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The Weimar Republic and Architecture

The Weimar era provided a vital opportunity for the development of modernist architecture. The short-lived Weimar Republic (1919-1933) was Germany's first attempt at democratic governance. Prior to the First World War German architects had been leaders in the development of both the expressionist and the rationalist trends in architectural modernism. The end of the war produced an outpouring of pent-up talent as older architects, such as Bruno Taut and Ernst May, and younger men, such as Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, created a new, rationalist architecture that was to have a lasting impact on this century. Among the expressionist architects, however, only Eric Mendelsohn met with significant success and his designs stressed a union of functionalism and expression. When the Nazis finally drove out most modernist architects in the early 1930s, these men took their ideas to more receptive regions as Gropius, Mies, and, eventually, Mendelsohn continued their endeavors in the United States.

The "formulation of a new twentieth-century idiom" in architecture was the work of an international group of architects: Adolf Loos and Otto Wagner (Austria), Hendrik Petrus Berlage (Holland), Auguste Perret (France), and Peter Behrens (Germany) (Kostof 686). Though the Art Nouveau movement gained a great deal of attention among architects between 1890 and 1910, "this streak of European antirationalism did not run deep or wide" (Kostof 687). To the emerging rationalist architects Art Nouveau seemed to refer back to the values of another age. They wanted to create an architecture suited to a new day, an architecture that acknowledged the new technologies that were reshaping society. The modernists rejected dependence on historical form and ornamentation. As Loos said, "ornament is crime" (quoted by Kostof 686). Art Nouveau, and most forms of expressionism, were far too deeply involved with ornamentation and seemed to the mode...

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