Body-Soul-Unity. Hans Prinzhorn’s precept of life and modern architecture

Tanja Poppelreuter

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


    Technological advancements in the building industry and the standardisation of building parts, units and houses and a year-round mass-production were pursued as a solution for the pervasive urban housing shortage during the 1920s in Germany. Based on the widespread belief that changes in the environment foster changes in behaviour, uniform types of housing units were perceived as tools with which to actively remediate ‘vices of living’.Opponents of such notions proposed flexible or open spaces as alternatives to the standardised types to support what was perceived as the new way of life. A thesis that focused on this way of life and on changes in the perception of the human being was put forward in Hans Prinzhorn’s 1927 Body – Soul – Unity. It foresaw a cultural and societal development not driven by ‘the will’ but one united in body and soul. Prinzhorn’s thinking was mainly based on Friedrich Nietzsche’s and Ludwig Klages’ work and therefore part of the Lebensphilosophie movement. Here, philosophical categories such as ‘life’ and ‘nature’, morality and ethics were sought to be redefined which led, especially in Klages work, to a deep-rooted criticism of contemporary life (Kulturkritik).In his search for developing his building art Ludwig Mies van der Rohe had found inspiration in the work of contemporaries such as Rudolf Schwarz and Romano Guardini who also expressed critical distance to the developments pursued in functionalism. Prinzhorn’s book was perceived by architects of the Neues Bauen as support for the newly developing architecture and a framework for opponents of the belief that housing must shape the life of inhabitants. It provided Mies van der Rohe with a way of thinking about the inhabitant not as a human being whose lifestyle had to be remediated but as one whose spirit could unfold freely.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
    Number of pages6
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 15 Apr 2015
    EventAAH 2015. 41st Annual Conference & Bookfair - Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, UEA, Norwich
    Duration: 15 Apr 2015 → …


    ConferenceAAH 2015. 41st Annual Conference & Bookfair
    Period15/04/15 → …


    • Hans Prinzhorn
    • Mies van der Rohe
    • Lebensphilosophie


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