The Construction Kit and the Assembly Line — Walter Gropius’ Concepts for Rationalizing Architecture
Journal article, 2018
With the breakthrough of modernism, various efforts were undertaken to rationalize architecture and building processes using industrial principles. Few architects explored these as intensively as Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus. Before World War One, and increasingly in the interwar years, Gropius and a number of colleagues undertook various experiments that manifested in a series of projects, essays, model houses and Siedlungen. These were aimed at conceptually different goals, i.e., they followed two different categories of industrial logic: First, a flexible construction kit and, second, an assembly line serial production. This article traces the genesis of these two concepts and analyses their characteristics using these early manifestations. Compared to existing literature, this article takes into account hitherto neglected primary sources, as well as technological and construction history aspects, allowing for a distinction based not only on theoretical, but also technological and structural characteristics. This article shows that Gropius succeeds in formulating and exploring the two principles, in theory and practice, as well as drawing conclusions by the end of the 1920s. With them, he contributed significantly to the rationalization of architecture, and his principles have been picked up and developed further by numerous architects since then.
history of modern architecture