chapter  11
20 Pages

Bernard Rudofsky and the Sublimation of the Vernacular


When Bernard Rudofsky (1905-88) entered the Technische Hochschule in Vienna in 1923, the ideas and language of the Neues Bauen (New Architecture) were already well diffused and recognized. While Otto Wagner and Adolf Loos had laid out the theoretical basis and produced the built examples that had pioneered the way to a Neues Bauen, Josef Frank was, in the mid­1920s, the sole Viennese architect to bear the trademark “Modern Movement” – witness his house at the Stuttgart Weissenhofsiedlung of 1927, the only one by an Austrian architect.1 During this time, a student at the Technische Hochschule would have received a solidly modern education from the point of view of technology and structural principles. Moreover, the stylistic struggle between historicizing formalism and Neues Bauen was much less violent there than in most other European academies. Post­World War I Vienna teemed with new construction that was clearly modern but shied away from the radical avant­ garde, infatuated with the myth of the machine. In other words, an “other modern,” professionally made and free of vociferation, was being built. It was no coincidence that, at the end of his first year at the university, the 18­year­ old Rudofsky embarked on a journey to Germany to discover the new works and visit the first Bauhaus exhibition in Weimar. From there, he went north to Sweden, again with the intention to study the most recent buildings of Asplund, Lewerentz, and other modern­classicists.2