The Beauty of the Metropolis
‘The sum of life was ever thus . . . only fools and weaklings seek a golden age either before or after their own.’
Where do we feel at home? What do our cities look like? How do we see? In 1908, architect and theorist August Endell set out to answer these deceptively simple questions. In The Beauty of the Metropolis he views the oft-maligned urban environment, acknowledging its shortcomings while also finding in it an aesthetic enrichment to rival any romanticised landscape. This forward-thinking essay raises the workaday city to rapturous heights, with flights of prose aspiring to the quality of music. Endell advocates a complete engagement with the here and now, drawing numerous examples from his own home, Berlin. From the clamour of Potsdamer Platz to quiet outlying districts, the author discovers visual pleasure in the rapidly expanding German capital where detractors found little more than squalor. Along the way Endell reconsiders the peculiarly German concept of heimat, incompletely translated as ‘homeland’. The Beauty of the Metropolis is joined here by articles Endell wrote for a progressive journal in 1905, on subjects as diverse as modern art, busy streets and the passing of the seasons. An afterword and informative endnotes provide further insight into Endell’s vision.
AUGUST ENDELL (1871-1925) was one of the most eloquent commentators on aesthetics in Wilhelmine Germany. In his art criticism he was advocating abstraction before the end of the 20th century, and thus well before artists themselves embraced non-figurative painting. Not just a theorist, Endell was also a self-taught architect and designer who put his bold ideas into action. Among his signature works are the now-vanished Elvira photographic studio in Munich and Berlin’s Hackesche Höfe. As a proponent of the Jugendstil movement, Endell believed that every element of design should contribute to an organic whole. His progressive ideals brought him into conflict with cultural reactionaries, most notably Kaiser Wilhelm II, whom Endell criticised in an open letter. August Endell represents a crucial link in the chain of modern architectural theory that leads to the present day.