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From Bauhaus to Our House

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,167 Ratings  ·  163 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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Mark Taylor
The funny thing about Tom Wolfe is that for all of the hip edginess of his writing style, he’s actually a square. His writings were revolutionary, as he was one of the founders of New Journalism, but his own personal outlook is quite conservative. Wolfe may have gone along on a bus trip with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, but he wasn’t joining them for their LSD trips. Wolfe was always something of an outsider, and this made him one of the great chroniclers of the 1960’s and 1970’s, able to ...more
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
Jul 27, 2012 Steve rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 16, 2008 Nat rated it really liked it
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
Jan 16, 2015 Dorian rated it it was ok
Shelves: library-books
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
Jan 16, 2009 James rated it liked it
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
Aug 07, 2012 Ingo rated it it was amazing
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
Joni Baboci
May 17, 2012 Joni Baboci rated it really liked it
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 de la 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
Jun 21, 2008 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bruno Romano
Sep 01, 2015 Bruno Romano rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Como chegamos a esse ponto? Prédios que se assemelham a inóspitas caixas de fósforo cinzentas? Como podem as fotos das nossas próprias cidades, décadas atrás, parecerem irreconhecíveis, como se mostrassem uma dimensão irrecuperável e esquecida?

Esse livro é sobre arquitetura, mas não é para arquitetos, porque – e esse é o argumento do livro – arquitetos modernos são malas e arrogantes. Porém, se você alguma vez entrou num apartamento contemporâneo “clean” e espartano, ou observou um prédio branco
Apr 24, 2016 Ludditus rated it it was amazing
A must, must, must, must, must-read for anyone who is even remotely interested in architecture! Mind you, I am actually a fan of the Bauhaus and of the International Style, yet Tom Wolfe—this pompous clown—was able to make such a compelling case that reading this book was pure enjoyement. Obvioulsy not an architect himself, the author had the decency of being quite well-informed, so that the information used to sharply criticize the "debacle" that followed Gopius and the gang (Philip Johnson in ...more
Larry Farlow
Aug 27, 2016 Larry Farlow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What happens when a bunch of European socialists who designed worker housing after WWI arrive in America? The discipline of architecture is totally transformed through their influence on ivory tower sycophants all trying to outdo one another as non-bourgeois purists leading to American cities full of glass boxes.

This is the gist of Wolfe's book which explains the origin of the Bauhaus movement and how that movement impacted the field of architecture. As with all socialist endeavors, theory was
Jeff Greason
Mar 19, 2016 Jeff Greason rated it really liked it
If you have ever wondered why buildings seem either uninspired copies of old classical forms, or featureless glass and concrete boxes, or glass and concrete boxes 'dressed up' but not actually made any better --- read this book. A short but devastating critique by Tom Wolfe, who brings the wit and cultural insight that 'The Right Stuff' brought to the space program to the arena of architecture. And this time .. the author doesn't like what he sees. Biting and not complimentary, the insights here ...more
Jul 05, 2016 Peter rated it liked it
In which Tom Wolfe rips the modern and post modernists a new one with his usual pluck and verve. Wolfe cannot get beyond his American disgust for the iconoclasts, who tore down traditional architecture in America for no good reason. His summary of the Europeans seems, from my limited knowledge of them, accurate, and his description is at once funny and painful—painful in the sense of regret for the ugliness that has been raised on the American landscape for decades as a result. This historical b ...more
Josh Kinal
Feb 01, 2015 Josh Kinal rated it liked it
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
May 03, 2015 Tara rated it really liked it
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
Jul 01, 2009 Gina rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, design-and-decor
I'm sure this is the wittiest book about 20th Century architecture I will ever read.
Dec 28, 2014 Holly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: house-geeks
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
Aug 11, 2014 Claudia rated it really liked it
Shelves: design
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 it was ok  ·  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
Nov 06, 2013 Monica Spencer rated it it was ok
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
Mar 16, 2010 Joel rated it it was ok
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
Jan 09, 2011 Ben Richmond rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2009 Michele rated it really liked it
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
May 24, 2009 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1980s, buildings
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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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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“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.” 6 likes
“The sad truth was that the United States had not been reduced to a smoking rubble by the first World War.” 6 likes
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