One of the main conflicts within the German avant-garde of the 1920s was that between the ‘functionalists’ and ‘rationalists’. As one of the first attempts to define the Neue Sachlichkeit movement, Der Moderne Zweckbau (The Modern Functional Building, written in 1923 but not published until 1926) drew attention to this conflict and analysed the ideological differences which underlay it. According to Behne, the functionalists (whom he might more accurately have called ‘organicists’) created unique, non-repeatable (particular) buildings whose forms were shaped round their functions, whereas the rationalists looked for typical and repeatable (universal) forms that were able to fulfil generalized needs. Behne equated the functionalists with the ex-Expressionist architects, who, under the guise of being true to the laws of nature, in fact created singular buildings that were unable to become parts of a greater whole: ‘As the functionalist looks for the greatest possible adaptation to the most specialized purpose, the rationalist looks for the most appropriate solution for many cases.’ (138) The functionalists are individualists, while the rationalists accept a responsibility to society.
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