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Seeing through glass: The fictive role of glass in shaping architecture from Joseph Paxton's "Crystal Palace" to Bruno Taut's "Glashaus"
Ersoy, Ufuk. University of Pennsylvania, 2008. 2008. 3328551.

This dissertation investigates the appropriation of mass-produced glass into architectural discourse through the metaphors of cladding and crystal. This investigation revolves around two seminal works: Joseph Paxton's Crystal Palace (1851) and Bruno Taut's Glashaus (1914). For Paxton, the glass envelope was an instrument to measure and control the physical qualities of interior space. For Taut, rather than a building material, glass was an expressive, artistic tool and it brought out a "surplus" of meaning, which went beyond practical demands of daily life. Through Paxton and Taut's incompatible approaches, a problem which dominates works focusing on the history of glass in architecture represents itself. The historical accounts, written mostly in the pragmatic framework of technological determinism assume a consistent linear development in the use of glass and disregard the diversity of interpretations. But, the dissimilarity of the two buildings--that Taut confirmed by drawing on John Ruskin an antagonist of the Crystal Palace--calls for an alternative account of how this industrial material became incorporated within architectural theory and practice, or in Taut's words, how it became endowed with an "architectonic quality." Instead of observing the progress in manufacturing and construction techniques, this dissertation concentrates on the metaphors that Taut and Paxton employed in order to solve the theoretical riddle between this mass-produced material and architectural principles. Deciphering these metaphors, the dissertation reveals that, far from displaying a structural truth, glass appealed to Paxton and Taut by virtue of its fictive attributes. The potential of a substance to act in the subjunctive mode of "as if" and to suspend material reality invited both to explore a different way of engaging the environment. More specifically, while Paxton mastered ways of cultivating organisms from different climates by making them feel at home in a recreated natural environment, Taut attempted to open a door to the opaque, symbolic depth of the world, by reactivating a vision similar to the Homo religiosus . The metaphors to which Paxton and Taut referred still haunt architectural discourse and continue to perform their heuristic function.

Indexing (details)
Subjects: Classification: Identifiers / Keywords: Architecture 0729: Architecture Communication and the arts, Glass in architecture, Architectural representation, Crystal Palace, Glashaus, Paxton, Joseph, England, Taut, Bruno, Germany, Glass Seeing through glass: The fictive role of glass in shaping architecture from Joseph Paxton's "Crystal Palace" to Bruno Taut's "Glashaus" Ersoy, Ufuk 2008 2008 0175 DAI-A 69/09, Mar 2009 9780549809524 Leatherbarrow, David University of Pennsylvania


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