Books by Elaine S. Hochman

BAUHAUS by Elaine S. Hochman
Released: May 29, 1997

A concentrated study of the conditions in Weimar Germany that spawned the Bauhaus, its struggles to survive, and its eventual destruction. Critically wounded in WW I, the architect Walter Gropius returned to Berlin ``burning with hope, throttled artistic impulses, and pain,'' and it was in this condition that he opened the doors to an arts and crafts school in the xenophobic city of Weimar. Gropius, writes Hochman (Architects of Fortune: Mies van der Rohe and the Third Reich, not reviewed), had been inspired by the idea of a medieval workers' guild. For the next decade the state-funded school would weather the country's strikes, economic catastrophes, and power swings, but it would never thrive with the ideological and artistic unity that Gropius had hoped to achieve. The Bauhaus failed financially, and eventually Mies van der Rohe took over, moving the institution to Berlin, where he bankrolled it himself until it was raided by the Gestapo in 1933 and closed permanently. Meanwhile, America's infatuation with the Bauhaus ideal had begun in 1926, when Alfred Barr, who would soon head up the Museum of Modern Art, began to write about the new ideas coming from Bauhaus-nurtured architects and designers. But whereas ``the tenets of Gropius' Bauhaus emerged out of the trenches of war, Barr's interpretation of them developed within a milieu of elegant lunches,'' and this, Hochman thinks, was not a good thing. Stripped of its ideological fervor, American Bauhaus ``lacked substance,'' contenting itself with bastardized versions of a style that was never really coherent in the first place. While the author's socio-historical approach fills in a neglected dimension, she pauses too rarely to emphasize what the Bauhaus was producing amid the chaos; the narrative is thus more about the obstacles the Bauhaus faced than what it accomplished. (16 pages b&w illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >