Bruno Julius Florian Taut was born on 4 May 1880 in Königsberg. After graduating from the Baugewerbeschule in Königsberg, Taut worked for Bruno Möhring (1863–1929) in Berlin and Theodor Fischer (1862–1938) in Stuttgart. In 1908, he returned to Berlin to study art history and town planning at the Königlich Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg. A year later, he and Franz Hoffmann founded the joint practice Taut & Hoffmann. Taut’s younger brother Max joined the practice in 1912. The trio attracted a great deal of attention for expressionistic designs such as Monument des Eisens, the pavilion at the 1913 International Building Exhibition in Leipzig for the Deutsche Stahlwerksverband AG and the Verband Deutscher Brücken- und Eisenbaufabriken, and the Glass Pavilion for the German glass industry at the 1914 Werkbund exhibition in Cologne.
In 1912, Taut was commissioned to design a housing estate in southeast Berlin. Developed with landscape architect Ludwig Lesser, the master plan for Gartenstadt Falkenberg envisaged the construction of 1,500 flats for around 7,000 inhabitants. The First World War disrupted the construction works and signalled a turning point for Taut, who entered the alternative services and turned to theoretical work. He consequently published the anthology Die Stadtkrone (The City Crown, 1919) and the series of works Alpine Architektur (Alpine Architecture, 1917/18) and Die Auflösung der Städte (The Dissolution of Cities, 1920). In these, he sketched out his utopian visions of a world that erased the divisions between architecture and nature. In the postwar era, Taut was active as a co-founder of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst (Workers’ Council for Art) and a member of the Novembergruppe and the Deutscher Werkbund. In 1920 he also initiated the Crystal Chain, a chain letter in which architects such as Gropius, Hans Scharoun, Carl Krayl and the brothers Hans and Wassili Luckhardt corresponded on subjects such as the “dissolution of the prevailing principles” of architecture and the “disintegration of the character” of the artist.
In 1921, the mayor of Magdeburg, Hermann Beims, appointed Taut as head of the city’s planning and building control office. Together with colleagues including Johannes Göderitz and Carl Krayl, Taut drafted a master plan for the Stadt des Neuen Bauens (City of the new architecture). This featured homes and office buildings, the garden city colony Reform, exhibition halls, and a Stadtkrone (City crown) with a city hall and a crystal tower as a new centre. The renovation of Magdeburg city centre was launched with a campaign for “Colourful Magdeburg” which saw not only the baroque city hall, but also 80 building facades in the Otto-Richter-Straße and elsewhere, painted in various colours. Over the next two years, Taut completed the designs for the exhibition hall Land und Stadt (City and countryside, 1921–23) and the general settlement plan for the urban development (1922–23). During this period, Taut also reissued the urban development journal Frühlicht (1921/22), leading with the sentence: “Von Magdeburg nimmt nun ein Frühlicht seinen Lauf” (A new dawn begins in Magdeburg).
In April 1924, Taut returned to Berlin to work as an architect for the housing cooperative GEHAG. Under his leadership, several large residential developments were built and many buildings in the city centre were renovated from 1924 to 1931. Taut’s oeuvre in Berlin thus includes in excess of 10,000 flats in, for example, Gartenstadt Falkenberg, the housing estates Schillerparksiedlung, Hufeisensiedlung, Wohnstadt Carl Legien and the forest estate Onkel Toms Hütte.
In 1930, Hermann Jansen appointed Taut as honorary professor of housing construction and town planning to his own professorial chair at the Königlich Technische Hochschule Charlottenburg (now the Technische Universität Berlin). Taut also became a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts (1931–34). In addition to his work as a lecturer and architect, he continued to publish appeals for action, articles and theoretical treatises. Taut regularly travelled to the Soviet Union from 1926 and stayed from 1932 to 1933 in Moscow, where he opened an office for new building in the city hall.
Following his return to Berlin in February 1933, he was denounced for “cultural Bolshevism”. Taut’s professorship and membership of the Academy of Arts were revoked. On 1 March 1933, Taut and his partner Erica Wittich (1893–1975) left the capital for Switzerland, then emigrated from there to Japan on the invitation of architect Isaburō Ueno. In Sendai, Taut served as an advisor at the state-run teaching-vocational institute kogei shidosh (1933–34), designed utility objects for the Institute of Applied Arts of Gunma prefecture, Takasaki (1934–36) and authored books on Japanese culture.
In November 1936, Taut relocated to Turkey, a move mediated by fellow architect Martin Wagner. There, he was appointed head of the department of architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul and head of the architecture office of the Turkish Ministry of Education, where he designed schools and university buildings in Ankara and elsewhere. In 1938, his book Architekturlehre was published.
Taut had suffered from asthma for a number of year and died of an asthma attack in Istanbul on 24 December 1938, aged 58. He was laid to rest at Edirnekapı Martyr’s Cemetery as its first and only non-Muslim.
· Akademie der Künste, Barbara Volkmann (1980): Bruno Taut 1880–1938, Berlin (West).
· Akademie der Künste, Oswald Mathias Ungers (1963): Die gläserne Kette: Visionäre Architekturen aus dem Kreis um Bruno Taut 1919–1920, Berlin (West).
· Ralph Musielski (2003), Bau-Gespräche: Architekturvisionen von Paul Scheerbart, Bruno Taut und der „Gläsernen Kette“, Reimer Verlag, Berlin.
· Bruno-Taut-Archiv in der Akademie der Künste, Berlin.
Main focus: Initiator
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