The aim of this essay is to discuss the notion of type and its importance for the early 20th century architectural discourse through reference to Hermann Muthesius and the German Werkbund, Adolf Loos, and Le Corbusier…
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Deutscher Werkbund was established in 1907 by Hermann Muthesius and Friendrich Naumann in order to consolidate art and industry . The debates surrounding Werkbund focused on Muthesius' concept of “Typisierung”. According to Muthesius, mass production denoted standardization; however, he combined the economic concept of standardization with Platonic ideal types. Muthesius' ideas were heavily criticized by a number of artists and architects. The debate between him and Van de Velde was not about mechanization, but on the role of the artist. Whereas Muthesius asserted that the artist was separated and abstracted from the production process, Van de Velde advocated the artistic freedom and creativity . Muthesius and Werkbund did not care much about the Fordist aspects of the mass production, rather they tried to bring organization to the otherwise chaotic world of the mass production ruled by fashion, individualism and arbitrariness. Peter Behrens' designs for AEG, which were called Types, epitomized the various tendencies within the Werkbund. Behrens's workplace in Berlin has become an atelier for many young architects including Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, who would shape the Modern Movement. They learned architecture directly from Behrens. As Curtis noted Le Corbusier practicality and idealism was enhanced through his work for Peter Behrens, who saw mechanization as a vital force in creation of the modern culture.5 Figure 1, Peter Behrens, Types, AEG, 1912. The Werkbund's approach was influential until the end of World War I. However, later on, both Gropius and Le Corbusier abandoned the theoretical approaches of the Werkbund. Before 1914, debates were focused on the design of commodities. After 1920, the architectural issues have increasingly become the focus. Adolf Loos holds a special place in the history of modern architecture, not just as a pioneering figure of the Modern movement, but also as a critic of the Werkebund. In his influential article “Ornament and Crime” (1908) he argued that elimination of ornaments from the useful objects was beneficial to culture “reducing the time spent on manual labour and releasing energy for the life of the mind”6. This article can be regarded as an attack to the Werkebund in a sense that it was unacceptable for Loos to give the artist a form-giving role7. He did not believe that the artist is the creator of everyday useful objects8.According to him, style was the outcome of several economic and cultural conditions. Hence he also criticized Muthesius on the ground that he substituted form for ornament9. As Kenneth Frampton indicated , for Loos “all culture depended on a certain continuity with the past; above all, on a consensus as to a
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