Gottfried Semper: Architect of the Nineteenth Century

Gottfried Semper: Architect of the Nineteenth Century

by Harry Francis Mallgrave
     
 

During an adventurous life, the German architect, scholar, and political revolutionary Gottfried Semper (1803-79) experienced early fame, political exile from his homeland, international prominence, and the exhilaration of seeing European architecture transformed by his influential body of ideas. In this engrossing biography of Semper - the first written on this…  See more details below

Overview

During an adventurous life, the German architect, scholar, and political revolutionary Gottfried Semper (1803-79) experienced early fame, political exile from his homeland, international prominence, and the exhilaration of seeing European architecture transformed by his influential body of ideas. In this engrossing biography of Semper - the first written on this architect - Harry Mallgrave presents a comprehensive account of the life, buildings, and writings of the man he describes as a colossus of the nineteenth century. Mallgrave weaves an engrossing saga of Semper's troubled youth, his fascination with the July Revolution in France, and his daring if somewhat imprudent voyage to a Greece wracked by civil war. He speaks of Semper's glorious design for the Dresden Hoftheater in the mid-1830s, his influence on Richard Wagner, and his plummeting fortunes after the political unrest of 1848-49. Mallgrave traces Semper's slow but determined literary resurrection that culminated with the publication of his epoch-making book on style; he follows his artistic resurrection with a monumental practice in Zurich and Vienna. By the time of his spectacular design for the second Dresden Hoftheater in the early 1870s, Semper was without architectural peer in the German-speaking countries and his ideas had pushed European architecture to the brink of Modernism.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Semper is probably as well known for what he didn't build as for what he did. Architects know him best for his theoretical writings, while many laypeople know him for his work on Wagner's pipedream, the Munich Festspielhaus, elements of which (most notably the second proscenium) were appropriated for Bayreuth. Born in 1803, Semper was eventually appointed to the Academy of Fine Art in Dresden, where he socialized with Wagner, Schumann and others and began a prolific building career that included the Dresden Synagogue, the Art Gallery and, most famously, the Hoftheater. But the structure that most influenced his career was the "Semper barricade," built when (encouraged again by Wagner) he sided with the republicans against the Saxon king in 1849. Exiled from his country, he spent six years in Paris and London and the subsequent 14 in Zurichonce more lured there by Wagner. As an architect without a patron, he built almost nothing for 20 years until, as an old man, he began work on Vienna's Art and Natural History museums. During that time, much of his effort went into writing, and it is here that Mallgrave, who teaches architecture at the University of Oregon, is likely to lose his lay audience. Semper's crucial Style in the Technical and Tectonic Arts is difficult enough without adding the extensive publishing history and theoretical antecedents. It's also curious that such academic concerns share space in a volume that defines Gesamtkunstwerk. Semper deserves to be known better among an educated general audience, but this volume will only go partway to making the introduction. 131 b&w illustrations, 22 in color. (July)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Semper was the premier architectural theorist of 19th-century Germany and a widely admired architect as well. He is best known as the author of the "Bekleidungs" theory of architecture, in which he speculatively traced the beginnings of architecture back to fabric weaving and textile design, used in the tents and carpets of nomadic peoples. Semper's colorful, anthropological theory of architecture is as valuable today as it was 100 years ago. This very fine scholarly monograph examines Semper's life and all the issues his work engaged. It is a wonderful book, thoroughly researched and felicitously written by Mallgrave (architecture, Univ. of Oregon), who has examined innumerable archives, sifted incalculable opinions, and arrived at subtle, sensitive conclusions. This book will long stand not only as an essential resource on the life of Semper but also as a basic book on 19th-century architecture in general.Peter Kaufman, Boston Architectural Ctr.
Booknews
Semper (1803-1879) created spectacular architectural designs that brought him huge acclaim and international recognition; moreover, his theories altered the practice of architecture in the last decades of the 19th century as well as profoundly reshaping the disciplines of archaeology, art history, and aesthetics. This biography presents a comprehensive account of the life, buildings, and writings of a man the author describes as a colossus of the 19th century. The text is enhanced with a generous collection of Semper's architectural drawings, photos of his buildings, and portraits of the architect himself at various times in his career (131 b&w illustrations; 22 colorplates). Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Gottfried Semper
"A valuable contribution that fills a giant gap in English language architectural literature." New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300066241
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
05/28/1996
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
448
Product dimensions:
7.93(w) x 10.33(h) x 1.32(d)

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