Erich Mendelsohn, Red Banner Textile Factory in Leningrad (1926)

Charlottenburg, Germany
July 11th, 1926

.
We have completed the early project for Stuttgart. The enclosed sheet shows its directness as a spatial organism. To alter it, i.e., to eliminate or add anything, will call for new work and a new design.

So it will be better to push it through as it is and thus bring it to life.

This evening I am traveling to Stuttgart via Nuremberg. We are doing without pictures — which are only attempts to deceive untrained eyes — but are having a colored model prepared straight away. K. is bringing it on Wednesday morning. Until then I will…put my iron in the fire. On Wednesday I am lunching with Bonatz and dining with him at Hildebrandt’s. The omens are favorable, though I cannot believe we shall triumph without a struggle.

But I have a good conscience with regard to this project, which is half the battle.

Still no final decision from Leningrad. My telegram in reply to the renewed Russian invitation is so far unanswered. In this I see neither a good nor a bad omen, but am simply remaining completely indifferent to the way things are developing, which is hard enough to control from close to and quite impossible at a distance.

The endless space of Russia makes dream and aspiration — idea and action — impenetrable in the negative sense, infinite in the positive. [my emphasis — RW]

Even having to reckon with the reality of the few months when building can be done in Leningrad upsets numerical calculations and shifts their emphasis. The constants remain, but the indices explode, because the Russians are not sufficiently knowledgeable about their inner value, and their necessary correlation.

Meanwhile speculation continues about our possible handling of the whole project development. My studio is today a complete forum for statical computations, not, as it is generally, a trapeze of intuition or a firm springboard of organized planning.

At the same time H. telephoned in order to hold out a 90 per cent certain prospect of the Mosse block being realized. All three blocks are to be built at once and my negotiations with the building authorities must be taken up “at once.” People coax me into making compromises, without permitting themselves to notice that they are prepared to sell me down the river at the appropriate moment. So it is necessary to be doubly watchful and unyielding.

If all this comes together, holidays and mountain lakes become unthinkable.

Leningrad, USSR
August 1st, 1926

.
The presentation of the project in Moscow has caused the Textile Trust the greatest difficulties and disagreeable cuts, additions, and mixtures — in short a fine flower of compromise…

They want to create a prototype on the basis of the latest international experience, but they entrust the incomplete picture to the hand of a bad copyist.

They make a basic revolution but they are bogged down by even more basic administration. They look to America but they are stuck fast in the suburbs of Königsberg. And all the possibilities are here, as you know.

But this new structure needs a broad base on which to rest, from which to summon up its strength. Everywhere there are those knowledgeable and active people who have always given the hungry mass a new understanding of their freedom, of the goal of all freedom and of man himself.

Continue reading

Death and Modern Architecture

Frank Lloyd Wright with his model for the Getty Museum in Manhattan

Until the dead-past has buried its dead — Life us poisoned and itself dies of its own dead.

– Frank Lloyd Wright, “The Logic of Contemporary Architecture as an Expression of This Age” (1930) in Frank Lloyd Wright: Essential Texts, pg. 243

When they came to design a new Kamenny Bridge over the Moskva River for their projected Utopia (No. 1, pg. 30), they dispatched a gravedigger to ‘carry out a thorough excavation of the archives, to unearth a historical reference to the Kamenny bridge’ and then to ‘present a detailed report, of which the separate data will together constitute a basis for consideration, when selecting the artistic-architectonic shape of the new bridge.’

– El Lissitzky, “The Catastrophe of Architecture” (1921), pg. 369

This pseudomodern decorative architecture, governed by caprice and artificial fashions, puts its own era and culture to shame, even if it did assume a representative, official place within it.  In the way it conjures the old specter of historicism from its grave, there lurks a betrayal of international modern civilization, modern culture, and contemporary life.  Such a betrayal must inevitably fail.

– Karel Teige, Modern Architecture in Czechoslovakia (1929), pg. 155