This chapter reviews the work of German-American architect Konrad Wachsmann (1901–80) who designed structures with enormous, seemingly afloat roofs, made up of small standard components. Despite Wachsmann’s mastery of construction and his ardent emphasis on technical competency in teaching and design, the bulk of his work remained unbuilt. Revisiting Wachsmann’s American oeuvre as a system of interconnected parts and discussing the influence of his war-time manifesto “A New Method of Architecture” on his post-war work, the chapter interrogates the enigmatic function of these unbuilt and unbuildable structures.
The study of Wachsmann’s oeuvre is a study of representations in which model photographs constitute a significant research domain. The viewpoints of these photographs are consistently located between the earth and overhead planes. With tiny dots of people asserting the enormity of the overhead planes, the models emphasize the ceiling as a sealing-off of the sky. A purely technological heaven replaces the traditional cosmological ceiling. The ceilings of infinite extension mediate between the scale of tiny detail and that of the world as in the cosmic harmony described in the biblical story of Genesis. The author construes Wachsmann’s tectonic imagination within the framework of Jung’s theory of active imagination.