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Paperback From Bauhaus to Our House Book

ISBN: 0671454498

ISBN13: 9780671454494

From Bauhaus to Our House

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Book Overview

The strange saga of American architecture in the 20th century makes for both comedy and intellectual excitement as Wolfe debunks the Euro gods of modern and postmodern architecture and their American counterparts.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Amusing and Clever

I am apparently getting really good at randomly picking up books that few people have reviewed. I picked this one up randomly which seems appropriate. I found this and put it up on top of my monitor. It's a small book and is about architecture and I glanced inside and decided it was worth the time to read it. I picked it up yesterday and started through the 126 pages. Wolfe is a clever writer. In this book he talks a lot about the architecture schools of the first half of the twentieth century. He goes forward from there and discusses them with biting humor and satire. Wolfe's writing is sarcastic but seeks to stick to modern given definitions. "Bauhaus" looks at the way modern architecture is a response to the bourgeois. The way the Bauhaus saw bourgeois, it was a dirty word. It is used as an epithet throughout the book. Merriam Webster defines bourgeois as: 1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of the townsman or of the social middle class 2 : marked by a concern for material interests and respectability and a tendency toward mediocrity 3 : dominated by commercial and industrial interests : capitalistic The Bauhaus sought to run away from the bourgeois, but with Wolfe's description of bourgeois, the architecture schools seem to embrace it on many levels. The book is dominated by the evolution of architectural "compounds" such as that founded by Walter Gropius in Germany in the Bauhaus school. The concept of the "group" drove out the individual response to innovation which reminds me so strongly of my very favorite book The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. The similarities to Rand's text and the actualities promoted by the Bauhaus group as detailed by Wolfe are disconcerting. The comparison between the two is my own opinion, not that of Wolfe. The Bauhaus group fled Germany because of the great war and came to American where they were established quickly as the shining light of modern design. Gropius himself is referred to as The Silver Prince. Wolfe's narrative talks about the self absorption of these architects and their ability to shove their concept of what was good down the throats of anyone who wanted to build something special. According to Wolfe, American architecture put itself inside the unornamented "box" of modernist thought. Wolfe does not pull punches. He runs riot over the schools of architecture that want to pull meaning away from original and individual thought and give impetus to the group. Wolfe uses much sarcasm to show that the Modernists are as guilty of conforming as those they accuse. This book laments the loss of beaux-arts crafting and ornamentation. They are casualties because they serve the individual rather than society as a whole. The Bauhaus draws much of its early success from "public housing projects." These buildings seem to lean toward the lowest common denominator. Promoting clean lines, the buildings also seem to promote a monotony and cheapness. Anyone who disagreed with this "groupthink" would be acc

At last, an explaination of the boxes.

Tom Wolfe explains how it is we have houses and buildings designed as architectual statements rather than places for human habitation or work. A fast, fun, very enlightening read. I knew very little about architecture before reading this book but often wondered where these cold and sterile, chrome and white buildings came from. After reading this book I felt like I had a better understanding of the archetictual mevements in the twentieth century, the main movers and shakers, the those that went against the prevailing theories. A must read for anyone even remotely interested in archetecture.

Don't bother if you LIKE modern architecture

For the rest of us who find cold, modern architecture to be...well...cold and modern, this book will briefly explain why you feel that way...and why some people seem to like it so much. It is a book that is clearly only skimming the surface (look at it sideways, how could it purport to be otherwise) but it's a fun surface to skim. I also wouldn't read this if you're a devout post-modernist. You'll find uncomfortable parallels between Wolfe's jabs at architecture and jabs others make a po-mos. A fun read that will enlighten someone who never hopes to be an "expert" on architecture, but would like to know why some God-awful, very expensive buildings ever got built.

read with Painted Word

The Painted Word (1975) & From Bauhaus to Our House (1981)(Tom Wolfe 1931-) It is not necessary to read these two books together, but they really do compliment one another and it is when taken together that they make the most powerful case. The case is that, just as each of us has always secretly suspected, modern art is crap. In fact, not only is it crap, it is intentionally so, more or less as a calculated insult to our middle brow tastes. Indeed, while most of us would consider it the purpose of art to convey beauty, modern artists consider art to be merely a tool for political expression. Logically then, since most of them are, and were, opposed to our middle class, democratic, capitalist, protestant values, modern art is antithetical to virtually everything that most of us believe in. I say that we have all always intuited that this is true, but it was left to Tom Wolfe, naturally, to declare for one and all that the emperor had no clothes. He does this most forcefully in the opening lines of Bauhaus, which deals with modern architecture, when he says: O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, has there ever been another place on earth where so many people of wealth and power have paid for and put up with so much architecture they detested as within they blessed borders today? But the reasons for the sorry state of the arts are most clearly explicated in Painted Word. The essay therein was occasioned by a Hilton Kramer review of an exhibition of Realist artists. On the morning of April 28, 1974, Wolfe picked up the New York Times and read the following by Kramer: "Realism does not lack its partisans, but it does rather conspicuously lack a persuasive theory. And given the nature of our intellectual commerce with works of art, to lack a persuasive theory is to lack something crucial--the means by which our experience of individual works is joined to our understanding of the values they signify." Kramer's words brought about an epiphany: All these years, in short, I had assumed that in art, if nowhere else, seeing is believing. Well - how very shortsighted! Now, at last, on April 28, 1974, I could see. I had gotten it backward all along. Not `seeing is believing', you ninny, but `believing is seeing', for Modern Art has become completely literary: the paintings and other works exist only to illustrate the text. Painted Word is an extended riff upon this theme--the idea that art had become wholly dependent on theory. His case builds to the stunning dénouement when an artist named Lawrence Weiner presented the following artwork in the April 1970 issue of Arts Magazine: 1. The artist may construct the piece 2. The piece may be fabricated 3. The piece need not be built Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership. Concludes Wolfe: And t

Wolfe the essayist is even better than Wolfe the novelist

One doesn't normally think of a book on architecture as being funny, but Wolfe's hilarious evisceration of modern architecture's sacred cows is truly a scream. Wolfe skewers the pretensions and downright foolishness of some of the most famous names in 20th Century architecture, and does so in a manner that is always engaging and fun to read. You may not agree with everything he says, but you certainly won't be bored by his witty and provocative observations. As good as Wolfe the novelist is, Wolfe the essayist is even better.
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