• Richard Riemerschmid's Extraordinary Living Things
    Freyja Hartzell
    MIT Press, 2022
    Freyja Hartzell

Richard Riemerschmid, “Münchner Schauspielhaus (auditorium),” completed 1901. Courtesy Atelier Achatz Architekten & Andreas Huber Fotografie. Photo: Andreas Huber. Copyright 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn

This book reveals the humble, ordinary objects of the influential modernist architect Richard Riemerschmid (1868–1957) as extraordinarily powerful things that not only shaped the modern built environment, but changed the fate of German modernity. The first book on Riemerschmid in English, this innovative study reveals the social, cultural, and political import of Riemerschmid’s arresting designs for household objects, furniture, fashion, and interiors, positioning these “extra-ordinary” things as pivotal to his conception of domestic architecture, and his understanding of the modern world from the 1890s to the Second World War. Riemerschmid’s dynamically designed objects invite the reader to experience a radically and rapidly changing Germany from their unique perspective, as they engage—on direct, material terms—with its tumultuous cultural politics. This book uncovers a new, yet materially grounded history of modernism—one that was there all along, but told now, and for the first time, by modernist things, themselves. It argues for the seminal status of Riemerschmid’s “extra-ordinary” objects in the development of modern architecture, and for their capacity to revolutionize our understanding of its history today.

Freyja Hartzell teaches the history of design, architecture, and art at Bard Graduate Center in New York City. She holds a doctorate in the history of art from Yale University, and a master’s in the history of design and material culture from Bard Graduate Center. Her first book, Richard Riemerschmid’s Extraordinary Living Things (MIT Press, 2022) explores the potential of the influential modernist architect’s dynamically designed objects to change our understanding of architectural modernism. She has published and lectured widely on topics ranging from the cultural significance of velvet in late nineteenth-century Paris to the relationship between the material of glass and the sociopolitical concept of transparency during the first decades of the twentieth century. Her current research focuses on dolls, puppets, and robots, exploring the complex, interdisciplinary questions these things pose about agency and animacy in design.