From Bauhaus to Our House

by Tom Wolfe

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

From Bauhaus to Our House is a 1981 book-length essay and aesthetic critique about modern architecture, written by American author and journalist Tom Wolfe. Even though it had a major impact on the American cultural and artistic movements of the late twentieth century, From Bauhaus to Our House received a lot of negative reviews, mainly about Wolfe’s apparent disregard of the architectural and socioeconomic history.

The first main theme of the essay is, of course, modern and postmodern architecture. Wolfe boldly criticizes the styles of many famous architects such as Walter Gropius, who is known as the founder of the Bauhaus school of architecture, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, whom he criticizes for his theoretical, conservative, and mechanical style, even going as far as to call it pretentious.

Wolfe theorizes that the European Bauhaus architecture, a.k.a the International Style of architecture, should have never been imported into the US. He argues that all of the buildings and other establishments that were designed in this particular style, ended up looking bland, unappealing, and even hideous.

Wolfe also analyzes the history and the origin of the Bauhaus architecture, stating that it was created after the First World War, in Germany, when the people were sick and tired of all the destruction and chaos around them, and were deeply inspired to create something simple, practical, and functional; which was completely opposite of the nineteenth-century bourgeois and elitist style of art and architecture. He suggests that the Bauhaus was deeply influenced by the socialist and Marxist movements of the early twentieth century.

Wolfe believes that this style came into the US during the World War II era, when many European architects came to the US, and immediately established themselves as the main figures in design and architecture, and even business. Thus, the second main theme of the essay is the artistic, corporative, and aesthetic development of America.

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