With the publication in 1941 of Space, Time, and Architecture, Sigfried Giedion (1888 -1968) captured the ideology and visage of architectural Modernism with a success that perhaps no other book in the twentieth century has matched. But the leading themes and, indeed, much of the text of that book were not progenies of the late 1930s but rather a reiteration of ideas and formulas that Giedion had rehearsed in his book of 1928, Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferroconcrete. This book, which now appears for the first time in English, is both a polemical stroke of genius and the defining moment in Giedion's life. In it he positions himself as an eloquent advocate of modern architecture. The alliance to which this book attests, together with its principles, helped to shape the direction of Modernism for the next four decades.
Building in France was the first book to exalt Le Corbusier in an unabashed way as the artistic champion of the new movementat the expense of a considerable body of Germanic theory and practice. It also spelled out many of
the historical "myths" of Modernism such as the impoverishment of nineteenth-century architectural thinking and practice, the contrasting vigor of engineering innovations, and the notion that Modernism was technologically preordained.
Sokratis Georgiadis, formerly curator of the Sigfried Giedion Archive at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, is professor of architectural and design history at the State Academy of Fine Arts, Stuttgart.
J. Duncan Berry is an independent scholar residing in Harwich Port, Massachusetts.
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Series: Texts & Documents