Modernism in Regional Architecture of Bohemian Germans Between 1900 and 1918
Around 1900, the architecture of the German-speaking enclaves in Bohemia displayed a great variety of styles and forms. Unlike their Czech rivals, the Germans lacked a natural geographical centre and struggled with political and cultural fragmentation. Prague could no longer play a unifying role as it gradually became a city of dominant Czech representation. The study introduces three hitherto overlooked architects whose work represents three different trends in Bohemian-German architecture of the early 20th century: Emil F. Ruehr (1861–1920), who worked mainly in Česká Lípa and its surroundings, was inspired by Art Nouveau; the Lanškroun builder Richard Kreissl (1874–1920) worked with elements borrowed from vernacular architecture; while the Most-based architect Adolf Schwarzer (1876– 1914) leaned towards Neo-Biedermeier and classicism. Each of these architects found their own way of designing modern buildings, even if they did not follow the direction set by the ‘founders’ of modern architecture. From a Prague-centric perspective, it may seem that there were no modernist architects in the German-speaking regions of Bohemia at the beginning of the 20th century. However, the perceived contrast between the ‘modern’ and the ‘traditional’ was less pronounced in this period than after the rise of the interwar avant-garde. The stylistic pluralism characteristic of Czech-German architecture around 1900 is related to the modernist search for a style appropriate to the needs of the new era but also reflects the deepening differences between the individual areas inhabited by Czech Germans. The many local centres without close links to Prague produced a wealth of original creations. However, without one unifying artistic centre, Czech-German artists were unable to articulate their national identity.
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