Coda: The end of the partnership
and the larger eclipse of the Parisian sensibility

The study of this one architect would lead the current reevaluation of architecture in fruitful directions, away from an oversimple rejection of modern architecture and toward the maintenance of continuity with our recent past.
--Robert Venturi, on Nitzchke, 1969

In 1938, Nitzchke would accept a teaching position at Yale University in the U.S, ending his years of collaboration with Nelson in Paris. The Nelson/Nitzchke collaborative had been innovative in terms of formal design, but had little built work or money to show for their efforts. The Lille Complex, the Ismailia Surgery Pavilion, Maison de la Publicite, and the Palais de Decouverte, all would remain unbuilt. While Nelson had sustained himself through family funding, Nitzchke had had a more difficult time financially. Beyond this more personal reason for relocating, there were more general political reasons possible. With the "appeasement" at Munich earlier that year, Germany had annexed a large parcel of Czech territory, making it clear that a full-scale European war was again imminent.

The sophisitcated atmosphere that Paris had enjoyed before the war would never be regained. The massive emigration to the US, the German occupation, and the grim realites of post-war Reconstruction forever changed the climate. The 'literal transparencies' of Gropius and Mies, transplanted to the US and rendered acceptable to its corporate culture, would extend its influence in defining the growing International Style of modern architecture. Likewise, the gestural singularity of Brutalism would seem to resonate with the tired vectors of a hard-won war.

The separate, post-war work of Nitzchke and Nelson would take on the more monotonic qualities of mainstream forties modernism. The free section, diffuse structuring, and grafting techniques that Nelson and Nitzchke developed in the thirties would be abandoned and would not be regained by modern architecture until--arguably-- the 1960s. Only then, in the revolt against the hegemony of the International Style, would formal approaches involving montage, grafting, and a semiotic conception of urban experience re-emerge in architecture. The "free section" as a stated aesthetic strategy would not resurface until Rem Koolhas and Bernard Tschumi began employing it in the late 1980s when issues of institutional form, program and event became foregrounded. With these issues seems to have come a renewed suggestion of surrealist agendas. The biomorphic public spaces of the Bibliotheque de France as well as the head shaped form of Koolhaas' Zeebrugge Sea Terminal (1989) seem to attest to this, as does the linkage of infrastructure and alchemical sensibilites found in the work of Reiser/Umemoto. Likewise, interests in "continuous structure" and anexact geometries in architecture are only recently beginning to reappear, particularly in the "smooth space" conceptions of Greg Lynn and Jeffrey Kipnis.

-Sean Daly

Bibliography/Image Sources/Credits

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