Authors on Architecture: Wyeth on Welz
SAH/SCC Zoom Presentation
Sunday, January 30, 2022
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Join SAH/SCC for a virtual program with author and filmmaker Peter Wyeth, whose string of discoveries excavated from the most fragmentary evidence has uncovered the architecture career of perhaps the leading South African painter, Jean Welz.The Lost Architecture of Jean Welz(DoppelHouse, 2022) chronicles the mystery of Welz>’s virtual absence in the architectural record and Wyeth’s decade-long quest, which gradually assembled an extraordinary picture of Welz’s twelve years in Paris.
Born in 1900 and trained in Vienna, Welz was sent to Paris for the 1925 “Art Deco” exhibition by his influential employer, the renowned Josef Hoffmann. As a result, he met preeminent modern architects Le Corbusier and Adolf Loos. The latter employed him to supervise the construction of Loos’s only Paris house, for the founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara. At the Café Dôme in Montparnasse they formed one of the avant-garde, including Welz’s classmate from Vienna, later Chicago-based architect Gabriel Guevrekian; Welz’s future employer Raymond Fischer, whose archive was 80% destroyed by the Nazis; and the photographer (and Welz’s best friend) André Kertész.
Through Welz’s South African family archive, Wyeth retrieves stories, letters, portfolios, and photographs to unravel Welz’s heroic designs and reveals his unique critique of Corbusier’s “Five Points of Architecture,” tracking the many ways that Welz was disappeared, intentionally and not. Wyeth explores why Jean Welz did not become a famous name in architecture and takes us through Welz’s art-dealer brother’s Nazi-dealings, Welz’s own illness, betrayals, and self-destruction as an artist, born of an uncompromising artist’s vision, while sifting through every scrap of evidence of Welz’s buildings and visionary, unrealized designs.
The protracted, losing battle to save Welz’ Maison Zilveli (on the book cover) has been covered byLe Monde, The Modernist, Le Journal des Arts,andIconic Houses, climaxing in the French Minister of Culture urging preservation over destruction, signed by leading experts from around the world, including Kenneth Frampton and Jean-Louis Cohen. The fate of Welz’s little-known masterpiece (the Villa Savoye of today, 60 years after Corbusier’s chef d’oeuvre was saved by another Minister of Culture, André Malraux) is the ultimate price of his anonymity.
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