for the French painter that in an issue they put out on color in architecture, they devoted an entire article to the analysis of color in Léger’s work.  Khiger, Roman.  “Pochemu my pomeshchaem zhivopis’ Lezhe.”  Sovremennaia arkhitektura.  (Vol. 4, № 2 [“Svet i tsvet”].  Moscow, Soviet Union: 1929).  Pgs. 58-71.

[5] “We would make a great mistake if we were to throw aside new art; we would be left only with the forms of utilitarian functionalism, or the art of the engineer, arising not from aesthetic but from purely utilitarian aims.”  Malevich, “The Constructive Painting of Russian Artists and Constructivism.”  Pg. 80.

[6] “[T]he machine-made product is not aesthetic.”  Ozenfant, Foundations of Modern Art.  Pg. 151.

[7] Ibid., pg. 152.

[8] The Dutch critic and contributor to De Stijl Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewartfelt that the influence of machinery on modern art was often overrated or misunderstood, yet nevertheless important: “there is no such thing as mechanization ‘in’ art.  mechanization as a means of artistic expression — sound, color, light, etc. — is really new.”  Vordemberge-Gildewart, Friedrich.  “incomparable mechanization.”  Translated by Hans L.C. Jaffé.  De Stijl.  (H.N. Abrams.  New York: 1971).  Pg. 230.  Originally published in De Stijl, Jubilee Number, 1927, pgs. 106-108.

[9] Ewald, Kurt.  “The Beauty of Machines.” Translated by Tim Benton.  Architecture and Design, 1890-1939: An International Anthology of Original Articles.  (The Whitney Library of Design.  New York, NY: 1975).  Pg. 144.  Originally published in Die Form, Vol. I (1925-1926).  Pgs. 37-40.

[10] “[The] plain duty [of extending the arts and crafts to the machine] is…relentlessly marked out for the artist in this, the Machine Age.”  Wright, “The Art and Craft of the Machine.”  Pg. 23.

[11] “There is another revolutionary fact: the new arrangement of machine-age society; in truth, the profound transformation of secular customs, the intervention of new customs and the probability of still more new ones.”  Le Corbusier, The Radiant City.  Pg. 37.

[12] “[The Functionalists] came extraordinarily close to realizing the general idea of a Machine Age architecture.”  Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age.  Pg. 325.

[13] Le Corbusier, The Decorative Arts of Today.  Pg. 110.

[14] Marx, Capital, Volume 1.  Pg. 502.

[15] Ibid., pg. 503.

[16] Le Corbusier, Toward an Architecture.  Pg. 151.

[17] Ibid., pgs. 145-192.

[18] “The steam-engine, steam-powered transportation, and mechanized iron production were introduced [between 1750 and 1850].  These were subsequently followed by the use of electricity, turbine technology, the automobile, and finally aeronautics.”  Ginzburg, Style and Epoch, pg. 68.

Oud anticipated Le Corbusier’s and Ginzburg’s arguments by several years: “For it is beyond all doubt that the motor car, machine, etc., correspond more closely to the socio-aesthetic tendencies of our own age and the future than do the contemporary manifestations of architecture.”  Oud, “Orientation.”  Pg. 140.

[19] Walter Curt Behrendt, The Victory of the New Building Style.  Pg. 142.

[20] “When van de Velde referred to the machine, he saw it as the neat, concise, modern, and elegant form… When the functionalist refers to the machine, he sees it as the moving tool, the perfect approximation to an organism…When the utilitarian refers to the machine, he sees it as an economic principle of saving work, power, and time…When the rationalist refers to the machine, he sees it as the representative and patron of standardization and typification.”  Adolf Behne, The Modern Functional Building.  Pg. 130.

[21] “Every attentive observer senses the close connection with machine aesthetics, completely new in the history of architecture.”  Ibid., pg. 99.

[22] Ginzburg, Style and Epoch.  Pg. 86.

[23] “[U]nder the influence of the machine is forged in our minds a concept of beauty and perfection as entities which best respond to the characteristics of the material being organized and to its most economical utilization in the realization of a specific goal, one which is the most condensed inform and the most distinct in movement.”  Ibid., pg. 87.

[24] Ibid., pg. 91.

[25] “Our time is one of science and technology.  First, they showed religion, rather irreverently, out of the workroom door.  Consistently and sincerely, they renounced all mysticism.  With idealistic exaltation, they proclaimed themselves materialistic up to the ultimate consequences.  Joyfully, they hoisted the flag of positivism.  They experimented.  When religion lost its credibility science found it.  Scientists believed that their work could install heaven on earth.  This heaven is called technical civilization…The driving force behind this progress is the machine.  The machine shortens working hours to their maximum efficiency.  Its law is minimum effort for maximum effectThis is the law of economy.”  Teige, “Constructivism and the Liquidation of ‘Art.’”  Pgs. 586-587.

[26] Rietveld, Gerrit.  “New Functionalism in Dutch Architecture.” Translated by Marijke Küper.  Gerrit Rietveld: The Complete Works.  (Princeton University Press.  New York, NY: 1992).  Pg. 35.  Originally published in De Vrije Bladen, № 9 (1932).

[27] Lissitzky in particular was impressed by Oud’s work: “In [the] field [of workers’ housing], Holland has surpassed other countries.  Model complexes can be seen in Rotterdam.”  Lissitzky, “‘Americanism’ in European Architecture.”  Translated by Sophie Lissitzky-Kuppers.  El Lissitzky: Life, Letters, Texts.  (Thames & Hudson Press. London: 1980).  Pg. 375.  Originally published in Krasnaia niva, № 49 (1925).

[28] “Must the spirit be realized in this age by the hand or the machine? For the modern artist the future line of development must lead inevitably to the machine.”  Oud, J.J.P.  “Art and the Machine.”  Translated by Hans L.C. Jaffé.  De Stijl.  (H.N. Abrams.  New York: 1971).  Pg. 97.  Originally published in De Stijl, Vol. I, № 3/4, pp. 25-27 (1918).

[29] “More than any other art form, architecture has its roots in human society and depends on social considerations, even in its most individual expression.”  Oud, J.J.P.  “Architecture and Standardization in Mass Construction.”  Translated by Tim Benton.  Architecture and Design, 1890-1939: An International Anthology of Original Articles.  (The Whitney Library of Design.  New York, NY: 1975).  Pg. 117.  Originally published in De Stijl, Vol. I, № 7 (1918).

[30] Ibid., pg. 117.

[31] Gropius, Walter.  “The Housing Industry.” Translated by Roger Banham. The Scope of Total Architecture.  (MacMillan Publishing Company.  New York, NY: 1980).  Pg. 131.  Originally published in Bauhausbücher, Vol. 3, Ein Versuchshaus des Bauhauses, Albert Langen Verlag, 1924.

[32]It is fallacious to assume that architecture will deteriorate because of the industrialization of dwelling construction.  On the contrary, the standardization of building elements will have the beneficial effect of imparting a unified character to new dwellings and developments.”  Ibid., pg. 133.

[33] Le Corbusier.  “Standardization Cannot Resolve an Architectural Difficulty.”  Translated by Tim Benton.  Architecture and Design, 1890-1939: An International Anthology of Original Articles.  (The Whitney Library of Design.  New York, NY: 1975).  Pg. 138.  Originally published in L’Almanach d’Architecture Moderne, Paris 1925.  Pgs. 102-103.

[34] Le Corbusier.  “Mass-Produced Housing.”  Translated by Tim Benton.  Architecture and Design, 1890-1939: An International Anthology of Original Articles.  (The Whitney Library of Design.  New York, NY: 1975).  Pg. 134.  Originally published in L’Almanach d’Architecture Moderne, Paris 1924.  Pgs. 77-81.

[35] Gropius agreed: “The unification of architectural components would have the salutary effect of imparting that homogeneous character to our towns which is the distinguishing mark of a superior urban culture.  A prudent limitation of variety to a few standard types of buildings increases their quality and decreases their cost; thereby raising the social level of the population as a whole…The concentration of essential qualities in standard types presupposes methods of unprecedented industrial potentiality, which… can only be justified by mass-production.”  Gropius, The New Architecture and the Bauhaus.  Pgs. 37-38.

[36] “Thanks to the machine, to the identification of what is typical, to the process of selection, to the establishment of a standard, a style will assert itself.”  Le Corbusier, “Mass-Produced Housing.”  Pg. 135.

[37] Wright, Frank Lloyd.  “Standardization, the Soul of the Machine.”  The Essential Frank Lloyd Wright: Critical Writings on Architecture.  (Princeton University Press.  Princeton, NJ: 2008).  Pg. 95.

[38] “[K]omissii standardizatsii zhil. stroitel’stva.”  Authors unclear (“B. i S.”).  “Bibliografiia: Al’bom tipovykh proektov zhilikh domov.”  Sovremennaia arkhitektura.  (Vol. 4, № 1.  January 1929).  Pg. 40.

[39] Mordvinov, Arkadii. “K voprosam raboche-poselkovogo i promyshlennogo stroitel’stva.” Sovremennaia arkhitektura.  (Vol. 1, № 1.  Moscow, Russia: January 1926).  Pg. 17.

[40] “We [propose] the persistent overcoming of our backwardness, the active and scientific acquisition of all the achievements of world engineering in the field of the latest materials, designs [konstruktsii], the mechanization and standardization of building-production [stroiproizvodstva] and the planned implementation of all these achievements, on account of the economic peculiarities of the USSR in our daily practical building.”  Anonymous (the members of OSA).  “Rezoliutsiia po dokladam ideologicheskoi sektsii OSA, priniataia na pervoi konferentsii Obshestva sovremennykh arkhitektorov v Moskve, 26 Aprelia 1928.”  Sovremennaia arkhitektura.  (Vol. 3, № 3.  Moscow, Russia: May 1928).  Pg. 78.

[41] “The mobilization of capital and the continual expansion of credit gradually brings about a complete change in the position of the money capitalists.  The power of the banks increases and they become founders and eventually rulers of industry, whose profits they seize for themselves as finance capital, just as formerly the old usurer seized, in the form of ‘interest,’ the produce of the peasants and the ground rent of the lord of the manor.  The Hegelians spoke of the negation of the negation: bank capital was the negation of usurer’s capital and is itself negated by finance capital.  The latter is the synthesis of usurer’s and bank capital, and it appropriates to itself the fruits of social production at an infinitely higher stage of economic development.”  Hilferding, Rudolf.  Finance Capital: A Study of the Latest Phase of Capitalist Development.  Translated by Morris Watnick and Sam Gordon.  (Routledge & Kegan Paul.  Boston, MA: 1981).  Pg. 226.  Originally published in 1910.

[42] “The machine, which is the starting-point of the industrial revolution, replaces the worker, who handles a single tool, by a mechanism operating with a number of similar tools and set in motion by a single motive power, whatever the form of that power.”  Marx, Capital, Volume 1.  Pg. 497.

[43] Giedion, Time, Space, and Architecture.  Pg. 165.

[44] Taylor, Principles of Scientific Management.  Pg. 121.

[45] “Scientific management requires, first, a careful investigation of each of the many modifications of the same implement, developed under rule of thumb; and second, after a time study has been made of the speed attainable with each of these implements, that the good points of several of them shall be united in a single standard implement, which will enable the workman to work faster and with greater ease than he could before. This one implement, then, is adopted as standard in place of the many different kinds before in use, and it remains standard for all workmen to use until superseded by an implement which has been shown, through motion and time study, to be still better.”  Ibid., pg. 183.

[46] See pg. 27 of the present paper.

[47] Gilbreth and Gilbreth, Applied Motion Study.  Pgs. 84-85.

[48] Ibid., pg. 78.

[49] “In the past hundred years…the greatest factor tending toward increasing the output, and thereby the prosperity of the civilized world, has been the introduction of machinery to replace hand labor.”  Taylor, Principles of Scientific Management.  Pg. 193.

[50] “It is the work of scientific management to insist on standardization in all fields, and to base such standardization upon accurate measurement.”  Gilbreth and Gilbreth, Applied Motion Study.  Pg. 12.

[51] Taylor cited the following as belonging to the “mechanism” of scientific management: “a planning department, accurate time study, standardization of methods and implements…etc.”  Ibid., pg. 185.

[52] “Concrete is destined to be used to a large extent in the construction of tanks and vats for holding various liquids that attack wood and iron.”  Taylor, Frederick Winslow and Thompson, Sanford.  (John Wiley & Sons.  New York, NY: 1905).  Pg. 12.

As Banham noticed, the person most responsible for making concrete and reinforced concrete a respectable medium for architecture was Auguste Perret: “[Perret’s] importance…is as a teacher and example to the next generation, and as the man who, more than any other, made reinforced concrete acceptable as a visible building material in the eyes of those who practiced architecture as an art.”  Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age.  Pg. 43.

[53] Le Corbusier, The Decorative Arts of Today.  Pg. 213.

[54] “Frederick Winslow Taylor attempted to increase efficiency and improve productivity by the scientific organization of work.  Taylorism was supposed to increase productivity without increasing worker fatigue and was to be accompanied by a substantial increase in wages…Unfortunately, the scientific organization of work, which in itself is a paean to modern creative, intensive, and liberated labor, has been used by capitalism as a method to facilitate the increase of productivity for its own business interests, while ignoring such matters as workers’ fatigue and higher wages.  Seen this way, such hypocritical rationalizations and economization are in fact nothing more and nothing less than a new version of plantation slavery and piracy.  The current application of these methods has, in effect, completed the destruction of the stamina, energy, muscles, nerves, eyesight, and lungs of the workers.”  Teige, The Minimum Dwelling.  Pg. 60.

[55] “Competition, which is keenest in a period of crisis like the present, calls for the invention of an increasing number of new devices to reduce the cost of production.  But the domination of capital converts all these devices into instruments for the further exploitation of the workers…The Taylor system is one of these devices.”  Lenin, Vladimir.  “The Taylor System — Man’s Enslavement by the Machine.”  Translated by Bernard Isaacs and Joe Fineberg.  Collected Works, Volume 20: December 1913-August 1914.  (Foreign Language Press.  New York, NY: 1964).  Pg. 152.

However, as Teige would later do, Lenin stressed the potential advantages of Taylorism employed under a different social order: “The Taylor system — without its initiators knowing or wishing it — is preparing the time when the proletariat will take over all social production and appoint its own workers’ committees for the purpose of properly distributing and rationalizing all social labor.”  Ibid., pg. 154.

[56] “The successes and results of the industrialization of construction are so far very meager and incomplete.  Industrialization in construction was first introduced at a time when the pace of technical progress had begun to slow down in other industrial branches (except for armaments and luxury goods), that is, at a time of general technological retreat.  The most characteristic indicator of the state of construction technology today is a trend toward systematic improvement of existing achievements, rather than a search for new, radical discoveries and inventions: this incremental change involves simplification of production, standardization, economization, and, above all, greater exploitation of human resources, which do not require additional capital investments.  In fact, rationalization of construction should not be equated and did not begin with the mechanization of construction, but began with Taylorism: it was Frank B. Gilbreth, a former bricklayer and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, who was the first to rationalize construction by teaching masons to eliminate redundant body motions, which had previously slowed down productivity and caused work-related fatigue.  He also proposed changes in the design of prevailing types of scaffolding and tools along similar principles (F. B. Gilbreth, Bricklaying System [1909] and Motion Study [1911]).”  Teige, The Minimum Dwelling.  Pg. 187.

2 thoughts on “Industrialism and the genesis of modern architecture

  1. Pingback: Industrialism and the Genesis of Modern Architecture (via The Charnel-House) « patternsthatconnect

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