Varietas, Mediocritas and Annehmlichkeit. The Reception of Classical Tradition in the work of Josef Frank and its Viennese context

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The theoretical work of the Viennese architect Josef Frank (1885–1967) illustrates a continuous reflection on the Italian Renaissance tradition. This study seeks to gain new insights into Frank’s complex and optimistic 20th-century ‘classicism’ and to identify the Renaissance categories Frank used in his written, and to a lesser extent, in his built work as authoritative instruments in his search for a modern architecture.

The starting point of this paper is an analysis of both the classical education Frank received in Vienna at the Technische Hochschule (TH) and his doctoral thesis on Leon Battista Alberti of 1910. The work of his closest colleagues and former students at the TH provided a Viennese context for Frank’s anthropocentrism, which is based on classical categories rather than a search for anthropometric norms. Frank’s attention to man leads rather to a sort of 20th-century humanism, a ‘humane’ architecture focusing on imperfection, agreableness, moderation, and variety, which he theorizes in his seminal essay Architektur als Symbol from 1931.

Frank’s continuous reflection on the Renaissance tradition is part of the contemporary debate on modern architecture in Vienna and in German-speaking countries. He developed, from his education about history, an alternative model for modern architecture. The aim of this article is to provide a more diverse reading of that debate and to shed light on the many facets of the reception of classical tradition in the 20th century.

Originele taal-2English
Artikelnummer5
Pagina's (van-tot)1-21
Aantal pagina's21
TijdschriftArchitectural Histories
Volume8
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
StatusPublished - 2020

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