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Siegfried Giedion, Modernism and American Material Culture

By Douglas Tallack


This paper was published as: Journal of American Studies, 1994, 28 (2), pp. 149-167. It is available from Doi: 10.1017/S0021875800025433Metadata only entryThe Swiss architectural critic and historian of technology, Siegfried Giedion, was born in 1893 and died in 1968. Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition (1941) and Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History (1948) are his two most well-known books and both came out of time spent in the United States between 1938 and 1945. World War Two kept Giedion in America though he, unlike many other German-speaking European intellectuals, came home and in 1946 took up a teaching position at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich where he later became professor of art history. While in the United States he delivered the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures (1938–39), saw them in print as Space, Time and Architecture, and also completed most of the research in industrial archives and patent offices for Mechanization Takes Command. These two books are an important but, for the past twenty years, a mostly neglected, analysis of American material culture by a European intellectual, whose interests in Modernism included painting — notably Cubism and Constructivism — as well as architecture and planning. The period which saw the publication of Giedion's key works is, itself, an overlooked phase in the trans-Atlantic relationship between Modernism and modernization

Publisher: Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Year: 1994
DOI identifier: 10.1017/S0021875800025433
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