The Crystal Chain Letters

The Crystal Chain Letters

Architectural Fantasies by Bruno Taut and His Circle

Edited by Iain Boyd Whyte





The Crystal Chain - "Die glaserne Kette" - was a utopian correspondence initiated by Bruno Taut in 1919-1920, in which a small group of like-minded architects and artists exchanged ideas on what form the architecture of the future should take. Unfettered by the demands of practicability, the members of the group described their visions of an ideal society and of a beneficent architecture in a series of dazzling, fantastic letters and drawings. Although the letters are referred to in almost every survey of twentieth century architecture, this is the first book to offer in English the complete texts of all the known Crystal Chain letters, including some which have never been published in German. The letters are accompanied by illustrations, an introductory essay, and explanatory notes. The Crystal Chain Letters document the crisis of modernism that afflicted German architectural theory in the years immediately following the First World War. The trauma of the war and the subsequent social unrest led the radical architects to reject the materialism and positivism that had characterized the "Kaiserreich." The result was an ideological and aesthetic vacuum, and the search for suitable alternatives provided the basis for the correspondence. After a year of intense theoretical speculation, several of the links in the chain, including Bruno and Max Taut, Walter Gropius, Hans and Wassili Luckhardt, and Hans Scharoun, emerged as leading advocates and practitioners of the new architecture in Germany.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262231213 225 pp. | 7 in x 9.75 in


Iain Boyd Whyte

Iain Boyd Whyte is an English architectural historian. He is the author of several books including Bruno Taut and the Architecture of Activism, and the translator of Industriekultur: Peter Behrens and the AEG (MIT Press, 1984).


  • The Crystal Chain Letters glittered within the ferment of German culture in the troubled and regenerative years following the first World War. The collection of these letters documents a crucial juncture within the new architecture of that time and, through translation, makes it available to a wider audience.

    Stanford Anderson

    Professor of History and Architecture