Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Architecture

First Advisor

David Leatherbarrow

Second Advisor

Trubiano Franca

Abstract

Architectural historians know Hans Scharoun (1893-1972) as a key proponent of “Expressionist” architecture based on his contribution to the “Crystal Chain” correspondence, his visionary drawings, and his magnum opus, the Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall. It is, however, the insufficiency of systematic studies of Scharoun’s spatial construction and his interest in and research of Chinese architecture and urban culture that have prompted me to undertake the present research.

Thus, this dissertation investigates the role of Chinese architecture and town-planning tradition played in shaping Scharoun’s spatial concepts of what can be characterized as “post-perspectival.” Built upon his Neues Bauen conviction, Scharoun began to engage with the Chinese architecture tradition in the mid-1930s through his assistant Chen-kuan Lee. From October 1941 to May 1942, Scharoun, along with Lee, was involved in the Chinese Werkbund meetings initiated by Hugo Häring. Even though Häring’s and Lee’s encounter with East Asian architecture, especially the history of the Chinese Werkbund, has been partially explained, the significance of Chinese architecture and town planning to Scharoun has been neglected to date. Although he never visited China, Scharoun strove to employ the understandings that he obtained through the Chinese Werkbund meetings and his subsequent research to advance his spatial concepts, urbanist thinking, and organicist design approach. Further investigation is thus necessary to understand Scharoun’s work, his evolving “post-perspectival” spatial concepts, his urbanist strategy for rebuilding postwar Berlin, and the Asian-European exchange in early modern architecture in general.

This dissertation is structured in two parts. Part I first presents a chronological study of Scharoun’s career from the early 1910s to 1945, then introduces Häring’s organicists Neues Bauen principle, and lastly reviews the history of the Chinese Werkbund. The second part makes as solid a case as the evidence suggests for the direct impact of Chinese architecture and urban tradition upon Scharoun’s postwar practice. This section examines Scharoun’s spatial concepts such as “Stadtlandschaft,” “Wohnzelle,” “aperspectival” space, and “Raum der Mitte” in borrowing, adaption, or assimilation of Chinese architecture and town-planning principles.

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