Since the onset of modernism, there has been a tendency to depreciate the art of the previous age, Hermann Muthesius in 1902 going so far as to dismiss the whole of the nineteenth century as “the inartistic century.” Nineteenth-century architecture in particular has been the object of criticism, and it has often been described as being stuck in a historicism that stifled design, and whose practitioners, without any ideological preconceptions, simply copied the structures and styles of the past according to the whims of the market and contemporary taste.
For the most part, such assumptions have rested upon ignorance of the actual work of the nineteenth century’s greatest architects, who, living in an age of tumultuous change that seemed to threaten the very existence of art, believed that it was their responsibility to educate the new middle class in its cultural heritage. They turned to the past, then, not because they lacked imagination, but because this seemed to be the best way of finding representational forms that would be appropriate in style and decoration for the relatively new building types of public museums, libraries, theaters, and opera houses, and would advance their wider ends. This didactic purpose was strong in the creations of the great Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, 1 notably in the frescoes in the Old Museum in Berlin, which were intended as illustrations of cultural continuity. Schinkel, indeed, in the view of Harry Francis Mallgrave, had a vision of architecture as a kind of urban theater, and this was even stronger in Gottfried Semper, who contemporaries agreed was Schinkel’s most brilliant successor.
Harry Mallgrave has written a fascinating and richly illustrated study of the life and work of this sometime political revolutionary, friend of Richard Wagner and Gottfried Keller, builder of the two court theaters and the art museum in Dresden as well as the museum complex on the Ringstrasse in Vienna and the dominant architectural theorist of his time. Mallgrave advances the view that a sense of theatricality was the salient characteristic of Semper’s work, which was rooted, he writes, in his conviction that the birth of monumental architecture was linked to the ancient temple’s function as the “stage upon which the first communal rituals were enacted.” Semper held to this idea throughout his career, and sought always to find suitable forms for this primitive artistic instinct. In his architectural designs, this impulse is to be seen in the dramatic effects used to startle the viewer and subvert his normal sense of reality, and in the complex detailing of his buildings, often in exaggerated proportions. It is present as well in the iconography and allegorical illustrations, and, not least important, in the skill he displayed in situating his buildings for their greatest urban effect. These techniques are so successful that even today anyone who buys a ticket for a performance of Aida in Semper’s recently restored opera house in Dresden is caught, even as he approaches the building, in an excitement that mounts as he enters the great doors and goes up the staircase and is gradually absorbed in the “haze of carnival candles” that Semper believed was the “true atmosphere of art.”
Gottfried Semper was born in Hamburg in November 1803, the third son in a family of eight. His mother was of Huguenot stock; his father a wool merchant and member of the Hamburg stock exchange. From the beginning he was a difficult child, self-willed, contentious, and furious in his moods. He attended the Gymnasium in Hamburg and in 1823 went to the University of Göttingen with the intention of studying mathematics and military science, but he was infirm of purpose, spending more time drinking, gambling, wenching, and dueling than upon his books and absenting himself from Göttingen to visit other universities and consider other careers, among them hydraulic engineering. It was not until 1825 that he gave any thought to architecture and not until the end of the following year that he went to Paris and enrolled in a small architecture school directed by Franz Christian Gau.
Gau was a Rhenish German who had acquired French citizenship as a result of the territorial shifts of the revolutionary and Napoleonic periods. He was best known for archaeological studies of Nubia and the Roman city of Pompeii, and it was largely on the strength of these that he was appointed at the end of the 1820s to the post of municipal architect for the Parisian hospital and prison administration. As Semper’s teacher, he had trouble at first in focusing the attention of his willful student, who actually left Paris in October 1827 with the intention of accepting a job in hydraulic engineering in Bremerhaven. But he came back, and Gau was able to train him in the rudiments of his new calling and to guide him through a number of design projects that confirmed his interest and increased his confidence. Gau was also a caustic critic of contemporary trends in German and French architecture, especially the Bavarian school of Gärtner and Klenze, and he doubtless fueled Semper’s critical instincts, which had already been inflamed, in the years when he was working with Gau, by what he thought were the democratic possibilities inherent in the July revolution of 1830. Finally, Semper was impressed by Gau’s archaeological studies, which inspired him to emulate his master by traveling to the Middle East to study the masterpieces of the ancient world on the spot.
This trip, upon which he embarked in September 1830 and which carried him to Rome and Sicily and then, despite the dangers posed by the Greek war of independence against the Turks, to Athens, Sparta, Nauplion, Epidaurus and Aegina, was to have a crucial effect on Semper’s career, for it drew him into the debate over polychromy that was dividing European architects. Since the time of J.J. Winckelmann it had been assumed that the ancients had abstained from using color in their buildings and that the beauty of a form in the Periclean Age had been judged by its degree of whiteness, since that best reflected light and defined contours most sharply. In the 1820s new discoveries by British travelers in Greece cast doubt on this aesthetic by revealing traces of color on various temples and on the surfaces and sculptures of the Parthenon, and after diggings in Sicily in the 1820s, J.I. Hittorff, a former student of Gau’s, advanced a “system” of polychromy, in which he claimed that color was a constant element in ancient architecture from Selinunte to Athens to Pompeii.
This theory—which immediately elicited a number of acrimonious replies—accorded with Semper’s own conclusions after his extensive travels in Greece, and when he returned he set about preparing a colored presentation of his findings, including a bird’s-eye perspective of the Acropolis in color, which is reproduced in Mallgrave’s book. More important, in 1834 he wrote his first substantial theoretical essay, under the title Preliminary Remarks on Polychrome Architecture and Sculpture in Antiquity.
Mallgrave admits that Semper was inadequately read in the arguments already advanced on both sides of the debate and that he was needlessly caustic in his remarks about some of the participants. But his pamphlet was written with great spirit, and he claimed to have discovered that “the ancients not only painted the interior of their temples in a most elaborate way but they also richly covered the exteriors. The noblest white marble was dressed with bright colors; even the basreliefs were painted.” Quite as striking as this, however, was his evolutionary approach to architecture, which broke new ground. He argued, Mallgrave writes, that “the structural elements of the primitive temple comprised little more than the basic scaffold, upon which were attached ennobling flowers, festoons, branches, sacrificial animals, implements, shields, and other mystical emblems.” All of these were later, as the temple assumed permanent form, incorporated into its façade as decorations and symbols of past rituals. Semper suggested that the first Greek temples were little more than special stages prepared for high sacred dramas, and that architects and dramatists had the same artistic origins and instincts, their mutual task being to develop sophisticated festive settings for social rituals. Mallgrave writes:
This view of classical architecture as dramatic Gesamtkunstwerk proved to be a very powerful one in its implications—not just for Semper but for Richard Wagner. For Semper it provided the basis for his subsequent practice of monumental architecture, which turned almost exclusively on the orchestration of these choral effects. As he himself explained: “Under the architect’s supervision the monument became the quintessence of the arts; as a unified work of art, it was defined, developed, and sustained in its details. Architecture as a separate art evolved quite naturally in relation to its sister arts.”
By 1834 the debate over polychromy had pretty well blown itself out, with both sides ready to make compromises, and Semper’s interest turned elsewhere. He had received his first major commission, a small garden pavilion for a well-to-do businessman in Altona (the plan and elevation and a colored interior perspective are included in the one hundred and fifty handsome and instructive illustrations and colored plates in Mallgrave’s volume). More important, in May 1834 he was appointed director of the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts, with the rank of professor. In view of the slimness of his architectural portfolio and the exiguity of his teaching experience, this was an extraordinary appointment, although no more so than Schinkel’s to the Higher Building Delegation in Prussia in 1810, before he had designed a single building that had met the approval of professional architects.
Semper probably owed it to the wide interest aroused by his pamphlet on polychromy, supporting letters that stressed the importance of his travels in the East, and the reputation enjoyed in Germany by his teacher Gau. Still, he was understandably nervous as he took up his assignment. Next to Berlin and Munich, Dresden was the liveliest center of the arts in Germany, and in Semper’s time it was the residence of the painter Caspar David Friedrich, the novelist and dramatist Ludwig Tieck, the actors Emil and Eduard Devrient and Caroline Bauer, the soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, Johann Gottlob Quandt, the friend of Goethe and Schopenhauer and until 1833 director of the Saxon Union of the Arts, and his successor Carl Gustav Carus, and, after 1842, the composer and conductor Richard Wagner. Had Semper been a diffident man, he might have been intimidated by this array of talent. Instead, he buckled down to his teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts, reorganized its curriculum, married and established a family, gave some impressive public lectures, and in 1835, in connection with the eightieth birthday of King Anton, designed and supervised the construction of a series of provisional structures for the city’s public squares and bridges, including a Greek temple, two obelisks, and a triumphal arch, all polychrome and illuminated at night. This established his reputation without any question and brought him the new commissions that inspired his extraordinary achievement in the decade that followed.
His work in this period included the renovation of the antiquity rooms of the Japanese Palace, a maternity hospital, the pedestal of the statue of King Friedrich August I in the Zwinger palace courtyard, the new Dresden Synagogue (completed in 1838 and destroyed exactly a hundred years later by the Nazis on Kristallnacht), a town house and a villa for the banker Martin Wilhelm Oppenheim, a new Dresden Art Gallery in the Zwinger courtyard, and the Dresden Court Theater (the first Semper opera house). In his careful analysis of the salient features of these creations, Mallgrave points out that, in the case of the Art Gallery, which was not completed until after Semper’s departure in 1849, there was a conscious link with Schinkel’s museum in Berlin, both buildings using the monumental treatment of the exterior to express their ideal purposes, while keeping the interior as simple as possible so as not to distract from the artistic objects displayed. He writes:
Semper’s monumental forms and the communal procession of apotheosized emblems were intended—like Schinkel’s colossal murals in Berlin—to dramatize catechistically the capacity of art to shape a culture, as well as to bring some joy or delight to the Sunday afternoon stroller.
The difference was that Semper changed Schinkel’s vision of a Greek stoa into a Renaissance palace, a transformation dictated by the arched baroque forms of the nearby Zwinger palace and museum. Altogether, the Art Gallery is a brilliant elaboration on Schinkel’s idea of architecture as theater.
Chief among the creations of the Dresden period, and inseparably connected with Semper’s name ever since, was the new Court Theater, which opened on April 12, 1841, with a performance of Goethe’s Torquato Tasso. Most of the great European theaters had been neoclassical in style and rectangular in form. Semper decided to build his theater in Renaissance style, and he also elected to give its component parts their own forms, while integrating them under one roof. Thus the auditorium and corridors had a rounded wall that projected into the main public square, while the stagehouse, fitted with carriage entrances and rectangular circulation blocks, culminated in a squared, three-story façade, with a tall bacchanalian frieze. The total effect was grandiose and exuberant, an impression enhanced by the iconographic decoration of the exterior and the use of color and allegory in the interior. Semper personally did all the structural engineering for the building, paying particular attention to the acoustics, with respect to which his theater was unsurpassed either for drama or for opera. It turned out to be ideal for Wagner’s musical dramas, and it was here that Rienzi, Der fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser had their triumphant first performances.
This burst of creativity was followed by years of deprivation and frustration. In 1848 revolution swept over Germany, toppling thrones and arousing liberal hopes for national unity and constitutional rights. An assembly of liberals in Frankfurt drew up a charter of fundamental rights and invited Frederick William IV of Prussia to accept it and become emperor of all the German states. He refused in a gesture that stiffened the backbones of his fellow monarchs. Thus when the Saxon Diet called upon King Frederick August II to rally behind the Frankfurt constitution, he dissolved the parliament and, when popular agitations began and mobs stormed the arsenal and were fired upon, called upon the Prussians for military assistance. Barricades then began to be built in Dresden.
No one with a wife and six children should become a revolutionary. But Semper’s democratic convictions were as strong as they had been in 1830; he was a member of the liberal Vaterlandsverein and of the so-called academic legion of the local militia. As a builder he felt a responsibility to improve the defensibility of the barricades—after the city was taken, the Prussian commander praised the “Semper barricade” on the Wilsdruffergasse as an exceptionally imaginative work, a “small fortress” built to the height of one story—and ended up fighting to hold them against the advancing Prussians. This proved to be a losing proposition, and he soon found himself on the run, like his friend Wagner, who had thrown himself into the fighting with a juvenile enthusiasm. Wagner made his way to Zürich, where he had friends, and was soon living in reasonable comfort and pursuing his career in the usual way. Semper fled to Paris, where he found no prospects, considered emigrating to the United States, and finally, following a friend’s advice, went to London.
He must often have regretted this decision, at least at the beginning. His rich experience as an architect found no recognition in the British capital, and his only commissions during his first year there were to advise the embassies of Turkey, Canada, Sweden, and Denmark on the design and content of their displays in the international exhibition for industry and art which opened in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park in May 1851. These assignments did not take up much time and effort or do anything to relieve his lonely existence or his dependence upon loans from his mother and brother. He found some diversion in politics, joining an association of German refugees called “United Democrats,” which included Gottfried Kinkel, who had been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Prussians after the failure of the Baden revolution and had been rescued from Spandau prison by Karl Schurz, and the journalist Lothar Bucher, later a confidant and secretary of Otto von Bismarck. In the summer of 1851, Semper was actually elected to the executive committee of this group, much to the disgust of Karl Marx, who regarded the association’s members as bourgeois at heart and potential police spies.
Apart from this, inspired by what he saw at the exhibition, Semper began to write theoretical essays about architecture, notably a pamphlet entitled Science, Industry, and Art. This came to the attention of Henry Cole, an energetic and influential civil servant who was interested in improving art education in Britain. He commissioned Semper to work up a comprehensive history of decorative iron work and, upon its conclusion, persuaded the Board of Trade in August 1852 to appoint the architect professor in the London Department of Practical Art, with responsibility for “instruction in the principles and practice of Ornamental Art applied to Metal Manufactures.” This greatly relieved Semper’s situation, restoring his sense of personal dignity and allowing him to bring his family to London. It also greatly widened his circle of acquaintances and, as his lectures at the Department became known, enhanced his reputation. But it brought him no opportunities to practice architecture, and this left him with a sense of unfulfillment.
It was probably this that made him responsive when, at the end of 1854, the president of the Swiss School Council invited him to come to Zürich as director of the school of architecture in the new Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH, or Polytechnikum). This appointment he largely owed to the agitations of Richard Wagner, who believed that Semper was the only person who could build a theater worthy of his projected Ring cycle. However that may be, it marked the opening of a new period of great creativity in Semper’s life. After some initial doubts, he found the atmosphere in Zürich congenial and the opportunities for intellectual stimulation greater than in London, for, partly as a result of the failure of the 1848 revolutions, Zürich in the 1850s was a refuge for people like the philologist Hermann Köchly, who had been on the proscribed list in Dresden in 1849, the aestheticist Friedrich Theodor Vischer, the humanist Francesco de Sanctis, and the poet Georg Herwegh and his wife, Emma Siegmund, a dedicated revolutionary and friend of Bakunin, who admired Semper as “a true artistic temperament without any trace of vanity.”2
Semper was soon on friendly terms with all of these luminaries and others, including the historian Jakob Burckhardt, who was briefly on the faculty of the Polytechnikum before going on to Basel; and he was particularly close to the great Swiss writer Gottfried Keller. At the Polytechnikum he quickly established himself as a teacher, and his department of architecture, though small, attracted increasing numbers of students who carried on his principles, to the considerable advantage of city architecture in Switzerland in general. He soon became a Zürich personality, and in 1856 and again in 1869 was invited to participate in the prestigious Rathaus Lectures, responding with talks on “The Formal Lawfulness of Ornament and its Meaning as an Artistic Symbol” and “Architectural Styles.” In the latter of these he asserted the principle, already elaborated more fully, if diffusely, in his book Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts, that style is “the correspondence of a work of art with the history of its becoming.”
Mallgrave suggests that, with respect to architecture proper, Semper’s seventeen years in Zürich were disappointing in comparison with his Dresden period. There is something in this. Swiss cantonal governments were less attracted to monumental architecture than monarchical states, for both ideological and financial reasons. The authorities in Zürich were apt to balk at paying for the rich dressing in which Semper liked to clothe his buildings, and, in one notable case, the ETH building, they saddled him with an associate who skimped on the materials required for the foundations, so that extensive repairs were needed some decades later.
Even so, Semper’s record was impressive, including such masterpieces as the City Hall in Winterthur, a dramatic building whose style recalled the town’s Roman origins, with a temple-like central pavilion with a porch, intersected by two lateral wings, and fronted by a grand exterior staircase. He was also responsible for the main building of the Polytechnikum and the Zürich observatory and made important contributions to the design of the new railway station and the re-modeling of the residential quarter between the Bahnhofstrasse and the Limmat River. The ETH building, a noble neo-Renaissance palace set on a bluff above the Limmat and on its right side, left a new and appropriate impression on the city’s profile, giving visitors a highly visible indication of the importance that its citizens attributed to education.
Semper’s greatest disappointment in these years came as a result of the improvidence and unreliability of his friend Richard Wagner. The composer had left Zürich in 1858 and for the next eight years lived an itinerant existence, fleeing his creditors, giving the occasional concert, and seeking opportunities to produce his music dramas. He was liberated from this in April 1864, when he received a message from King Ludwig II of Bavaria, commanding him to come to Munich and offering to employ him at an impressive salary, to pay off his debts, and to produce all of his works in a new theater specially designed for him. This was the beginning of a complicated comedy of misunderstanding and deceit, which Mallgrave describes in satisfying detail.
Once he had talked with the King, Wagner embarked on a splurge of self-indulgence, which soon exhausted the patience of the stolid Munich population, who, with Lola Montez in their memory, began to refer to the composer as Lolotte. Wagner also summoned Semper to Munich, where he was received by the King and authorized to build not one theater, but two—a monumental festival theater suitable for the production of Wagner’s musical dramas and a smaller one, presumably for experimental work and lesser productions. With a remarkable degree of trust, given the fact that he had long recognized the charlatan in Wagner, Semper threw himself into these projects. But the King had never really been interested in the smaller theater, and his ministers were adamantly opposed to both (although they never admitted this to Semper and were always quick to reassure him when he expressed concern over his lack of a firm contract).
As for Wagner, caught up in his affair with Cosima von Bülow, he seemed to lose interest in the project entirely. As a result, Semper worked for more than two years on designs for theaters that were never built and had to threaten to sue before he received any compensation. The tragic aspect of this muddled affair is that Semper’s festival theater—grandly designed to sit on a high bluff on the east bank of the Isar River (Mallgrave provides six illustrations)—would, he thinks, have been “not only his greatest architectural accomplishment but without question the grandest theater of the nineteenth century.” It would have “rivaled in ostentation and grandeur the new Opera in Paris and vastly exceeded it in size,” and would have made Munich “the operatic center of Germany.”
This disappointment seemed for a time to mark a frustrating end to Semper’s building career. But the pause that followed the completion of the design for the festival theater in 1866 was broken three years later by another burst of creative work. Ever since the 1850s Vienna had been one of the busiest building centers in Europe, as a result of the razing of the ramparts and glacis that surrounded the old city and the decision to replace them with a grand boulevard, the Ringstrasse, lined with handsome residences and, periodically, with monumental works like the opera, the parliament buildings, and the Votivkirche.3
In 1869, serious consideration was being given to an extension of the royal residence in the Hofburg and the construction of a museum complex, and competitions were being held to select designs for these buildings. Gradually Semper became involved in this difficult and contentious enterprise, largely at the initiative of a young and ambitious architect named Carl Hasenauer. In the spring of 1869 he was asked by the Emperor Franz Joseph to prepare designs with a local collaborator of his choice; and after he did so, choosing Hasenauer, the two men were commissioned in 1870 to draw up the designs for the Art and Natural History museums, the Hofburg palace extension, and the adjacent court theater. Semper’s contract with the Polytechnikum ran until 1872, but the Austrian court persuaded the Zürich authorities to release him from this, and in September 1871 he left for Vienna to enter the Austrian service.
Before these negotiations were completed, Semper’s life had been complicated by another tragic event. On September 21, 1869, when he went to his usual tavern for a drink with Gottfried Keller, the writer handed him a newspaper, whose headlines informed him that his opera house in Dresden had been gutted by fire. Semper burst into tears and was for a time inconsolable; his mood was finally relieved, however, by the news that the King of Saxony had provided the funds for a new theater, and that there was strong public support for his appointment as its architect. Indeed, he was invited in February 1870 to come to Dresden, which he had last seen in 1849, for an audience with the King, at the end of which he signed a contract for the design, asking that his son Manfred be put in charge of construction and that the state architect Haenel superintend the work and the finances.
There were complications before these two contracts were fulfilled, and in Vienna much unpleasantness, for relations between Semper and Hasenauer soon deteriorated seriously, so that after Semper’s death Hasenauer tried to take credit for all of the ideas that had inspired their joint efforts, a claim that Semper’s son demolished meticulously and conclusively. Nevertheless, Semper’s career ended with his two greatest triumphs, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the second Dresden Court Theater, which opened on February 2, 1878, with a performance of Goethe’s Iphigenie auf Aulis, and which still stands, in all its glory, today.
In his analytic description of these two buildings, Mallgrave demonstrates how they both embodied Semper’s theatricality at its most expressive. In the case of the Dresden Theater, he feels that the key to this lies in the iconography.
The leitmotif here is the bronze quadriga atop the exedra, in which Dionysus leads his bride Ariadne to her apotheosis in a chariot propelled by four panthers. As the cumulative decorative effects make clear, Semper viewed the theater in emotional terms as the frenzied realm of a Dionysian dithyramb.
The theme of Dionysus was accentuated throughout the building, in the ceiling panels of the main foyer, for example; and this leads Mallgrave to suggest that there is more than an accidental correspondence between the explicit Semperian priority of the Dionysian over the Apollonian and the elaboration of that theme in Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy (1872). In 1869, Nietzsche had apparently read Semper’s lecture on architectural styles and his pamphlet on polychromy and discussed them with Wagner, and in his notes on his reading there are citations from Semper’s book Der Stil. The two men do not appear to have met, but they seem to have been on the same wavelength.
Semper’s second Dresden opera house came close to going the same way as the first. On February 14, 1945, in the closing days of the Second World War, Allied firebombing virtually destroyed the city that had been called the Florence on the Elbe. The Frauenkirche, the Zwinger palace, the Albertinum, the Brühlsche Terrasse were all left in ruins, and the center of the old town, including the Wilsdruffergasse, where Semper had once built a barricade, was obliterated.4 Yet despite grave internal structural damage, the opera, in comparison with neighboring buildings, was fortunate, and a photograph of the proclamation of the German Democratic Republic in the Theaterplatz on October 12, 1948, shows it with its façade, quadriga and all, virtually intact.5 With so many other historical buildings in need of restoration. the Semper opera had to wait its turn, but structural repairs began in the late 1950s and intensified in the 1970s, and the house was finally reopened in 1985.6
The second great triumph of Semper’s last years was the Art Museum in Vienna, which today houses such treasures as Cranach’s Garden of Eden, a remarkable Brueghel collection, Tintoretto’s Susannah and the Elders, and Titian’s Danae. The visitors who pass through its main portal are probably too intent upon reaching these masterpieces to pay much attention to the building itself, yet the decoration of the museum’s exterior and of the great staircase that leads to the galleries—which Mallgrave calls “one of the most monumental creations of the nineteenth century”—are well worth study, representing as they do the ultimate expression of Semper’s stylistic principles, his didactic purpose, and the theatricality of his architectural thinking. Reluctantly, Mallgrave admits that one needs a catalog to understand all of the allusions in the building’s external decorative dressing, and that Semper’s schematism may appear “somewhat ‘bookish’ to modern sensitivities.”
In our own time, Semper has been accused of a lack of interest in the future, an unwillingness to think of how the progress of industrialism and the coming of new building materials like iron and glass would change architecture, and an increasing tendency to cater to the bourgeoisie he had started out to educate. With regard to his gradual change from emphasizing the basic structure in his architecture, as in the case of his Dresden Synagogue, to preoccupying himself excessively with the exterior, as in the case of the Winterthur City Hall and his later works, Klaus Zoege von Manteuffel has written recently that it is not by chance that this transition to what might be called Fassadenarchitektur took place at a time when Karl Marx was formulating his theory of base and superstructure, adding,
How deep and unbridgeable the gulf in the nineteenth century was is made clear in the life and work of a man like Gottfried Semper, who had a real political and social conscience but became a collaborator in the building of this magnificent superstructure world with its fragile foundations, or, if one will, this world floating above material reality.7
Mallgrave is not inclined to agree. Semper was well aware that basic changes lay ahead for architecture, he argues, but was willing to leave them to the younger generation of architects. He believed that his responsibility lay in doing what he could to preserve cultural continuity in an age of violent social change. He clung to the idea that architecture was something that must appeal to the highest laws of humanity and elevate the national consciousness of a people, and he strove to make it capable of doing that. The measure of his success is seen in those creations of his that still survive.
November 14, 1996
On Schinkel, see my article “The Master Builder,” The New York Review, June 11, 1992, pp. 38-41. ↩
Gordon A. Craig, The Triumph of Liberalism: Zürich in the Golden Age, 1830-1869 (Scribners, 1988), pp. 223-224. ↩
See the fine chapter on the Ringstrasse in Carl E. Schorske, Fin-de-Siècle Vienna (Knopf, 1980). ↩
Axel Rodenberger, Der Tod von Dresden: Ein Bericht über das Sterben einer Stadt, eighth edition (Frankfurt am Main: Franz Müller, 1963), pp. 18-19. ↩
Rudolf Forster et al., Dresden (Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, 1985), p. 216. ↩
Forster, Dresden, p. 286. ↩
See Craig, The Triumph of Liberalism, p. 207, quoting an article by Manteuffel written in 1985. ↩