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Jindřich Vybíral

Sigfried Giedion’s Early Years and the Jewish Unconscious

Sigfried Giedion (1888–1968) was one of the ‘canonical’ historians of modern architecture, whose judgment determined which creative achievements in the discipline were considered relevant. His 1941 book Space, Time and Architecture became required reading for architects and art historians for almost half a century and remains one of the best-selling books on modern architecture. But Giedion was not only a historiographer and promoter of the avant-garde. As the long-serving Secretary General of CIAM, he was also a key witness and actor on the architectural scene. Recent scholarship on Giedion has therefore ignored the structuralist postulate of textual autonomy and divided its attention equally between his literary achievements and personal life, or the external factors that influenced his thinking and writing. This biographical study focuses on Giedion’s early years in Prague and Vienna, which have hitherto been neglected by art historians. It provides a wealth of micro-historical insights into the family background and social and cultural networks underpinning his personal development and later professional career. The study also addresses Giedion’s traumatic experience, which may shed light on his texts and activities within the international architectural community. This trauma is linked to Giedion’s Jewishness and the racial antisemitism he encountered as a young man.

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DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.54759/ART-2023-0201

Full-text in the Digital Library of the Czech Academy of Sciences:

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