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From Bauhaus to Our House

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,933 ratings  ·  153 reviews
The strange saga of American architecture in the twentieth century makes for both high comedy and intellectual excitement as Wolfe debunks the European gods of modern and postmodern architecture and their American counterparts.
Paperback, 128 pages
Published October 5th 1999 by Bantam (first published 1981)
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Wolfe writes an interesting, hilarious, and opinionated account of how we ended up with all Those Buildings, i.e. those concrete boxes that look like factories that everyone understands are "art" but secretly thinks are really ugly. My architecture knowledge is pretty much limited to recognizing that architects design bafflingly expensive, utilitarian chairs (how bourgeois of me!) and that "Eero" and "Saarinen" are frequent answers to New York Times crossword puzzle clues. As a lay person, I enj ...more
The Bauhaus school stripped away all tradition in the name Socialism, creating the Modernist schools and mass housing for the prols. Many of our council/ public housing horrors can laid at Bauhaus's door- howling and moaning. The blocks of glass and steel, the grey and white furnishings and interiors that we inhabit as workplaces, we can thank them for these as well.

This is Tom Wolfe, biting, sarcastic and cutting through to the core.
Wolfe likes exuberance. He doesn't like restraint and purity. So he criticizes early and mid-century modern architecture and applauds those who resisted the glass box in favor of expressive and exuberant designs--like Eero Saarinen. Wolfe's most interesting claim is that the motivation for architectural modernism was despair after the first world war and the desire to create a new society from scratch, since the old one had been destroyed. But that rationale made no sense in America, which was u ...more
Somebody mentioned this on Facebook recently, and I (having some interest in domestic architecture) thought "ooh, sounds interesting" and headed for the library.

Alas, the title is distinctly misleading; the book is not at all about domestic architecture. It is about modern architecture in general, from the Bauhaus onwards, with particular attention to America. And, since the author dislikes modern architecture and has no patience for the theories behind it, it is also a fairly scathing critique
Tom Wolfe's short work, From Bauhaus to Our House, is little more than a screed against the excesses of modern architecture. While agreeing with many of his conclusions, I found the style and tone of the book to be inappropriate for the purpose of serious art/architecture criticism. Written in 1981, it seems dated with a quarter century of architectural progress having occurred since it was published. There are references to other art forms, music in particular, that demonstrate an unfamiliarity ...more
This book is a hilarious demolition job. It raises the mystifying question of how a small number of European architects from the 1920s managed to turn their field of work into a religion replete with dogma. It also looks at some of the devastating effects Bauhaus has had on urban planning and housing projects. In a way, Wolfe's criticism could have been even harsher. That is especially true of the figue of Le Corbusier – a man who would have torn down half of Paris if only they'd let him and who ...more
Wolfe shoots the architect of the age off the pedestal with humor. He makes a dramatic situation funny and distills the whole of architectural history, making it human and identifiable with.

The book is basically concerned with american architecture - and how in the pre-WWII era the infusion of banished or fleeing European architects stopped the evolution of what american architecture could have been in its tracks. On the way Wolfe also does a great job of distilling the ideas of the different a
Jesús Garza
Primer libro del año. Tom Wolfe, siempre ácido y crítico, vuelve a sorprenderme con su humor.
From Buahaus to Our House relata el surgimiento y la evolución de la arquitectura moderna, todo narrado de la forma más cómica y cruda posible.
Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe y Walter Gropious son sólo algunos nombres que no escapan de la pluma de Wolfe.
Dec 13, 2009 Joan added it
Nearly thirty years ago, Tom Wolfe put the architectural world in a tizzy when he published this essay attacking modern architecture.

Now, I'm not a big fan of glass & steel & concrete office buildings, but Wolfe is absolutely virulent on the subject. And therein lies the rub. He detests Bauhaus-inspired work so much that he has no perspective. He is guilty of the same pretentiousness and arrogance of which he accuses the architects whom he dislikes.

There is a great deal to be said agains
A short and entertaining history of the modern architecture movement, though accuracy may not be 100% in his telling. However, it's fun to read someone lambasting a movement that completely took over architecture (especially in America). I wonder what Wolfe would have to say about the current state of architecture: Gehry, Hadid, Liebeskind...the absurd grand scale sculpture-buildings sans-context that are passing as the epitome of architectural prowess...sure makes me miss Louis Sullivan and FLW ...more
Josh Kinal
Tom Wolfe is a brilliantly entertaining writer who revels in his own bias.

'From Bauhaus to Our House' is a joy to read and a beautiful testament to the frustrating impotence of both the actor (in this case, architects) and the bystander (Wolfe): both being victims of decisions that were made earlier and without their input.

Although 35 years old, this book has, and describes, the same outrage of "why wasn't I consulted?" That haunts the online design community today.

The book is fun and can teach
Tom Wolfe's coming from a particular vantage point, and due to his philosophical foundations, I think his critiques are always going to miss something that's fundamental to me. Jacques Ellul and Roger Scruton have the tools to point it out more thoroughly; that being said, this is just so enjoyable. It's just such a necessary take-down of modern architecture. Of "the box." Of slavishness to compounds and academic trends. And Wolfe has a real heart for the people who are victims of our ivory towe ...more
I'm sure this is the wittiest book about 20th Century architecture I will ever read.
Ugliness and impracticality in the name of progress are not really progress and there is no justification for ugliness and impracticality.

I see these homes. There is a riverside home I admire, built into a hill on a riverbend with a lovely view. However, this home has a flat roof, which was a popular architectural feature at the time it was built. We are in a northern location with lots of heavy snow. No matter how lovely the home, or how cheap the price, I would never, ever, buy a flat roofed h
So much fun! I'd read The Bonfire of the Vanities back when it was new, and I hated, hated, hated it, so (sensibly, I thought) I'd avoided Wolfe since. Over the years people told me that oh, no, I'd gotten him wrong, his nonfiction was so much better, but I don't really care much about the counterculture of the sixties that he's best known for writing about, so I didn't bother. But, I finally found something that looked more interesting--and it turns out they were right.

Oh, my.

This delightful li
Feb 07, 2010 Adam rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Recommended to Adam by: Will Klein
Shelves: non-fiction
I was given this book to make me aware of architecture. And it may well have achieved that, for a little while. But it was simply an unpleasant experience to read the book. Wolfe writes a 128 page social history of modern architecture that is unrelentingly, bitingly spiteful and negative. He details all of their failings, and gives in-depth accounts of their sophistries and petty ideological squabbles-supposedly for the justified end of mocking them, but I merely found it tiresome. I know ...more
I just finished reading Herdeg’s The Decorated Diagram of 1983 simultaneously with Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House of 1981 – a combination, though unplanned, has proved a very fruitful pairing. The latter is a charming and witty anti-intellectual critique of modern architecture’s banal and sterile qualities and the devastation it has wrought on American cities and landscape. Seeing through the naive stylistic labels of Wolfe, Herdeg lays the blame of the above aforementioned problems, not ...more
Monica Spencer
As someone who formerly attended a modernist architecture school, I have a certain fondness for that era in history. Rather than building massive testaments to God or rehashing yet another version of the classical Greco-Roman styles, modernists had the audacity to create a new architectural theory with socio-political roots and a willingness to see the beauty in the authenticity of materials.

Through most of the book Tom Wolfe comes off as whiny, complaining about everything he doesn't understan
Tom Wolfe is cranky. And he is cranky because all the buildings going up around him make no sense, are ugly, and especially because these ugly buildings are being embraced by academics and everyone. At least, that's what Wolfe argues in From Bauhaus to Our House, his critique of the modern school of architecture.

While I can get behind much of criticisms (the architects respected in academia often could count the number of their buildings actually constructed on their fingers, that the "glass box
An acerbic critique of modern design and the uninspired forms which dominated American architecture in the post-war era through the 80s, Wolfe leaves no question about his stance on the issue.

His screed on the 'Yale box', its relations/derivations and their prolific propagation is unmitigated disgust. He also takes his shots at architects/designers themselves, in a number of asides and direct bullet-points.

This same topic is handled with far more care and context in Richard Sennett's The Conscie
Ben Richmond
I'm in the midst of an emotional confrontation with Wolfe's work at the moment, so I'm not sure how well I can do this. Okay, so since going to graduate school for journalism I'm been suspecting myself of being rather ill suited for this pursuit and in fact rather a fool for passing up a chance to fashion myself as a European-styled Intellectual by studying the liberal arts at the New School. If this all sounds terribly pretentious to you please know that I more than agree with you, but you shou ...more
David Ball
I've liked quite a few of Wolfe's books, but this is pretty pretentious stuff. I cringe as it reminds me of something I would have written back in my university days. You can tell Wolfe's thinking to himself "aren't I witty and erudite", but he comes across as a smarmy ass. Obnoxiously opinionated, he just sort of shits on everyone and everything (apparently Frank Lloyd Wright is the only decent architect of the past century - that may be true, but tell me why). On the plus side I did learn abou ...more
From Bauhaus to Our House traces the journey of the modernist architecture movement from 1920s Europe to 1980s United States. Tom Wolfe treats what might otherwise be a dry, uninteresting subject with a heaping of humor.
He states his thesis in the first sentence of the first page, "O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, has there ever been another place on earth where so many people of wealth and power have paid for and put up with so much architecture they detested as within
Beneath his immaculate three-piece white suits and European flair, Tom Wolfe at heart is a "Hogstomping Baroque" American. His own exuberant journalistic style runs counter to the spare, self-effacing reporting of many renowned American journalists; and his take on 20th-century American architecture follows a similar bent. He asks, Why do American's continue to build massive glass-box buildings they detest? Don't they realize the International Style of architecture, all lines and sharp edges, wa ...more
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The number of educated Americans for whom this book constitutes all that they know about architecture must be remarkably high. Probably second only to the Fountainhead, really, and comparing the two, Bauhaus is of course superior as a guide to architecture. And it is written by a brilliant prose stylist, Wolfe, capable of wry comments and asides and intellectual flourishes that make page turning a pleasure.

However, there is a cloying constant attack on the politics of the architects that Wolfe d
All you have to do is look up in any major western city to remind yourself how depressingly necessary this book remains. Tom Wolfe pops the ego of modern architecture, unmasking it as the kind of art we love, in spite of itself, because self-anointed experts tell us we should.

Wolfe goes on a bender of sarcasm to deflate the pompous, supposedly Marxist philosophies behind "glass box" modernism. He traces the rise & sanctification of men such as Le Corbusier, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe & Phi
Men D.
Does NOTHING satisfy you, sir??

Things that offend Wolfe: architects that aren't simply sketchers for the design ideas of their wealthy clients; new ideas; change. Yes, some of the artists and architects of the early 20th century were pretentious blowhards. Some of what was avant garde was also impractical. There is a way to critique this without throwing it all away. Why categorically dismiss the simplicity of modern design in favor of the same old quoins and trim and ornamentation?

As it is, W
Darren Duke
This book is useful in at least a couple of ways. First, it is a fine example of satire aimed at haute couture and it is short and concise enough so as to not grow too stale. Satire is not a feast. It is a snack. Wolfe's work was better than a Snickers bar. It really satisfies in its station. Second, Wolfe delivers through his satire a clear critique of how pernicious ideas take hold among certain empowered elites and then get driven to the heart of a nation with little hope of eradicating them ...more
I generally enjoy the modern architecture that Wolfe spends an entire book here deriding, but he still presents a very informative, witty, and well reasoned critique in his signature style. if nothing else, he explained more clearly than any other how we progressed from Bauhaus to Postmodernism, and that alone makes this quick, entertaining book an Art History class worth signing up for.
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Wolfe was educated at Washington and Lee Universities and also at Yale, where he received a PhD in American studies.

Tom Wolfe spent his early days as a Washington Post beat reporter, where his free-association, onomatopoetic style would later become the trademark of New Journalism. In books such as The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe delves into
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The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test The Bonfire of the Vanities The Right Stuff I am Charlotte Simmons A Man in Full

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“Le Corbusier was the sort of relentlessly rational intellectual that only France loves wholeheartedly, the logician who flies higher and higher in ever-decreasing concentric circles until, with one last, utterly inevitable induction, he disappears up his own fundamental aperture and emerges in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird.” 4 likes
“They became desperate for an antidote, such as coziness & color. They tried to bury the obligatory white sofas under Thai-silk throw pillows of every rebellious, iridescent shade of Magenta, pink, and tropical green imaginable. But the architect returned, as he always does, like the conscience of a Calvinist, and he lectured them and hectored them and chucked the shimmering little sweet things out.” 4 likes
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