A critical analysis of Nikolaus Pevsner's theory of the origin of the Modern Movement




Carroll, Michael Patrick

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



With Pioneers of the Modern Movement, Nikolaus Pevsner evoked a controversy which has survived for over three quarters of a century. Following years of acerbic condemnation, it is generally accepted that Pevsner's theory tracing the origin of the Modern Movement to William Morris and Walter Gropius has been discredited. I believe that the critics' own stylistic biases, combined with Pevsner's provocative polemics, have obscured the value of a theory designed to reveal the genesis of a narrowly-defined movement in architecture. The conclusions within this thesis follow an extensive review of the works of authors who are critical of Pioneers, research of literature relating to factors influential to the evolution of the Modern Movement in Germany, and an in-depth study of Pioneers itself. Those who extrapolate Pevsner's theory in an attempt to suggest that it is meant as an explanation for the source of the broader phenomenon of modern architecture do a disservice to this work. As a complete history of modern architecture, Pioneers is limited in scope. Contrary to being a detriment, this brevity makes it an excellent source for introducing a discourse on modern architecture to the fledgling theorist.



Architecture, Modern, Morris, Movement, Pevsner, Pioneers