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Václav Zeman

Reflections on the Architectural Work of Otto Bartning in the German-Speaking Environment of the Evangelical Church in Cisleithania

Otto Bartning, an important German architect of the first half of the 20th century, began his professional career in the environment of the Evangelical Church in Cisleithania prior to 1914. His work soon earned him the respect of his contemporaries in the Evangelical clergy (Hermann Heisler, Helmuth Pommer), who mediated commissions for Bartning as well as promoting his work in publications, especially by means of essays in journals. Bartning’s designs were in line with liberal Protestant theology and reflected the concept of the national and confessional identity of German-speaking Protestants at that time. The latter especially appreciated Bartning’s modern artistic expression, the material honesty and the imaginative utilisation of the concept known as the group building (Gruppenbau). An attractive and at the same time cost-effective solution connected buildings used for different purposes, especially the church and parsonage, without forgetting the congregational hall. The internal arrangement of the liturgical space of Bartning’s buildings was based on the principles of the Wiesbadener programme, the importance of the pulpit being emphasised by its axial placement. Otto Bartning’s projects encountered criticism within the conservative end of the ecclesiastical spectrum, documented in the judgements of the building management. However, these reservations focused more on technical matters or the layout of a group building submitted for the congregational house with church in Nové Město pod Smrkem. From the point of view of contemporary art history, Bartning’s work for the Cisleithanian Evangelical Church represents the most progressive being carried out in the production of sacred buildings in the states of Austria and the Bohemian lands at that time. Pre-war discussions clearly revealed the recognition of the artistic qualities and architectural design, which were in harmony with the liberal attitudes of the emerging generation of Evangelical clergy and their concept of liturgical space and their own identity.

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DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.54759/ART-2023-0102

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