Art Nouveau - at the Crossroads of Symbolism and Proto-rationalism

Jolanda Covre Nigro


The Deutscher Werkbund organized a major exhibition in Cologne in 1914, where three buildings display the three features that characterized the full maturity of the Jugendstil movement in Germany, whose features can be traced back to Art Nouveau in Brussels and Paris, and to the Vienna Secession. These are van de Velde's Werkbund Theatre, Bruno Taut's Glass Pavilion, and Gropius's Model Factory. By 1902, the Brussels-trained Henry Clément van de Velde was in Germany, where he directed the Weimar School of Applied Art, and was already a wellestablished Art Nouveau architect and designer. Bruno J. Taut would later become better known for his utopian work - dubbed expressionist - after the end of the Great War in 1918, and eventually turned to a rather personal version of the rationalist school. Walter Gropius's architecture around this time was defined as proto-rationalist, and his approach matured with the foundation of the Bauhaus school in 1919, where he initially stressed a rather expressionist approach, and after a few years shifted to his typical rationalist focus. He was backed up by the example of Peter Behrens, who created the template for a new concept of industrial architecture and related design, characterized by a lean and generally abstract-geometrical interpretation of Jugendstil. Behrens, along with Joseph Hoffmann, attended the 1914 exhibition. The indications coming from van de Velde, Taut and Gropius's buildings remain highly symbolic to this day, albeit in different ways.

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ISSN: 2083-0599 (online); 2082-6923 (print)