Josef Frank’s “human architecture” and its Quatrocento sources.

Activiteit: Talk or presentation at a workshop/seminar


My talk focuses on one particular aspect in Josef Frank's theoretical work: the relevance of Italian Quatrocento sources in his search for a true “human” and modern architecture.
In 1910, after a seven-month study trip to Italy, Frank discusses at the Viennese Technische Hochschule his doctoral dissertation about Leon Battsta Alberti's religious buildings. Frank's reflection on early Renaissance theoretical tradition is not an erudite exercise of his years as a student. It accompanies Frank until the end of his career, as it emerges from his unpublished manuscripts of the 1950s and the 1960s.
At the end of the 1920s, his early reading of Alberti’s De re aedificatoria leads to an unconventional anthropocentrism/humanism that calls into question the formal, ethical and theoretical principles of the German Neues Bauen. In Architektur als Symbol, Frank’s attention to the multiplicity of psychological needs and their architectural expression is in fact clearly connected with the antique/early Renaissance notion of varietas. His search for a via media – an even middle road free from the totalitarian “pathos” of Neues Bauen – can equally evoke the category of mediocritas. Against this theoretical background, the vivid eclecticism of Frank’s interiors can thus be read as 20th-century translation of historiographically non-conventional classical values: varietas, mediocritas and atachment to life, which, in Frank’s view, is the essence of classical culture.
Frank's attention to man as a guiding principle of his architecture has not to be read as the search for a set of anthropometric rules, it has nothing in common with the pursuit of (classical based) ratios of many of Frank’s contemporaries. His focus on human “imperfections” indicates a diverging path for the definition of modern architecture.
Periode12 mei 2023
EvenementstitelEine menschliche Moderne. : Zum Menschenbild der Villa Beer von Josef Frank.
LocatieVienna, Austria
Mate van erkenningInternational