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When Buildings Speak

Architecture as Language in the Habsburg Empire and Its Aftermath, 1867-1933

In When Buildings Speak,Anthony Alofsin explores the rich yet often overlooked architecture of the late Austro-Hungarian Empire and its successor states. He shows that several different styles emerged in this milieu during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Moreover, he contends that each of these styles communicates to us in a manner resembling language and its particular means of expression. 
Covering a wide range of buildings—from national theaters to crematoria, apartment buildings to warehouses, and sanatoria to postal savings banks—Alofsin proposes a new way of interpreting this language. He calls on viewers to read buildings in two ways: through their formal elements and through their political, social, and cultural contexts.  By looking through Alofsin’s eyes, readers can see how myriad nations sought to express their autonomy by tapping into the limitless possibilities of art and architectural styles. And such architecture can still speak very powerfully to us today about the contradictory issues affecting parts of the former Habsburg Empire.
 “The book itself as a production is spectacular.”—David Dunster, Architectural Review

300 pages | 158 color plates, 52 halftones | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2006

Architecture: European Architecture

History: European History


"Mr. Alofsin says that the cold war left much of the ’extraordinary, creative modern architecture’ created in the breakup of the Hapsburg Empire relatively unknown to Western scholars. Thus his book wanders widely in those territories — from the northern fringe of Hapsburg hegemony (in today’s Poland) far south into the empire’s Balkan domains. Along the way, he scans official buildings, churches, and cemeteries for what he calls ’the interplay between personal and national identity.’ In the process, he also links these often-ignored buildings to better-known structures such as the Rathaus and the Secession Building in Vienna."

Richard Byrne | Chronicle of Higher Education

"The book itself as a production is spectacular."

David Dunster | Architectural Review

Table of Contents

Issues of Architecture, Language, and Identity  
1. The Language of History  
2. The Language of Organicism  
3. The Language of Rationalism  
4. The Language of Myth  
5. The Language of Hybridity  
Continuities, Discontinuities, and Transformations 
Appendix: Place-Names, Educational Institutions, Translation of Secession  
Selected Bibliography  
Illustration Credits  


South East Society of Architectural Hist: Southeast Society of Architectural Historians Award
Honorable Mention

Dallas Museum of Fine Arts: Vasari Award

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