Frederick (then Friedrich) Kiesler’s City of Space [Raumstadt] debuted at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, 1925. Along with Melnikov’s legendary Soviet pavilion, it was one of only two new explorations of spatial form that Theo van Doesburg actually appreciated from the whole exhibition. (Doesburg didn’t even care for Le Corbuser’s Swiss pavilion). Soon thereafter, noticing a clear affinity between his own architectural ambitions and Kiesler’s — both were inspired by Mondrian, after all — Doesburg got the Austrian designer to publish his Manifesto in the 10/11 issue of De Stijl, Vol. 6.
The text, fully translated, is reproduced below.
De Stijl (1925)
Living buildings — city of space [Raumstadt] — functional architecture.
The new form of the city arises from necessity:
- the country-city, because the separation of country and town has been abolished
- the time-city, because time is the dimension of its spatial organization
- the space-city, because it hovers freely in space, is decentralized into parts according to the terrain
- the automatic city, because the daily routine of life is mechanized.
What more are our houses than stone coffins towering up from the ground into the sky? One storey high, two storeys — three hundred storeys high. Masonry rectangles and decagons? Entrenched coffins of stone, or wood, or clay, or concrete — with air-holes.
Churchyards have more aim for the skeletons of the dead than our cities have for the lungs of the living. Grass grows round each grave, a little greensward, a gravel path separating each from its neighbor. Each grave a green island. Each man his own master; each with his own settlement. Settles take note!
And our cities? Walls, walls, walls.
Let us have no more walls, no more shutting up body and soul in barracks, this whole barrack-culture with or without decoration. What we want is:
- Transformation of global space into cities
- To release ourselves from the earth, abandonment of the static axis
- No walls, no foundations
- A system of tension in open space
- The provision of new possibilities of living and thereby of requirements that will transform society.
Have we found a good bit of carrion? All sticking together in one place and sinking our teeth in there, and only there, searching and searching just on this one spot of earth on which is this city of London, New York, Paris…is built? Piling up on top of one another. And we are afraid; and we all press against one another.
Are those really your questions? Whether the walls should be decorated or not? We have no time for such questions! Away with the walls, promoters and rank inheritors, breathe in the fresh air through your lungs and this question disappears! Bash your head against empty spaces! We must have something to laugh at!
Enough architecture has been created. We want no new edition, however cleverly it may be conceived. In place of older designs with one tarted-up front, new models with four smooth fronts; in place of baroque lines, straight lines; in place of rectangular windows, square windows. The expert is bankrupt. What really interests everyone is: how do we live within these straight or crooked walls: in what life — new life — do these quadruple or x-tuple fronts originate? In place of decoration, smooth walls; in place of art, architecture — away with all that: I demand living building, the space-city, functional architecture.
Building adequate to the elasticity of the functions of life. It is all one whether you put up domes over men, or cubes. Either way they suffocate. And your window-holes do not release them.
We must discover the impulses of the time, just as we discovered electricity, and invent a new life as we invented the motor. Until then it is a process of material digestion.
The new city will bring the solution to the problem of traffic and hygiene; it will make possible diversity in private life and the freedom of the masses. It is not built just to satisfy, but to provide the greatest possible abundance from the strictest economy of means.
Houses that we put up over men while we tell them: Sleep well, eat well, take plenty of fresh air; houses in this sense will no longer exist, and with their disappearance the narrow streets will dissolve into free dwelling- and work-places.
You have misunderstood: the riding-school has held up hoops for you, and, allez-oop, you have jumped through them: now it is a square. Tomorrow…?
Mind that the old horse you are riding does not bolt with you, so that your scent lies in the dirt.