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Bruno Taut

Bruno Julius Florian Taut (4 May 1880, Königsberg, Germany – 24 December 1938, Istanbul), was a prolific German architect, urban planner and author active in the Weimar period.

Taut is best known for his theoretical work, speculative writings and a handful of exhibition buildings. Taut's best-known single building is the prismatic dome of the Glass Pavilion at the Cologne Werkbund Exhibition (1914). His sketches for "Alpine Architecture" (1917) are the work of an unabashed Utopian visionary, and he is variously classified as a Modernist and an Expressionist.

This reputation does not accurately reflect Taut's extensive body of built housing and his social and practical accomplishments. Much of Taut's work in German remains untranslated into English.

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Germany

After training in Berlin and joining the office of Theodor Fischer in Stuttgart, Taut opened his own Berlin office in 1910. The elder architect Hermann Muthesius suggested that he visit England to understand the garden city movement. This trip would have a lasting impact. Muthesius would also introduce him to some of the figures of the Deutscher Werkbund, including Walter Gropius. Taut had socialist leanings, and before World War I, this hindered his advancement.

Interior of the Glass Dome

Taut completed two housing projects in Magdeburg from 1912 through 1915, directly influenced by the humane functionalism and urban design solutions of the garden city movement. The Reform estate was build between 1912-15 in the south west of Magdeburg. The estate comprises of one storey terrace houses for a housing trust. It was the first project where Taut used colour as a design principle. The construction of the estate was continued by Carl Krayl. Taut served as city architect in Magdeburg from 1921 to 1923. During his time as city architect a few residential developments were build i.e. Hermann Beims estate (1925-28) with 2,100 flats. Taut designed the exhibition hall 'City and Countryside' in 1921 with concrete trusses and a centre sky light.

A lifelong painter, Taut is unique among his European modernist contemporaries in his devotion to colour. As in Magdeburg he applied lively, clashing colors to his first major commission, the 1912 Falkenberg housing estate in Berlin, which became known as the "Paint Box Estates". The 1914 Glass Pavilion, an essay in the new possibilities of glass, and familiar from black and white reproduction, was actually also brightly colored. Taut's distinction from his Modernist contemporaries was never clearer than at the 1927 Weissenhofsiedlung housing exhibition in Stuttgart. As opposed to pure-white entries from Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Walter Gropius, Taut's house (Number 19) was painted in primary colors.

In 1924 Taut was made chief architect of GEHAG, a housing cooperative in Berlin, and was the lead designer of several successful large residential developments ("Gross-Siedlungen") in Berlin, notably the 1925 Horseshoe Development ("Hufeisensiedlung"), named for its configuration around a pond, and the 1926 Uncle Tom's Cabin Development ("Onkel-Toms Hutte") in Zehlendorf, oddly named for a local restaurant and set in a thick grove of trees. Taut worked under the city architect of Berlin, Martin Wagner, on some of Berlin's Modernist Housing Estates, now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The designs featured controversially modern flat roofs, humane access to sun, air and gardens, and generous amenities like gas, electric light, and bathrooms. Critics on the political Right complained that these developments were too opulent for 'simple people'. The progressive Berlin mayor Gustav Böss defended them: "We want to bring the lower levels of society higher."

Taut's team completed over 12,000 dwellings between 1924 and 1931. GEHAG is still in business, and has a horseshoe as its logo as tribute to Taut.

After World War I

Hermann Gieseler Gymnasiumm, interior, Magdeburg, Taut and John Göderitz

The architect was forced out of Germany with the rise of the Nazis. Taut was promised work in the Soviet Union in 1932 and 1933, and came back to Germany in February 1933 to a hostile political environment. As a Jew with Social Democratic leanings, he fled to Switzerland, then to Takasaki in Japan, where he produced three influential book-length appreciations of Japanese culture and architecture, comparing the historical simplicity of Japanese architecture with modernist discipline. Taut also did furniture and interior design work.

Offered a job as Professor of Architecture at "State Academy of Fine Arts" in Istanbul (currently, Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts), Taut moved to Turkey in 1936. In Ankara he joined other German wartime exiles in Turkey, including Martin Wagner.

Before Taut's premature death on December 24, 1938, he wrote at least one more book and designed a number of educational buildings in Ankara and Trabzon after being commissioned by the Turkish Ministry of Education. The most significant of these buildings were the "Faculty of Languages, History and Geography" at Ankara University, "Ankara Atatürk High School" and "Trabzon High School". Taut's final work one month before his death was the catafalque used for the official state funeral of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on 21 November 1938 in Ankara.

He died on December 24, 1938 and was laid to rest at the Edirnekapı Martyr's Cemetery in Istanbul as the first and the only non-Muslim.[1]

Bibliography

  • Jose-Manuel GARCÍA ROIG, "Tres arquitectos alemanes: Bruno Taut. Hugo Häring. Martin Wagner", ISBN 978-84-8448-288-8, Valladolid (Spain), 2004, Universidad de Valladolid, Secretariado de Publicacione, Email: secretariado.publicaciones@uva.es, Página Web

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