Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History. Sigfried Giedion. W. W. Norton.

Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History Book Cover Mechanization Takes Command: A Contribution to Anonymous History
Sigfried Giedion
W. W. Norton
April 1, 1969


In Space, Time and Architecture (1941) I attempted to show the split that exists in our period between thought and feeling. I am trying now to go a step further: to show how this break came about, by investigating one important aspect of our life – mechanization.

At the origin of the inquiry stood the desire to understand the effects of mechanization upon the human being; to discern how far mechanization corresponds with and to what extent it contradicts the unalterable laws of human nature. The question of the limits of mechanization is bound to arise at any moment, as the human aspect, which is fundamental, cannot be disregarded.

The coming period has to reinstate basic human values. It must be a time of reorganization in the broadest sense, a time that must find its way to universalism. The coming period must bring order to our minds, our production, our feeling, our economic and social development. It has to bridge the gap that, since the onset of mechanization, has split our modes of thinking from our modes of feeling.

My first intention was to outline briefly the effects of mechanization, basing the study on specialized research in the particular fields with which we have to deal. I soon realized that this was impossible. Over vast stretches no research was available. I was unable to find any account of such revolutionary events as the development of the production line or the introduction of mechanical comfort and its tools in our intimate environment. I had, therefore, to go back to the sources, as I could not hope to understand the effects of mechanization without knowing, in outline at least, its evolution.

The process leading up to the present role of mechanization can nowhere be observed better than in the United States, where the new methods of production were first applied, and where mechanization is inextricably woven into the pattern of thought and customs.

Siegfried Giedion was born in Switzerland and educated there and in Germany and Italy. At Weimar he was associated with Walter Gropius, with whom he played an important part in the introduction of modern architecture in Switzerland. He taught at the Federal Institute of technology and also was Mellon Lecturer at the Washington National Gallery and Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer at Harvard University. His other books include Space, Time and Architecture; The Eternal Present; The Beginning of Art; and The Beginnings of Architecture.