The 1924 Form and Color show and the Critique of Architecture Criticism
Mathilde Simonsen Dahl
Oslo Centre for Critical Architectural Studies (OCCAS-AHO)
For the very first issue in the Norwegian architectural journal Byggekunst in 1919 art historian Carl W. Schnitler (1879–1926) published an article entitled “Architecture Critisim” [“Arkitekturkritikk”]. According to Schnitler the sense for balance, constructive and organic correlations, made architecture the leading art form. In his mind however, there was in Norway an absence of an informed public discourse on architecture. Without an architectural awareness promoted through the public exchange of words, an informed artistic culture could not form. The expert journals did only give factual, technical descriptions, and the popular press the most superficial reports, and neither, Schnitler lamented, were suited to provide the public with the necessary understanding of the deeper, artistic values and principles of architecture. A true criticism had however to be conducted with an understanding of the arts as an organic expression of the time and the deepest powers of the mind, opening the eyes of the public for the arts.
This critique lay open the discrepancies of interests between various professional milieus in which architects actively attended, generating different form of architecture criticism in the decades around the turn of the 20th century, and sharpened by the economical crisis in the mid war period. This did not only come to expression in Journal articles, but also in exhibition displays and their reception. The show Form and Colour in 1924 at the former Tivoli in Kristiania (Oslo) with Schnitler in lead, collected a number of these actors – associations promoting craft, industry and art, and architects circulating in these groups. The show intended to display Helhetsvirkningen – The affect of totality guided by an architectonic instinct. Taking the Form and Colour show as point of departure, this paper looks into the conflicting ways the show, and the various actors taking part intended to conduct and form an architectural criticism.
Mathilde Simonsen Dahl is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Form, Theory and History, in the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. She holds a master in architecture from AHO, and completed her master studies with an archival-based master thesis as part of the Place and Displacement project in 2012. Her doctoral dissertation is affiliated with the research project The Printed and Built, and investigates the site specific agencies of the temporary buildings for the 1883 Art and Industry Exhibition at Tullinløkka and the 1924 Form og Farve (Form and Colour) exhibition at the Tivoli.