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Book Contribution

Publication Date



Oxford University Press


In 1914, the passionate young architect Bruno Taut (1880-1938) and the bohemian poet Paul Scheerbart (1863-1915) drew a parallel between the two imaginative disciplines of building and narrative and committed themselves to a shared vision of Utopia. Both sought to represent an archetype of “glass architecture”; one by narrating, the other by building. Highly critical of existing architecture and social conditions, they were in search of an inspiring alternative, as were many of their more progressive contemporaries. Yet, what made Taut and Scheerbart’s shared approach more sophisticated than that of their contemporaries also left it open to criticism. In particular, their choice of glass as the idiosyncratic constituent of their imaginary world, because of its utopian character, far exceeded its more limited role as the rising icon of industrialization and bourgeois culture. For them however, glass was much more than an emergent modern building material; rather, it was the concrete substance of transcendence; permitting the consciousness access to another, better, world. And where the consciousness goes, the body will follow, until it too is transcended.