University of California
This paper will consider the architectural writings of the German expressionist writer Paul Scheerbart, focusing on his fascination with glass as an architectural and symbolic material within his writings. I will discuss Scheerbart’s architectural treatise Glass Architecture, his novel The Grey Cloth, and related writings on glass architecture. Scheerbart represents an alternative tradition within architectural modernism, which saw glass as a constructive material that represented modernity by exposing structural elements of the building, thus guaranteeing conformation of form to function. Scheerbart, in contrast, considered glass as a bearer of color and multiplier of light, which he saw as capable of transforming the human environment and exercising positive effects on individuals and collectives. He saw light as culture-formative, and glass architecture as the means by which the built environment could maximize modern culture’s utopian potential. I also discuss the influence of Scheerbart on the anarchist architect Bruno Taut and on the thinking of Walter Benjamin.
glass, architecture, utopia, transparency, Paul Scheerbart, Bruno Taut