The Politics of the German Gothic Revival: August Reichensperger

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Architectural History Foundation, 1993 - Architecture - 308 pages
August Reichensperger was central to the German Gothic Revival and a major figure in German public life in the critical years before and after national unification in 1871. An architectural theorist, politician, preservationist, and journalist, his wide-ranging interests make this account of his life a veritable intellectual history of Germany in the second half of the nineteenth century. While his colleagues A. W. N. Pugin in England and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc in France are known for their Gothic designs, Reichensperger's Gothic Revival went beyond the purely architectural to address the totality of modern life. Seeing his native Rhineland dominated first by French armies and later by Prussia, Reichensperger became in his youth a champion of Rhenish autonomy and came to see architecture as a powerful symbol of regional identity. In his maturity, Reichensperger became the unquestioned arbiter of the Gothic, leading an intimate circle of architectural disciples. The author's examination of key buildings of this period is based on Reichensperger's lively and irreverent correspondence with the architects themselves. Final chapters deal with Reichensperger's efforts in the German Reichstag to carry on the Gothic Revival as a social movement over the fierce opposition of Chancellor Bismarck during the so-called Kulturkampf. In addition to rich photographic material, contemporary caricatures, some savage in nature, are reproduced to indicate how seriously Reichensperger's Gothic quest was still taken and how important was the role of architecture in expressing the character of a united Germany. In the end Reichensperger emerges as one of the most lucid and activist Gothic Revivalists,interested not in copying medieval forms for their own sake, but in applying the lessons of the Middle Ages to the problems of modernity.

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August Reichensperger and Cologne Cathedral
English Inspiration
y The Shape of Reichenspergers Gothic

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About the author (1993)

Michael J. Lewis is currently Historiographer at the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

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