University of Otago

The Word on Modernism:

How books aided a revolution in design, 1925-1965

Architectural Review
Le Corbusier
European Tradition
American Tradition
English Tradition
New Zealand - Beginnings

European Tradition



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The American G. E. Kidder-Smith’s (1913–1997) series of books on post-war European modern architecture introduced readers to national styles and movements within modernism. By outlining each country’s different cultural traditions and social circumstances, he revealed a less rigid approach to design than the earlier modernist discourse that demanded uniformity and standardization.

‘G. E. Kidder-Smith, Sweden Builds (London: The Architectural Press, 1950) and Italy Builds (London: The Architectural Press, 1956). Leith St, Bliss VAW +S


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The post-war reconstruction of Germany saw the reintroduction of modernist architecture that had been suppressed by the Nazi regime during the 1930s. More than a quarter of Germany’s housing had been destroyed during the 1939-1945 war and books like Modern Architecture in Germany documented the massive rebuilding project of the democratic German state

Bruno E. Werner, Modern Architecture in Germany. Munich: Bruckman, 1960. Leith St, Bliss VAW W



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Published in Britain just over ten years after the end of the war, New German Architecture included projects carried out in Germany as well as work in America by Walter Gropius (1883–1969), Director of the Bauhaus school in the 1920s. The internationalism of modern architecture was seen as a unifying force for public good after the nationalist horrors of the previous decades.

Karl Kaspar (ed) New German Architecture. London: The Architectural Press, 1956. Leith St, Bliss VAW +N


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Architects were often the clients for their own designs and this book shows many well-known European architects’ houses including those of Alvar Aalto (1898–1976), Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer (1902–1981).

Robert Winkler, Das Haus des Architekten; Architects’ Homes. Zurich: Verlag Girsberger, 1955. Private Collection

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