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17/10/2014 The punk of modernism: Ludwig Hilberseimer's Metropolisarchitecture | Reviews | Architectural Review

http://www.architectural-review.com/reviews/the-punk-of-modernism-ludwig-hilberseimers-metropolisarchitecture/8670589.article?blocktitle=Revie 1/7
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The punk of modernism: Ludwig
Hilberseimer's
Metropolisarchitecture
7 October 2014 | By Jack Self
17/10/2014 The punk of modernism: Ludwig Hilberseimer's Metropolisarchitecture | Reviews | Architectural Review
http://www.architectural-review.com/reviews/the-punk-of-modernism-ludwig-hilberseimers-metropolisarchitecture/8670589.article?blocktitle=Revie 2/7
Hilberseimers blank blocks resonate with todays aesthetics of anonymity, and
lead Jack Self to question the relevance of sculpture-architecture
In the last few years before he died, Ludwig Hilberseimer then senior
professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology spent several hours a day
raising and lowering blinds. At the request of his close friend and collaborator
Mies van der Rohe, Hilberseimer had designed custom venetians for Crown
Hall. Apparently he became obsessed with the students thermal comfort,
making constant modifications in a futile attempt to regulate a glass box that
seasonally baked and froze.
Nonetheless, this touching (if somewhat maniacal) concern for architectures
inhabitants stands against Hilberseimers reputation as a ruthless Modernist.
As Pier Vittorio Aureli notes in his afterword to the book, Hilberseimer is
known (if at all) as the author of the Hochhausstadt, whose two images have
been used so frequently to represent the horror of the modern metropolis that
they have become clichs, especially because they are often considered only as
images and not as illustrations of a precise urban proposal.
When Le Corbusier allotted each
architectural typology their own role
within the hierarchy of the city,
Hilberseimer conflated everything
Hilberseimer argued strongly for a total break with history, an end to the
metropolis that is based on the principle of speculation and whose very
organism cannot free itself from the model of the city of the past, despite all
the modifications it has experienced an end to the metropolis that has yet to
discover its own laws. This might sound like the typical Modernist rhetoric,
but Hilberseimer took the principle to its highest level. Whereas at this point
Le Corbusier still differentiated architectural typologies (housing, office,
culture) and allotted each their own role within the hierarchy of the city,
Hilberseimer conflated everything.
In his Hochhausstadt of 1924 there is no zoning, one typology, and a ruthless
efficiency in the superposition of circulation, production, consumption and
17/10/2014 The punk of modernism: Ludwig Hilberseimer's Metropolisarchitecture | Reviews | Architectural Review
http://www.architectural-review.com/reviews/the-punk-of-modernism-ludwig-hilberseimers-metropolisarchitecture/8670589.article?blocktitle=Revie 3/7
reproduction. In fact, Hilberseimer hated Corbs projects, picking holes in his
calculations, labelling them bourgeois and flawed. Le Corbusier, he said, did
nothing other than shift horizontal congestion into a vertical congestion of
high-rises. In this respect, Hilberseimer was ultra hardcore: the punk of
Modernism. At the same time, he was simply pursuing the logic of the
metropolis to its most extreme conclusion.
Hillberseimers unbuilt project for mixed-height apartment blocks and row housing, 1930
Mario Carpo has said that we choose to live in cities because we do not want to
live in a state of perpetual Darwinian survival; we choose cities because they
allow us to prioritise the distribution of resources and power (which under
democracy at least means as fairly as possible). However, the metropolis
described by Hilberseimer is not at all this type of beast. The metropolis is not
the city per se (which is the public space of the civitas), but the concentration
of capital, people, and the industrial exploitation of both With the
disappearance of these factors, the metropolis will dissolve a large
population is not enough to make a large city a metropolis.
It is for this reason, as Richard Anderson explains in his truly excellent and
17/10/2014 The punk of modernism: Ludwig Hilberseimer's Metropolisarchitecture | Reviews | Architectural Review
http://www.architectural-review.com/reviews/the-punk-of-modernism-ludwig-hilberseimers-metropolisarchitecture/8670589.article?blocktitle=Revie 4/7
thorough introduction, that [Mies and Hilberseimer] understood aesthetic
speculation and speculative building to be fundamentally linked. In effect,
the metropolis is the precipitate of specific primarily economic conflicting
forces. Mies: Our task is precisely to liberate building activity from the
aesthetic speculation of developers and to make it once again the only thing it
should be, namely, BUILDING. The aesthetic purity of Hilberseimers blocks
is certainly preferable to the rather sad, cheap housing being thrown up
around London and other British cities today (what Hilberseimer would have
known as mietskaserne, or rental barracks). At least the Hochhausstadt is
honest about what it is and how it is expected to perform.
There is another relevance to these blank blocks, often described as
dehumanising and alienating in their homogeneity. Even before the revelations
of Edward Snowden concerning the mass collection of our data, it was clear the
problems of privacy and anonymity in a digital world were going to be a
defining paradigm of the 21st century.
The increasing difficulty of being alone; of being unknown; of being private are
inextricably linked to the rise of the aesthetics of anonymity. The generic
obviously stands resolutely against the formal flatulence of the Parametricists,
whose sculpture-architecture is always singular. There is not space here to list
my manifold complaints with this architecture, except to say that it conflates
functional indeterminacy with formal exigence.
Zaha Hadid recently said she would love to do a tower in London. If executed,
this would be the perfect manifestation of Hilberseimers aesthetics of
speculation. What she does not yet realise is that Starchitects have already had
their day. They are already historical figures. Rather, the task of the architect
today is not to simply dress up market forces with flashy facades, but to make
serious proposals about how we are to live in the coming century. In
Hilberseimers words, Today it is no longer essential to simply paint paintings,
sculpt sculptures, or create aesthetic arrangements. Rather it is crucial to
design reality itself.
Metropolisarchitecture
Author: Ludwig Hilberseimer
Editor: Richard Anderson, GSAPP
Price: 12.02
17/10/2014 The punk of modernism: Ludwig Hilberseimer's Metropolisarchitecture | Reviews | Architectural Review
http://www.architectural-review.com/reviews/the-punk-of-modernism-ludwig-hilberseimers-metropolisarchitecture/8670589.article?blocktitle=Revie 5/7
Some like it squat: Residents evicted
from the world's tallest squat
1 comment 3 months ago
Juan M. Heredia "Press were forbidden
to film the clearance". In what world does
the author live? If anything, the
Does what it says on the tin: Amanda
Levete's Tincan Restaurant
1 comment a month ago
daveoncue This is old news in Lisbon ---
Sol e Pesce!
Instrumental Irish architects Sheila
O'Donnell and John Tuomey win
3 comments 24 days ago
KrishnanKL The brickwork patterns of
the LSE building are delightful. While I am
a little puzzled how a 'young'
Style is the Man: Charles Jencks |
Essays | Architectural Review
1 comment a month ago
Peter Schellinger What is this book
called and where/when is it available?
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http://www.architectural-review.com/reviews/the-punk-of-modernism-ludwig-hilberseimers-metropolisarchitecture/8670589.article?blocktitle=Revie 6/7
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17/10/2014 The punk of modernism: Ludwig Hilberseimer's Metropolisarchitecture | Reviews | Architectural Review
http://www.architectural-review.com/reviews/the-punk-of-modernism-ludwig-hilberseimers-metropolisarchitecture/8670589.article?blocktitle=Revie 7/7
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