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During the 20th Century, architectural controversy or debate was often brought to light through the use of specialized trade magazines edited by professionals in their field or by artists who held often avant garde views regarding society, the arts and architecture.

At times, the magazines were issue specific and on other occasions provided a stepping stone for younger professionals in the various fields. After a while we might lose sight of the original issue or the key figures involved, but in one specific case the ties among the players and their influence spread way beyond their space and  time. One of the more obscure interbellum architectural magazines, in this respect, was the short lived (1924-1928) Swiss magazine named ABC, Beitraege zum Bauen (contributions to building).

Initially started in Zurich, Switzerland by the initiative of the Dutch architect Mart Stam with important contributions by the Russian architect El Lissitsky, the offices soon moved to Basel and a small staff of young architects who had just graduated took over most editorial work. They were Emil Roth, Hans Schmidt (whose brother Georg would later become the head of the Basel Art Museum), Hannes Meyer (the later Director of the Bauhaus) and Hans Wittwer.

The editors were very familiar with a number of young colleagues who had left Switzerland around that time for economic reasons, and due to the never the less still conservative attitude of the so-called “Werkbund” and the Federation of Swiss Architects who made it very hard to espouse “modernist views” and find interesting work at the same time.

Two places that had enough work for budding architects in the early twenties were Holland and the USA. In fact, Werner Moser the emigrant architect went to work for Frank Llyod Wright in Chicago, Illinois and worked on the Chicago Life Insurance Project for Wright, after having visited Holland where he met with Mart Stam who shortly thereafter went to Germany to work for Poelzig. Stam temporarily moves to Zurich in 1924 to work for Werner Moser’s father, the architect Karl Moser. Perhaps a better known Swiss emigrant architect, was William Lescaze who had graduated in 1919 and left for New York. One could also cite Richard Neutra who before trying his luck in the USA looked for work in Zurich. Another Zurich Polytechnic graduate, Henri-Robert von der Muehll left to work for Bruno Paul in Germany. This was the architectural climate that later produced two other excellent architects of a younger generation Alfred Roth and Max Bill.

More on this interesting story and magazine in the monograph:

(Book) : ABC Beitraege zum Bauen, Architettura e Aavanguardia 1924-1928 by Jaques Gubler, Italian text and numerous black and white illustrations, and facsimile pictures of the magazine. Published in 1983 by Electa in Italy,178 pages, softbound with paper dust jacket.

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