The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical: Scientific Management and the Rise of Modernist Architecture

The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical: Scientific Management and the Rise of Modernist Architecture

by Mauro F. Guillen
     
 

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The dream of scientific management was a rationalized machine world where life would approach the perfection of an assembly line. But since its early twentieth-century peak this dream has come to seem a dehumanizing nightmare. Henry Ford's assembly lines turned out a quarter of a million cars in 1914, but all of them were black. Forgotten has been the unparalleled

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Overview

The dream of scientific management was a rationalized machine world where life would approach the perfection of an assembly line. But since its early twentieth-century peak this dream has come to seem a dehumanizing nightmare. Henry Ford's assembly lines turned out a quarter of a million cars in 1914, but all of them were black. Forgotten has been the unparalleled new aesthetic beauty once seen in the ideas of Ford and scientific management pioneer Frederick Winslow Taylor. In The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical, Mauro Guillén recovers this history and retells the story of the emergence of modernist architecture as a romance with the ideas of scientific management—one that permanently reshaped the profession of architecture.

Modernist architecture's pioneers, Guillén shows, found in scientific management the promise of a new, functional, machine-like—and beautiful—architecture, and the prospect of a new role for the architect as technical professional and social reformer. Taylor and Ford had a signal influence on Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and on Le Corbusier and his Towards a New Architecture, the most important manifesto of modernist architecture. Architects were so enamored with the ideas of scientific management that they adopted them even when there was no functional advantage to do so.

Not a traditional architectural history but rather a sociological study of the profession of architecture during its early modernist period, The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical provides a new understanding of the degree to which modernist architecture emerged from a tradition of engineering and industrial management.

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Editorial Reviews

Business History Review - Per H. Hansen
The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical is an ambitious work. Mauro Guillen draws from an abundance of sources, both contemporary and recent, to support his hypothesis that there was a connection between the rise of scientific management and the development of modernist architecture.... Guillen has written an excellent comparative study that will appeal both to business historians and to architectural and design historians.
American Journal of Sociology - David Gartman
Guillén . . . offers a unique and bold explanation of the differential development of modern architecture internationally. . . . Guillén's analysis of modern architecture is impressive and inventive. If his answers are not definitive, he certainly asks the right questions and, consequently, greatly advances the sociological study of architecture.
European Legacy - Guillaume Evrard
Mauro F. Guillén contributes to the scholarship on architectural Modernism with an interesting twist with approaching the architectural history literature from a joint managerial and sociological viewpoint. . . . [T]his survey will be of interest to specialists and non-specialists alike.
From the Publisher
"The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical is an ambitious work. Mauro Guillen draws from an abundance of sources, both contemporary and recent, to support his hypothesis that there was a connection between the rise of scientific management and the development of modernist architecture.... Guillen has written an excellent comparative study that will appeal both to business historians and to architectural and design historians."—Per H. Hansen, Business History Review

"Guillén . . . offers a unique and bold explanation of the differential development of modern architecture internationally. . . . Guillén's analysis of modern architecture is impressive and inventive. If his answers are not definitive, he certainly asks the right questions and, consequently, greatly advances the sociological study of architecture."—David Gartman,American Journal of Sociology

"Mauro F. Guillén contributes to the scholarship on architectural Modernism with an interesting twist with approaching the architectural history literature from a joint managerial and sociological viewpoint. . . . [T]his survey will be of interest to specialists and non-specialists alike."—Guillaume Evrard, European Legacy

Business History Review
The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical is an ambitious work. Mauro Guillen draws from an abundance of sources, both contemporary and recent, to support his hypothesis that there was a connection between the rise of scientific management and the development of modernist architecture.... Guillen has written an excellent comparative study that will appeal both to business historians and to architectural and design historians.
— Per H. Hansen
American Journal of Sociology
Guillén . . . offers a unique and bold explanation of the differential development of modern architecture internationally. . . . Guillén's analysis of modern architecture is impressive and inventive. If his answers are not definitive, he certainly asks the right questions and, consequently, greatly advances the sociological study of architecture.
— David Gartman
European Legacy
Mauro F. Guillén contributes to the scholarship on architectural Modernism with an interesting twist with approaching the architectural history literature from a joint managerial and sociological viewpoint. . . . [T]his survey will be of interest to specialists and non-specialists alike.
— Guillaume Evrard

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691138473
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/06/2008
Series:
Princeton Studies in Cultural Sociology Series
Pages:
232
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical

Scientific Management and the Rise of Modernist Architecture
By Mauro F. Guillén

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2006 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-691-11520-6


Chapter One

ORGANIZATION, MODERNISM, AND ARCHITECTURE

Form follows function. -Louis H. Sullivan Less is more. -Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

MODERNIST ARCHITECTURE is the child of industry and engineering. Its rise during the early twentieth century dovetailed with the spread of scientific management, historically the most controversial and influential approach to the organization of work. The modernist architects read about scientific management, thought of buildings as machines, embraced the ideas of waste reduction and order, used such notorious efficiency techniques as time-and-motion study, collaborated with industrialists and firms, and strived to turn architecture into a science driven by method, standardization, and planning. They yearned to create houses, public buildings, factories, artifacts, and durable consumer goods combining beauty with technical, economic, and social efficiency. They became technicians, organizers, and social reformers as well as artists, adding the stopwatch, the motion picture camera, the slide rule, and the psycho-physiological test to their toolkit. Architecture and our experience of the built environmentchanged in ways still discernible today. Technology merged with style, science with history, efficiency with creativity, and functionality with aesthetics.

In this book I examine the parallels between scientific management and architecture in a variety of countries in Europe and the Americas between 1890 and 1940. I provide the first systematic assessment of the economic, social, and political conditions that prompted architects to pursue a modernist approach to design. It was the crucial influence exerted by engineering and scientific management that helps explain the emergence of modernist architecture. The link developed in the historical context of the appearance of new sponsors-industrial firms and the state-and of the professionalization of architecture following an engineering model rather than the traditional Beaux-Arts one. In some countries the modernists succeeded at reconfiguring architecture, especially by changing the way in which architects were trained.

Among the various arts, architecture proved most receptive to the new methods and ideas emerging from industry in the early twentieth century. Architecture and its associated activities-design of interiors, furniture, and household objects-produced an aesthetic companion to the influential technical and ideological messages of scientific management. Like organizational methods, architecture carries consequences for people's lives at home and at work (Smith 1993, 399). As Siegfried Giedion ([1941] 1982, 705) has pointed out, "architecture is a complex activity; it works in the boundary area halfway between the regions of aesthetic feeling and practical doing." Similarly, Magali Sarfatti Larson (1993, 16) noted that architecture is a peculiar "social art" because it contributes to the culture not only "discourse and codified practices ... but also, and crucially ... artifacts that are useful and can be beautiful." Architecture is "a public and useful art ... that must convince a client, mobilize the complex enterprise of building, inspire the public (and not offend it), and work with the culture, visual skills, and symbolic vocabulary not of the client but of its time." In addition, the architect has become a professional expert who must strike a delicate balance between enjoying a "latitude for judgment and artistic freedom of expression" and complying with the "limits imposed by the client, the character of the site, the cost of construction, and materials" (Blau 1984, 28).

This book's journey through the times and places at which scientific management and modernist architecture blended into a single endeavor begins with a general characterization of the modernist movement in architecture. I focus attention on the ideas of method, standardization, and planning, initially developed in the United States, that the modernist architects borrowed from the world of industry and scientific management (chapter 2). I then characterize the various explanations offered by architectural historians and social scientists for the emergence of modernist architecture. What invited some architects to look into engineering and scientific management for ideas about method, standardization, and planning? Did modernist architecture emerge simply as a natural consequence of industrialization, or was it the result of an unusual degree of sociopolitical upheaval that encouraged new experiments in art, architecture, and urban planning? Was modernism made possible by specific class dynamics during the formation of the mass consumption market for artistic artifacts? How important were the state and industrialists as new sponsors of architecture interested in affordable housing for the masses and better, more efficient workplaces? Or was it the joint training of engineers and architects that helped the latter produce a new approach to design?

These questions and themes are outlined in chapter 3, and then assessed in chapters 4-6 using evidence drawn from the six largest European countries (Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Spain), and the three largest Latin American ones (Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina). The case of the United States is covered in this first chapter because American managerial and architectural achievements represented an antecedent to modernist architecture rather than a culmination: it was European architects who developed the key insights pioneered in the United States and arrived at the new aesthetic that one associates with modernism in architecture. Specifically, modernist architecture was first formulated by German, Italian, Russian, and some early French architects educated as such in an engineering tradition, whereas most architects in Britain and Spain were not exposed to such an influence. In the Americas, a similar argument holds in that the reception of European modernism was more enthusiastic among architects exposed to industry and engineering during their education or early on in their careers (chapter 7). Thus, modernist architecture emerged when architects influenced by engineering and scientific management obtained commissions for "useful" buildings like factories, schools, or apartment buildings from patrons such as industrial companies or the state. In tracing the connections between scientific management and modernist architecture around the world, this book seeks to explain the shift in architectural leadership from France and Britain to Germany, Russia, and Italy during the early twentieth century, a process that produced a modernist approach that was reexported back to the United States in the years just before World War II.

It is precisely because aesthetics should be studied not in splendid isolation but in its historical and institutional context that I compare architectural movements in ten countries in Europe and the Americas between the turn of the century and World War II. I will follow the typical analytical approach in the sociology of cultural production, namely, to examine a new artistic movement as "both a social and an ideational phenomenon" because "it involves a new world view, new techniques, a community of interacting artists and a support structure," which in the case of architecture consists of theorists, practitioners, critics, sponsors, and educators (Crane 1989, 270). Finally, chapter 8 delves into the long-term consequences of the emergence and consolidation of modernist architecture as a public, moral, and social art, exploring such an important issue in the sociology of culture as the consumption of modernist architecture. The book ends with a reconsideration of the aesthetic dimension of scientific management and other organizational theories. In examining one specific link between organization and aesthetics, I suggest that we have misunderstood the theoretical meaning and social impact of such a key organizational theory as scientific management.

The chapters that follow do not amount to a comprehensive treatise on the history of modernist architecture. Rather, the analysis is mainly concerned with the critical junctures and processes in the development of a new vision of architecture as an activity and a profession based on ideas about method, standardization, and planning. While I pay some attention to the cross-national diffusion of modernist architecture as an institutionalized pattern, I focus on the emergence of the pattern itself, that is, on the process of institutionalization. And although the link between scientific management and modernist architecture has been observed by many art historians, critics, and sociologists-as well as by the modernist architects themselves-I offer the first comprehensive conceptual treatment and the first systematic cross-national comparison of the causes that produced it.

A key development initially unrelated to architecture was reaching a climax in the United States just before World War I: the formulation of a new model of industrial management known as scientific management, which highlighted method, standardization, and planning, elements that would later appeal to the modernist architects. The scientific managers believed that analytical methods such as the division of labor (or specialization), time-and-motion study, and flowchart analysis would help optimize the production process and the utilization of labor, making them more efficient. They also focused their attention on the standardization of products, tools, and equipment so as to achieve the highest possible degree of mechanization. Product standardization essentially meant simplification and interchangeability of parts and components. The scientific managers insisted on separating task conception from execution, thus elevating the role of planning above that of implementation. They initially applied these ideas to the organization of simple tasks. Later, it occurred to them that entire production processes, companies, cities, and even countries were amenable to the same principles and methodologies.

Like the scientific managers, the modernist architects initially sought to improve building practices but soon realized that method, standardization, and planning enabled them to formulate a new approach to architecture. The overarching idea in scientific management was that of order, one that subsequently captivated the modernist architects because it enabled them to move away from the prevailing eclecticism and to present themselves as organizers, as technocrats who could ameliorate social conflict and improve standards of living. The modernist architects were frustrated at the inability of existing architectural approaches and practices to take advantage of the aesthetic possibilities offered by industrialization, and to tackle the social problems engendered by the growth of cities. Scientific management offered a set of ideas and methods that promised to reduce chaos and waste. Armed with them, the modernist architects thought they could arrive at an "orderly" theory and practice of architecture firmly rooted in the industrial era (see chapter 2).

The origins of scientific management date back to the second half of the nineteenth century. After the Civil War, American industry grew in size and bureaucratization, and managers and engineers began to complain about how difficult it had become to run complex enterprises and to keep the workforce disciplined and motivated. In fact, the period between 1890 and 1910 was one of acute labor turmoil. Unlike most business owners, whose instincts led them to confront worker insubordination with force, American engineers and managers attempted to meet the challenge through innovation (Bendix 2001; Guillén 1994). The "American System" of interchangeable parts was an early attempt to solve the problem through labor savings (Hounshell 1984). In a related development, the so-called movement of systematic management of the late nineteenth century focused on increasing efficiency and reducing waste (Bendix 2001; Shenhav 1999).

It was Frederick Winslow Taylor, a self-made engineer, who came up with a coherent synthesis of these diverse efficiency ideas, which he felicitously labeled "scientific management" (plate 1.1; see insert). I will use the term "Taylorism" to refer to the "Taylor System," although Taylor himself preferred to present his own ideas as "scientific management" (Taylor [1912] 1972, 6). For the purposes of this book, scientific management is a much broader set of ideas and techniques that came to be identified with Taylorism as well as with the achievements of other efficiency experts and practitioners, including Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, Henry Gantt, Hugo Münsterberg, and Henry Ford, all of them deeply admired by the modernist architects (see chapter 2).

After having discovered high-speed steel in the 1890s, Taylor envisaged the gains that could be derived from the speed-up of the work process if tools and machinery were standardized, machine times estimated, and the human factor adapted to an ever faster work pace (Nelson 1980, 80-103). As novelist John Dos Passos wryly observed, he was called "Speedy Taylor" in the shop, and "couldn't stand to see an idle lathe or an idle man"; "production was an itch under his skin" (Dos Passos [1933] 1979, 44, 45). In 1903 Taylor published his first book, Shop Management. He recommended that all manual tasks be studied, divided, and, when necessary and economical, performed by different workers. Taylor's model of organization combined four elements, as enunciated in his famous Principles of Scientific Management: time-and-motion studies to standardize work tools and working conditions, and to divide the process into its simplest constituent tasks; selection of the cheapest yet adequate worker to perform each of the divided tasks; the "bringing together" of the scientifically determined task and the scientifically selected worker by means of functional foremanship and an incentive system based on differential rates; and the separation of the execution of work by the workers from its conception, which belonged to a "planning department" (Taylor [1911] 1967, 85; [1903] 1972, 4-45).

Although Taylor's ideas were met by managerial skepticism and worker fury, he succeeded at placing efficiency and planning at the top of the agenda for social and business reform in the United States and around the world (Guillén 1994; Merkle 1980). Meanwhile, Taylor's many followers refined several theoretical and methodological aspects of scientific management. The Gilbreths improved the methodology of time-and-motion study, introducing the cyclograph and the chronocyclograph (Gilbreth 1909, 1911, 1912; Gilbreth and Gilbreth 1917; see also Giedion [1948] 1969, 17-30, 101-13; plates 1.2 and 1.3). Motion study using motion picture cameras became much easier and cheaper to implement with the introduction of 16-millimeter film in 1921, and the Gilbreths used them assiduously (plate 1.4). "Scientific management, ... early cinematography, Cubism, and Futurism reflect aspects of each other across the cultural spectrum like images of a house of mirrors. As the Cubists broke up and recreated bottles and guitars, Gilbreth broke down and reconstructed work processes" (Kern 1983, 117). Tellingly, Frank Gilbreth's first book (1909) was a treatise on efficient bricklaying for the construction industry, in which he proposed a new, adjustable scaffold to improve productivity. Gantt developed work flowcharts to optimize the use of resources over time (Gantt 1911, 1919), a technique that has become widely used in the construction industry.

Another prominent contributor to scientific management was Hugo Mün-sterberg whose 1913 book, Psychology and Industrial Efficiency, developed and systematized Taylor's observations about worker selection in The Principles of Scientific Management. These two books read more like manifestos than scientific treatises, perhaps one of the reasons why the avant-garde modernist architects were so fond of them. The modernists in Europe would find theoretical and practical inspiration in both books' insights, techniques, and overall ideology of order. Beyond its technical promises, scientific management proved influential because of its ideological claim to a superior scientific approach to work and organization, one that the modernist architects extended to the world of design and building.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Taylorized Beauty of the Mechanical by Mauro F. Guillén Copyright © 2006 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
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What People are saying about this

Mayer Zald
Deeply historical and comparative, Mauro Guillén shows how a neo-institutionalist and social movement analysis complement each other as he explains the emergence and rise to prominence of modernist architecture. Systematic in its use of data, the book is nuanced in its analysis. He examines the several strains of modernism and subtly explains why modernism takes hold in some countries, but not others. An excellent analysis of aesthetics and the transformation of the profession of architecture.
Mayer Zald, University of Michigan
W. Richard Scott
Conventional wisdom is that scientific management's effects have been largely negative in moral and aesthetic terms. Guillén proposes that it has given rise to a distinctive artistic form associated with a new moral ethic and sensibility. The attempt to link theories of organizing and artistic styles is novel and should be of interest to students of culture and society generally.
W. Richard Scott, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Stanford University
Paul DiMaggio
When Frederick Winslow Taylor was hectoring the workers of the Bethlehem Iron Works to greater productivity, who would have guessed that this stolid, obsessive Philadelphian would inspire visionary aesthetic movements across the European continent? Mauro Guillén interrogates the surprising affinity between scientific management and architectural modernism until it yields both engrossing narrative and analytic insight. Combining the skills of the comparative historian with those of the detective, he follows his quarry around the globe, demonstrating the consistent connection between Taylorism and modernist architecture. In so doing he has produced what will be at once an important contribution to the history of architecture and a landmark study in the sociology of culture.
Paul DiMaggio, Princeton University
Magali Sarfatti Larson
Guillén documents with a profusion of information the influence of scientific management on the architects who played an important part in the emergence of modern architecture. He has mustered an impressive array of sources, including many primary sources on Latin American architecture that are almost never considered in the canonical literature.
Magali Sarfatti Larson, Professor of Sociology, Temple University

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Meet the Author

Mauro F. Guillen is director of the Lauder Institute and the Dr. Felix Zandman Professor of International Management and Sociology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of T"The Limits of Convergence: Globalization and Organizational Change in Argentina, South Korea, and Spain" (Princeton), "The Rise of Spanish Multinationals", and the coauthor of "Building a Global Bank" (Princeton).

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