29 Oct 2021

Panel 4: Life/Theory
Moderation: Alison Fisher
>> Bauhaus Museum Dessau, Workshop room

9:45 – 10:15 am
Keynote: Re-Visiting The New City. Towards a New Heritage of Modernism
Plácido González Martínez (College of Architecture and Urban Planning at Tongji University in Shanghai)

The interpretation of modernism has frequently been based on simplified characterizations of the work and intellectual life of some of their key figures, detached from their vital circumstances. For a long time considered “in the shadow of Mies”, the study of Ludwig Hilberseimer offers an opportunity to break with such over-simplifications. This lecture will offer an insight to the genesis and the legacy of one of Hilberseimer’s key works, The New City (1944), understood as the culmination of a theoretical discourse that started in Germany in 1927 and continued for 40 years; influenced by the experience of economic crisis, political exile, war and the cultural renaissance of the US in the post-war years.

10:20 – 10:50 am
Lebenskraft, Lebensraum, Lebensprozess: Vitalist Urban Theory in Germany
Benedict Clouette (Columbia University)

The paper considers the architectural and political implications of theories of urban form that invoke "life" as both a biological and a philosophical concept. The inquiry unfolds from Hilberseimer’s republication of Walter Christaller’s diagrams from Die zentralen Orte in Süddeutschland (1933) in his book The New Regional Pattern (1949), where they are included as illustrations of the biogeographical principles that lend coherence to a region. The paper asks why Hilberseimer – called a “socialist architect" by his colleague Hannes Meyer in the prior decade, notwithstanding the complexities of his evolving political commitments – would choose to illustrate his definitive statement on regional planning with images drawn from a body of research advanced in service of the Third Reich's violent territorial imperium.

11 – 11:30 am
The City in the Landscape: Hilberseimer’s Chicago and the Economics of Space
Anna Vallye (Connecticut College)

Best known for his stark vision of metropolitan concentration in Großstadtarchitektur (1927), Ludwig Hilberseimer devoted his years in America (1938–1967) to formulating ecologically-informed plans for regional decentralization. I explore Hilberseimer’s archive, revealing the architect’s intellectual debt to “location theory” – a formative thesis in the German economics of space with a profound influence on urban planning on both sides of the Atlantic. 

11:30 am – 12 pm
Panel discussion

12 – 1 pm
Lunch break

Panel 5: Media Methods
Moderation: Charles Waldheim
>> Bauhaus Museum Dessau, Workshop room

1:10 – 1:40 pm
Keynote: In Search of Order: Hilberseimer’s Visual Patterns
Christa Kamleithner (BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg)

Both contemporaries and historiographers see in Hilberseimer an obstinate theoretical mind aiming to order the world according to fundamental principles. Nonetheless, Hilberseimer was interested in empirical matters. His designs for linear cities were based upon distribution maps and related to a history of urban patterns and the forces that shaped them. This lecture explores the epistemic conditions of this search for order and highlights the role of media representations such as statistical mapping and aerial photography for modernist urbanism. The focus is on Hilberseimer’s concept of the linear city, which he had first formulated during the final years of the Bauhaus and then addressed in all of his major books from 1944 to 1963.

1:50 – 2:20 pm
"Elementary-Magical": Hilberseimer as Theorist of Media
Lutz Robbers (Jade Hochschule Wilhelmshaven, Oldenburg, Elsfleth)

Ludwig Hilberseimer occupies a particular position amongst protagonists of the different avant-garde currents that intersected in Berlin during the early 1920s. Alongside Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Hilberseimer was the only architect who actively contributed to the journal G – Material für elementare Gestaltung. Transcending the ideological differences between Constructivism, De Stijl and Constructivism "G" resonated with the “resolutely epistemological thrust” (K. Michael Hays) Hilberseimer exhibited in his earlier writing for the Sozialistische Monatshefte. His apparent interest in the distinction between artistic and scientific knowledge appeared to be consistent with G’s universalizing technology-affirmative quest. 
Through a close analysis of a number of his articles from this period, I intend to a) chart Hilberseimer’s theoretical position on the avant-garde’s discursive map and b) probe this discursive network with regard to the architectural imagery he produced between 1922 and 1927.

2:30 – 3 pm
Writing Architecture. On the Genesis of Ludwig Hilberseimer’s The New City
Florian Strob (Bauhaus Dessau Foundation)

1933 marks the end of the Bauhaus and of Hilberseimer’s teaching in Germany as well as the end of a prolific career as a critic of avantgarde art, architecture and city planning. With his exile to Chicago in 1938 he lost his most important tool in developing and conveying his theories: the German language. By investigating the genesis of The New City (1944), his first English language book, this lecture will argue for the importance of writing as a medium of architecture and city planning. It will propose a genetic reading of The New City and hopes to show by way of focusing on the writing process the fruitfulness of such an approach for the understanding of architecture. In this context, infrastructure is also to be understood as a metaphor for the underlying processes that led to the creation of the final text.

3:10 – 3:40 pm
Structure as Infrastructure: Interrelation of Fiber and Construction
Sandra Neugärtner (University of Erfurt)

The change in Hilberseimer’s urban planning models – from the Großstadtarchitektur (1927) to The New City (1932–67) – took place during his time at the Bauhaus in Dessau. There, construction as structure became the basic concept in architecture as well as in the weaving workshop. Just as Hilberseimer compared the scheme of urban architecture with a grammar, textile designers emphasized the semantic function of threads and textiles. In addition, architects and textile designers were in constant exchange due to the polytechnical, transdisciplinary training. Against the backdrop that designers placed the process of structural organization in the foreground of weaving, the contribution examines the analogies to Hilberseimer’s structural thinking up to his aesthetic infrastructure.

3:45 – 4:30 pm
Panel discussion