The English House by Hermann Muthesius (Edited by Dennis Sharp, translated by Jane Seligman & Stewart Spencer) - review by David Watkin

David Watkin

Design for Living

The English House

By

Frances Lincoln 3 vols £125 order from our bookshop
 

This monumental book, originally published as Das englische Haus (3 vols, 1904–5), with over 680 plates ranging from Hatfield House to a modern soap dish, is familiar to historians of architecture, who have tended to refer to it rather than read it. However, it deserves to be known to a wider audience as an important if rather unexpected product of the envy of England which was a feature of the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II. This was normally expressed in the attempt to catch up with British industrial, commercial and naval supremacy, but the detailed study of English domestic architecture by the architect Hermann Muthesius represents a more attractive cultural admiration. It was not only an immense but valuable undertaking to translate this massive work for the first time in its entirety; but it is also published in such an elegant style that its price makes it something of a bargain. It will surely become a ‘collector’s item’.

In 1896 the 35-year-old Muthesius was sent by the Kaiser as technical (and later cultural) attaché to the German ambassador in London, to report to the Prussian Board of Trade on British architecture, new art and craft schools, and even the railway system, gasworks and other industrial installations. What most

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