edited by Alison J. Clarke and Elana Shapira. Bloomsbury, February 2019. 264 p. ill. ISBN 9781350099258 (pbk.), $37.95.
Reviewed September 2019
Hillary B. Veeder, Architecture Public Services Librarian, Texas Tech University, email@example.com
This edited volume from Alison J. Clarke and Elana Shapira, professors at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, is thoughtfully curated. It is organized into five parts and comprised of thirteen chapters. The chapters provide a glimpse into the lives of Central European, predominantly Viennese, émigré designers, architects, and sociologists of the 20th century. Discussion and commentary are laden with pertinent biographical details. Each author endeavors to illuminate and contextualize the émigré experience and how those personal experiences, abroad and state-side, impacted and/or translated into their design work.
The first section concentrates on themes of social transformation and consumption. Discussion includes Otto Neurath and Josef Frank’s collaborations and shared interests in social democracy and education, Joseph Binder and Paul Lazarsfeld’s interests in post-war and interwar consumption and production and Frederick Kiesler’s modernist store displays. In the second section, Paul T. Frankl’s skyscraper furniture, Paul László’s Hertz bomb shelter and his Dreamville and Atomville urban developments, and Eva Zeisel’s ceramics are examined and juxtaposed with their assimilation into American, modernist culture. In the third section, Victor Papanek’s search for a design community illuminates his role as an émigré outsider with a unique perspective, and Felix Augenfeld’s ties to Freud and his work with the personalization of interior spaces explores the impact of culture on inhabited spaces. In the fourth, Bauhaus in the United States is viewed within the context of Gyögry Kepes’s pursuit of design as an education of the mind and Xanti Schawinsky’s experimental performances at Black Mountain College. The final section concludes with the influence of Adolf Loos on R.M. Schindler and Richard Neurtra, their shared and subsequently splintered trajectories in vernacular architecture, as well as Bernard Rudofsky’s Architecture without Architects exhibition.
The contributing authors include scholars from both the U.S. and Europe, each with an impressive research record and level of expertise. Extensive notes for each chapter are provided. Each author brings a unique voice to their chapter, all of which are academic in tone, vocabulary, and writing style. A list of the figures and their sources are included. Each chapter contains approximately three to five black and white images, all varying in sizes.
This book can be read cover-to-cover or selectively, based on part or individual chapters of interest. Upper-level architecture and design students as well as seasoned academics will benefit from this book. However, undergraduate students with little to no architecture and design history background may find the discussion challenging and difficult to contextualize. There is a home for this book on the shelves of an academic library; its scholarly contribution to the ongoing critical discussion of early 20th century modernism and the influence of the European experience, and a newly lived American experience, offers a worthwhile read.