Sunday, November 14, 2010

Architecture and Design Between the Wars: Russia and The Netherlands

Russia: Suprematism and Constructivism

"Then and Now!" anonymous poster

Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, Suprematism

First Suprematist Exhibition in Saint Petersburg, 1915, featuring Malevich's Black Square hanging in the corner.

Kazimir Malevich, White on White, Suprematism

Vladimir Tatlin, Wall Relief, Constructivism (destroyed, photographed in 1921)

Vladimir Tatlin, Proposed Monument to the Third International, model photographed in 1920 (destroyed), Constructivism

A model of Tatlin's proposed Monument on parade for May Day in Saint Petersburg, 1920

Aleksandr Rodchenko, Books!, poster, Constructivism

Aleksandr Rodchenko, cover for LEF magazine, Constructivism

El Lissitzky, PROUN Composition, Constructivism

El Lissitzky, "Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge!" poster, Constructivism

El Lissitzky, proposed speaker's tribune for Lenin, Constructivism

The Netherlands: De Stijl

Theo Van Doesburg, Color Construction, De Stijl

Gerrit Rietveld, Schroder House, Utrecht, The Netherlands, De Stijl

Gerrit Rietveld, Schroder House, interior

Gerrit Rietveld, table and chair for the Schroder House, De Stijl

Piet Mondrian, Red Tree, De Stijl

Piet Mondrian, Pier and Ocean, De Stijl

Piet Mondrian, Red, Yellow, and Blue, De Stijl

Piet Mondrian, Broadway Boogie Woogie, DeStijl



The Russian Revolution
--Anatoly Lunacharsky
--Kazimir Malevich
--Vladimir Tatlin
--Aleksandr Rodchenko
--El Lissitzky

The Netherlands

De Stijl
--Theo Van Doesburg
--Gerrit Rietveld
--Piet Mondrian

Metropolis was the very first science fiction blockbuster, the direct ancestor of the big budget sci fi epics released almost every summer in the mall cineplexes these days. Directed by Fritz Lang and based on a novel written by his wife, Thea von Harbou, it was released in 1927. The movie shows a huge city in the year 2026. It is a very ambivalent vision of a future where technology creates enormous powers to do great good and great evil, where the elite live in splendid palaces in the sky, while the toiling masses live underground. The machines and the architecture can be amazing to look at, inspired by Sant'Elia's visions of a Futurist city. Those same machines can devour the very people who service them.

Below is Kino Video's trailer for their latest restoration of Metropolis. They now own the rights to it and have been cracking down on YouTube posts from the movie (which continues to have a huge and enthusiastic international cult following). That's alright because you get a good glimpse at most of the really cool parts.

Metropolis was a huge hit with the public across Europe, but it was so expensive to make with its colossal sets, dazzling special effects (all before computer animation and still amazing after 80 years), and casts of thousands, that there was no way to break even let alone make a profit on ticket sales. The movie proved to be so costly that it bankrupted the production company.
It is interesting to see what it does and does not predict. It does predict television (just invented that year in the USA), but it does not predict computers or anything like the internet.
Science fiction writers of the day hated this movie, especially HG Wells, author of War of the Worlds. But some architects loved it. Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus, was a fan of this movie. A veteran of the First World War, he shared the movie's ambivalent view of technology.