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Topographies of Class

Modern Architecture and Mass Society in Weimar Berlin

Sabine Hake

Publication Year: 2008

In Topographies of Class, Sabine Hake explores why Weimar Berlin has had such a powerful hold on the urban imagination. Approaching Weimar architectural culture from the perspective of mass discourse and class analysis, Hake examines the way in which architectural projects; debates; and representations in literature, photography, and film played a key role in establishing the terms under which contemporaries made sense of the rise of white-collar society. Focusing on the so-called stabilization period, Topographies of Class maps out complex relationships between modern architecture and mass society, from Martin Wagner's planning initiatives and Erich Mendelsohn's functionalist buildings, to the most famous Berlin texts of the period, Alfred Döblin's city novel Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929) and Walter Ruttmann's city film Berlin, Symphony of the Big City (1927). Hake draws on critical, philosophical, literary, photographic, and filmic texts to reconstruct the urban imagination at a key point in the history of German modernity, making this the first study---in English or German---to take an interdisciplinary approach to the rich architectural culture of Weimar Berlin. Sabine Hake is Professor and Texas Chair of German Literature and Culture at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of numerous books, including German National Cinema and Popular Cinema of the Third Reich. Cover art: Construction of the Karstadt Department Store at Hermannplatz, Berlin-Neukölln. Courtesy Bildarchiv Preeussischer Kulturbesitz / Art Resource, NY

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

Research for this book has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). A special thank-you goes to the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas for awarding me a Dean’s Fellowship during the last stage of the project. Initial


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-18

Since Berlin’s emergence as a major metropolis during the Wilhelmine Empire, its status in the urban imagination has been defined through architecture: built architecture as well as unbuilt architecture, and debates about architecture as well as representations of architecture. This rich architectural culture has contributed to the transformation of Berlin into a key site ...

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1. Setting the Scene: Weimar Berlin, circa 1920

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pp. 19-59

Despite the modernist office buildings and public housing initiatives for which it has become known, Berlin during the 1920s and early 1930s remained essentially a Wilhelmine city. While its social composition and administrative structure underwent fundamental changes, its external appearance continued to reflect the political ambitions and economic ...

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2. Mapping Weimar Society: On Masses,Classes, and White-Collar Workers

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pp. 60-97

A specter was haunting Weimar Berlin, the specter of the urban masses. Their appearance on the stages of history could be felt everywhere: in the crowds on the streets and squares, in the architecture of mass entertainment and mass housing, and in the rituals of mass consumption and mass transportation. Yet the provocation of the masses also resonated in literary ...

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3. Organizing the Modern Masses:New Building in Weimar Berlin

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pp. 98-133

The intentionally provocative remark by de Vries, who would soon become editor of the professional journal Der St

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4. Walking in the Metropolis: The City Texts of Franz Hesseland Siegfried Kracauer

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pp. 134-169

While architects such as Gropius, Mendelsohn, and Hilberseimer were directly involved in organizing the modern masses, the representatives of the literary feuilleton turned to architecture for entirely different reasons: to examine the crisis of modern subjectivity and to respond to the threat of deindividualization through the literary forms and means available to ...

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5. Picturing the New Berlin:Photography, Architecture, and Modern Mass Society

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pp. 170-208

Bertolt Brecht once famously remarked that “the ‘simple reproduction of reality’ says less than ever about that reality. A photograph of the Krupp works or of the AEG yields almost nothing about these institutions. Reality as such has slipped into the domain of the functional.”1 Similarly, in a critical review of New Vision photography, Walter Benjamin asserted that ...

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6. Deconstructing Modern Subjectivity:On Berlin Alexanderplatz

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pp. 209-241

True to its sensationalist style, in 1932 the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung described Alexanderplatz as “the setting for many tragedies in real life and in fiction. Here Berliners feel the heartbeat of their hometown most strongly.”1 Confirming this point, Eugen Szatmari, in an alternative travel guide to Berlin, declared that tourists would not learn anything about the ...

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7. Reconstructing Modern Subjectivity: On Berlin, Symphony of the Big City

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pp. 242-274

This is how Benjamin in his famous Art Work Essay describes the impact of film on the urban imagination. Providing new technologies of vision, film, like photography, radically expanded the spatiotemporal coordinates of metropolitan life. Both re-created key elements of the urban experience in the formal language of montage, especially through experiments ...


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pp. 275-312

Index of Names

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pp. 313-316

Index of Places

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pp. 317-320

Index of Titles

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pp. 321-323

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025190
E-ISBN-10: 0472025198
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472050383
Print-ISBN-10: 0472050389

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Social History, Popular Culture, and Pol
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OCLC Number: 588893303
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Topographies of Class

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Subject Headings

  • Berlin (Germany) -- History -- 1918-1945.
  • Architecture -- Germany -- Berlin -- History -- 20th century.
  • Berlin (Germany) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Mass society.
  • Berlin (Germany) -- Buildings, structures, etc.
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