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Exhibition: "Gifts From the Americans"

Who says Germans are not grateful to the United States anymore? Currently there is an architectural photo exhibition in Berlin featuring cultural buildings financed by the United States during the Cold War. The exhibition and website is called Geschenke der Amerikaner ("Gifts from the Americans"), which is in German, but includes a few good photos.


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David on :

It is interesting to see the heavy Bauhaus influence of 1950s American architecture. History came full circle and the US reintroduced German design to postwar Germany.

Joe Noory on :

Virtually all prominent buildings between 1946 and 1980 were an offshoot of the Bauhaus movement, which was finally uniformly rejected as elitist and inhumane, but something that was the product of preofession that was so elitist at the time, the that population was not concidered worth listening to. It was dismissed as backward supersticious sentimentalism. The star architects of the day tried to carry on as though there was still an aristocratic priveledge set aside for them, all the while spewing evasions that egaliterianism was embedded in the very soul of their modern movement, which by then stopped being as inventive as the period from the 1920s onward. Odddly enough, just as Louis Sullivan nearly smited the imposition of neo-classicism on the American continent with his inventiveness, Frank Lloyd Wright nearly did the same thing to the imposition of the Bauhaus, later called by one of my professors (and a Berliner, BTW) as the 'International Style.' Blake later described it as entirely discredited, being more akin to 'being nowhere,' and he was right. In the end there is a transnational nothingness to the modernism of the Bauhaus, and on a certain level an abject disregard for the people who see or inhabit the environment it built - which you can still see remnants of all over, especially in the former east Berlin. Hence Peter called his last book "Noplace like Utopia", and would open any discussion of the age with this basically: [i]look, some of us were trying to put a roof over peoples' heads. Other people tried to promote communism or pretend to be philosophers.[/i] Peter was raised in Berlin and from a Prussian aristocratic family. He fled after '33, made his way to NY eventually, and under the threat of deportation as a German citizen and property heir, joined the Army. He landed at Normandy, and fought to the end without being pulled off of the line for any length of time at all. As he spoke German fluently, he was given a battlefield commission and put to work in intelligence. Toward the end, functioning as liason officers to keep the allied armies colliding, he found himself to be the first American to enter Berlin, his home town, after it fell to the Soviets. He felt so passionately about the threat that the Soviets played on the battered German people that he remained in the Army for several years in Berlin and even returning again later after his career as an Architect restarted, often getting people out of Russian sector by arresting them, wheich he could do by right. In '89 when the wall came down, most property records of what inhabited the death strip were largely lost. Operating from memory and using for visual clues remnants of curbstones and cobblestones, managed to identify the location of the property the present US Embassy which prior to their expulsion in WW2, was where it originally stood.

Pat Patterson on :

We have a main library in Huntington Beach designed by Richard Neutra and built by his son Dion in the 70's. I was at the dedication ceremony in 1975 when the mayor referred to the International Style as Bauhaus. Years later in an Architectual Digest interview Dion mentioned that at the time he and his recently deceased father had a falling out with those who had studied under Walter Gropius and Mise van der Rohe. He admitted that the utilitarian shapes owed much to Bauhaus but the overwhelming use of glass and height were native to America. Here's a link to our library, though somewhat worn still is a surprising gem in the middle of a what used to be an oil field storage yard and winter lake that only appears when the water table is high.

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